PORTLAND, Maine — Seven years after graduating from college with a degree in art, Karen Morgan was ready for a change.
While keeping her day job, she attended law school at night, pursuing her goal of becoming a trial lawyer. In what turned out to be a nice touch given her later career, she was sworn in to practice law in the small town of Monticello, Georgia, in the actual courthouse where the legal comedy “My Cousin Vinny” was filmed.
Morgan is now the best-known female comic in Maine, booked for shows over the next few months not only in the state but also in South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee, Ohio, Kentucky and Georgia.
A recent video of hers has attracted more than three million hits. She is, in a notoriously demanding line of work, a genuine success.
Her start came late. At the age of 40, married with three small children at home, she felt the need to get out of the house. So she enrolled in a standup comedy class in Portland.
Morgan didn’t have to look far for material to turn into jokes.
“Everything that I wrote was about being a mother,” she said. “You truly do have to laugh about it, or you’re going to start crying.”
At first, her routine was pretty bad. But her material got stronger, her timing sharper, her delivery more polished. And it wasn’t long before she was connecting with the audience. She was hooked.
“Ask any standup comedian,” she said. “When you stand there, and you get the laugh, it’s the most amazing thing. And then you just want to do it again.”
While her comedy career is thriving and her legal career dormant (she’s still licensed to practice law but no longer does), Morgan remembers the days when she was shifting from the latter to the former.
The first time she got paid for standup didn’t do much for her bank account.
“It was probably some cash for parking," she said.
But that’s not why she’s still telling jokes 18 years later.
“You don’t do this for the money,” Morgan said. “You just don’t.”