Best of SFComedy in 2015: Lydia Popovich


A Home. San Francisco.

“Tits and brunch,” answered to the question “which of your bits are people responding to most?”

Tits. A rally cry against baseless entitlement and unchecked mediocrity. It demands effort from the marginalized, who have a legitimate disadvantage, to at least try, to win the game by playing. Tits become a loose cannon vigilante, busting through glass windows or slipping through doors. “I have no time, no time, for unconfident hoes!”

Brunch. A tribute to the lovechild of breakfast and lunch, better than its parents, threatened by infants. Lyrical potency pulsed into a purée. Unctuous inflection simmered into a rue. Imagery plated with artisan craft. Passion glaze. Impersonation garnish. “I’m talking about brunch! I brunch hard!”

Lydia Popovich has standards and makes no apologies for them. Immaculate, impeccable fashion, exquisite, palatable flavors, every piece of media consumed with a curated sense of self, every decision adhering to aesthetics. It’s not pretense or farce, it’s comfort and care. The Lydia you see dressed to the nines and amped to eleven, *is* Lydia. She’s understands that not everyone can live up to her principles, nor does she approve. She probably has the most acute criticism on how you could be better, for instance, in presenting yourself at a show with patrons: “They’re paying to to see you; look like you give a shit.”

Popovich performs with the gift of gab, engaging and loquacious, sharp-tongued and long-lunged. Rather than the stop-and-go of set up, punch, the San Jose native’s sets spread out like roadtrips, the journey as important as the (in)sights. “It’s a gift and a curse. I’m wordy as fuck. Comedy is about economy of words and I start with way too many.”

Her words first found home in Hater Tuesday, Lydia’s blog, in its current state, since 2004. Stories and anecdotes, rants and takes, stretched out with characteristic “get bent” bend. Though the seeds of a comic was there—the first post is entitled “Everyone has opinions… mine are just better.”, I mean, right?—writing wasn’t an immediate lead in to amplifying that voice through microphones. Lydia was used to being backstage, not on it.

Drawn to the event promotions to make all the live shows and booze she was working odd jobs for work *for* her, Lydia reached out to a listing for an “-of all trades” type for an undisclosed company. She showed enough motivated moxie to land the gig. Turns out it was Quannum Projects, one of Lydia’s favorite hip hop labels at the time. There she embraced the challenge that comes with success. Remember that bouncy, catchy Lyrics Born’s “Callin’ Out” song you’d hear, weirdly, topping the charts at Live 105, the Bay’s alt-rock channel? That was Lydia.

“I walked into Live 105 with a rap record every Thursday, and when that record got on the radio, that record became number one for 18 weeks, because, every fucking Thursday, I sat outside of Aaron Axelson’s office until I got into that room, because I knew he would like it, and I knew it would work. If I was like, “I’m too scared”, or, “I’m embarrassed, none of those things would have happened… I know who I am, I know what I’m capable of, and, also, I’m not afraid to fail.

You can never achieve greatness if you never try.“

Ironically, at this point, there was still no try in stand-up. Despite a fearlessness, possessing a sense of humor and a point of view, loving upbringing of Redd Foxx and Elayne Boosler from her father’s record collection—”I learned to be compelling from my dad”—and bonding with her younger brother at SFSketchfest, performing was never entertained. Comedians are comedians when they’re born. Everyone that has it, always had it, even if they never use it, or don’t nurture it. Some need a push to access that part of them, Popovich needed a push, a drag, a fireman’s carry out of post-breakup hovel of smoke, firewater and episodes of LOST. A lifelong friend, who had done stand-up before, harassed Lydia to do a set at the San Francisco Comedy College, where her friend had been taking classes as last hurrah before fatherhood. “I did it. It was terrifying, I was scared shitless but afterward I was like, ‘Oh! [beat] Oh! [beat] Oh yeah, I’m doing this again.’” Lydia took to it immediately (duh), and inherited the remaining classes, a point flaunted in vindication as Lydia ascends in comedy: “He [said], ‘I fucking told you! … Watch, you’re gonna be better than I was ever was. The only reason I got into stand-up is so you would.’”

The style, the taste, the hate, the bravado, the beginnings, the verbiage, “Tits”, “Brunch”, all reflect assuredly in Popovich’s vision for her comedy. Her goal is entertaining those in the immediate vicinity, the space rich with connection and context, nearly impossible to recreate or recapture. All the excess distraction, from writing for others to dumping work online, all the aspirational career goals comedians are taught to covet, Lydia could do—and does—without. “I don’t give a fuck about being on Pandora or recording my first special. The only thing I want is for people to come see me live, [to] experience, with me, what we created that night.” She understands that not everyone can share her sense of integrity, nor does she approve. She probably hates it, whatever you do that you’re doing disservice to.

Lydia Popovich by Ben Walker

words by oj patterson
illustration by ben walker

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