When actress-comedian Mary Lynn Rajskub played Chloe O'Brian, the neurotic computer analyst and closest confidant to Kiefer Sutherland's special agent Jack Bauer on Fox's action-packed drama 24, her character used her wits to defuse any number of tense and sometimes life-threatening situations.
When Rajskub (pronounced RICE-cub) takes the stand-up stage, she has to defuse a tense situation that occurs in her head.
"My inclination is much more toward (being) antisocial," she said. "But I still have this compulsion to perform."
The Detroit native, 42, says she started having this internal conflict in the early '90s, when she majored in painting while attending arts colleges including the College for Creative Studies in Detroit and the San Francisco Art Institute.
"I started doing performance art for my art classes, and people kind of laughed at that a little bit," she said. "I figured I'd go in the direction of the laugh and try to get some laughs on purpose."
Making laughter her preferred destination led her to landing a few roles on TV early on, and playing numerous characters on the sketch comedy program Mr. Show and bumbling talent booker Mary Lou Collins on The Larry Sanders Show, both on HBO.
Since then, she's made TV and film appearances as characters who were all over the map, usually getting laughs by presenting a signature awkwardness that also comes across in her stand-up comedy.
Her focus on stand-up has occurred mainly during the past few years and followed the 2010 debut of her one-woman Los Angeles stage show, Mary Lynn Spreads Her Legs, which centered on Rajskub's surprise pregnancy with her now husband Matthew Rolph and her personal struggles with becoming a mother.
"That was kind of the first time I committed to being a bit more theatrical," said Rajskub, whose son, Valentine, is now 5. "After that story, I really wanted to be light and funny about it."
Rajskub said the experience she's had being a mother and wife finds its way into the material on her current stand-up tour, which comes to Comedy Off Broadway in Lexington this week.
The tour is certainly well-timed: Rajskub will be reprising her role as Chloe in the revived limited series 24: Live Another Day in 2014.
She said fans of her most synonymous character might leave the comedy club feeling disappointed that she is, in fact, not someone with crazy computer skills (she claimed her words-per-minute count might be worse now due to all the fake typing she did on the set of 24) but that audiences will get to know her better — at least by the end.
The first part of her stand-up, well, that's an entirely different story.
"Maybe you would question ... not my sanity, but 'what is wrong with this girl?'" she said.
IF YOU GO
Mary Lynn Rajskub
With: Jeremy Essig and Scott Wilson
When: 7:15 p.m. Sept. 25, 26; 7:15 and 9:45 p.m. Sept. 27, 28
Where: Comedy Off Broadway, The Mall at Lexington Green, 161 Lexington Green Cir.
Tickets: $7 Sept. 25, $9 Sept. 26, $14 Sept. 27, $17 Sept. 28. Available at (859) 271-5653 and Comedyoffbroadway.com.