Arts & Culture » Stage

Vicki Barbolak

The comedian on the shoe-licker of Ybor, Mitzi Shore and owning a mobile wedding van

by

Boiseans, lock up your husbands: Vicki Barbolak is coming to town. On Thursday, June 6, the America's Got Talent top-10 finalist will bring her Trailer Nasty Tour to The Egyptian Theatre (brought to Boise, in part, by Boise Weekly), but before there's a rush on tickets, folks should know a few things about Barbolak. For starters, she's a late-comer to comedy, getting her start in her early 40s and ending up under the wing of the legendary Mitzi Shore of Los Angeles' The Comedy Store. For seconds, she hasn't given up her favorite side-gig: running a mobile wedding and vow-renewal van. BW caught up with her while she was performing in Boca Raton, Florida, and we decided to give our readers a look at their bride before they kiss her.

Do you have Florida Man stories?

[Ybor] is the old part of Tampa [Florida]. There are just a lot of characters—there's this guy called "the shoelicker," and he walks around licking people's shoes at night, but he only licks men's shoes, and I was hoping he'd mistake me for a drag queen, which often happens, especially in that part of town, but he didn't.

You've been through Boise at least three times. What are your thoughts?

I remember the first time I came to Boise, I'd been working in Las Vegas and I was really tired, and I thought I'd come to sleepy little Boise and get some rest. And then the first thing that happened is I went downtown, and there were three gay bars on each corner, and it was over at that point. I never got any rest for those four days I was there.

One of the midwives of your career was The Comedy Store Founder Mitzi Shore, who recently died. Do you have any reflections on her?

Her funeral was on Mother's Day because she was a mother to us comedians for so many years. The way she did it for me, she would give me the main room spot every Saturday night, cold open. I hated it. Every few months, she would give me the third or fourth spot, the sweet spot of the night. She would say, "Well, I just wanted you to know where you really are." She didn't care about the industry or accolades, she only cared about developing comedians.

What's it like running a wedding-chapel-to-go business?

I met Lou, my current and favorite husband, 18 or 19 years ago at The Comedy Store, and we got married 11 years ago. I did continue to expect to get married regularly, and he's ruined that, so I started a wedding business. It's a little Ford transit van, and it's all wrapped in pink leopard and roses. We show up and marry people at In-N-Out Burger, back yards, driveways, fancy places, and we have an arch and some flowers and a white shag rug. And in the back of the van, we put a futon in there, and we have zebra bedding, and it's a $29.95 half-hour honeymoon.

Have you had some weird cleanups?

We drove to Las Vegas to do a show on Playboy for a friend of mine, and they wanted the half-hour honeymoon on the show, so my daughter wanted me to throw away the sheets. I'm, like, "Are you kidding me? I'm not going to throw away good sheets from WalMart," so I insisted on washing them. I do a complete cleanup at the end. It's as sterile as can be.

What are these ceremonies like?

When I first started, I just didn't know what I was doing. I didn't know you had to have a park permit to marry people in parks. I was doing one for some friends of some friends. I found a flat spot in the park before they got there. Then I realized the flat spot I'd set up on was a hole in a Frisbee golf course. The sheriff came up and wanted us to leave. He had a heart and he let us finish, but in addition to him standing there with his arms crossed, the Frisbees kept hitting us.

Your father was Pete Barbolak, NFL player and FBI agent. What was it like growing up with him?

He didn't last in the FBI very long, because it was back in the days when you had to wear black suits everywhere, and he was working with Russian spies and also the Mafia, and he was always saying, "I had to sleep with a lot of Russian women spies. A lot of 'em!" I don't want to hear it, dad. He opened a carpet store when I was about 19, and I worked with him for 20 years. The carpet store was next to a liquor store, and at night, they would never shut the door—they'd just start drinking, and mom and dad would fall asleep on the carpet rolls at least two or three nights a week, and people would come in and be, like, "Are you open? Why are these people laying on the carpets?" It was the days before Yelp, when you could do anything you wanted.

What am I not asking?

I didn't start stand-up until I was about 40, and people at first told me "no," except Mitzi. On America's Got Talent, 40 million people see you, and then the industry has to come to you. For women after 40, we become sort of invisible, and I think a lot of people are encouraged by that idea that you don't have to give up on your dreams, and you can be seen in your 60s as much as people in their 20s.

For tickets visit: https://myidahotix.com/events/vicki-barbolak