A new WE tv show set in ... Meadville?

Monday, 24 January 2011 12:00 AM Written by 

It’Stand_Up_Mother_blogs not always easy to have a career in the entertainment business outside of New York and Los Angeles, but comedian Tammy Pescatelli is trying make a go of it from, of all places, Meadville. She chronicles her efforts in WE tv’s “A Stand Up Mother” (10 p.m. Tuesday), a one-hour, six-episode reality series filmed in the Crawford County town this past fall.

Ms. Pescatelli, a 41-year-old Ashtabula, Ohio, native, rose to prominence in comedy circles when she appeared on seasons two and three of NBC’s “Last Comic Standing” in 2004 and 2005. But after her son, almost 3, was born, she and her husband, Luca Palanca, decided to leave Los Angeles and move to Meadville, her mother’s hometown and a place Ms. Pescatelli spent her summers as a child.

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The family purchased a home in Meadville before they moved there in 2009 as a place for family gatherings. After Ms. Pescatelli and family moved to Meadville, her parents and other family members have also moved to the city with a population around 13,000.

Although she’s often on the road as a stand-up comedian, in Meadville Ms. Pescatelli benefits from support she lacked in Los Angeles, particularly when it comes to looking after her son.

“Now when mommy’s gone he has this extended family to lift him up,” she said in a phone interview last week. “That’s why we left Los Angeles. Funnily enough, when I put somebody else first, the best things in my career happen to me.”

In addition to the new TV series, Ms. Pescatelli said she recently signed a book deal and she’s planning to tape a stand-up special in May. In the meantime, she routinely travels to comedy clubs in larger cities, flying out of airports in either Pittsburgh or Cleveland.

“No matter which airport, it’s still either an hour-and-45-minutes or a two-hour drive, so you lose a full day to travel on either end,” she acknowledged. And there’s another drawback. “It’s tough to get a lot of silly glamour things you need to do in order to be presentable for this job or a 41-year-old woman and presentable. In Los Angeles, even a homeless woman has botox, capped teeth and a tan.”

In the premiere of “A Stand Up Mother,” viewers meet Ms. Pescatelli’s actor-producer husband (she calls him Lucy to her Desi; he always hatches schemes and she tries to be the voice of reason), her parents and her Brooklyn-based mother-in-law, Rose, who may be the show’s break-out character. Rose disbelieves Tammy and Luca are married and complains during a visit that their home is not clean enough. During a phone interview last week, the line keeps clicking from someone else calling; Ms. Pescatelli looked at the caller ID and said it was Rose.

“I’d go through these crazy, who-does-that? moments and I’ve never heard of anybody else’s mother-in-law doing these things but because of the commercials [for the show] I’ve heard from so many people who say, my mother-in-law is just like that,” Ms. Pescatelli said. “Hopefully our dynamic will speak to thousands.”

Much of the show’s humor stems from the interaction of the extended Italian families of Ms. Pescatelli and her husband.

“The problem is Italian people don’t understand the difference between extended and immediate family,” she said. “Everybody thinks their opinion counts. In this think tank of nothing, no one knows the difference. But [family is] why we came here. We kind of knew what we were getting into but I think we kind of forgot.”

In the premiere episode, viewers also see Ms. Pescatelli get the bad news that she did not get the role of a “Jersey girl” she auditioned for. Turns out that role was in the Katherine Heigl movie “One for the Money,” which filmed in Pittsburgh last year.

“I believe you get what you’re supposed to get exactly when you need it,” she said, noting that she’ll try for more acting roles. “You always want to be well-rounded. I’m a stand-up at heart but I want to work smarter, not harder. This show will help me have a platform to have more people buy tickets for my shows, so maybe I can work bigger venues so I’ll only have to go out [on the road] two days a week.”

As a way to protect her son, Ms. Pescatelli said she and the producers decided to feature him minimally in the show. To acclimate him to having a film crew in the house, Ms. Pescatelli said she made him a book with photos of the entire production crew so he would know what their jobs were and why they were in his house.

As for the populace of Meadville, Ms. Pescatelli says in “A Stand Up Mother” that even though the town is “slower than most places,” she’s relieved that it has nothing to do with show business. “It’s not even a suburb next to a city,” she says in the program. “It’s like a village next to a suburb next to a city.”

She said she went to great pains to talk to town leaders and explain the show’s intent is not to mock Meadville – “obviously, because I live here” – and to show the residents she interacts with “a little bit of grace.”

A decision on the part of Ms. Pescatelli and the network about producing more episodes of “A Stand Up Mother” will be made after the show premieres and its ratings come in. Either way, the show’s star is content.

“I feel like we did good work and I know it’s funny,” she says. “I think America will like it. If not, I have the best-produced, most fun home video that you’ll ever see.”

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