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She May Not Look the Part, but Rhonda Shear’s a Comedy Pioneer

“Why can’t I just be me?” Rhonda Shear asks.

It’s not just a rhetorical question. Hollywood has always had a problem with typecasting, and if you’re gorgeous, smart and funny, nobody knows what to do with you.

Luckily for Shear--who definitely fits that description--she’s gotten to showcase her comedic talents via “USA Up All Night,” the cable channel’s weekend forum for campy old movies. Shear hosts the show Friday nights from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. She brings to the role a combination of sex appeal and satire: “Jayne Mansfield meets the ‘90s,” she says.

A former Miss Louisiana with a degree in communications from Loyola University, Shear has been doing stand-up comedy for four years and eight months (“Women always know their exact date”). She likes to poke fun at the beauty-queen genre--from which she’s glad to have broken free. “I never felt like I really fit in,” she says. “I’ve finally been able to unfreeze the frozen smile that I had for 10 years of my life.”

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And having recently appeared in Playboy as part of a “Women of Comedy” pictorial, Shear has just added a new segment to her stand-up act.

“I’ll bring a guy up onstage and show him how to pose the way they make you pose in Playboy.” Shear demonstrates, adopting a painful, contorted posture: Back arched, head back--and mimics a Playboy photographer: “ ‘OK, smile and look sexy!’

“Yeah, right,” she says. “I’ve had sexier DMV photo sessions.”

Shear, who’s gotten “nothing but positive responses” from the Playboy pictorial, which hit the stands in April, says she continually seeks new experiences as a way of rounding out her stage act. She also feels like a bit of a comedy pioneer. “I kept getting, ‘You can’t do this. You look like a soap actress,’ ” she says. “I always say, ‘What is a comedian supposed to look like?’ ”

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