Just after the 9/11 attacks in 2001, comedian Shawn Pelofsky did the last thing anyone in America wanted to do: she boarded a plane. Headed toward Navy bases in Asia to perform for the troops, she knew she had to bring her best performance and was ecstatic for the opportunity to bring joy to the men and women serving.
After an 18-hour flight, she landed in Japan. Dressed in red, white, and blue, with her signature heels on, Shawn stepped on stage to perform her first set of her oversea tour.
Nearly seconds after entering on stage, Shawn heard a woman’s voice screaming from the crowd.
Shawn stood there a moment. The show had not even begun and she was already being heckled.
“I had to show strength,” Shawn says of that moment on stage. “I started to second guess myself. But, I’m very skilled and work fast off my feet. I had to have the confidence in myself to continue.”
Shawn grabbed the microphone and addressed the woman who had screamed at her.
“Calm down. I haven’t even begun to tell you how much of a whore I am.”
A little shaken, but not backing down, Shawn continued her set. The crowd had seemingly died down from the initial heckle. Everything was going well.
“Until about a half hour into my set. Someone pitched a cherry at my face, like a baseball.”
The cherry hit Shawn dead on, and that’s when her unwavering confidence took a hit.
“I could feel tears coming to my eyes,” she recalls.
In moments like that, where the world seems against her, Shawn remembers what lead her to stand up and how she grew such thick skin. Growing up in Oklahoma as one of the only Jewish families around, Shawn stood out from the rest of her town. She had to learn to be comfortable not fitting in. In her family, especially from her parents, she learned just how important having a sense of humor is, even when dealing with the darker parts of humanity.
“I’ve performed for deployed troops, for cancer patients---I even performed the very day after 9/11 in L.A. If I could make someone laugh, I knew they were just for a moment, forgetting about their problems. Now, more than ever, I feel a calling to keep making people laugh.”
And standing up on that stage in Japan, close to tears, Shawn had to remember that sense of humor she learned growing up.
She stopped her set. With fire in her eyes, she asked into the microphone who threw the cherry. The crowd parted, revealing the culprit---one man snickering, like he hadn’t just behaved like a 5-year-old boy.
Stomping off stage in her heels, she walked over to the man, cherry in hand.
“You see this cherry?” She said to him. He was stunned she was in front of him, stunned she was sticking up for herself at all.
“This cherry is the size of your balls!” She screamed into the microphone. The crowd erupted in laughter.
“Small balls!” She repeated and the crowd soon began chanting it with her. “Small balls! Small Balls! Small balls!”
One thing is for certain when it comes to Shawn Pelofksy; no one can ever accuse her of having small balls.
“I still see it today, when I walk on stage---some people roll their eyes and think women comedians aren’t funny. But as a woman, you have to believe in yourself. You have to be confident. That’s really all that matters.”