By Edgar Lopez
Laughter roared from inside the VIP entrance of ELAC’s Weingart Stadium. It did not originate as a reaction to a blooper on the field but from a small crowd gathered around an ELAC athletic trainer. It was the small comedy skit of Diane Stankevitz, also known as Di Stanky, which caused the laughter amongst the crowd.
Whether reciting a joke from an episode of “Friends” or telling one of her own, Stankevitz musters a laugh from anyone listening. With the voice and humor she has, it is hard to resist or ignore.
“It’s been so long since I’ve been in a relationship,” said Stankevitz as she set up a couple of people listening, “that I only shave one leg so I can remember what it’s like to be with a man.” She made joke after joke but each in their respective place, the way a veteran does so.
Stankevitz said her comedy style and material revolves around a not so feminine female character and from life overall.
Although Stankevitz has nearly 20 years of doing stand-up comedy, she did not always pursue comedy. In 1989 she attended the University of California Los Angeles to pursue the title of doctor but didn’t finish. She notes her dad as the person who pushed her into comedy.
“I remember he was eating soup,” Stankevitz said. With excitement she told her father who stared into his bowl, whisking the soup with his spoon. She repeated herself to make sure he heard but he responded in the same manner. After another announcement he stood up and threw his spoon down. Her father said she was not going to become a doctor because she was going to be on stage like she was destined to.
Afterward, she dropped out of UCLA because of financial and academic problems. Work and study overwhelmed her. She listened to her father’s prediction. Back then she did not know she was going to do stand-up comedy. She just knew there was a stage.
“Go for it,” Stacy Gilbert said imitating her father. “Follow your dreams.”
After a year from dropping out of UCLA, she found stand-up comedy. Her father was happy she dropped out to find her stage. Stankevitz feels it all worked out as destiny, as if some energy controlled the situation because two years later her father died.
After their father’s death, Gilbert convinced her sister to return to school and get her degree because she was going to need it.
Stankevitz returned to UCLA and graduated in 1996 with a Bachelor’s Degree in physiological science, minoring in nutrition and exercise physiology. In 1988 she graduated from the California State University Long Beach with a Master’s Degree in Kinesiology and a minor in sports medicine and exercise science. She graduated from CSULB in the top one percent with Dean’s, National Graduate and University honors.
What Stankevitz has learned over the years is that opportunities for comedians are limited. There are not enough venues to do stand-up comedy and too many comedians to be housed. Her solution was to make her own venues.
Stankevitz helped fund The Comedy Train, the little comedy show that could, as it states on the webpage. A goal of The Comedy Train is to “provide quality stand-up comedy at an affordable price.”
The webpage also provides contact info to comedians and exhibits a picture gallery of past comedians who participated at ELAC such as Paul Rodriguez, Vic Dunlop and more.
Aside from providing a venue for many famous or up and coming comedians, the Comedy Train works as a fundraiser or charity drive. Its current charity drive is called Cans for Comedy. Attendees donate non-perishable food items in exchange for admission to the Coffee Gallery Backstage, where the show is held. These food items are then donated to the Friends in Deed food pantry.
Stankevitz believes that now that charitable causes are involved with live comedy, her comedy career feels more fulfilling.
“At one point,” Stankevitz said, “I thought I was going to be famous.” Stankevitz’s favorite appearance was at The Hop, a closed down club at the City of Industry. There she performed with Gabriel Iglesias.
What she feels onstage is decided by many factors. One major factor is capturing the audience.
Another is simply based on how well one performs. Even if it is the same material, one night Stankvitz believes she was brilliant and another she’s thankful to have a job. She said that there is a zone for those brilliant nights and that comedy is fun overall.
Stankevitz said her greatest comedian influence is Brian Regan, a stand-up comedian who uses observational humor tactics.
Although in the first visit, Stankevitz was surrounded by laughs, she acted caring and knowledgeable in the second visit. Whether students limped in or wandered in, after being drilled by a baseball, Stankevitz will use her experience and knowledge to fix their funny bone.