Candid comedian dishes on aging, sexuality, life

Comedian and writer Carol Leifer will be appear at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center’s Garfield Theatre at 7:30 p.m. May 10 as part of the center’s 2010 Distinguished Author Series. She will be discussing her book “When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win.” A book signing will follow.

Leifer, who also bills herself as a Jewish lesbian vegan, saying, “I wasn’t part of a small enough minority,” began performing stand-up comedy in college and has gone on to write scripts for series such as “Saturday Night Live,” the Oscars, “Seinfeld” and “The Larry Sanders Show,” as well as appearing on “The Tonight Show,” “Late Night with David Letterman,” “The Celebrity Apprentice” and other TV shows.

“When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win,” an autobiographic series of essays, is Leifer’s first book release. When not writing or performing, Leifer lives with her partner of 14 years, Lori Wolf, and their 3-year-old son, Bruno, in the Santa Monica hills.

Please tell me a little bit about your childhood and how it shaped your interest in comedy.

I grew up on Long Island, the youngest of three kids. I have an older brother and sister. I grew up with reverence for comedy. My father, an optometrist named Seymour, inspired my interest. He was always calling us to come watch funny shows on TV, and he was always telling jokes. I was fascinated by the power of humor and how people responded to it.

Who are your heroes and mentors?

I was fortunate to build my career with the help of a great group of people. I consider my comedian friends and peers to be my mentors and heroes. Jerry Seinfeld was an emcee at the first comedy club I performed at in New York, and Larry David also influenced my success. David Letterman happened to catch one of my shows, which led to more than 25 appearances on his show. I’ve found the comedy industry to be very cooperative and supportive rather than competitive. Being female also seems to have been an advantage, in that many men offered support and guidance.

What was your inspiration for the book?

It seems like women are fed so much doom and gloom when it comes to aging, but I have experienced the best part of my life since turning 40. Everyone, not just women, should embrace their age; our experiences and stories make us who we are. I wanted to share my experiences, so I wrote a series of short, fun essays to capture the humorous side of maturing. I’ve gotten fan letters from women in their 20s up to a 93-year-old. “When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win” is a sort of guidebook for young women on how to approach life, while creating a common ground for older women through the sharing of the foibles and peccadilloes of getting older.

You are very open about your lifestyle and personal experiences, including being married and then coming out as a lesbian. Do you think this is easier to address these topics through comedy?

When you talk about your own life and explore interesting, funny things, people respond because they have experienced similar things in their lives. I definitely think humor makes these topics more comfortable for people. But on another level, this kind of writing is so personal and digs so deep that others can relate. After touring some 20 cities at some of the most conservative Jewish temples, I was surprised to discover that being gay is the new “big whoop,” most people are happy when they hear people have found love, not matter who with.

What do you enjoy most — writing or performing?

I feel very privileged to do both. Writing is a solitary experience, while stand-up comedy fulfills my hard-wired need for the laughter and social interaction with the audience. What I love most about book signings, like this upcoming event in San Diego, is the opportunity to meet and greet people.

What does the future hold for you?

In addition to more book tour engagements, I’m waiting to hear back about a pilot I did for Showtime. I will also be going to New York City next month for the finale of “The Celebrity Apprentice.”

Is there one important lesson you’ve learned from your career that you would share with others?

As a comedian, I’ve learned the value of patience. I auditioned for the Johnny Carson show 17 times. I could have given up. After all, it doesn’t feel good when someone tells you “no,” especially for the 16th time. But the 17th time, I made it. You have to keep believing in yourself. You have to be the president of your fan club. If you’re not your own biggest fan ... no one else will be.

If you go

  • What: Carol Leifer — ‘When You Lie About Your Age, the Terrorists Win: Reflections on Looking in the Mirror’ discussion and book signing
  • When: 7:30 p.m. May 10
  • Where: Garfield Theatre, Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center
  • Admission: $12/JCC members; $14/nonmembers
  • Tickets: (858) 362-1348,