For LaRonda Clay, the hardest part about comedy was getting up the nerve to do it in the first place. She had waffled about doing amateur night at Comedy Off Broadway for months, but in March 2010, she finally found the courage to get up on stage. Her husband Phillip encouraged her and helped her to have the confidence to pull it off.
“Mentally, I had to get the fear out of the way,” said LaRonda. “That was the thing I was fearful about: what people would say or if they liked me or not. So I had to let that fear go. I just wanted to uplift people.”
LaRonda maintains her day job as a special education paraeducator, but she is now in high demand as a comedian. She regularly does shows at churches, conferences, nursing homes, children’s hospitals—even Shapes Fitness; she has a soft spot for them, having lost 86 lbs. there.
“I’m clean,” she said. “I don’t cuss in my comedy, I don’t talk dirty. I wanted it to be where people could bring their kids and it could be a family thing.”
But there’s still plenty to joke about even if she’s keeping it clean: she draws inspiration from everyday life, from family, from the funny things kids say. “Just reality, stuff where you can say ‘I’ve been through the same thing!’ as a friend, as a mother, as a sister.”
Do her kids mind when she mentions them in her routine? LaRonda admits that her 14-year-old son was embarrassed at first, but now he loves it because all his friends are big fans of hers.
Thanks to her YouTube videos, she has fans all over the world, in fact.
LaRonda admits that soon it may be time to quit her job at Fayette County Public Schools and do comedy full time. It is, she believes, her calling.
Never was that more clear than last December when her 22-year-old son was shot seven times.
“That’s the time when I thought I was going to give up comedy,” she said. “The doctors didn’t think he was going to make it.”
Though her son is doing well these days, it was in those dark hours in the hospital that LaRonda realized the healing impact comedy had on her life.
“I was making myself laugh in the hospital, just seeing little things that people did. It was what kept me going. Sometimes you just have to laugh and smile to keep from crying. No matter what you’re going through—health problems, financial problems—sometimes you just need to laugh. Laughter is good for the soul.”