Bullard High and Fresno State graduate Audra Wolfmann grew up wanting to write for "Saturday Night Live." That dream hasn't panned out -- yet -- but she's getting to showcase her offbeat sense of humor on TV. Wolfmann hosts the weekly San Francisco-based "Speakeasily" program on the Internet TV network, TradioV.
"I interview some pretty outrageous burlesque, drag and vaudeville performers. And they perform on the show, too," says Wolfmann, who hosts the program in her burlesque persona of Odessa Lil, Mistress of Ceremonies.
Although burlesque is often confused with stripping, it's actually a performance that's more intended to create laughs. San Francisco has one of the largest burlesque communities in the United States, and many of the performers are lining up to be on Wolfmann's talk show.
The thirtysomething Wolfmann didn't grow up in Fresno thinking about the day when she could don a wig, pick up a riding crop and chat with performers such as Szandora LaVey and Honey Lawless.
Instead, she took a job teaching in Oakland after she graduated college, but it wasn't the right fit.
"I am only 5-feet-4, and all of the students were so big. When I had to stand on a chair to yell at one student, I knew it was time to quit," Wolfmann says.
Her move into the world of burlesque started innocently enough. Wolfmann says her parents exposed her to a lot of classic comedy movies and the lampoon humor of MAD magazine. Then she became inspired by the Weimar era in Germany, especially Berlin's cabaret culture.
All of those interests came into play when, while working more traditional office jobs in 2004, a friend who had opened a bar in Oakland offered her the chance to do anything she wanted one night a week.
"I immediately said I wanted to do a burlesque show. I needed an emcee but couldn't find anyone who got what I wanted, plus I'm a little bit of a control freak, and so I created the alternate persona of Odessa Lil," Wolfmann says.
A few months ago, she was approached by the website about creating a show. Wolfmann, who now works as an actress when she's not handling publicity for Amoeba Records, jumped at the chance to spotlight burlesque entertainers and give them a voice to talk about their art form.
Wolfmann said she finds the interview process easy after hosting the live bar shows where she had to incorporate audience comments and reactions into the act. Although she would love to have a studio audience, her TV show films in a small room with her, the guests and the TV crew.
Each show takes a week to plan and always includes a pre-interview. Wolfmann shares what she learns about the performers, such as their wide backgrounds that include those who have Ph.D.s, government jobs and classical training.
"They have a double life, and I say that means double the fun," Wolfmann says.
New episodes of "Speakeasily" stream live at 5 p.m. Thursdays at http://tradiov.com/sf/category/speakeasily/. You can also follow her on the "Speakeasily" Facebook page.
Star power: Hollywood has come through again for the Hoover High orchestra. The group's "18th annual Salute to Hollywood & Sports" fundraiser features autographed photos and items from the cast of the CBS series "NCIS," plus actors Betty White and Jim Belushi.
The silent auction and free concert start at 6 p.m. tonight in the Hoover High School cafeteria, 5550 N. First.
For more information, call (559) 451-4040.
On the air: The new '60s rock 'n' roll format for KYNO (AM 1430) has launched and completes the transition that moved the sports talk programming of KFIG at AM 1430 to the 50,000-watt 940 AM.
The new KYNO format is based on the playlists heard on KYNO in the '60s when its new Top-40 programming was known as "Boss Radio."
Another retirement: Beth Marney, KFSN (Channel 30.1) public affairs manager, has retired from the local ABC station after more than 35 years. Her last day was Nov. 8.
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.