Michele Balan: The Last Woman Comic Standing

Recently Balan wrote some comic material for another friend, singer Lesley Gore, whom she met at the Friars Club. She describes it as banter for Gore to perform between musical numbers.

Balan says it isn't uncommon for musicians to enlist the help of comics to spice up their acts: “They need to talk to the audience, and a lot of them don't know what to say. It can be pretty drab. It's always better than saying ‘thank you, thank you very much' between every song.”

Balan adds: “I saw the Indigo Girls once and that's all they said. No stage appeal, none. You could just stay home with the records, because there's really nothing different.”

Balan isn't excited about going out to comedy performances either: “I don't want to hear the people on stage perform, I don't want to be influenced by their material.”

“Jesus,” she adds. “I'm around it all the time. Why make a point to go see some more? It's like a shoemaker going to watch someone else make shoes.”

Recently Balan has left L.A. only for a few quick trips to perform elsewhere in the country. In mid-July she appeared in Chicago alongside Poppy Champlin and Sapna Kumar as the “Queer Queens of Comedy.” “It was great playing in front of a gay crowd after performing so much on TV for straight people.”

“Bi-comical” is the term Balan uses to describe her appeal to gay and straight audiences alike. But she is especially grateful for all her LGBT fans. “I love doing the gay shows because gay people are the best laughers. The best audiences.

On a more serious note she adds: “Plus, I can do some jokes about being gay that only gay people get, to really be free.”

On a recent episode of Last Comic Standing she joked that she had just gotten into a fight with her boyfriend. Then she added that the cause was that he has a problem with her being a lesbian.

“That's the first time I've mentioned that,” Balan says, explaining that it's probably unclear to most viewers that she's a lesbian. “But with the straight people they're never really sure if that's just a joke or what. It keeps them guessing.”

Balan says she enjoys all of her gigs, whether they be on land, at sea or on television: “TV is always good because you might make money someday, but I like them all. I do like the gay stuff because it's so much fun. But, look, it's always exciting to get a paycheck. That always helps, especially because I have health insurance for my dog.”

While Balan is in L.A., her dog Lucy is back in New York, with Balan's girlfriend. “Lucy's being well taken care of. Better than I'm being taken care of.” But with typical self-effacement Balan adds: “I'd rather she be taking care of my dog. My dog means more to me.”

Now the episodes are airing live, but the first part of Last Comic Standing was filmed in April, with the original 12 contestants sequestered on the Queen Mary. It was hardly the good ship, according to Balan: “The last time it set sail was in 1960, which was the last time they vacuumed.”

But housekeeping standards on the ship have only been one of several challenges the comics face. “There's an element of stress. You get challenged to a comedy contest,” Balan says. “And then if you don't win you leave the ship, you're off the show. Fortunately I kept coming back like a bad pimple.”

“But I think comedy competitions are ridiculous,” she adds. “You can't compare apples to oranges. I mean, look at the four of us who are left on stage now. Where in any way are we similar?”

But Balan is still grateful for the chance to appear before such a wide audience, and for the fact that she didn't have to do anything drastic to land the gig.

“People are eating cockroaches to be on TV,” she points out. “It's an interesting experience. I mean, how many times in your lifetime are you part of a reality show?”

What big plans does Balan have in mind if she wins? “Sleep.”

“I feel like I've already really won,” she adds. “I'm the last woman comic standing. Even if they send me home Tuesday, it's still a win-win.”

Get more info about Last Comic Standing at NBC.com

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