Born in Coney Island, comedian Michele Balan has spent most of her life in Brooklyn, and all of it in New York. But these days, she is in L.A. for the finals of the NBC comedy competition, Last Comic Standing. “Lately it’s been pretty full-speed ahead,” she says. “Since I left New York I don’t sleep, I don’t eat, I don’t know what time it is.”
After last week’s episode of NBC’s Last Comic Standing, Balan is now the last female comic standing. When the show airs this Tuesday, voters will choose between Balan and her three male competitors for advancement to the next round of the competition. The overall winner of the competition will receive an exclusive talent contract with NBC and their own comedy special on Bravo.
Before she started doing standup Balan was an executive at a computer company. But even then she was moonlighting on stage as a “female female impersonator,” doing Bette Midler impersonations.
One day she finally quit her day job. “People would say, ‘You should do it.’ You know, all those people who say ‘live your dream,’” she recalls. “And then it became a nightmare. But at that point it’s like, F***, I gave up my career, I’m struggling financially, and I’m like, ‘Who are those people who said to live my dream?’”
But Balan won’t say exactly when that was other than “a long time ago.” She says she can’t be more specific because “then everybody’ll know how old I am. I quit that job to do this and here I am–822 years later I’m on TV.”
She will only acknowledge that she’s “over 43 and under 60.” And in her act Balan makes frequent references to her advancing age, such as quipping that she now screams “Bingo!” when she has an orgasm.
With her self–deprecating one-liners delivered in rapid-fire, it’s no surprise that Balan admires the Borscht Belt comics. “I love that old style. Maybe it’s because I’m Jewish but I love that stuff–Jackie Mason, George Burns, Phyllis Diller, Buddy Hackett, Freddy Roman. And who has more neuroses than Jewish people?”
In addition to her current television series, Balan has appeared on Comedy Central as well as in comedy clubs across the country. She has shared the stage with Kathy Najimy, Harvey Fierstein, Bruce Vilanch, Jennifer Holiday, and Taylor Dayne.
Balan also performs frequently at festivals, such as the Dinah Shore Women’s Weekend and Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival. In 2004 Backstage Magazine included her among their “Top 10 Comics.”
In 2004 she recorded Live: Just Barely, a DVD featuring a full-length performance. Her 1999 CD, Neurotic by Nature, was recorded live in LA. On it, Nell Carter sings Balan’s version of Celine Dion’s “Because You Loved Me,” changing the title refrain to “I’m everything I am because you left me.”
Balan befriended Carter on an RSVP cruise. Balan has performed on RSVP, Aquafest, and Womynfest at Sea cruises, as well as at one of Olivia’s “land packages,” where the women-only vacation company takes over a Club Med resort.