Comedian Jessa Reed was a teen mom-turned-meth junkie. Reed, who grew up between Portland and Delaware, started using crystal meth at age 21 while touring, and it kept her off the comedy circuit for six years. Sober since 2005 and now living in Wilmington with her husband and three kids—ages 19, four and five months—the 36-year-old has a candid comedic style that draws heavily on the rougher parts of her autobiography. She'll be in Portland starting Tuesday, Jan. 14, performing at seven shows in as many days. The first appearance is with Kristine Levine, a brassy comedian known for her blue-collar tales (she tells them well, landing at the No. 4 spot in WW's Funniest 5 comics). They're calling it Momsters of Comedy, and it's at the Eagle Eye (WW is fond of that place, too.) For the full lineup of Reed's appearances, visit her blog.
Reed spoke with WW by phone about mothering, meth, dentures and what she misses about Portland.
Willamette Week: Howâs it going?
Jessa Reed: Hold on one secâmy kids have a strict policy against me talking on the phone, so Iâm going to go hide in the closet.
OK. What drew you to standup comedy?
Discovering this was my gift was a major turning point in my life, and actually an accident. I was a compulsive liar when I was young. I was going to watch a lot of comedy in â98, and one day at work everyone said I was funny, and so I said I did stand-up on Monday nights. The following Monday a bunch of my co-workers surprised me at the comedy club, so I got up there and was surprisingly good at it. Iâve tried to quit a couple times, but my life doesnât work without comedy in it.
How do your experiences as a parent and former meth addict inform your comedy?
I think my experience as a parent, having lived underground, outside society and addicted to drugsâIâve got a pretty jaded perspective and now Iâm doing all the mom things, so I try to weave all that together. People are really interested in the drug thing, especially with my 19-year-old daughter, since sheâs at the age where experimenting is normal. I have a pretty simple comedy style: Iâm very candid about things moms think and are afraid to say. Itâs shocking for a lot of people but cathartic at the same time, because moms wonât say these things, but I will.
Have your kids seen you perform?
My 19-year-old has seen me. Sheâs a pretty good sport, since I do spend a lot of time making fun of her. A lot of times sheâs proud that her momâs a comedian. Every time I post a video, she takes it really well and will repost. Then her friends see it and use all my punchlines on her.
So your kids think youâre funny?
Iâm more goofy at home and pretty dirty on stage. At home Iâve got puns and irony. Theyâre my kids and they mostly think Iâm a dork. Iâm pretty sure theyâre programmed and obligated to think Iâm not cool.
You used to live in Portland. What do you miss about the city?
Well, Iâm a full hippie. They donât have organic food here. I guess I miss pretty much everything but rain and the hipsters. Thereâs also a good comedy scene there.
Howâs the comedy scene in Delaware?
I am the comedy scene in Delaware!
Can you tell me something unexpected or random about you?
Iâll let the husband answer this. Heâs a dick so this should be good. [Asks her husband.] Oh yeah! I have dentures because I lost some of my teeth from meth, and I take them out and glue them in constantly. I think the world canât see, but apparently my husband says they can. They are five to 10 sizes too big, but Iâm afraid my face is going to shrivel up if they are too small, so I keep using the big ones. This is one of those things people think I should keep to myself, but I think itâs cool. Every 20 minutes the damn things, top or bottom, are popping off. My husband says everyoneâs always watching me as I try to reassemble. Thatâs probably the grossest random fact.
GO: Jessa Reed performs with Kristine Levine at the Eagle Eye Tavern, 5836 SE 92nd Ave., 774-2141 at 9 pm on Tuesday, Jan. 14. $8. For a schedule of Reedâs other appearances, visit her blog.