"I love to go to the zoo," asserts Wendy Liebman, by phone from her home in L.A. Her least favorite creatures, though, are "the things with the really tiny heads--don't tell me, don't tell me. . . ." At last the species in question dawns on her: "the kids."
This is a classic Wendy Liebman construction. The signature gag of this often-inspired young comedian is the tagged-on phrase that turns a seemingly innocuous remark into a nasty joke. It's the punch line as casual, dying-fall afterthought. "I'm a writer," Liebman will say, in her prim yet spacy voice, and then, as if to herself, she'll add, "I write checks (pause) mostly fiction."
While the Long Island native has been on the circuit for more than a decade, she's only come to prominence in the last two or three years--the last time she played Tempe, in March of 1994, it wasn't as a headliner but as an opener for Bill Engvall. Her recent success may, in part, be because of her decision to add a touch of "blue" humor to her act. "It occurred to me that I've been a standup for about 14 years, so if my act was my daughter, she would be hitting that age when she wanted to be a Spice Girl. So I'm trying to spice it up a bit."
The daughter imagery is allegorical; Liebman is unmarried, has no children and makes no claims to domesticity. "I can't cook," she says, making the almost imperceptible shift from conversation to material. "I did make lobster once, though. I didn't like killing them, so I played some Michael Bolton tapes and they committed suicide. They left no note, they just dove in. It was tragic, but delicious."
Liebman has done much TV, including numerous appearances on Letterman and Leno, yet recently she heard even more compelling evidence that she'd made it in show biz. She's appearing on 10 episodes of the new Hollywood Squares, with Whoopi Goldberg in the center square. Says Liebman, proudly, "When I heard 'Wendy Liebman to block,' I about had an aneurysm."
Wendy Liebman performs at 8 p.m. Thursday, September 24; 8 and 10 p.m. Friday, September 25; 8 and 10 p.m. Saturday, September 26; and 8 p.m. Sunday, September 27, at the Tempe Improv Comedy Theater, 930 East University (at Cornerstone mall). 921-9877.