The Journal, University of Illinois at Springfield Weekly Campus Newspaper

Performer Spotlight on... Retta

October 14, 2009
By Valeree Dunn
Arts and Entertainment Reporter


Photo by Melissa Conrad

Comedian Retta entertained audience members at Brookens Auditorium with her style of stand-up comedy.

The comedian Retta warmed up the UIS audience in Brooken’s Auditorium last Thursday night with a welcome indicative of her coming routine.

“Thank ya’ll for coming in the rain because this is some bulls---,” Retta said.
Retta appeared at ease on stage and lent a personal air to her act by engaging with the audience. Early on she asked the audience for some Aleve or Advil for her back. An audience member obliged and Retta continued her act after commenting under her breath, “God, I haven’t done stand-up in so long.”

She said later that she hadn’t done stand-up comedy for a couple of months, as she has been working on her new sitcom on NBC. Retta plays a part-time role as Donna in “Parks and Recreation” alongside Amy Poehler and Rashida Jones, among others.

Retta has been featured on Comedy Central, “The Soup,” and a few movies including “Dickie Roberts—Former Child Star.”  Retta has worked alongside several big names in the media, but she says that the novelty wears off quickly after working through 5a.m. to 11p.m. filming.

She says that her job on the NBC sitcom is stressful because it’s hard to know how long it will stay on air.  “Parks and Recreation” didn’t receive good reviews at first, but the show is doing better this season.

The days on the NBC run long, but Retta is familiar with hard work—despite admitting in her stand-up that she thinks she might be lazy.

Retta has travelled to every state in the union, performing stand-up for colleges, open mics, and National Association of Campus Activities conferences.

Retta says that all of her stand-up material comes from real events.  She tries to take something that happens and then embellish the story or idea.  She doesn’t discriminate on whom she’ll joke about, and she’s not above poking fun of herself.

“This is as big as I need to get.  I’m not looking to make history,” Retta said about her weight on stage.

Retta’s stand-up routines feature her ease on stage and she takes advantage of her space with great hand gestures and comfortable movement. 

When telling a story of one trip going awry, Retta took a mini Super-8 Motel bar soap and stuffed it under a large fold in her skin.

The UIS audience received Retta with laughter and screams.  One audience member guffawed loudly, “Did she really just do that?”

When Retta finished her routine she turned and popped her back; her back was feeling better.  As the audience left, Retta sat down on the edge of the stage, ready to have dinner and stay at a real hotel.  About being a comedian: “It’s just work,” Retta said.