As a divorced woman in her late 30s, comedian Monica Piper has more than a passing acquaintance with the dating scene.
"Here's probably the biggest difference of all between men and women," she says in her act. "Guys, when you're going out with someone and if you're wondering if you'll get lucky . . . we already know."
The petite Piper, who is appearing at the Laff Stop in Newport Beach through Sunday, uses her own life as a springboard for much of her biting comedy.
There's her exercise regimen: "I do it so when I walk, I don't look like I have a bag of squirrels in my pants."
There's her dog, who's now 14: "People are always saying his instincts are to hunt. But he's been living with me all his life. Now his instincts are to sleep late and watch cable."
And there's that dating business again:
"I met a guy. He said he really loves children. And I like that. Then I found out he's on parole for it."
The ex-New Yorker was teaching English at an inner-city high school in Chicago in the early '70s when she began studying at Chicago's fabled Second City. ("It dawned on me that I was doing five sets a day and dealing with hecklers, so why not do it on stage?")
She continued teaching when she moved to San Francisco, where she began working in an improv group that included then-unknowns Robin Williams and Dana Carvey. By 1980, she had quit teaching and had begun doing stand-up comedy.
Piper, who was named one of the 10 best female comics in 1989 by the American Comedy Awards, is starring in her own comedy special airing on Showtime throughout this month. The title is taken from her catch phrase, "No, Monica, Just You . . . " As she explained in an interview: "It seems like things happen in my life that happen to nobody else."
In her act, for example, she talks about the time "I got lost in Texas. In a town called Weed Bark. Anyone ever been to Weed Bark, Tex.? Why no, Monica, just you . . . Booming town, Weed Bark. Checked into the Weed Bark Hotel. They gave me a Key magazine with all the events going on in town that week. I opened it up. There's a picture of me checking into the Weed Bark Hotel."
Asked to describe her comedy style, Piper thinks it over, then says: "You can say honest, sexy independence. It's like I can pack a punch with sarcasm while maintaining my femininity. I like to find those areas that hit home with the men as hard as they do with the women."
Although she admires other comedians, such as Emo Philips and Judy Tenuta who play distinctive characters on stage, she says: "I've tried that route and it's not me. More important than anything is you have to be true to yourself in comedy."
Playing herself on stage is what Piper believes makes her act accessible.
"I think there's an incredible amount of women out there that can relate to just a single career woman with all the biological clock business and the dating and the loneliness and the actual joy, sometimes, (that goes) with the independence.
"But that's not all I talk about. I just talk about life from my particular perspective. Which is a little offbeat."
"My dog gets jealous of the guys I go out with. This man brought me flowers, so my dog brought me a dead gopher. I didn't want him to feel bad, so I propped it up in a little vase."
Who: Monica Piper.
When: Thursday, Feb. 21, at 8:30 p.m.; Friday, Feb. 22, at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m.; Saturday, Feb. 23 at 8, 10 and 11:45 p.m.; and Sunday Feb. 24, at 8:30 p.m.
Where: The Laff Stop, 2122 S.E. Bristol St., Newport Beach.
Whereabouts: From the Corona del Mar Freeway, take the Irvine Avenue/Campus Drive exit onto Bristol Street and go south one block.
Wherewithal: $7 to $10.
Where to call: (714) 852-8762.