No, Underwood's a comedian -- a brazen, outrageous, whip-smart comedian. Born in Little Rock and raised in Chicago, the 34-year-old began her stage career as a stripper -- "the worst stripper in the world," she says with a laugh. She went into standup full-time 14 years ago after winning "The Funniest Woman in Fresno" competition while living in northern California.
Her coarse but astute comedy stems in equal parts from a native intelligence (she has a master's degree), conservative thinking derived from a religious upbringing and Underwood's own traumatic life experiences (her husband was killed during the Gulf War). She takes an all-out approach to her material, as with her remarks about homosexuality a few years back ("The penis may be strong enough for a man, but it was made for a woman"); the comment didn't sit well with the folks at the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). Responds Underwood: "You know what? [They need to] understand that that is a point of view in my act. But it is also a point of view that other people hold. And if you don't respect that, you know...."
But Underwood refuses to become mired in heated debates; she's too busy, for starters, having turned in recent back-to-back performances in the movies Bulworth and I Got the Hook-Up. She's also a supporter of various worthy causes, from AIDS research to the March of Dimes to the NAACP. "I'm very active," she says. "People catch me in church and go, 'That's not that nasty girl, is it?' Oh my goodness, she's at church. Something must be wrong with her career.' "
-- Craig D. Lindsey
Sheryl Underwood: Thursday, July 30, through Saturday, August 1. The Laff Stop, 1952-A W. Gray, 524-2333.