Jessimae Peluso: So Extra

May 3, 2018


Valerie Lopez


Lara Smith


2018 Moon­tow­er Series

It’s a Fri­day after­noon in the calm before the com­e­dy storm here at Moon­tow­er. I’m stand­ing in the lob­by of the Driskill hotel wait­ing for our next guest to arrive. In walks Jes­si­mae Pelu­so, in a black base­ball cap, but still look­ing like a beau­ti­ful celebri­ty, going incog­ni­to to throw off the paparazzi. I go in to greet her with a hand­shake and she waves off my hand, say­ing, No, bring it in,” pulling me in for a hug. This is what it is to know Jes­si­mae Pelu­so. Once you’ve met her, you nev­er feel like a stranger, or even an acquain­tance, again. You’re old friends now. In my case, she and I go way back…to last night at the God­damn Com­e­dy Jam. My col­league, Valerie, bare­ly makes it through her intro before the laugh­ing starts and will con­tin­ue for the next hour. Peluso’s laughs, with their many many styles, are con­ta­gious and fill a room.

As a for­mer cast mem­ber of MTV’s Girl Code and hav­ing just fin­ished per­form­ing on Kid Rock’s Chill­in’ The Most Cruise, you might get the impres­sion that Pelu­so is a par­ty girl. If you lis­ten to her talk for any peri­od of time though, you quick­ly fig­ure out that she may be one of the most pro­fes­sion­al and bal­anced come­di­ans in the business.

Grow­ing up in Syra­cuse, Jes­si­mae Pelu­so was quite a pre­co­cious child, describ­ing her­self as always being so extra.” Turn­ing seem­ing­ly Kodak moments into fart jokes as a child, Pelu­so always enjoyed mak­ing peo­ple laugh when­ev­er she could. At a very young age, she devel­oped a per­sona, The Clos­et Lady,” that she would use to enter­tain her sis­ter. She attrib­ut­es her love of com­e­dy to her father, who loved watch­ing stand up spe­cials and com­e­dy movies. She was exposed to the greats: Mel Brooks, Richard Pry­or, Gene Wilder, Robin Williams, and Paula Pound­stone (lis­ten to find out about her own encounter with Pound­stone). In addi­tion, her moth­er would lend a sense of dry sar­casm to her humor range. 

The thing about com­e­dy is if you have some con­vic­tion, it goes a long way.” Jes­si­mae Peluso
Feel­ing like Syra­cuse would be a dead end for her, Pelu­so moved to Boston at eigh­teen. She recalls work­ing retail and feel­ing like she could be doing so much more, when a cowork­er encour­aged her to do com­e­dy. Up to that point, no one had encour­aged her to pur­sue her nat­ur­al comedic gift. Pelu­so recounts, Envi­ron­ment is so per­ti­nent to your choice and your abil­i­ty to know what your poten­tial can be.” She knew liv­ing in a small town with lim­it­ed access to edu­ca­tion and cul­ture would keep her from grow­ing. In Boston, she began tak­ing writ­ing and improv class­es and work­ing up to a five-minute set. After Boston, she was off to New York City to focus on stand up. With­in a year, Pelu­so was focused and dri­ven to hone her com­e­dy into a career. From bars and road gigs to memo­r­i­al ser­vices, she paid her dues to the com­e­dy world, stat­ing, The thing about com­e­dy is if you have some con­vic­tion, it goes a long way.”

Those dues would pay off, land­ing her two sea­sons as a favorite on MTV’s Girl Code fol­lowed by the E! Net­work beck­on­ing her to LA with an offer she couldn’t refuse. The LA com­e­dy scene has proven more chal­leng­ing because of mar­ket sat­u­ra­tion and com­mut­ing, so Pelu­so is grate­ful for her start in Boston and New York. She is very aware and fas­ci­nat­ed by how the #metoo move­ment is chang­ing the indus­try. To lis­ten to Pelu­so speak, she is so ana­lyt­i­cal of not only the indus­try, but has an amaz­ing self-aware­ness of her career and the dri­ve and momen­tum it takes to con­tin­ue to grow. 

Host­ing her two pod­casts Sharp Tongue, and the new High­lar­i­ous launch­ing on the date of this inter­view (4÷20 of course), Jes­si­mae Pelu­so also hosts a Face­book live show, Weeds­day, to edu­cate peo­ple on the med­i­c­i­nal ben­e­fits of cannabis. She also works to raise aware­ness about Alzheimer’s, a dis­ease which now affects her own father. In fact, if you attend her week­ly Weeds­day broad­cast, you’ll find a donate but­ton which rais­es mon­ey for www​.alz​.org/​e​n​dalz/ . With such a bal­ance of hilar­i­ty and activism, it’s no won­der the entire Com­e­dy Wham crew fell in love with Jes­si­mae Pelu­so at this year’s Moon­tow­er Com­e­dy Fes­ti­val. She says she’s always been so extra,” but we think she’s so extraordinary. 

Jessimae Peluso