As gritty, envelope-pushing comedians go, Natasha Leggero is at the top of the list.
However, life hasn't been all laughs for the Illinois native.
And, that's Rockford, Illinois, where a mass manufacturing exodus and tanked early-1980s economy transformed the city from a well-fed industrial mecca to a tell-tale brownfield. Gone were middle-class factory jobs. The din of breadlines replaced watercooler scuttle of once-bustling "Made In Rockford" enterprises. Rockfordians who managed to remain employed were the lucky ones. Others made ends meet however they could.
For Leggero, 43, it was a little of both. But, a strong family work ethic overcame firsthand economic hardship, and life went on just an hour outside of Chicago.
"I would say (we were) lower-middle-class, but I feel like my mom would start crying if she heard that," Leggero recently told Forbes. "But my dad was a used car dealer and my mother worked in a locksmith shop as the bookkeeper, and then they got divorced, and I do remember, like, nuns bringing us food--like big canned goods. And then, you know, we didn't really go on vacation--ever... I had so many jobs growing up: I mowed lawns; I worked at a grocery store; I had two newspaper routes; I worked at a catering place... I definitely hustled."From Rockford, Leggero was well traveled. First, it was two frugal years at Illinois State University when her college meal plan left her without food on weekends. It was a comedy of misfortunes to some, but her solution came from Italian bread she'd make last until Monday morning when her meal card reset. She managed to land a work-study gig in the cafeteria, too, which helped a little.
Studies in England, Chicago, and New York preceded a move to Australia before Leggero graduated with a theater degree and moved to Los Angeles in 2000.
Hitting the stand-up circuit came with a boilerplate repertoire, taking something as lackluster as life in a struggling-to-rebuild Midwestern city and pairing it with a will to make it in show business. And like most success stories, it was anything but easy. However, who else could keep a straight face while telling the story of a woman with no arms being refused service at a McDonald's drive-through? Yes, it's a true story and a cut from her 2011 comedy album, Coke Money. It was those hardworking bits that took Natasha Leggero from quaint club stages to Comedy Central and everywhere else A-Listers perform.Today, life is slightly different. Leggero is married to fellow comedian Moshe Kasher and spends a lot of free time shopping on Amazon for oddball items like eye patches for her dog, a gold stapler, and a collection of European sunscreens.
Leggero and Kasher hit the road next month for the 10-date "Endless Honeymoon Tour!" that kicks off July 19 in New Orleans.
[Featured Image by Jesse Grant/Getty Images for Comedy Central]