SAN DIEGO -- Renee Santos is a spicy Latina tri-athlete who is easy on the eyes and can give your funny bone a workout as well.
Santos has been honing her comedic skills at the Comedy Store in Los Angeles and with The Upright Citizens Brigade comedy troupe for many years and will be headlining at the Laugh Out Proud Comedy Night at Martinis Above Fourth on Thursday, Oct. 13.
Santos is one of the six featured comedians on the Showtime stand-up comedy special, “Pride Comedy Jam,” which will be airing frequently throughout the month of October and is also available On-Demand.
The “Pride Comedy Jam,” is emceed by renowned lesbian comedienne Suzanne Westenhoefer and has a dynamite lineup of fresh, young LGBT comedians who are making waves in the comedy world.
Santos stumbled into her role on the “Pride Comedy Jam,” in a very serendipitous fashion. Suffering from strep throat, Santos was called in to cover for a comedian who had fallen off of the line-up at a Long Beach event. That performance led to connections that helped her land an audition for the Showtime special.
"It was so coincidental that I was there, because I wasn’t even initially a booked comic for that night, I was filling in. So I drove all the way down there and I remember thinking, ‘Just suit up and show up for your life, whatever, you’ll be fine,'" Santos said, laughing.
A number of opportunities have come Santos’ way since she got to Los Angeles; she’s been in a number of films, "Shooting April," "Just A Girl" and "30 is the New 12," are her most recent big screen endeavors. She was also just featured on the Jerry Bruckheimer-produced television show, “Eleventh Hour,” on CBS.
Hollywood can be a brutal place to try to find your voice in, and for many that means denying who they are to land a role. For Santos, who has been out since she was 19 years old, hiding her true self was not an option.
"I want to be successful based on my truth, if me being a lesbian hurts my career, then so be it," Santos said. "I don’t want to go back into the closet to be a people-pleaser so that I can make more money. Yes, I would like to be a successful comedian and I do believe that in the infancy of our careers we have to be sort of malleable and play by some rules until we have a platform, but it’s like the old adage, ‘If you stand for nothing then you’ll fall for anything.’ I hope that my truth brings me success, but if it doesn’t, then those weren’t my people."
Santos’ truth has been accepted by almost all of her family. Her mother is not as supportive as the rest, but nonetheless, she did have a strong built-in support system through her many siblings and father.
“My sisters are amazing, I’m one of six kids, I have four sisters and a brother, and my sisters have been overwhelmingly supportive,” Santos said. “They knew I was gay before I did. I actually made a joke about it in my interview for the ‘Pride Comedy Jam’ because when ‘Dirty Dancing’ came out I put up Jennifer Grey on my walls and they put up Patrick Swayze and they would question me and I would say, ‘No I just think she’s a good actress,’ and I would defend it. So when I came out, they were not at all surprised, they were just waiting.”
For Santos, her journey through the perils and pitfalls of Hollywood hasn’t been all smiles and laughs. She has been sober for two years and talks about sobriety in her act. For something that can rile up feelings of pain, Santos manages to put a spin on it in such a way that you forget you’re laughing at what could easily be considered as some dark moments in her life.
"It is cathartic [talking about sobriety on stage]. I think it goes back to owning whatever you are -- whether you’re gay or an addict -- people respond the most to our truth. It’s like my comedy is a caricature of my human folly and my ego. So I like to talk about my recovery, because it’s made me the artist that I am.
"One of the reasons I started using so many drugs is because I didn’t have enough courage to be an artist, I was scared and I wanted to find a way to kill that fire. I jokingly said to my sponsor one time that ‘I probably won’t relapse now that the nation knows I’m a recovering addict, I’m going to look like an idiot if I go out again,’” she said.
Renee Santos will be headlining the Laugh Out Proud Comedy Show at 8 pm Thursday, Oct. 13, at Martinis Above Fourth. The show is free and open to ages 21 and older. You can also catch Santos on Showtime throughout October for the “Pride Comedy Jam,” or on her upcoming 2012 national tour.