Headlining the 23rd annual Kung Pao Kosher Comedy this week at San Francisco’s New Asia Restaurant, Wendy Liebman is holding a record – topping the holiday bill (of Jewish comics performing standup in a Chinese restaurant on Christmas) for the third time.
“I invited myself, it’s time for me to come back. I come at five-year intervals,” says Liebman, on the phone waiting for an armoir to be delivered to her fabulous new house in West Hills, a San Fernando Valley neighborhood “near a lot of malls.” She adds, “They just built a third one. They’re all Westfield.”
“It’s my dream home,” just like she imagined on her 17-year-old vision board, on which she put words like “joy” and “sunlight.” She adds, “We have a skylight.” The house also is green, eco-friendly and has roses, a Keurig machine and a juicer.
The move for the first-time homeowner (from an “awesome” rental in Studio City) comes at a bit of a crossroads in the comic’s life.
Last year, she appeared on “America’s Got Talent” as a way to “get back out there in a big way” after being derailed by an accident that had seven totaled cars and one fatality; she and her husband were hit by a drunk driver.
Even though the broadcast made it look like she was friends with judge Howard Stern, she says she didn’t know him, wanted to meet him, and would love to be on his radio show. (She recently did appear on Marilu Henner’s radio show, where they talked about Henner’s extremely rare “highly superior autobiographical memory”; Liebman says, “I can’t remember where I put my phone twice a day.”)
Liebman did know “AGT” judge Howie Mandel, and is friendly with many comics, including some who have performed at “Locally Grown Comedy,” a once-a-month “room” she recently started at a Vitello’s, a Studio City restaurant most famous, Liebman says, as “the place where Robert Blake allegedly shot his wife.”
George Lopez, Russell Peters and Arsenio Hall are among her pals who have appeared there.
Liebman’s start in comedy came after she picked up the wrong mail, including a Learning Annex brochure, at her apartment building in Boston, where she was going to college. She signed up for an adult education acting class, which got canceled when the teacher quit. So she took “How To Be a Standup Comedian,” taught by Ron Lynch, instead.
“We just focused on basic things, like the different types of comedy — like prop and wordplay — then we went out and drank beer,” says Liebman.
She might categorize her own, gently paced, subtle brand of comedy “wordplay” (she has been compared with Rita Rudner, Jake Johannsen and Steven Wright), but Liebman says she’s thinking about changing her style.
“I want to talk to the audience more, “says Liebman, who also is working on a pilot with comic Mariya Alexander about a female rabbi who meets an immigrant from Ukraine at a pot dispensary and their ensuing friendship.
While she hasn’t had a strong Jewish identity (“I grew up with a Christmas tree”), she felt informed and connected after reading “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Jewish History and Culture.” One thing about the Jewish people, she says: “We’re honest.”
In that vein, she says, “I want to be more myself. Sometimes it takes awhile to find your voice.”
And she wants to win on “Chopped.”
IF YOU GO
Kung Pao Kosher Comedy
With Wendy Liebman, Dana Eagle, Mike Fine, Lisa Geduldig
Where: New Asia Restaurant, 772 Pacific Ave., S.F.
When: 8:30 p.m. Dec. 24-25, 5 and 8:30 p.m. Dec. 26
Tickets: $47 to $67
Contact: (925) 855-1986, www.koshercomedy.com