Shawn Pelofsky’s calling in life came to her in the second grade when she was cast as the Wicked Witch in her school’s production of The Wizard of Oz. “I was so anxious to play the role that I melted before Dorothy threw the water on me,” she recalls. “The audience was roaring with laughter. I liked the way that sounded, and ever since then, I knew it was my destiny to make people laugh.”
Born into a big Jewish family in Oklahoma, Shawn says she had no choice but to have a sense of humor. Her parents, originally from Brooklyn, didn’t mince words—a trait she inherited. Shawn’s outsider status made her fearless, and she was weirdly proud of being one of the five Jews located in the state. “I will never forget sitting in the cafeteria with my peanut butter and jelly matzah sandwich on Passover and all the hillbillies pointing at my large cracker,” she says. “I can describe that experience like none other, so other people who grew up Jewish in the South can relate.”
Ever since she was a little girl, Shawn appreciated gay men. Every Sunday night, her family would load up the Buick wagon and go eat Chinese food at Hunans. “The manager was a flamboyant Gaysian named Sean. I was obsessed with him,” she says. “He would always greet my family at our table. He was super fun and just loved my father.”
Perhaps it’s her own experience of feeling ‘different than’ that makes Shawn’s humor a perfect fit for LGBT audiences. She says she relates to our community much better than her own, because if she sees it, she says it. “I am not afraid to call it like it is, and the gay community appreciates my candidness. I appreciate good people, and I don’t care what team you play on.”
It also helps that Shawn calls to mind a certain gay icon. She explains, “When I broke my nose the third time, I developed a Streisand face. I seriously think it attracts any gay man or woman within a 100,000-mile radius.”
Not surprising, when The Comedy Store approached Shawn to produce her own show, she decided to come up with a gay-friendly variety show that catered to the community. “I named it The Bathhouse Show in honor of my idol, The Divine Miss M, Bette Midler. I thought it was a great, kitschy name that would attract the gay and straight community—and that’s just what it’s done. The Comedy Store has never been this fabulous!”
What can you expect from the next Bathhouse Show? Hot gay men dancing in towels (Shawn’s Bathhouse Babes); comediennes Nicol Paone (The Big Gay Sketch Show), Christian Shirm (Showtime) and headliner Kathleen Madigan (HBO); and the musical stylings of Leslie Dixon and the fabulous Tom Lenk (Buffy the Vampire Slayer). Shawn will be the evening’s hostess with the mostess.
“I am fortunate to know so many talented gay and gay-friendly comics,” Shawn says. “They are all perfect for my show, however, I have a limited space I can fill. I start by asking some of the more established names first and then go from there.”
Aside from The Bathhouse Show, Shawn has also traveled numerous times overseas to entertain the troops. Her first military gig was in Japan and Korea right after 9/11. She then went to Bosnia and Kosovo, and in 2005, she was one of the first female comics sent to Afghanistan. “I went there twice, because once you go, you become an addict,” Shawn says. “The anxiety and terror just dissipate. I also went to Guantanamo Bay, which is epic. I was just waiting for a terrorist to break free, put a black bag over my head and yell, “We’ve got Barbra Streisand!”
Daily personal experiences serve as perfect resources for Shawn’s material. She also observes people, especially the LGBT community, so she has insight. “I watch a lot of bad reality TV and am a huge pop culture fanatic, so I like to write jokes on what is current. If all else fails, I have my mother. She’s always saying or doing something I can mock.”
The next installment of The Bathhouse Show takes place Saturday, March 31 at The Comedy Store at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15 and can be pre-purchased online at TheBathHouseShow.com or LaughStub.com. There’s also a two-drink minimum.