Why is a music label venturing into standup comedy, with a local comic’s very first live album?
For Pittsburgh-based Misra Records, it makes sense if the comedian is Gab Bonesso. The self-described “7-year-old trapped in an adult’s body” has been one of the area’s top comics for years, and was a pioneer of Pittsburgh’s contemporary underground comedy scene.
“She’s very much a rock ’n’ roll comedian,” says Misra general manager Jeff Betten. “She’s got the energy and the enthusiasm.”
Misra, founded in 1999, boasts national acts like the band Destroyer, and locals like rapper Mars Jackson. Now it has signed Betten’s fellow Robinson Township native Bonesso. She’ll record material for the live release in two hour-long sets on Jan. 13 and 14, at Arcade Comedy Theater.
Bonesso studied theater at Duquesne University, and started doing comedy in 2002, after graduating. She’s taken such national stages as The New York City Underground Comedy Festival, has featured for names including Jen Kirkman and John Hodgman, and locally hosts her own anarchic monthly comedy nights at Brillobox. She also performs regularly at Arcade and McKees Rocks’ Parkway Theater.
“My style is very hyperbolic memoir,” she says: mostly true stories about things like being raised by quirky Italian-American parents; being a politically liberal suburban eccentric; and struggling with mental illness. Her observations can be off-the-wall: “I don’t necessarily think it’s a bad thing if an orphan gets kidnapped. I mean, somebody wanted you, right?” she has asked.
Bonesso also mines her unusual day job: In 2012, with musician Josh Verbanets, she formed the Josh & Gab Show, a musical and comedic anti-bullying duo that performs in schools, summer camps and churches. The Show’s traveled to nine states and Mexico, and frequently books three performances daily.
That project suggests Bonesso’s serious side, and indeed, she spent eight years as a caregiver to her mother, who died last year, and she’ll dedicate the forthcoming live album (planned for release in April) to her brother, Peppy, who died just weeks ago. But the Bonesso of Josh & Gab is just as goofy as (if less profane than) nightclub Gab.
Live-recording audiences will experience the full spectrum. On the album, she says, “I really want to get a little bit of every aspect of Gab.”