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She lost the fat, but kept the funny

Special to The Times

Carrie SNOW not only tipped the scales at 269 pounds, she made them groan. The writer and stand-up comic was a poster girl for being overweight -- she riffed on it in her act and even appeared on the cover of “Radiance,” a now-defunct quarterly that billed itself as “the magazine for large women.”

Today, however, Snow is a toned size 10 -- after undergoing gastric bypass surgery in 1994. She nevertheless refuses to let audiences forget her jumbo-sized self. In her new show, “From Fat to Fabulous in Just 50 Years,” which she performs at the Comedy Store tonight and on selected dates in June and July, Snow flaunts that 1990 magazine cover.

Prominently displayed on an easel onstage, the poster-size image is a launching point for her 60-minute diet odyssey tale, one that differs from traditional stand-up in that it reveals -- as much through affecting monologues as witty shtick -- the inner Snow. “I was trapped inside this body, and what people saw was totally different than what I was feeling,” she says. “The surgery changed everything. It made me think, ‘What do you do with your whole life now that you’re not on a diet?’ ”

Looking back on her struggles with food, which Snow says began at age 7, she yaks about fasting, stints in Overeaters Anonymous and even daily injections of hormones extracted from pregnant women’s urine.

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“I went to New Orleans on a juice fast and didn’t eat. Who does that?” asks Snow, 50, nibbling on a freshly baked peanut butter cookie in the cozy confines of her Fairfax-area garden apartment. “When I did Atkins there was no ‘carb-light’ bread. You would eat your pound of bacon and gallon of whipped cream. I lost 50 pounds, then gained 75 pounds back.”

Born and raised in Merced, Calif., Snow earned a degree in rhetoric from UC Berkeley. It was while working in Oakland as a receptionist at Kaiser Permanente (“Good people, good medicine, good luck,” she quips), that Snow decided to try stand-up. She made her first 10 bucks in comedy at San Francisco’s Holy City Zoo in 1978.

A few years later Snow migrated to Los Angeles, where, in the mid-'80s, she met Roseanne Barr at the Comedy Store. “Roseanne slept on my couch when she first came to town. I knew her three middle children when they were babies.”

Barr, of course, went on to mega-success as a comic and then on TV, while Snow was also gaining a name, headlining at Caroline’s in New York and at Caesars Tahoe. She opened for wildly diverse acts, from Jack Jones to the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Her appearance on the syndicated show “Comedy Tonight” earned her a local Emmy nomination -- though she is quick to say she was “beaten out by a dog show.” The L.A. Weekly wrote about her: “No one can bitch, dish and talk trash

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In 1991, Snow lost 100 pounds on the Optifast program but quickly gained it back. Deciding to take more drastic measures, Snow underwent breast reduction surgery, accompanied by a tummy tuck. “I was so ashamed,” she says. “I’d had a talk show, ‘Cristina and Friends,’ and vowed I was never going to gain weight again.”

Snow had recently started writing for “Roseanne,” in 1994, when she decided on gastric bypass surgery. “We were like veal,” she says of the writing staff. “They kept us in a small room where we were all fed.” Barr loaned her $21,000 to pay for the operation until her insurance reimbursed the expense. The two-hour procedure, which basically shrinks the stomach, was successful -- with the caveat that Snow had to change the way she ate.

“It’s enforced behavior modification. I can eat anything I want now,” Snow points out, “but in moderation. I lost most of the weight in about six months.”

With two-thirds of Americans overweight, surgery to curb obesity is a hot-button issue. Snow has the passion of the converted and reaches out to others like herself.

She’s helped guide nearly two-dozen patients through the procedure, including her friend Howard Lapides.

“Carrie called me one day and said, ‘I want to save your life,’ ” explains Lapides, a personal manager. “She gave me the name and number of this doctor and said I had to do it. I finally met with him, and Carrie was there the day I was operated on, and after that. Now I do the same for others.”

ALTHOUGH it’s been a decade since Snow’s surgery, the idea of building a show around the weight-loss premise had been germinating awhile. In January, Snow performed some material at a Hollywood art gallery. Comic and actor Taylor Negron, a colleague since their early days on the road together, was in the audience that night. He offered to direct her.

“I was always struck with how unsentimental Carrie was about life. She was raw and remarkably honest about the human condition,” notes Negron. “She possesses a fiercely intelligent mind and tongue and is capable of spilling some heavy beans on herself. I’m there to help structure her story.”

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Yoga has also helped Snow to stay balanced. She not only talks about it in performance but demonstrates onstage by doing a headstand, clad in normal-sized jeans and white shirt.

And like so much in Snow’s life, her wardrobe is grist for the mill too: “I built a career on shopping,” Snow says during her act. “But it was more like a safari to find things that fit. They would lose my luggage when I traveled, and it was an event. Now I carry a cellphone and an extra pair of underwear, not another extra 100 pounds and special diet food.”

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Carrie Snow

‘From Fat to Fabulous in Just 50 Years’

Where: The Comedy Store, 8433 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood

When: Tonight, 8 p.m. Also June 7 and 21, and July 5 and 26.

Cost: $5

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Info: (323) 656-6225


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