And not just to Foley, but to her parents as well. Each spring she treks from Los Angeles to Ruskin, Fla. where her parents moved after retirement, to not only celebrate her mother’s birthday but also college basketball’s biggest annual event.
“I come for two weekends [in March] and we literally watch basketball non-stop Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday,” she said.
While booking this year’s trip, Foley suddenly realized: she’s never performed in the Tampa Bay area before.
So this weekend, in between filling out brackets and cheering on her favorite teams, Foley will also perform at Stageworks Theatre Saturday, March 22, at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m.
For 14 years, Foley has entertained audiences with her observational humor and acerbic wit. The openly gay comic pulls material directly from her life and presents it in a way that’s easy for everyone — no matter what their sexual orientation — to relate to.
“I rarely perform to just gay crowds,” she said. “Comedy clubs are 90% straight. So you have to be able to entertain everyone.”
And while Foley avoids political issues for the most part, she realizes she’s in a unique position. So when she does find herself performing in a part of the country where LGBT issues have less support, she “go[es] gay lite.”
“I make my set super relatable,” she said. “It’s not their fault they’re straight. I’ll even do a few gay marriage jokes and push the envelope a little. I feel I should push the envelope.”
Born in New York and raised in New England, she got her start in Manhattan’s comedy clubs in 1999. The seasoned comedian still performs regularly at iconic clubs such as Gotham Comedy Club and Caroline’s on Broadway.
“New York City is the best for standup comedy, but it’s not a money maker,” Foley said. “It’s very hard financially.”
“Super burned out and in need of a change,” she packed up and headed for the West Coast. Intending to stay in Los Angeles just a couple of years, seven years later she’s still there writing, acting and doing-stand-up.
The native East Coaster still sometimes feels homesick, though, and travels to New York often to perform, and visit with friends and family.
“There’s no city out here [in L.A.],” she said. “It’s the world’s biggest suburb. It’s just endless sprawl. There’s only like three buildings downtown.”
But “it isn’t fair to L.A. or anywhere to compare it to New York,” she said. “New York is its own wonderful beast of a place.”
And she’s learned to love Los Angeles. When people think of L.A., they immediately think of West Hollywood, she said, but there’s so much more to the city.
“No one knows the wonderful underbelly of L.A.,” she said. “There are a lot of wonderful, creative people here who just want to be working and not be famous.”
In 2009, Foley filmed her first half-hour Comedy Central Presents show.
“That was always a huge goal of mine,” she said.
And just within the past two years, she made her late-night stand-up debut.
“My jokes are very long, minutes in length,” she said. “In the late-night set, the punch line has to come in the first 10 to 20 seconds.”
She’d always thought her material was too long for late-night shows, so she never tried to get on any of those shows. She was pleasantly surprised when she was booked not once, but twice on The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien.
“That was a really good lesson for me,” Foley said.
In addition to stand-up, she’s also an actress. Her appearances include the NBC series Go On and Curb Your Enthusiasm, and even a role in Almost Famous.
Her biggest project at the moment is a podcast called “Sports without Balls,” which is distributed by All Things Comedy and launched earlier this year. An avid sports fan, Foley brings in other funny women to discuss sports and sometimes even sits down with players and coaches. Eventually, she’d like to develop it into a TV show.
Erin Foley performs at Stageworks Theatre, 1120 E. Kennedy Blvd., Tampa, at 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door; they can be purchased online here.