Showtime. For six months, nearly every night before she took the stage, that was the witching hour when nerves won and she puked or dry heaved before taking the spotlight. But Biba Pickles kept coming back, night after night, room after room, to hone the art of stand-up comedy, stage fright be dammed.
- PHOTO COURTESEY OF BIBA PICKLES
- ALL DRESSED UP: Biba Pickles performs stand-up comedy in a big red tutu. Other show costumes have included turquoise bloomers as well as a sparkly gold bra.
The 20-something, San Luis Obispo-born-and-raised concert promoter hadn’t exactly signed up for this. In fact, Pickles’ friend signed her up just as she was recovering from hip surgery.
“He just put my name on the list of performers without telling me,” Pickles said. “I told him ‘What? Why are you doing this to me?!’ It was super stressful, but then I had to come up with material and do it. I went and did the show, and I did really well. And then he was like, ‘OK, now you gotta do it again.’”
And she did, again and again and again. Fast forward to a year later, where Pickles (yes, we’ll get to that fantastic name later) is a regular at the handful of comedy nights in SLO and is one of a few women in that scene locally. Nothing is off limits when it comes to crafting the perfect joke, whether it be poop, anxiety, armpit hair, sex, Pickle’s bipolar disorder, or learning how to drive (spoiler: she still doesn’t have her license). In her own words, she’s “a bit of a live wire.”
“I do stand-up comedy like I’m in my room with a bunch of pictures taped to my wall and I’m just talking to myself in my room,” she said. “But I’m so crazy that I just feel like I’m talking to people. I like to take things from my life that were somewhat negative and turn it into a joke because if I can laugh about it, I can deal with it.”
- PHOTO COURTESEY OF BIBA PICKLES
- JUST TRY NOT TO LAUGH: SLO comedian Biba Pickles’ stand-up act has a theatrical bent and tackles everything from being bipolar, sex, and failed attempts at learning to drive.
Pickles always dresses up for each show. While we’re merely chatting in downtown SLO, she’s donning a leather jacket with a plethora of colorful buttons espousing this and that, paired with a matching skirt and hat made out of a fluffy magenta and pink checkerboard-patterned fabric that she sewed herself. On stage she goes for puffy red tutus, a gold sparkly bra, and hot pants (to be revealed when she takes off her clothes), and teal bloomers she’ll give the audience a flash of while singing dramatically. If she’s at the right venue, audience members might get a face full of glitter and expired medications.
Her name is in part homage to her love of fashion and showmanship. Biba is the name of a 1960s boutique that was popular in the swinging ’60s in London. The iconic supermodel Twiggy modeled for Biba. David Bowie filmed a music video at the New York City location that opened in the ’70s. The name Pickles (which isn’t linked to her overzealous love for the fermented cucumber, as she sometimes tells people) is borrowed from actress Vivian Pickles, who played Harold’s mom in Harold and Maude, one of this funny lady’s favorite movies. She has a “real” name, but only family and the folks at AA ever use it. Pickles has been sober for six months now. It’s a little odd in an industry where everyone is always drinking, but these days Pickles can’t imagine it any other way.
“It’s weird because everybody likes to drink, but I’m really vocal about being clean and sober,” she said. “I like to make fun of them, like, ‘You’re going to feel like shit tomorrow.’ I feel great. I feel more together than I’ve ever been.”
While she stands out in a sea of men at comedy nights, she’s never felt unwelcome.
“If anything there’s a wish from the guys that more women would go up and do comedy,” Pickles said. “If you have a show and all the comedians are white dudes, it’s like where’s the woman’s perspective or the perspective of other demographics?”
While she feels that the comedy scene in SLO is budding with stand-up opportunities to be found at least every week, in her perfect world she’d be at the mic every night.
“I’m just going to keep on doing it until somebody says ‘stop’ or somebody gives me a Comedy Central Presents show,” Pickles said. “I’m just doing it because I like it. If you ask me to do comedy, rarely will I turn it down. I’d do stand-up in abandoned house in the middle of Atascadero. That would actually be cool, I’d be into it.”
Ryah Cooley is ROFL at firstname.lastname@example.org.