BACKSTAGE PASS: Stand-up gal

Date: February 1, 2012
by: Heidi Kurpiela | A&E Editor

Zan Aufderheide is on a roll.

She's zigzagging all over the country gathering material, booking gigs at churches, colleges, clubs and corporate events.

Although she's still unknown in most cities, she says she feels like a rock star because making people laugh is thrilling whether you're an A-list comedian who can pack an arena or an up-and-coming comic on the road.

She's paying her dues and honing her act, grooming herself for bigger crowds in bigger cities and for the dream job she hopes to one day land: talk-show host.

"People are so cool on the road," Aufderheide says. "A lot of the jokes I'm making are on-the-road jokes - my encounters from one person to the next."

Take, for example, the story she likes to tell about an especially tactless woman at a New York City comedy club who said, "Some people are going to tell you you're too pretty to do comedy, but you're not."

Or the city manager of a small town in Ohio who, after Aufderheide's show, washed out the coffee mug he was drinking from and handed it to her as a parting gift.

"He was a righteous dude," Aufderheide says. "The mug had a map of the town on it."

A former Sarasota massage therapist, Aufderheide got her start in comedy four-and-a-half years ago when she and a group of friends took a series of comedy classes at McCurdy's Comedy Theatre.

Before the session was through, Aufderheide, who studied theater in college, knew what her next career move would be.

"I was bored, bored, bored," she says of her life before comedy. "I thought about jumping out of an airplane, but that was too expensive. I thought about riding a rollercoaster, but that would give me motion sickness. When I threw down my tip money (for comedy classes) at McCurdy's, I knew what I was doing for the rest of my life."

So, in 2008, she hit the road.

A year later, she won a radio contest sponsored by Joy FM that landed her a spot on tour with comedian Chonda Pierce, a Christian comedienne billed as the "Queen of Clean."

Since then, Aufderheide has gone on to develop the autobiographical one-woman show, "Welcome to Zanland," which she'll perform next week at Home Resource in the Rosemary District.

A collection of tales from her childhood mixed with fodder from the road, the show is part storytelling monologue, part stand-up routine.

"I'm trying not to do anything too fast," Aufderheide says. "It takes time. I've never been involved in anything that's as process-orientated as comedy. There's no place to get better than on the stage."
Like all the good comedians, she's ambitious, hustling to stay busy so her name stays on people's tongues.

On the day she gave this interview, she booked 10 gigs in South Dakota, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Michigan and Minnesota, and was waiting to hear back from producers regarding a televised comedy club show in Fort Wayne, Ind.

Three days later, she sent an email confirming the TV job, as well as a West Virginia radio segment on dating.

"We're gonna make it a weekly thing," she wrote. "‘Keeper or Creeper with Zan.' Should be fun!"


Zan Aufderheide's real name is a mouthful: Alexandra Aufderheide.
As a child, her bother couldn't pronounce Alexandra, so he called his sister "Zan." The nickname stuck.

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