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The 50-year-old perspective: comedy

Spilt milk usually elicits a grumble instead of a guffaw for most mothers, but once a month in Multnomah Village, lots of guffaws is what you get when a bunch of women get together and grouse, comically, about anything womanly, motherhood-ish, wife-like.

And somehow I was up on the stage in the spotlight with them in late January, profoundly aware that inviting my church friends to attend even a PG-rated comedy show in which I was “talent” might have been plain dumb.

“Uh Lori,” the emcee and organizer, Betsy Kauffman, asked me behind the curtain, “What is the name of your church?” after I had sweated through my first-ever time doing comedy with a live audience.

Oh yikes. Uh, what do I say here? Is this what our pastor meant when he said he wanted to “connect with the community”? Or, heaven forbid, were my church friends acting up? Or worse, will they get called out and mention the church name in vain? I hesitated, slightly.

“St Andrew’s Presbyterian,” I mumbled.

Turns out my table of friends were the laugh-starters, right in the front, giggling the whole time. In fact, several enjoyed it so much they wanted to know when I would be doing it again. But I do things once! I have an only child, for Pete’s sake! I watch movies once, give away my books after one reading, went to Antarctica exactly once, grateful I lived through the first visit.

I felt the same about this gig. Comedy is a lot of work, even just “reading one of my columns” as my friend Joanie Quinn said when she recruited me several months ago. Writing the piece was excruciating and you have to be funny every 30 seconds, so I had to rewrite the thing twice! And practice it and time it. My husband was absolutely no help at all; he said, “I’ve heard all these stories before” as he looked at me and blinked a couple of times. He did not laugh once. In fact, he thought it comical I was talking to the front windows — over and over again.

My friends were in two camps about this adventure of mine. One very large group would rather chew glass and swallow it than get up and deliver comedy. The other group was the “how can I do it too?” contingent. One had read a book; others had seen the comedy classes advertised on Craigslist. The chair of one of our OHSU departments confessed he had “always wanted to do that.” And they wanted to COME to the show, asking about tickets and dates. I mean, my BOSS. Can you imagine delivering a monologue on how your kid grasped the birds and the bees with your boss in the audience? It is a wonder I lived through it.

And that I still have a church and a job.

My clothes did not live through it. I did not realize you could sweat in just about every pore in your body at the same time — to the delight of my drycleaner. Not one but two “I don’t look fat in this” outfits had to be dry cleaned from head to toe, including the underwear.

But I must confess here I understand why these women put this show together, why Robin Williams wants to perfect his impersonations, why Kristen Wiig hams it up as a bridesmaid, why the class clown can’t keep his trap shut. It’s intoxicating. I mean when the first burst of laughter reached my panic-stricken eardrums, I was astonished. That was not a courtesy laugh; I was funny! And I still had seven more paragraphs of potential funny! And don’t you think last night’s audience was laughing more? And I thought that one joke was SO funny and it did not get the laughs the auger joke did.

Hey, if you wanna hear the one about the auger, you have to get a ticket.

Split Milk Comedy is doing a benefit show April 30 to help Jackie Kane, the founder of “Time Out: the Mother of all Comedy Shows,” who is battling cancer, at O’Connor’s in Multnomah Village. For more info, www.facebook.com/SpiltMilkinSWPDX. Lori Sweeney will NOT be talent, but several other brave ladies will be.