COMING ON STRONG : Wimpy Women Have an Ally With Attitude in Carole Montgomery and her Male-Baiting Routines

Dennis McLellan is a Times staff writer who regularly covers comedy for OC Live!

"A couple of things you should know about me," comedian Carole Montgomery says at the outset of her act. "I'm originally from Brooklyn, New York. I like to describe Brooklyn, New York, as a place where a man's version of foreplay is"--she makes two quick kissing sounds-- 'Ya ready?' "

These kind of guys, Montgomery says, really bug her.

"Why do these guys feel if a woman is walking in broad daylight by herself they've got to make a comment from their car? Do you think pioneer women had this problem? Some poor woman's walking 10 miles to get some water for her family and some jerk on a horse is like, 'Yo sweetheart! Want to churn my butter?' "

Montgomery, who's headlining at Bruce Baum's Comedy Crib in Fullerton through Sunday, is billed as the "Ivory Girl With the Attitude." Ivory Girl because she's an attractive, smartly dressed young woman with blond hair and finely chiseled features. Attitude because, despite her angelic demeanor, she talks like a truck driver.

Variety calls her "as brash as a cabbie," speaking her mind on sex, birth control, motherhood and the differences between men and women.

As far as natural childbirth is concerned, she says, "when the first contraction hit, it was, 'I want heroin right now! And I want Keith Richards to bring it in so I know it's good.' "

The truck-driver attitude is no put-on.

"No, that's me," Montgomery said with a chuckle. "But obviously with any comedy it's exaggerated. One of the things that's funny is friends say I've totally mellowed out 'cause I had a baby, and I said to them, '(expletive) you.' "

As she spoke by phone from her home in North Hollywood, Montgomery said her Brooklyn accent becomes especially noticeable when she's tired or when she's being heckled.

"People are amazed at how fast I can annihilate someone on stage, because I don't look that way."

Montgomery was introduced to stand-up comedy as a kid in the early '60s when her schoolteacher father worked summers tending bar in the Catskill Mountains, where she had a chance to watch Jackie Mason, Rodney Dangerfield,Totie Fields and other veterans perform.

She didn't consider stand-up as a career, however, until 1978 when she was working in summer stock as a "techie" building sets.

"I'd always be making people laugh," she said. "Someone said, 'You really should be a comedian,' and people started egging me on. I had no idea what that would entail."

In 1980, she started doing stand-up full time at a Brooklyn club called Pip's. At the time, she said, there weren't many female comics.

"Most of the men wanted me to get off the stage and make sauce. . . . That's the kind of audience I was dealing with."

For some men, she said, "it's so intimidating to see a strong woman speaking her mind. In my act, even though I'm a very strong woman who speaks her mind, I'm not anti-men. I have a husband and a son I adore.

"My attitude about my act is I pick on men because women are too wimpy to do it themselves. It's so true. Women come up to me (after a show) and say, 'Could you talk to my husband?' I say, 'I'm not a surrogate; I'm just trying to make you laugh for 45 minutes.' "

Despite her sometimes off-color material and language, Montgomery said it's never done in a harsh way.

"I'm not there to offend anybody. I'm just there to be honest. If they want to have a good time and have relationships discussed honestly, then this is the show they ought to come to see."

As with most comics with a decade of stand-up behind them, Montgomery's act has evolved as her personal life has changed. Starting out at 23, she said: "I was talking about being single and dating. Now I talk about my son's diapers. So it's come a long way."

Montgomery said her son, who just celebrated his first birthday, accompanied her on the road until he was 8 months old.

"He used to come with me because I didn't want to put him in day care," she said. She explained, however, that her songwriter/musician husband has since been laid off from his music publishing job, so their son can now stay home with his dad when she's on the road.

Montgomery, who describes her son as "quite a little ham," said she would always take him on stage for a brief bit at the end of her act.

Motherhood, it seems, has done nothing to tone down her tough chick attitude.

"It's true; I still have it," she said, recalling one night in Philadelphia when someone started heckling her about having the child up so late.

"I just nailed him to the wall," Montgomery said. "I was just really throwing out every slang curse word you could possibly imagine, and the baby's looking at me, 'That's my mom.' "

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