Originally created 10/07/04

Grandma Lee brings comedy act to Partridge



Laughter is timeless - something 70-year-old comedian Grandma Lee plans to show the audience at the Partridge Inn tonight.

She and Atlanta comedian Andrew Thomas are this month's featured acts for Comedy 1st Thursday at the hotel.

A regular in comedy clubs for seven years, Grandma Lee, whose real name is Lee Strong, gained national attention when she was briefly featured on NBC's Last Comic Standing during the summer.

"They picked three people they liked to come back and be on the final episode, then they called me and asked me to come. I got two standing ovations," she said of her show routine.

That exposure fueled her career.

"This past week I was in North Dakota and Minnesota. I've been in almost every state," she said. "Everywhere I go now, I get people who come up and say, 'I saw you; it was really good.' That does my ego good."

Ms. Strong, who has lived in Kentucky, Oklahoma and Missouri, said she has been influenced by comedians Bill Cosby, Carol Burnett and George Carlin. Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle are some of her current favorites.

"I don't like female comedians that are all, 'I'm mad at my husband' and stuff," she said, adding that her shows are "kind of rated R" but are not nasty.

"You can be dirty without being gross," Ms. Strong said. "I do a lot of politically incorrect stuff. I make fun of TV commercials. I do mostly true stuff that's real, that actually happened."

After she moved to Jacksonville, Fla., in 1973, Ms. Strong worked for BellSouth for 22 years, and her humor was popular around the office, she said. After years of suppressing a desire to do stand-up, Ms. Strong performed at the Comedy Zone in Jacksonville in 1996.

"When I was on stage, I said, 'This is what I'm going to do for the rest of my life,'" she said.

She went on to become a regular at the club, she said, then hit the road full time in 1997 - a decision that surprised nobody.

"Everyone figured I'd do it one day," Ms. Strong said.

Ms. Strong, who has a "lot of kids, lot of grandkids," said she has had some adventures in her travels across the country. At one club, the stage she stood on was a crate; at another, the stage collapsed during her show.

The three best things about her job are getting to sleep in, meeting people and getting paid for doing something she loves, Ms. Strong said.

She said she doesn't regret not starting earlier "because then I couldn't do the grandma stuff."

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Comedy 1st Thursdays

WHEN: 9 p.m. tonight

WHERE: The Partridge Inn, 2110 Walton Way

COST: $10

PHONE: 737-8888 or (678) 760-7544

Reach C. Samantha McKevie at (706) 823-3552 or samantha.mckevie@augustachronicle.com.