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Resting Care Bear face

Catch comedian Vanessa Dawn before she skips town

Vanessa Dawn

Greg Bollinger

Vanessa Dawn is leaving the building—er, town. For the past few years, the Tulsa comic has featured on and emceed countless shows and hosted the VFW’s weekly open mic. By month’s end, Dawn will be settled into Seattle, and between now and then Tulsans only have two shots left to catch her act. 

I caught Dawn at a recent Comedy Parlor open mic, which she hit right after a restaurant shift. 

“Sorry I’m ratchy, y’all,” she told the crowd. “I can’t go anywhere after work without smelling like food. I go to the library and all the homeless people look at me like … a snack.” 

Those pre-punchline pauses feature largely in Dawn’s sets. She has a knack for leading audiences right to the ledge of a laugh, and letting them see the drop before shoving them over. 

“Has anyone else noticed how all the zoos in this state are, like, low-key built right next to the ‘hood?” she asked. “I think somebody designed it like a Katrina situation, like … ‘If the animals get out and do fuck shit up?’”

Frequent topics include the homeless (and how she analyzes the quality of their footwear), her reluctance to have kids (because of their price tag and “just how fucked up the world is”), and demonic possession. Dawn navigates the sometimes-uncomfortable subject matter of her sets with a conversational tone and a bright, permanent grin, as if to say, “I know something you don’t.” 

“A lot of girls say they have resting bitch face,” Dawn said. “I think I have the opposite, like I have resting Care Bear face … Something about this,”—she points to her face—“just says, ‘Tell me all your problems.’”

Dawn, a former DHS worker, said her “resting Care Bear” affliction is all too real. 

“People will just tell me the craziest shit, like, ‘Hey, didn’t need to hear that so you can get food stamps, sir, but thanks for sharing…’ Oh my god, he’s a murderer!”

“I started comedy as a dare, actually,” Dawn said. “My roommate said, ‘You’re pretty funny,’ and my dad said, ‘No, you’re not.’” 

Over the past three years, she’s proven her skeptical father wrong, and the pursuit of comedy is driving her move to Seattle. 

Catch Dawn at a farewell roast at The Venue Shrine on April 10, and her two  Comedy Parlor farewell shows April 14 and 15.

For more from Mitch, read his article on violent anti-fascism activism.