“All right, like Karen said, I’m not from around here.”
Wendy Maybury (’99) adjusts the microphone on stage at House of Comedy, a local comedy club in Bloomington, Minnesota. Her black dress and gray sweater complement her bright red hair as she greets the club.
“I had sex with a stranger, so I’m a single mom,” Maybury said, joking, giving a sharp clap, a smile and a thumbs up to the audience. “That’s how you kick off your 40s, you guys — two college degrees and then, boom; mistakes were made.”
She spent years moving around the country with different jobs, but it wasn’t until about 10 years ago that Maybury, a JMU alumna and former Breeze photographer, discovered her true passion — comedy.
After graduating with an English degree, Maybury moved to Massachusetts. There, she attended the Hallmark Institute of Photography. She also accepted a job importing diesel engines from Germany. She’d been a foreign exchange student and earned a minor in German, so she was fluent in the language and said she thought a stable job would make her parents and peers proud.
However, she said she hated the job because it involved intricate details and numbers.
“The No. 1 thing that I learned on that deal was I should’ve thought about my strengths and just leaned into my strengths instead of trying to be what I thought everybody would think [was] a really good idea,” Maybury said.
In June 2000, Maybury moved to Hoboken, New Jersey. She commuted to New York City, where she worked for famed photographer Mary Ellen Mark and helped her produce a book and movie. Maybury also worked in a small building behind New York City Hall, printing negatives for the city.
Mark told Maybury, “If you want to stay in New York, you have to love New York.” 9/11 happened shortly after, and Maybury decided to move from one big city to another. In October 2001, she moved to Los Angeles to live with JMU alumnus Justin Denlinger.
“I moved to LA with, like, $1,000, two suitcases and no job, no car, no apartment,” Maybury said.
After two months, she landed a job as a photographer for magazines in LA. There, she had several friends who were comedians and often told her she was funny and should try comedy. That was the first time she thought about comedy as a career, Maybury said, but she hesitated.
“I had this thing in my head where I was like, ‘OK, if you are studying to be something, you should be that thing,’” Maybury said. “I was sort of thinking, like, ‘Oh, if I’m a photographer, I just can be a photographer. I can’t be anything else.’”
Maybury moved back to her hometown in Alabama in 2006, where she photographed children for St. Jude’s Children’s Research Hospital. It wasn’t until a year later when she moved up to Minneapolis that Maybury would at last discover her comedy career.
“It was cold, and I needed a hobby because no one was my friend,” Maybury said. “So I decided to try stand-up comedy, and it was, like, amazing. I felt like, ‘What have I been waiting for my entire life?’”
Maybury said comedy is a combination of all the skills she’s accumulated over her life. She described how in photography, making someone smile can make them more comfortable. As an English major, she’d learned how to tell stories, and her work at JMU’s radio station, WXJM, helped her with communication and public speaking.
Although she’s kept her day job as a photographer, Maybury’s comedy career has taken off. She moved to St. Croix Falls, Wisconsin, two years ago, and last year, she produced her first album, “She’s Not From Around Here.” The album, available on several streaming platforms and YouTube, quickly rose to No. 1 on iTunes and Amazon.
Maybury and Jeff Simmermon (’98), another JMU alumnus and stand-up comedian, reconnected last year through Facebook. Simmermon produced his second album, “Why You Should Be Happy,” last year around the same time as Maybury. He said he instantly felt a connection to Maybury, like he does with many other comedians.
“When you do stand-up, you just have things in common with people,” Simmermon said. “[It’s] the act of getting up in front of a crowd night after night and, like, bombing and just bombing, grinding, begging for shows, trying to get good, trying to hone the material.”
Alissa Anderson (’98), Maybury’s college roommate, said she still keeps in touch with Maybury on a daily basis. She said Maybury is the same lighthearted person she’s known since their time at JMU.
“She’s always been just an amazing friend,” Anderson said. “[She’s] a really hard worker, very energetic, inherently likable, just always energized and has a very ready, quick laugh that is just really infectious.”
Maybury said she loves comedy because it reminds her to not take life too seriously.
“It’s really easy to look around and think of reasons that you could be sad or upset, and it’s just a hell of a way to spend your life … when you could just decide to look at what’s happening as fun and better,” Maybury said. “It’s not that I don’t want to acknowledge that bad things happen. I want to go, ‘Let’s find a way to try and get through them together.’”
Contact Charlotte Matherly at email@example.com. For more on the culture, arts and lifestyle of the JMU and Harrisonburg communities, follow the culture desk on Twitter and Instagram @Breeze_Culture.