Melissa Bernard: The Comfort of Comedy

Melissa Bernard: The Comfort of Comedy
November 16 07:55 2015 Print This Article

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Since she was a young girl, Melissa Bernard was inspired to perform. Her first experience with live performance was a one woman show about Emily Dickinson. The fact a woman made the audience believe her story with only her words astounded Bernard. After seeing the performance, Bernard attended a three day workshop with the actress. At the end of the workshop, she was told that she should be a performer. For Bernard, performer on stage just felt right. Like many teens, most of the time, she felt odd and out of place, but being on stage felt like it fit. Once she graduated high school, she attended University of the Arts in Philadelphia. After graduation she moved back home to Wilmington.

Unlike many performers who feel they will shine bigger and brighter far away from home, Bernard believes people shine big and bright in Delaware. “In Delaware, we don’t think we have cool stuff, but we can make cool stuff here.” Now, after 22 years of performing in Delaware, she continues to feel the same. Her goal is to show the audience a good time and to get people to come and support all the talent Delaware has to offer.

Mellissa Bernard in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson debut at the City Theater Company.. Photo Credit Joe del Tufo of Moonloopphoto

Mellissa Bernard in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson debut at the City Theater Company.. Photo Credit Joe del Tufo of Moonloopphoto.com

Bernard’s love of hometown talent found the perfect partnership when she met Jeremy Hebbel and Gail Dillman, owners of Gable Music Ventures who create live, all ages, original music events in Downtown Wilmington. Their desire to bring artists to Delaware stages fit Bernard’s vision. She already expanded her repertoire from shows with City Theater Company to trying her hand at stand up. Soon, she found herself on stage at Gable Music Ventures’ Wilmo Wednesday, a free, all ages, show featuring local Delaware bands and comedians at the World Cafe Live at the Queen.

After her first set, they asked her to introduce the next band and then the next band. Soon she said, “I think you want me to host.” Thus, Bernard became the host of Wilmo Wednesdays. Bernard’s goal as host is to make the audience feel like they are home. “The stage feels like my living room and the audience like my family. A family that comes to visit every week. The show is created for our community by our community,” says Bernard. Wilmo Wednesdays not only gets a swell of support, but it is a “well-spring of talented performers.” Beyond hosting, Bernard is a fan. Bands like Anatomy of an Outcast and The House on Cliff ,singers like Lisa Malatesta and Nicole Lynnette Hibbert, and comics like Ty Jamison excite Bernard as much as the audience. On “Wednesday nights, I’m an audience member. I’m watching this music with you. Seeing all this different music for free. ‘Did you guys see that? That was awesome’ I’m here to have an evening just like the audience.” And when she performs, it’s like sharing her day. “You don’t have to tell a backstory to be funny. All you have to do is reach your audience.”

Mellissa Bernard in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson debut at the City Theater Company.. Photo Credit Joe del Tufo of Moonloopphoto

Mellissa Bernard in Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson debut at the City Theater Company.. Photo Credit Joe del Tufo of Moonloopphoto.com

As a comedian, Bernard has always looked up to other comedians. She loved Carol Burnett for her ability to break the fourth wall. She admired George Carlin for his bravado. “He didn’t apologize and he always assumed the intelligence of the audience.” And she loved how Richard Pryor allowed himself to be vulnerable. “Being afraid is the funniest part. We can own our own experiences.”

While she loves stand up, she continues to act with City theater company. “Everyone in the room is more talented than the next. But it’s comfortable and non-competitive.” She wants to keep performing and making people feel like they are family. The one thing, however, that she is afraid of is being a music performer. She’s not sure she is up to the challenge because, while she is a talented singer, in her head, she needs to nail that one perfect song.

Despite her fears, Bernard doesn’t believe in failure. “ it’s the journey, so you need to learn lessons prior. Learning that you have to try, that bombing teaches you something. In stand up, people laugh when they see you are human.When people laugh they connect to you.” It is that connection Bernard loves, and that connection the audience will feel when they see her.

 

Written by Shoshana Kohn Editor in Chief

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