BEVERLY — Comedian Grace Lusk might be possessed by the spirit of the New Orleans crackhead who made out with her delicate little hand in the French Quarter.
"He told me I reminded him of his dead crackhead wife," Lusk said. "So, yeah, I think I got a little of crackhead spirit from that kiss."
That's just a taste of what life on the road has been like for the South Side funny lady chasing her stand-up comedy dreams.
Last month, Lusk quit her job selling air purifiers and set off on an epic road trip adventure to take the stage at dingy comedy clubs and open-mic nights all over the country.
"I just hadn't been to much of America, so I decided to get as many shows in as many cities, and just get out there and do it," she said.
Lusk's one-woman U.S. tour of sorts already has made stops in Cleveland, Boston, Washington, D.C, Atlanta, New Orleans, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
She plans to take the next month to perform in Portland, Seattle, Wyoming, and then Denver, Kansas City and St. Louis before returning home for the Chicago Women's Funny Festival stage, where she'll do a featured stand-up set at Stage 773.
And by home, the 24-year old comedian means her mom and dad's place in North Beverly.
"Yeah, I quit my job, you know," she said. "So, I'll probably end up back with my parents."
That's not as bad as it sounds, though, Lusk insists.
A lot of her funny business was born in Beverly.
"My comedy comes from stories," Lusk said. "Growing up in North Beverly with my parents I was basically around a bunch of loud, rowdy people telling stories, and if you wanted to keep up and be heard you had to have something funny to say. I guess I soaked a lot of that in."
Lusk says she was always kind of funny, but it wasn't until she bought a Groupon for a comedy class at Comedy Sportz Chicago that she started to take stand-up seriously.
"That's where I learned about editing down my stories," she said. It's one thing to tell your friends a funny story and it's another to keep an audience's attention and make them laugh."
Growing up, Lusk admits she ran with a group of kids who locals call "Bev Rats."
"We were a bunch of little punks running around doing hood rat [junk], getting away with anything we wanted," Lusk said.
"We had a crew of kids who all lived about a mile from each other, and we'd do a lot of meeting up at parks to hang out. … We'd go to Beverly Park to meet up for fights and stuff. That made me nervous, but, you know, I went anyway."
And when she's on stage, Lusk riffs on her Beverly upbringing — everything from her trouble with Catholic guilt to her fifth-grade stint in "bully counseling" and her cringe-worthy bit about her bizarre grade school crush on Martin Luther King Jr.
"Trouble seems to follow me. OK, I provoke it a little bit, but I enjoy it," she said. "I'm a bit of a rascal, and that comes from my Bev Rat mentality, I guess."
Lusk says her desire to mess with people and make them uncomfortable remains the top reason she doesn't shy away from joking about race.
"Growing up in Beverly there was this easily identifiable racial tension. All the white kids go to private school and all the black kids go to public school across the street," she said.
"I've met people who are incredibly ignorant and racist and don't even realize it. So I joke about things so even ignorant people might realize the way they think is [screwed] up"
At monthly comedy nights at one Western Avenue bar, Lusk even has the courage to poke fun — and make her point — in front of neighborhood folks who might not like what she has to say.
"I say a lot of things people don't expect me to say. Some people don't like it, but I'm always going to talk about the stuff people say behind closed doors that they won't say in public," she said.
"Sometimes I cross the line. Maybe it's kind of lofty, but I want to have an impact on how some people on the South Side behave even though I know they're just there to have fun and get drunk."
Grace Lusk is scheduled to perform at the Chicago Women's Funny Festival at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., at 11 p.m. June 7.
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