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"America's Got Talent" contestant Vicki Barbolak, of Oceanside. Photo by Vivian Zink/NBC
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Oceanside comedienne Vicki Barbolak makes ’em laugh on ‘America’s Got Talent’

OCEANSIDE — With her quick wit and national exposure on the current season of “America’s Got Talent,” comedienne Vicki Barbolak, might just have a shot at taking home the grand prize.

Barbolak, who said she’s “sexty” versus 60, has made it to the next round on the popular NBC reality show and readers can tune in on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. to keep up with her progress.

As for how the comedy stuff started, she said her sense of humor doesn’t fall far from the family tree.

“My uncles on my mom’s side were all so funny, cutting Midwest humor,” she said. “I wanted nothing more than to hear them say something funny and it was my greatest reward to hear them phone each other to tell them I had said something funny.

“I was also a fat kid and I made a joke about myself before the kids could, and it had to be funnier to shut them down, it was a defense for me,” she said.

Growing up in Oceanside, Barbolak’s parents owned a carpet store for more than two decades, where she worked as a teenager. These days in between the comedy, she has a wedding chapel business that is taking more and more time, “but I am hiring assistants!”

She said she never envisioned becoming a comedienne, but certainly embraces the laughter.

“It never crossed my mind, I wanted to be an artist but more of a designer or visual artist,” she said. “My parents convinced me that it was a terrible idea and it would be much smarter to work at their carpet store!”

And while she hasn’t had any formal training in the field, she said she did take a class that kicked things off.

“I took a comedy class when I started out, and I met the most wonderful five guys there who were also students,” she said. “I’m still friends with them today, though sadly two have passed away. I do not think anyone can teach comedy, the audience tells you what is funny, it takes years and years of performing in dumps, dives and good clubs to get good. I did read every book on stand-up written when I started, I thought everyone did, but that was not the norm.”

The funny gal who has two daughters, two sons-in-law, and three grandsons attending MiraCosta and Palomar colleges, as well as Fresno State.

Does she watch any reality shows herself? Sure, she is a fan of “America’s Got Talent,” “Project Runway,” “Chef’s Table” and “The Great British Baking Show.”

Her favorite comedians are: Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison, Betsy Salkind, Jimmy Shubert and Shawn Pelofsky.

And what about those outspoken fellow comediennes who have been in the news as of late for their “political humor,” Samantha Bee and Michelle Wolf?

Barbolak said she’s not much into political humor herself because it’s “not really her style.”

“… but I like to fit a little social commentary in sometimes,” she said. “I look for comedians with passion and I find plenty to watch right now, even here in San Diego. A great crop is coming up.”

She said a friend suggested she try out for “America’s Got Talent” so she threw her hat into the mix and she’s excited about being a part of the competition.

“A comedian has never won, so I can’t even go there!” she said. “I am grateful for the exposure.”

Since hobnobbing with the stars while taping and appearing on “America’s Got Talent,” Barbolak said she’s gotten the chance to get up close and personal with judges Heidi Klum, Mel B. and Howie Mandel.

“I have been doing a ‘Project Runway’ party with my daughters and their friends, and their friends’ moms for 15 years,” she said. “I play Heidi and a friend plays Tim Gunn. I never thought I would meet her, she is lovely.

“Mel B. was so kind to give me a hug when I was falling apart with joy, and Howie has always been one of my heroes since I started at the Comedy Store,” she said. “Having his approval of my work was the biggest thrill and of course, I am floored and humbled by Simon (Cowell) as I respect his judgement and think he is a great man.”

And if she were lucky enough to take the top prize and win?

“If I win, I would jump into that Vegas room to make an all-women’s show where women could come to Vegas and celebrate together,” she said. “I love shows where women are on the bill; maybe I’d add a few male dancers to spice things up, I can dream … can’t I?”

Barbolak is funny and she’s also down to earth. She said comedy has brought her out of her shell: “Stand-up has brought me to a place where I feel very little distance between myself and people. So, it is pretty even that way.”