Queen of the belly laugh
Having found her inner comedian, Cindy Foster is ready to stand up
Cindy Foster and her kids Noah and Hannah
You can’t sit across the table from Cindy Foster of Greenfield, and not, at the very least, smile and giggle through the conversation. Most of the time, you find yourself in a full belly laugh.
Foster, 47, always knew she wanted to be a comedian — she was voted class clown in high school. But it wasn’t until recently that she got her big chance. “My next door neighbor Robin told me about a stand-up comedy class being offered at GCC,” said Foster. “If you lived next door to me you’d understand why she told me about it.”
“She told me it was my calling, my gift, and that the rest of the world needed to know me,” said Foster. “She told me I needed to share my talent.”
Foster took the class this past year and has already performed a few times and has two more bookings ahead of her. Without GCC, she probably wouldn’t be pursuing a career in comedy. “I’m going to now,” she said. “I’m going to make it big.”
The local comedian will be forever grateful for the GCC class, but says there’s more to being funny then learning how to tell a joke. “A class just helps bring it out,” she said.
“Humor was always a way for me to cope,” said Foster, who is openly gay. “Whatever life has dealt out, the one thing I’ve always had is my sense of humor. I was able to find it, even in the darkest times of my life.”
Foster, who grew up in Athol, said her parents were in their teens when they had her. “I was raised by two teen parents, who are still together, and two ducks.”
Foster, who has a brother two years younger than her and a sister nine years younger, said she and her brother were like Abbott and Costello growing up.
“He is really funny, too,” she said.
“I blame this all on my parents,” she laughed.
Foster said when she was in elementary school, she’d do silly things to get attention. But, as she got into high school, those things, like calling a teacher a funny, but not-so-flattering name got her into trouble.
“I called a teacher a name once and the vice principal asked me what possessed me to do so,” she said. “I told him I said it because the teacher was what I called him. The kids laughed, though.”
Foster said her comedy was her way of rebelling and getting through the awkward moments in life. “At least if I was going to embarrass or humiliate myself, I was going to make someone laugh in the process,” she said.
Foster loses her train of thought quite often, she said, and goes off on tangents. She may be talking about menopause and, all of a sudden, she changes the subject in mid-sentence; “I remember when I was a kid and we had to collect dead birds for science class,” said Foster. “Can you imagine the phone calls from parents today if that happened? My parents never questioned it.”
Just more fodder for her act.
“Everything is fair game,” she said. “Though, I’m not mean.”
Foster admits she’s always loved attention. “I will tell anyone and everyone a story if they’ll listen,” she said. “No one is safe.” “I just can’t control it. It controls me.”
And the more you laugh, the more you egg her on.
Foster said most of her material comes from her life — with maybe just a little exaggeration now and then. In one 10-minute set, you might hear her talk about her children, breast exams and anything else that happens to pop into her head.
“I do a lot of improv,” said Foster. “I don’t like to go on stage totally prepared because then I feel like I’m giving a speech.”
She said she plays to whatever audience she’s going before and being comfortable doing improv helps.
“When I go before high school kids, I clean it up,” she said. “Otherwise, I use words my mother isn’t always thrilled about.”
Foster makes fun of just about anything — mostly herself.
Foster jokes about being a lesbian. “I was legally supposed to play softball, so I had to get a waiver to be a lesbian because I can’t hit,” she giggled.
Foster said she belongs on the “Island of Misfit Lesbians.” I would be a Cindy-in-the-box,” she said. “And I’d have a friend, Marge, who couldn’t grow a mullet.”
Foster describes herself as having Robin Williams-type energy. “I wake up every night sometime between 1 and 4 a.m. with my crazy thoughts — I keep a recorder with me at all times,” she said. “I drive my partner Laurie nuts. I never get more than four or five hours of sleep.”
“I wake her up and say something and ask her what she thinks,” said Foster. “She just laughs and rolls over.”
Foster said she sometimes does a whole routine about her partner being a water buffalo because she snores. “I’m sneaking around, recording her snoring, and then do a bit about it in the morning — or sometimes even in the night,” said Foster, who will sometimes wake her partner up to do the routine.
There is a serious side to Foster, though. She has been a stay-at-home mom for the past 15 years while raising her son, Noah, 15, and daughter, Hannah, 12, and she takes parenthood very seriously. And now, she is also helping raise her partner’s 5-year-old daughter Zoe. She likes to make them laugh whenever possible. “I’ve never felt so comfortable, except for being a mother, as I feel when I’m on stage making people laugh,” Foster said.
Foster said the downside of getting on stage is walking away second guessing herself. “I might have done well and had people laughing, but it’s still easy for me to think that I sucked,” she said.
Foster said she just wants to make people happy and make them forget life for a while by giving them a good belly laugh. However, she needs to keep reminding herself that she’ll never be able to make everyone happy.
“It’s a real challenge if it’s more difficult to get you to laugh,” she said. “But, I’ve done pretty good so far ... I’ve made 80-year-old women and 12-year-old kids laugh. Not bad.”
“I guess I have a little something for everyone.”
She said finding stand-up comedy happened for her later in life, but believes it was meant to be that way. “Who knows why? But, I still have a lot of years to make people laugh,” she said. “Maybe I wouldn’t have appreciated that so much in my younger years.”
“At 47, I’m more involved in my own process,” she said. “In my 20s, I probably would have just been along for the ride.”
Foster did an end-of-class show at GCC, a benefit at the Bluebonnet Diner in Northampton and a Divas show in Northampton. She also did a show to benefit the Athol High School band.
But, she said her big break to date is coming on New Year’s Eve, when she opens as a guest star for nationally known comedians who will perform at the Calvin Theater, 19 King St., Northampton. Billed as New Year’s Eve with The Queer Queens of Qomedy, the show will also feature host Poppy Champlin, Michele Balan and Ian Harvie. It opens at 8 p.m. and tickets are $25, $34. www.iheg.com.
“I really want to rock this New Year’s Eve for people in the audience,” Foster said.
She will also perform at Foxwoods Resort Casino in Connecticut on March 13 and is waiting to hear whether she will perform during the Boston Women’s Festival next year.
Her son has a variety show on Greenfield Community Television’s radio station 107.9 every Wednesday night. Foster has even been on that a couple times.
“I know I will make this work and when I do, I’ll share it with everyone,” Foster said.
Staff reporter Anita Fritz worked at The Recorder from 2002 to 2005 and then returned in 2006. She covers Greenfield and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 413-772-0261, ext. 280.
Staff photographer Paul Franz has worked for The Recorder since 1988. He can be reached at email@example.com or 413-772-0261 Ext. 266. His website is www.franzphoto.com.