Susan Clark Denny isn’t afraid to laugh at herself and she’d prefer it if you did the same.
“I like to poke fun at myself and I find that everybody can relate a little bit more,” she said.
The 53-year-old amateur stand-up comic finds humor in the every day, drawing from her own experiences to connect with an audience. She is energized telling jokes in front of a crowd.
“For most people, it’s terrifying,” she said. “I love it.”
Clark Denny will perform at the Amateur Stand-Up Showcase on Friday, March 13 during LaughFest. Many people in her shoes might not find as much to laugh about. She was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis at the age of 41, although she suspects she struggled with it years earlier. She’ll perform from a wheelchair as a result of the degenerative disease. Clark Denny is also an 18-year ovarian cancer survivor, making a LaughFest performance that much more important to her, as proceeds from the festivities benefit Gilda’s Club.
“I survived what killed Gilda Radner,” she said, referencing the club’s namesake, who died from ovarian cancer in 1989.
The ovarian cancer was actually a turning point in Clark Denny’s faith. It was diagnosed early due to a different medical concern, which turned out to be a result of the cancer.
“That helped me so much as a person,” she said. “There’s so much that you don’t even know about your life and you don’t have to worry about stuff. Somebody else has your back.”
That experience helped her accept her status as a disabled person years later.
“I knew that I was going to be okay,” she said.
A physical therapist at the time told her to identify what it is she truly loved doing and to go for it. Last year was her first time performing at LaughFest, but it’s not the first time she’s been on a stage. She first tried stand-up comedy when she had small children, drawing from that material. Later in life she traveled the country performing for multiple sclerosis audiences.
“Funny stuff can be stuff that would be otherwise painful,” she said.
While there’s not much about her life that’s off-limits, Clark Denny does prefer to keep her comedy clean so everyone can enjoy it.
“I appreciate true comedy, which is just a life circumstance that everybody can relate to without mentioning body parts or nasty things to do in the bedroom,” she said.
Because of her multiple sclerosis, Clark Denny fatigues easily. She said she plans to take a big nap the afternoon before her performance, and said despite knowing she’ll be worn out afterward, she wouldn’t miss it.
“It’s worth it,” she said. “Just don’t call me the next two weeks after I do it,” she joked.
Check out Clark Denny’s performance and other amateur comics at the Amateur Stand-Up Showcase. Learn more about Clark Denny and her musings on life at her blog.
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Photo credit: Julie Bitely