June 18, 2009

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Mother, lawyer, comedian
Karen Morgan is “Legally Funny”
By Katie Beth Ryan music@hippopress.com

Any woman who has considered balancing her motherhood act with a standup comedy career on the side ought to have a chat with Karen Morgan. It’s a life, she says, that’s rarely dull and rarely quiet.

“You can have ice cream, just go get a spoon,” she tells her daughter mid-interview on a Friday after running practice is finished. “You can have some ice cream, too, just go in there.

“I have a door to my office,” she says once the commotion is settled. “That’s good.”

A mom to three kids and a licensed attorney in two states, Morgan has discovered in the past few years that she’s pretty funny, too. The Georgia native will bring her show “Legally Funny,” featuring her observations about family and legal life, to the Palace Theatre in Manchester on Friday, June 19, at 7:30 p.m.

In the past five years, Morgan has taken her act to a national stage. She’s appeared as a contestant on Nick at Nite’s Search for the Funniest Mom in America competition; she’s authored a book, You Might Be a Mama (modeled after Jeff Foxworthy’s You Might Be a Redneck); and she’s currently the comedian representing Nestle’s “Very Best Kids” campaign. An avid viewer of Saturday Night Live growing up, Morgan found that although life as a criminal defense attorney in Atlanta didn’t lend itself to a career in comedy, motherhood did.

“As far as being funny, the desire to be funny came after having children, because at that point, there’s no shame, there’s no embarrassment, there’s no fear that anything could come across after a whole room of people have seen your bottom,” she says. “You’re not embarrassed and you can do anything.”

Morgan migrated to Maine after meeting her husband on a blind date, marrying him a year later, and passing Maine’s bar exam in the process. Her legal career took a backseat to motherhood with three kids under the age of 4 at home. But to avoid losing her mind, Morgan enrolled in a comedy writing class in Portland with Tim Ferrell, who’s worked as a consultant to Comedy Central.

“I told my husband, ‘I have to get out of this house, or I’m going to kill you and everybody else,’” she says. “So I took a standup comedy class. That was more to just get out of the house and have something to do. I keep saying that my husband wished that I had taking cooking lessons and not comedy … but that’s what I took. And I love it.”

It was Ferrell who convinced her to submit a tape for Nick at Nite’s Search for the Funniest Mom in America competition, and she made it through a grueling set of callbacks to the finals. She walked away from the experience with a renewed confidence in her abilities as a live performer, and she still performs regularly with two of the women she met on the show.

“I think what I brought to the table was a different aspect, talking about being from the South and living in the Northeast,” she said. “Your material has to come from within you. It has to be your own, and if you just stand up there and just tell jokes that don’t come from your heart, it doesn’t come across as good.”

Her act can lean toward observations of a Southerner living in Maine and kissing her three children goodbye on their first day of school (before finally planting a smooch on the bus driver). At the same time, she’s not afraid to confront risqué subjects like post-pregnancy breasts and every last intimate detail of her husband’s vasectomy. She tends to shy away from lawyer jokes, “because I am one, and it took me too many hours to pass two bar exams to make fun of it.” But there are few topics Morgan isn’t willing to touch, and she credits her husband and family for being good sports and keeping her grounded. “I have a husband who is extremely supportive of what I’m doing and I try not to be gone too much,” she says. “I travel a good bit with my work, and I travel a good bit to tour, but I try to make it so that the family aspect of it does balance out.”


Karen Morgan
When: Friday, June 19, at 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Palace Theatre, 80 Hanover St. in Manchester
Tickets: $19, available at the Palace Theatre box office and www.palacetheatre.org
More info: www.karenmorgan.com