Ever since Rox Tarrant was a young girl she wanted to be a comedian. “Of course, now that I’m a comedian, I’d like to be a young girl!” she said with her ever-present giggle.
“When I was growing up in Alexandria, I wrote plays and staged them in the garage. I was already producing! The garage door was our curtain and the audience of parents would sit in lawn chairs in the driveway,” she said. “I remember distinctly the door going up, the applause and being hooked immediately!”
After graduating from Concordia College in Moorhead, Tarrant built a career in rehabilitation services. Yet, her dream of comedy stayed alive. In 1995 she signed up for a comedy contest, performed for three minutes, and in comedy parlance, she killed! As the only woman in the finals, Tarrant came in third out of 200 contestants. “It was as if the garage doors were coming up again,” she grinned.
Her own way
“Comedy is so male-dominated and clubs tend to not book as many women as men,” Tarrant said. “You hear bookers say they would never put more than one woman in a comedy show and I thought, why not? Shows usually feature many male comics and I didn’t see the difference. So I produced my own shows and ended up being ostracized by the male club owners.”
After honing her act and producing for a year, Tarrant had the opportunity to perform at the State Theater in Minneapolis and introduce Louie Anderson. “It vindicated me,” she said. “I had been debating leaving comedy because I had been so shunned by local club owners. Yet, here I was on stage in this beautiful theater, working with one of the biggest names in comedy, who also happened to be one of my idols. It was meaningful in so many ways and I haven’t looked back.”
She gets respect
Tarrant has become as well known for her producing as for her performing. She has worked with Minnesota’s funniest women, including Maxine Jeffris, Mary Mack, Jackie Kashian and Darlene Westgor. This vivacious redhead works a demanding 40+-hour week at Employee Development Corporation as a qualified rehabilitation consultant, and then travels to locations like Montevideo, Crookston and Marshall to produce and appear in comedy shows nearly every weekend.
“[Performances in] smaller towns are especially rewarding. The audience is so appreciative of having a high-quality show in their own backyard and we are just embraced,” she said. “As I say onstage, comedy is about life experiences and audiences can especially relate to women because we keep it real.”
Tarrant founded such popular shows as “Hot Rox” and “Women Out All Night” and offers mentorship to other Twin Cities funny women. She has found a niche where she is respected by comics, bookers and club owners alike.
When asked if her path would have been different if she were a man, she said: “Absolutely. So often women have to jump over hurdles men don’t have to in the comedy world, and I simply chose another route.”
In early 2010, she will make her Las Vegas debut courtesy of winning a comedy contest in Duluth. The fact that a 56-year-old woman beat out a group of newer, mostly male comics, is not lost on Tarrant. “I went in and showed all those young guns what comedy is!”