Pretty Funny (New York Press)

Meet Valerie Jean Garduno, the supermodel stand-up comic
By Dana Rossi

Pretty Funny (NYPress)EARLIER THIS YEAR, I observed something so rare in nature, I’m pretty sure that what I actually saw was its genesis: I saw a former runway model perform stand-up comedy.

I had gone to Gotham Comedy Club to see a new talent showcase, and the second comic to take the stage started her set by telling us that she was a former model. I wasn’t sure I’d heard it right. But I had.

Valerie Jean Garduno got her start in modeling at 16, and a year later she moved to Paris to walk the runway, dripping in designers like Valentino, Dior and Calvin Klein. She had done 18 to 20 shows in each city—Paris, Milan, New York—each season, but as time went on and the work and the industry changed, she decided that she didn’t want to live on airplanes only to land and do work that wasn’t intellectually challenging.

“In modeling, no one really cares about your point of view,” she says. The time had come to start anew.

A few years ago, as she searched for a new life path,Valerie took a class for sitcom acting on camera. A classmate suggested she try stand-up, and a year later, Valerie took the stage for the first time. She’s been at it ever since, and April 12, she’ll be bringing humor to an important cause—a benefit for Families Affected by Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer.

An industry that emphasizes beauty and an industry where ugly can often be an asset might appear to be ballgames on completely different channels. But Valerie draws several similarities between her two careers, the most prominent being the need to hustle.

“It’s all about self-promotion,” she explains. In both industries, aspiring professionals have to work around the clock networking, trying to book gigs and selling themselves as a marketable commodity. Both industries can be physically demanding. Both require an iron will. And, to be frank, both involve a lot of drinking.

But to ask the question on everyone’s mind, how do people—audiences, fellow comics and industry folks—react to a professional beauty behind the comic’s microphone? Women in comedy often have a tough enough battle in an industry dominated by men, but as a genetically blessed woman, Valerie faces her own specific challenges. While fellow comics are usually supportive, the audience and club bookers are not always as welcoming.

“My friend’s husband came to a show one night,”Valerie remembers. “He told me he thought I was really going to suck. When I asked why, he said it was because I was a model and he automatically thought, that’s what you do—you do pretty, not funny.” Um, ouch.

When she tries to book gigs, club owners often dismiss her with a wave and a “nice try, pretty girl.” But Valerie remains undaunted.

“I have a past of having a good career—which gives me the confidence to keep going in the face of ‘no.’ A career in modeling gave me a lot in the sense where I can stand up for myself in front of men who want to put me in my place. It took a while for me to have the confidence to say what I felt because I wasn’t used to talking or having a valued point of view. But now I do, and as it turns out, a career in modeling was great boot camp for a career in comedy in this way.”

The night I saw Valerie perform, her first joke dealt with how her new career as a comic finally allows her to eat. But when I asked if she had plans to make “fashion jokes” her trademark—like Kathy Griffin’s celeb searing—she was torn.

“Sometimes I don’t want anything alluding to my having been a model in my act ever,” she asserts. “I don’t want to be the former model the rest of my life. But at the same time, I can’t completely avoid it, because it was so much a part of my life for so long. So I constantly change my mind. And my jokes.”

Which is a hell of a lot more rewarding than constantly changing her clothes.


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Valerie Jean Garduno

April 12, Hudson Terrace,
621 W. 46th St. (betw. 11th & 12th Aves.),
212-315-9400; 6, $175 and up.

Also April 16 at Gotham Comedy Club


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