June 22, 2010
From an unnamed university in the greater San Francisco Bay Area...
Ladies and gentleman, I have a new comedy girl crush. Sarah Haskins, you're out. Same with you, Maria Bamford. My new love interest is a Mormon New Yorker named Elna Baker.
I was actually exposed to Elna a little over two years ago by a guy I was dating at the time. We were talking about our shared love of This American Life, and he told me about the funniest segment he'd ever heard on that show about prissy Upper East Side moms, FAO Schwarz and some pretty blatant racism. He retold the story pretty well, but I wanted to hear the full version and found myself sitting in front my computer, engrossed in this funny woman's story. (You can hear it, and all the other stories I'll reference by clicking on her name.)
I passed the story on to a couple friends, but didn't think much about the woman herself, other than she had a nice voice and was very funny. Then yesterday, as I was listening to several Moth podcasts to keep one of the workstudies from talking to me, I came across that familiar voice and sly sense of humor. This time, she was talking about her 80lb weight loss and how she hoped it would change her role in her family. Because of that story, the other workstudy (whom I like talking to, but also enjoys listening to podcasts) and I keep saying to each other in deep voices "NO! I AM PRETTY NOW."
So the good workstudy and I decided to blow a goodly amount of time today finding every audio and video clip of Elna's that we could, and once we devoured those, moved on to written pieces like her Glamour article, "Yes I'm a 27-Year-Old Virgin."
If you had told me that the funny girl telling the TAL story was a Mormon when I first heard it, I would have had a hard time believing you. I knew a lot of Mormons growing up, and don't doubt that they can be funny, it's just that most Mormon women don't make it to stand-up comedy age still single and childless and working at FAO Schwarz. Elna's a different kind of Mormon than the ones I grew up with (all married except for one that we've always thought was gay) and I'm glad I've been exposed to her, not just for the laughs and wasted work hours, but also the reminder not to pigeon-hole people. Who knew not working could be so educational?