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Affection for Pittsburgh leads Wally Baram back for First Night

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop
| Friday, Dec. 29, 2017, 8:57 p.m.
Wally Baram, of Los Angeles, Calif. is one of the comedians who will help ring in the new year at the Byham Theatre, downtown, for Highmark First Night Pittsburgh on Dec. 31. She will be on stage at 6:30, 8:30 and 10:15 p.m. for the New Year’s Eve Comedy Showcase.
COURTESY WALLY BARAM
Wally Baram, of Los Angeles, Calif. is one of the comedians who will help ring in the new year at the Byham Theatre, downtown, for Highmark First Night Pittsburgh on Dec. 31. She will be on stage at 6:30, 8:30 and 10:15 p.m. for the New Year’s Eve Comedy Showcase.

Wally Baram often performs in venues where she isn't old enough to attend.

That's because she's only at 20 years old and many locations have a drinking or entry age of 21.

“If I am performing at a bar show, I am sometimes not allowed into the actual bar or far from the stage,” she says. “Usually I stay in the green room if they have one.”

She won't have to worry about being old enough when she comes to Pittsburgh. Baram is one of the comedians who will help ring in the New Year at the Byham Theatre for Highmark First Night Pittsburgh Dec. 31. She will be on stage at 6:30, 8:30 and 10:15 p.m. for the New Year's Eve Comedy Showcase.

Baram was invited after performing at the Pittsburgh Comedy Festival earlier this year. She says she had other options, but wanted to be part of the Steel City's evening to welcome 2018.

Comedy is a big part of the lineup for First Night Pittsburgh planners who added a larger venue in response to the need for more seats since previous smaller locations had filled to capacity quickly, says Sarah Aziz, festival director of First Night, to the Tribune-Review at a press conference earlier this month.

“I had actually never been to Pittsburgh before I performed at the festival, but the festival was a blast,” Baram says. “I immediately took to the city and group of comedians I met. I am really excited to be coming back to Pittsburgh.”

The evening presents nationally touring comedy headliner John Evans and will be hosted by Pittsburgh's own Day Bracey.

Evans is a 20-year veteran of stand-up comedy. He has appeared on Comedy Central's “Live at Gotham” and was a semifinalist on NBC's “Last Comic Standing.” He has opened for comedy legends such as George Carlin, Dave Chappelle and Jeff Dunham.

Comedian, producer and podcaster — 12 of “Drinking Partners,” Brace plays host for the evening's show.

“I love Pittsburgh with its amazing energy,” Baram says. “The show is going to be so much fun: John Evans is absolutely hilarious, and Day Bracey is not only super funny, but a potent creative force for Pittsburgh. I have a lot of reverence for them both. I am just so elated that there are so many people looking to comedy to celebrate New Year's Eve. “

Baram writes and performs mostly in Los Angeles, but also spends time working in New York City. She says her comedic style is evolving. Baram speaks several languages and is considering incorporating those into future gigs as well as discussing her time living in China.

She has also been exploring topics like being a woman, having Mexican and Syrian ancestry and her time as a college student. Baram says she thinks a good comedian conveys a truth everyone can relate to.

“Of course, how they convey that truth varies from comedian to comedian — whether it be with George Carlin clarity or Andy Kaufman obscenity,” she says. “A good comedian is a character we can all connect to, even if we are unsure exactly how we are forging that connection.”

She says she enjoys the limelight, the rush and adrenaline of doing well onstage and connecting with an audience which is incredible and almost indescribable — it's like the feeling of connecting with an old friend combined with the rush of skydiving.

There are also challenges such as the uncomfortable open mics, disgruntled or drunk audience members yelling things, low-budget traveling, or the other less pleasant parts of performing comedy, she says.

“The performer bonds with the audience, the audience members bond, the performers bond. It's a lot of meeting people, engaging and laughing. I think that's definitely what this whole event is about, bringing people together.”

Free, but registration is required.

Details: firstnightpgh.trustarts.org

JoAnne Klimovich Harrop is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 724-853-5062 or jharrop@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Jharrop_Trib.

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