Saturday Night Live alum Victoria Jackson is well-known for her send-up of the ditzy blonde. With a tiny voice and goofy antics, Victoria became famous on Johnny Carson's The Tonight Show where she performed stand-up while variously on a balance beam, doing handstands, and playing the ukulele. She went on to perform on six seasons of Saturday Night Live, working with the likes of Mike Myers, Phil Hartman, and Chris Farley. Victoria still does stand-up (of the handstand variety), records ukulele CDs (!), and acts in movies. She granted this interview to promote the newly released Christian comedy DVD Thou Shalt Laugh: The Deuce, which features a night of stand-up comedy hosted by funnyman Tim Conway. Without further ado, here's Victoria in her own words...
GS: How did you get your break in comedy?
VJ: My big break was on The Johnny Carson Show. I was doing standup in L.A. while doing handstands and playing the ukulele, and a scout from the show contacted me.
GS: Did you expect that comedy would be your life’s work?
VJ: When I was a kid, I wanted to be a teacher, mostly because I liked chalk…But I got the comedy acting bug when I was at Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina. A friend was auditioning for a play and I was with her. Her drama teacher suggested that I act. Once I did it, once I was up on stage, I realized I was controlling the audience with my feather duster, and I became addicted.
GS: You were on Saturday Night Live from 1986 to 1992. You were only 27 years old—what was it like to reach the comedy big time? Were you nervous, intimidated?
VJ: Well, I was married and had a baby at 27, so I thought I was grown up. I’m 48 now and feel like a kid, but I thought I was really mature back then! Auditioning made me nervous; I knew it could change my life if I got the part. And SNL was a very stressful environment. It was survival of the fittest. The more you wrote for the show, the more you got to perform. So while Mike Myers was writing six sketches a week, I was doing like two a year and staring at blank paper in my typewriter.
GS: Was live television nerve-wracking?
VJ: I didn’t mind live television. As a gymnast, I was used to being on a balance beam four inches wide, with judges rating my performance, so I was used to the adrenaline rush. Actually, if I didn’t have that, I would die. I finally left SNL because I was going through a divorce, I wanted to spend more time with my daughter, friends were leaving the show…and I ran out of ideas.
GS: As a female standup comedian, do you feel women are treated differently when they’re on stage? Are people’s expectations different?
VJ: I don’t like when people complain about being a woman in comedy. I think that’s B.S. It was survival of the fittest on SNL whether you were a dog, horse, woman, man. I mean, comedy is different for women—different things are funny for women and men. When Chris Farley was dancing with his belly jiggling, for example, it was funny. If I were in a bikini doing it, it wouldn’t have been funny—it would’ve been sad. But I don't think the treatment is different.
GS: What’s been your favorite part of participating in Thou Shalt Laugh: The Deuce, and what would you like our readers to know about it?
VJ: I like that there are no bad words and no sexual innuendoes. I had this cab driver recently who asked me what I did, and I said I do standup comedy. “So you tell dirty jokes?” he asked me. That’s what people associate comedy with now! The best comics—Jerry Seinfeld, Steve Martin—they don’t have to be dirty. I don’t know what’s happening in this country that that’s what comedy is associated with. Aside from that, I got to meet Tim Conway!
GS: Oh, I love him, too. Thanks, Victoria!