Diane Amos is more than just the Pine-Sol Lady, although she's going on twenty years filling that role, and can't go a day without being recognized.
Her acting career includes the movies Angels in the Outfield, and Nine Months, as well as a yet-to-be-named Woody Allen movie that will be out next year.
Her true love, though, is comedy, and it's this passion that brings her to Santa Cruz's Rio Theater on Saturday to perform with Planet Cruz Comedy. The comedian was invited by Richard Stockton, who saw her perform years ago and asked her to guest appear.
Patch caught up with Amos, and here is what she had to say:
Santa Cruz Patch: You began as an improv actress, and a serious one at that, so how did you get into comedy?
Diane Amos: My first gig was actually very unusual. It was Black History Month and they were looking for a woman who was a black stand up for thirty minutes of comedy. And of course it was like 500 bucks, so I said yes, and then it was like, oh my god what am I doing, I've never done stand-up, and 30 minutes is crazy because usually you go three to seven minutes, if that. But I was an improviser so I wasn't afraid. So I did my first comedy gig at the History Museum in Oakland, and I was hooked.
Patch: What did you joke about?
Amos: Well I had a pretty unique story, I was born and raised in Indianapolis and came out to San Francisco with my mom and sister when I was seven, and her first wife was Jewish so we moved and started this whole new life. So I just told about it what it was like.
I like to talk about people, and family, just because people are funny just by themselves. If you watch and observe people, you see that. A lot of my act is true, which I've done on purpose. And it's all story telling style, which back then was hard to break into but now it's all the rage.
Patch: What was it like growing up with two moms, one black and one white?
Amos: It was poignant. Back then women didn't really live together, unless it was just a roommate situation, people didn't really put that together., and so they would make up stories about us about why these people are together.
I mean I was in a stomp down ghetto in Indianapolis...you know, there were no white people going in and out of peoples' houses. And so we would go to her neighborhood where there were no black people other than me. So we just decided one day that we were going to move to San Francisco where they could be who they were.
It was an absolutely amazing learning experience just living with people that didn't share the same culture, and we loved both sides. Jewish people and black people have a lot of similarities that you wouldn't think.
We had a lot of fun, our house was definitely the fun house. We laughed all the time.
Patch: How important is laughter in your life?
Amos: The truth is, my whole family is funny. I'm just the first one that took it to the stage. I'm talking belly laughs, and the dinner table is pretty much a great place for that to happen. We had this thing, if you had your mouth full of food and someone said something really funny, you'd tap your plate with your fork. People would call the house and we'd all be laughing so hard they knew that they'd just have to wait until the laugh was over.
And I didn't realize how important it would be to my career but it was so freeing and I was so quick on my feet so it was a natural thing, and it was just my joy.
Patch: Do you have advice for people trying to get into comedy?
Amos: It's very simple. You will know whether or not you want to do this because if you want to do it it's a fire burning in your stomach, and it won't go away. And then once you start that process and you get in there, you have to find day jobs to support your habit.
Stand-up is one of those things, no one can really teach you how to be funny, either you're funny or not, but it's something you have to really, really want to do.
Patch: You also talk about being different as helping you out in your career, can you say any more about that?
Amos: The thing about being different, it's been true my entire career. If I had listened to anyone back in the day that knew I wanted to be an actress, I wouldn't have done it. Because they would say you know, you're big or my teeth had a big gap, but what I knew is that number one I had talent and number two that was all I wanted to do.
But when you are different you stand out. If you walk in and you're auditioning and you suck that's too bad because they're going to remember but if you were really good, then they're really going to remember you. And my mother always told me that I was funny and talented and pretty and I could do anything I wanted and I believed her.
On Saturday, Jan. 12, Diane Amos performs with Planet Cruz Comedy at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz at 7:30 p.m. Tickets $18 in advance, $23 at the door.