Atlanta stand-up comic Lace Larrabee wins over judges on ‘America’s Got Talent’ in opening round

Credit: Trae Patton/NBC

Credit: Trae Patton/NBC

Atlanta’s Lace Larrabee killed on the “America’s Got Talent” stage Tuesday night, winning over the crowd and the judges with jokes about her name, her parents being super young when they had her and aging out of beauty pageants.

“As soon as you have opinions and cellulite, they say, ‘Get out of here!’” she joked on stage.

The final cut appeared to be edited down from an already brief two minutes and 30 seconds set, but the jokes that did make it on air got the judges laughing.

“That was so funny, effortless,” effused judge Sofia Vergara.

“Sofia,” fellow judge and stand-up comic Howie Mandel said, “in the middle of her act, you go, ‘Are your parents still together?’ It became a conversation. You were so natural that Sofia forgot it was a performance and decided to engage you in a conversation. The fact you didn’t blow your rhythm blew me away.”

Simon Cowell said she was “naturally funny and likable. And I liked it when you got naughty.”

She is on to the next round.

In an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 38-year-old Larrabee said she’s been working the Atlanta comedy stand-up circuit for more than a decade, spending time on the stages of the Laughing Skull and the Punchline honing her craft. She has headlined comedy clubs for six years.

“It’s a good time for her,” said Marshall Chiles, who owns the Laughing Skull in Midtown. “She’s been working hard at it for 10 years. She has forged her own path. I got teary eyed watching her doing her thing and how confident she’s become.” He also said her podcast “Cheaties” with fellow comic Katherine Blanford about getting cheated on is a delight.

In 2017, Larrabee started an all-female stand-up class called Laugh Lab, the first of its kind in town, and has graduated 450 women. Some were just trying it for fun, some were trying to improve their public speaking for work and others wanted to pursue it as a career. Many have started shows and open-mic nights around town, she said, and call themselves “Laugh Labbers.”

“I’m super proud of what I’ve done,” she said.

But at the same time, Larrabee is still seeking a breakthrough herself to become a major star. “I want the payoff,” she said. “I want to be recognized for what I do for a living.”

In March, she opened for Iliza Shlesinger at the Fox Theatre and landed in the finals for Atlanta native Kenan Thompson’s recent comedy showcase that also granted her a visit to “Saturday Night Live” and the coveted after party. She rubbed shoulders with Paul Rudd, Chris Redd, Lorne Michaels and Colin Jost, to name a few.

But “AGT” gives her an instant audience of 10 million that could potentially help her book bigger gigs.

She spent 14 years competing in beauty pageants so she’s already been on stage in a competition. But “AGT” was especially odd, she said, given she was up against 10-year-old dancers and a dog troupe.

No stand-up comic has ever won the $1 million but publicity is publicity.

“It’s the biggest stage in the world,” Larrabee said. “I want the exposure. I want to present women in comedy and show we can hold our own.” Sadly, she said she has had so many men still come up to her and tell her how they think women weren’t funny until they saw her. It’s a backhanded compliment and she has tried to school them on great female comics, from Maria Bamford to Ali Wong.

This career path has not been easy, she said. For a moment during the pandemic, she thought of just giving up after her grandmother died of COVID-19 and her father, in his mid 50s, was found with tumors in his brain and spine. (He is still alive but not 100%.) She ultimately recorded an album and got herself back on stage and is thrilled to have this shot on “AGT.”

“No matter what happens, no matter how far I go, it’s not the be all or end all,” Larrabee said. “But it’s a step in the right direction.”


ON TELEVISION

“America’s Got Talent,” Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on NBC and available the next day on Peacock

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