My View: From A Broad- This is what you call an Introductory Offer!

By : Jill Shargaa
Comments: 0
Jill Shargaa

Jill Shargaa (Photo by Judy Watson Tracy)

Watermark has asked me to write a column. “It can be on anything you want, political, serious, humorous…and it has to be about 900 words.”

I thought, “I don’t know 300 words, so this is gonna be a challenge.”

I could go into excruciating detail about my childhood growing up here in Orlando, or I could start with the present and tell you what I had for lunch today.

I’m known for a few things—being a comic, a professional graphic designer, sister, aunt, daughter, lover of vintage VW Beetles and three-time winner of the Irving Thalberg Award.

Not really, but I thought that would look good right there.

I’m happy to say that both of my 85-year old parents are alive and kicking and live just two doors down from me. My dad still goes to work Monday through Friday at his business and my Mom is a terrific cook and loves their cat, Sophie. This coming May they celebrate their 61st wedding anniversary.

I’ll let that sink in for a moment. Sixty-one years married to the same person and my guess is that they’re going to keep this up until we say otherwise.

I have a sister who is married to a wonderful guy. They have two grown-ass kids, one of which is my niece, who will be married on my folks’ 61st wedding anniversary as a way to honor to them. How’s that for being corny, loving and wonderful? So you can see by these few sentences, I come from a very stable home, perhaps bordering on dull.

I’m a product of the Orange County Public School system and I still get excited when I hear Boone High School did well at anything. My first two years of college were spent at Valencia, then I transferred to a little school called the University of Florida.

I majored in Graphic Design and graduated with a Bachelors in Art. I have a forced minor in Art History. I say it that way because I’d rather have had a minor in something like Broadcasting because I like watching TV.

My graphic design career started at an outdoor billboard company—hated it. Here’s why. Back then, when you were interviewed for a job, they could ask you questions like “Do you plan on getting pregnant anytime soon?” I thought, “Do you plan on knocking me up? What the hell is goin’ on?” I didn’t stay long.

I’ve worked for WMFE-TV (now WUCF) and learned how poor but necessary public television really is. And while we’re here, yes, I watch Downton Abbey, but prefer to call it Downtown Arby’s. It’s just easier.

I worked for almost 10 years as an editorial artist at The Orlando Sentinel and can say that was my favorite job. We created breaking news graphics, illustrations, maps, charts and infographics all at a moment’s notice because it was all part of putting the story together. Trucks were waiting for you downstairs, so you better make that deadline.

When the invasion of Iraq—Desert Storm—started, I drew the front page illustration. I had a zillion editors stand behind me as they barked out suggestions or changed the size or text. It was exciting and exhausting, having just pulled an all-nighter there sleeping on the floor of the art department. Today, it’s so different from just 20 years ago.

I don’t live in the past. But there are some things “back then” that were just flat out better.

Music—anything from Motown, the Beatles, the Stones, early Bette Midler; and Earth, Wind and Fire. Back then, no one “sampled” from other artist. They wrote it first.

Television—to name a few, the Ed Sullivan Show, Mary Tyler Moore Show, Carol Burnett Show and Johnny Carson when he defined The Tonight Show.

And well-built homes. You can keep your Chinese drywall, thank you very much.

As for being a stand-up comic, that started after college. I wrote a fan letter to Joan Rivers. I sent her a funny letter and mailed it to her in care of The Sands Hotel, Las Vegas. She wrote back a few weeks later and enclosed a contract offering me to be a writer for her.

I gave myself a few weeks and wrote 19 one-liners and mailed them back to her. She bought a couple of them for $9 bucks apiece. At 23 years of age, I just made contact with my comedy idol, and she’s buying jokes from me.

This is where I wake up, right? I eventually met her in South Florida at The Doral. I wrote in advance if I could meet her after the show. I gave her a bag of red grapefruit I had brought from home—she loved that. I was out of her dressing room door in probably a few seconds, but it was one of the greatest experiences ever. You can imagine my devastation when she suddenly died last year.

Today, I can thank Ms. Rivers for giving me my start. Since then, I’ve put in 30 years of performing in some of the best comedy clubs and venues like The Improv and the Tupperware Auditorium. And there’s been some real toilets like a golf course clubhouse in Sebastian, Fla.

There, the stage was a sheet of plywood on top of some cinder blocks. God help you if you didn’t stand in the center and not flip it over by shifting your body weight.

I’ve performed with Lily Tomlin, Paula Poundstone, Rosie O’Donnell and Carrot Top. Last summer, I gave a TED talk in NYC.

I’ve told jokes in my pajamas at my Dad’s Kiwanis meeting at 7 a.m. at the Citrus Club in downtown Orlando. I’m just not sure what to write about for this first column.

Share this story: