Queer comedy for everyone

“I’m a 20-year overnight success,” Michele Balan says, explaining how becoming a finalist on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” has changed her life.

The New York comic is in town today for the Queer Queens of Qomedy tour, which also features local favorite Marga Gomez, co-star of the comedy doc “Laughing Matters,” and queer comedy pioneer Karen Ripley, named “one of the finest lesbian comics in the country” by QComedy Review. Producer Poppy Champlin, a comic in her own right (“Oprah,” VH-1, “All Aboard Rosie’s Family Vacation”) will emcee.

“We all appeal to both the gay men and the women,” Balan says of the all-lesbian tour’s success. “And straight people love to come to these shows because we don’t do the stereotypes of men and women: we’re smart, we read, we know what’s going on — people get tired of male comics always doing masturbation jokes.”

Voted one of the “Top 10 Comics” by Backstage Magazine in 2004, Balan got her start years earlier as a female female-impersonator, doing Bette Midler impressions. When her friends entered her in a talent contest at a gay bar and she won, “the prize was being booked to perform, and I had to do it!”

Eventually, and not without trepidation, Balan gave up the rewards of her 16-year executive career — an impressive salary, her Manhattan condo, and health coverage — to pursue a career in comedy. “I was thinking, I’ll die broke and penniless — but as I got older, I thought, if I don’t do it now, I’ll never do it.”

Lean years forced Balan to perform even with a broken bone in her foot, but these days her commitment is paying off: A flourishing career has her flying from a Seattle performance on behalf of marriage equality to a private corporate booking in Chicago for the Homebuilders Annual Breakfast, and includes gigs ranging from the Improv in Los Angeles to Olivia’s Danube cruise.

And she does have at least one small luxury back in her life: “I can park my car in a garage now,” she says, “instead of looking for parking for hours and hours and watching myself age.”

Balan is developing a magazine show with LOGO, the gay cable channel, for the 45 and older GLBT market. “We’ll be fun enough for the younger audience,” she says of this and a potential show with comic Marian Grodin, “and relevant enough for the older audiences.”

IF YOU GO

Queer Queens of Qomedy

With: Michele Balan, Poppy Champlin, Marga Gomez, Karen Ripley

Where: Brava Theater, 2781 24th St., San Francisco

<p>When: 8 p.m. today

Tickets: $30 advance; $35 cash only at door

Contact: (415) 647-2822 or www.brava.org

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