When Carol Leung steps on stage before a microphone, she feels energized in a way that some people might experience when climbing a mountain or white-water rafting - but she doesn’t have to get soaked or deprive herself of oxygen.
“Some of us get our adrenaline rush in safer ways,” said Leung, a Rancho Santa Fe resident who took up stand-up comedy earlier this year, at age 62.
Leung said she recently encountered a women in her 80s at the gym, who told her the 60s are the “youth of old age.”
“So I’m making the most of my youth of old age,” she said. “Stand-up was just one of those things I wanted to try. Then I decided I really enjoy it, it makes me extremely happy.”
On Friday, Sept. 20, Leung - performing under the stage name Carol Johnson - will make her professional debut as a stand-up comedian at Flappers Comedy Club in Burbank. She’ll deliver a five-minute set, part of the club’s weekend Speakeasy Comedy Showcase. She was invited to perform after doing an open mic night earlier at the club.
On stage, Leung pokes fun at herself and how difficult it is for a divorced woman in her 60s to find a date.
Her blurb on the Flappers web site says, “A first generation Californian, she has survived years of PTA meetings, kids sports and a laundry landslide and finally has time for her passion: laughter. She is trying really hard to avoid becoming a crazy cat lady.”
She tells audiences that women her age are invisible, which she likens to the young boy in the film, “The Sixth Sense,” who can see dead people. “The only living things that can see me are animals and men over 80,” she said.
Leung started out in March by taking a comedy class at a club in San Diego, then graduated to appearing at open mic nights, at such San Diego clubs as the Comedy Palace, the Comedy Store and the Madhouse. She found that most stand-ups are men under 30.
“When I show up to open mic, sometimes it’s just me and a bunch of boys,” she said. Her desire to be surrounded by funny women led her to a ladies open mic night at Flappers, which in turn led to an invitation to perform at Friday’s showcase.
A couple of friends are planning to make the trip to Burbank Friday to see her perform, and her son, a college student, may also come along, she said.
“That’s going to be exciting. I’m looking forward to it,” she said.
Leung’s foray into comedy is reminiscent of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” a TV show (on Amazon Prime) about a New York City homemaker and mother who decides to try her hand at stand-up comedy. Leung said she binge-watched the series over the summer. “I looked at that and thought, I can do that,” she said.
Her comedy hero is Robin Williams, the stand-up comic and actor who died in 2014. “He had such an incredible mind, I aspire to be like him,” she said.
One of the joys of performing comedy, she said, is connecting with the audience and giving them a reason to laugh.
“People need to laugh now in this day and age,” she said. With bad news ranging from climate change to school shootings, “Our lives are a lot harder than they used to be.”
She plans to continue going to open mics, and she also wants to audition for “America’s Got Talent,” the NBC competition show. She’ll have just 90 seconds to make the producers laugh, a task she enjoys as much as her audience.
“One of my main points is, it’s never too late to achieve your dreams,” Leung said.