Claudia Sherman is exactly the kind of girl who intimidated me in middle school: cute, pert, smart, irreverent, and exquisitely, fearlessly, foul mouthed. Now that we're both all grown up, however, I just think she's a funny woman and a terrific worker of audiences.
I caught this New York City-based stand-up artist last August at Ann Arbor Comedy Showcase, where she returns on Friday and Saturday, August 30 and 31. I went with my daughter, a somewhat sedate young woman who was rolling on the floor by evening's end, along with the rest of the largely female audience.
It all started, as most Showcase shows do, with a couple of warm-up acts, one just moderately bad, and the other so miserable that one could not even regard it through the beneficent eyes of cynicism and find therein some feeble grains of mirth. But the agony was euthanized as Sherman bounded onto the stage, graciously acknowledging her sorry predecessor, and taking charge of the stage as if to say, "Don't worry, folks, I'm a professional. There's nothing more to worry about." She was as good as her word. In five minutes we were Claudia Sherman's new best friends.
Sherman mines the fertile ground of women's lives — marriage, sex, divorce, female ailments, mammograms, jobs, insecurity — but this is not just a girls' night out. The brave men in attendance were laughing too; her barbs and skewers are inserted and twisted with a smile. And belying her nice-girl, big-smile, coiffed cuteness is a mouth equal to that of a foreman on an oil rig. Present was a large bachelorette party — Sherman took stock of the entire audience almost immediately: how many couples, people's ages, birthday parties, and so on — and she zeroed in on the bride-to-be's sister. "Well, whaddaya think of him?" Sherman demanded, meaning the girl's sister's intended.
"I like him," she replied.
"You're a fucking liar," quipped Sherman warmly, as if she were complimenting someone's new haircut. And somehow everyone believed her.
Sherman's a bit of an eccentric, but in a nice way. I read somewhere that after she got married she wore her wedding gown just about everywhere to get the full value of it. Now that she's divorced, she just wears regular clothes (or did the night I caught her) and simply says whatever's on her mind, including highly detailed and emphatic instructions to the men in the audience about certain sexual practices of great value to women, who, of course, cheered with abandon. Sherman's act ain't for the faint of heart. But it might be just what the doctor ordered.