Comedian Kathy Buckley Speaks Out on Life and Laughter
Rachel L. Miller
might say that comedian, Kathy Buckley, has been cursed.
birth Buckley has been hearing-impaired. As a child, she was misdiagnosed
and labeled as retarded. She was sexually abused and contemplated
suicide throughout her teens. Then she was run over by a Jeep while
sunbathing on a beach, which resulted in broken bones and intermitted
paralysis in her legs (not to mention being pronounced dead by
attending paramedics). And after five years of recovery, once she
could walk again, she discovered she had ovarian cancer.
Some might say Kathy Buckley has been cursed. But she says she
feels completely blessed.
best gift given to me was my hearing loss. God gave me this gift
so I don't have to listen to half of the bullshit,"
mention she's a comedian?
("But I feel like I'm two-and-a-half. Where the hell did I put
my pacifier?") didn't
always want to do comedy. She never considered
it as an option due to her speech impediment.
thirteen years with some of the top speech therapists so I could talk
so people could understand me — and now they all think I'm from New
York," she said.
Fate took a hand and she was dared by friends
to enter a stand-up contest for charity — and without any stage experience,
Buckley stepped up to the challenge.
had no idea what I was doing, I was an absolute nervous wreck. My
biggest fear was not hearing them call me to the stage," the
tall brunette remembers. "But knowing that I was getting up on
that stage for the kids erased all of my fears."
first place that night and placed fourth in the entire "Stand
Up Comics Take a Stand" contest, which raised money for children
with cerebral palsy. "I got money for the kids and a career for
me," she says, laughing. "Two birds with one stone."
|"Hear This!" blends stand-up comedy and motivational
hasn't stopped laughing, and making others laugh, since. She's written a book "If You Could Hear What I See", starred
in a video "Hear This!" and is a five-time American Comedy
Award nominee as Best Stand-Up Female Comedian.
also played major comedy venues like Carolines in New York City, Catch
a Rising Star of Las Vegas, Reno, The Improv in West Hollywood, The
Ice House of Pasadena, The Comedy Store in Hollywood, The Laugh Factory
of Hollywood. But wait, there's more! She received Destination Reviews
for her autobiographical play "Don't Buck With Me" which
was performed in New York City and Los Angeles. And she stars in a
PBS documentary, which first aired in August 2001 and will run again
her stand-up routine on her hearing-impairment and other life experiences,
she creates a positive, but funny atmosphere. She tells
the audience she hasn't gone on a date in years, but says, "I
don't know if it's because I didn't hear the phone ring or what."
isn't her only calling — she discovered a gift for motivational speaking
accidentally, when she was hired to do a workshop for people with
gave me this book and wanted me to teach it to people
in the audience. The book was complicated, full of pie charts and
everything. I can't even read a 12-page comic book," she adds. " I look at the audience and think, 'I know
what it's like to not have a job, to be on welfare, to have no self-esteem
because society has placed labels on me.' I started talking
Since then, Kathy Buckley has traveled around
the nation, speaking to teens, adults and seniors, and in Anthony
Robbins' Life Mastery Classes, spreading a message of positivitism.
keeps her seminars real, not backing down from tough issues, including
the obstacles she's tackled. At one emotional point in
her seminar, she traipses back and forth along the large stage, naming
off things that have happened to her, including receiving
ridicule as a child because of her perceived differences.
a bout with meningitis in her early childhood, Buckley's parents
were told that she wouldn't grow to be more than 5'2" tall.
Then, in second grade, Buckley was placed in a school for slow
and physically impaired children in second grade. It took school
adminstrators, psychologists and audiologists nearly a year to
discover it was her hearing loss, not lack of mental acuity
that was impeding her speech. "And
they called me slow," Buckley jokes.
I wanted was acceptance (as a child)," she admits.
"I stole money, I stole candy, I stole things because
I wanted the other kids to like me. I just wanted to feel accepted. I would be handing out things to people
saying, 'Please like me, be my friend.'"
still found herself being labeled, being called "too tall,"
"retarded," "flat-chested" and a host of other
have no patience for stupidity. I believe if you need
to put someone down, you have an insecurity," Buckley said. She's
the first one to admit that labels can be painful
phrase, 'sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never
hurt me' — it's a crock. We hear those words, internalize them, analyze
them. I don't want people to go through pain that's unnecessary, I
want people to stop the self-abuse. I want people to leave after hearing
me speak, thinking 'I'm OK.'"
the near-fatal Jeep accident in 1974 for Buckley to start thinking
positive thoughts about herself. Although the Jeep ran her over, resulting in intermitted paralysis
for years, she lights up when she
speaks about that fateful day.
was absolutely incredible, a blessing, a gift, the ultimate reason
for being," she recalls. "I spent the first 20 years of
my life looking for love, warmth and acceptance. Once I died, I got
a love that was out of this world. I got the gift of choice — to stay
there or go back to my life. There's something about the right to
choose — the great thing about choice is that it's unlimited."
is quite simple, I learned," she continues. "It was me who
was making it so much more difficult. I could choose to be happy or
sad. And happy seems to bring more elements to my life."
Buckley speaks, whether to a crowd of 1,000 or on a one-on-one
basis, her zest for life is evident. She's animated, laughing, but always graceful - a powerhouse of positive
live life for each day, each moment. I love talking to people every
day. If you don't want to talk to me, that's your choice, but I'm
going to party it up," Buckley said.
example, she tells a story about an encounter at the
airport. "I was going through security, and the
guards are standing there, so serious," she begins. "One
asks me if I have anything on under my sweatsuit that isn't supposed
to be there. And I said, 'I don't even have the stuff that is supposed to be there.' They laughed, but said, 'This
is serious stuff.' I said, 'I am serious!'"
motto, "live life to the max," applies in many forms to
her everyday life. Whether it's resting on a blanket and staring at
the moon with her godchild or watching the leaves of an avocado tree
dance outside her window, Buckley loves to savor the everyday, simple
things that so many of us take for granted.
easy to get caught up in raising a family, paying the mortgage,"
she admits. "You just can't take things for granted. How many
people are making love and are thinking about their work place? You've
gotta' live in the moment."
believes women "are the most incredible
species," but "are such a pain sometimes.
We're always trying to fix ourselves. We aren't broken.
We're comparing ourselves to things that don't really exist. Barbie
and Pamela Anderson are not normal."
because she lives in the moment doesn't mean she's lacking a plan
for the future. She hopes to be on a TV series where she can touch
people on a broader scale without having to leave her home in California.
("All the traveling, living on planes and out of hotels,
takes its toll on your body," she explains. "I once was
in 10 states in nine days...that's just crazy.")
there's one comedian who has demonstrated mass appeal, it's
Buckley. Kids love her, but she's also someone to whom teens, adults
and seniors can all relate.
I was doing my one-woman show in L.A., I saw this 5-year-old
girl in the audience. On the other side of the room, was
a man who had to be 90-something. I was amazed at what a wide appeal
my show had." She pauses, then adds, "But I was
really impressed that neither one of them fell asleep. Two points
planned a ten-day break from work this month — a much-deserved trip
to Fiji, where she won't have to worry about things like phones, televisions
or battling the L.A. traffic in her Jeep.
Yes, you read correctly. Buckley is the owner of a Jeep Cherokee.
I'm going to be around a Jeep," she says. "I'm going to
be inside of it, not under it."