While many may know of Wendy Liebman from her recent appearance (and re-appearance) on “America’s Got Talent,” not as many may know that her career in comedy started right here in the Boston area. Her Wellesley College smarts are evident in every line, but the fact that her first lines were delivered in a Cambridge Center for Adult Education class may not be as obvious, especially are her delivery seems to have been born in her and not taught.
“After college I did psychology research, thinking I was going to be a psychologist,” Liebman recalls. “But I realized early on I would rather make many people laugh at once than one person cry.”
So after a year of working at the Massachusetts Mental Health Center, Liebman took her own “mental health break” and took to the stage.
Not one to shirk responsibility (and ever eager to mix and mingle with other intellectuals), Liebman then got a gig at the Bunting Institute at Radcliffe.
“Each year about 40 Fellows (though they were all women) were given money, an office in Cambridge and a community,” she explains when asked how the Institute operates. “So, for six years, while doing stand-up comedy at night, I met thee most incredible artists, writers, mathematicians, scientists, musicians, etc.”
This curious community gave Liebman a strong sense of community; one that has apparently stuck with her even as she tours the stages of the world with just her mind and a bottle of water.
On June 11, Liebman will return to the community where it all began to support Community Works, a Boston-based, member-directed organization that focuses on supporting social justice in Boston and beyond. Liebman will be headlining an all-star set at their 8th annual Share a Laugh event, which ill take place at the Somerville Theatre. Among the other talented comedians who are scheduled to join her Liebman Max Alexander, Erin Jackson, and Kelly MacFarland.
When asked how she first became aware of Community Works, Liebman reveals another potential surprise- she actually had a hand in its creation!
“One year, two of the Fellows were former nuns who were humanitarians,” Liebman recalls, citing Kip Tiernan (who also founded Rosie’s Place, the first women’s shelter in the nation) and Fran Froehlich. “Together they created Poor People’s United Fund and Community Works, the umbrella organization that aims to catch the population that has fallen through the cracks.”
Eager to reconnect with her Radcliffe colleagues, Liebman contacted the dynamic duo. “That’s when Fran and I created Share A Laugh,” she says. “It’s a comedy show, with proceeds helping the community that needs help.”
As she admits to missing Boston “like an old friend or a favorite sweater,” the Long Island native is looking forward to returning to her “second home. I miss my friends who still live there, the energy, the intensity, the youth, the artistry, and the family businesses,” she says. “And the S&S Deli in Inman Square!”
In addition to appearing on America’s Got Talent, Liebman has also appeared twice at Radio City Music Hall since her last Boston-area show. “I grew leaps and bounds as a person as well,” she says, noting that she is also working on her writing and has a novel and a musical in the works.
In the meantime, however, she has her sights set on another great time in Boston and on giving back to the community that gave so much to her. “Community Works is in Massachusetts,” Liebman observes, “but it really is an ideal model for all community outreach programs!”
– Matt Robinson
55 Davis Square, Somerville , 617-625-5700 www.communityworks.com