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DISTAFF IN DISTRESS : Sue Murphy Likes Being a Girl, but It's Just . . . Hard

March 25, 1993|DENNIS McLELLAN | Dennis McLellan is a Times staff writer who regularly writes about comedy for OC Live!

"It's hard being a girl," says Sue Murphy, who has difficulty maintaining one of those big poofy hairdos worn by some women in her audience, those "babes with high vertical clearance."

Having quizzed one such woman on the types of hair products she uses ("Are you moussed? Hair spray? What do you use? Spritzsomething?"), Murphy offers her own hair-grooming secret: "I've got the Freisenshine and a little mousse so if it rains I'll form that hard candy shell. I can ride a motorcycle without a helmet."

Murphy--who's headlining at the Irvine Improv on an all-woman bill that also features Kathleen Madigan and Chris Strobeck--is an extremely likable performer with a conversational style of delivery, a high energy quotient and no qualms about acting silly.

She'll talk about how "inevitably on the hottest day of the year, I will be somewhere like at the DMV in a line next to--B.O. Man! The man with the most B.O. in all of the land, B.O. Man!"

She'll also talk about Barbie dolls. "Barbies are weird. I read this somewhere--or saw it on 'Hard Copy'--that if Barbie was a real person, her measurements would be something like 48-2-5."

But she keeps getting back to how hard it is being female.

"I'm not really into wearing high heels. I'd much rather be in comfortable shoes or boots," she said last week on the phone from Reno where she was performing. "There are all these things that I haven't really quite caught on to. So a lot of things I talk about are from that point of view, that this girl thing is hard."

It's not that she doesn't like being a girl. "It's just . . . do I have to grow out my fingernails? Have these weird surfboard Satan nails from hell? They're useless. The only thing they're good for is maybe for starting an orange."

Like many comics, she keeps a notebook nearby to jot down lines and ideas.

"Anything that happens is potential humor. I talk about sports, driving a truck, getting old--I want to get so old that I can move the skin on the back of my hand to any part of my body."

Murphy grew up in Menlo Park, majored in theater at UC Davis and was working in a theater company in San Francisco in 1981 when she and actor Dan St. Paul teamed to do stand-up comedy. They worked together for six years and "were doing rather well," Murphy said, "but creatively we were heading in different directions."

Going solo, she acknowledged, "was very scary. We went from headlining everywhere and making money to making no money and starting all over again, basically.

"It's very different on stage when you are just you as opposed to standing there with a partner. You have to discover who you are on stage as an individual. That's the hardest part."

Indeed, she said she still has "no idea" who she is on stage.

"I think what I do and how I am is so reflective of me, it's hard for me to analyze it. 'Who are you?' I don't know. I'm just me ." She excused herself to answer the door. "Wow!" she said upon her return to the phone. "Housekeeping has this really Big Hair, the Incredible Babe Bangs Erecto Do! I can't make this stuff up. See, there's material ringing my doorbell. You asked me where it comes from? They actually came and delivered me a bit."

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