CHELMSFORD — She may not have realized it back in her Chelmsford High School days, but the comedy industry was subtly beckoning Janelle Draper. A 2007 graduate, she was always the one making others laugh.
Fifteen years later, Draper will be generating laughs Saturday night when she performs at The Wilbur Theater in Boston, opening for Brian Glowacki. Tickets cost $27 and can be purchased The Wilbur Theater website. The evening will be hosted by another Boston-based comic, Alex Giampapa, and begins at 9:45 p.m.
With a full house expected, a large portion of the audience will be from Chelmsford and parts nearby. It is a landmark event as the production is a combined effort of the three comics — without agents and booking teams.
“This is a DIY grassroots project,” said Draper. “This is a good opportunity for local talent. Hopefully it opens more doors for other locally established acts.”
It is especially meaningful for Draper, who was handpicked by Glowacki, along with Giampapa, to open for him.
“It is special that he asked me since there are hundreds of great comics in the city,” she said.
It is a busy time for Draper, who appeared at the Rhode Island Comedy Festival in Newport from May 26-28 and was scheduled to double up on Thursday and Friday, when she appeared at both the White Bull Tavern and Democracy Brewing Thursday night, then both Democracy Brewing and The Comedy Studio Friday night, before Saturday’s show at The Wilbur.
Despite her full schedule, Draper recently moved back to Los Angeles (she had lived there from 2010 to 2014) after living in New York City the last eight years. While Boston has produced some of the greatest comedians, New York and Los Angeles are the epicenters of the industry.
It’s the life of an aspiring comedian. Even into her 30s, Draper is enjoying every minute. Among other subjects, it’s a life she often pokes fun at in her act.
“My world is wide open for material,” she quipped. “It’s a lot of fun to hop from show to show. You can really hone the art and see what’s working and what’s not.”
Societal pressure to “settle down,” her own breakups while her friends marry, her workplace and even her own family’s quirks provide her more than enough material. Her father, Ron Draper, told her time and again she should give comedy a try. She took his advice and attended classes in 2012 in Los Angeles.
“I never took it seriously until I moved to New York in 2014,” said Draper, who has been a creative marketing executive with AMC networks, specifically Acorn TV and Sundance Now, two of many streaming services under the AMC portfolio, since 2014.
She began her career at AMC doing comedy development for IFC TV on hit shows such as “Portlandia” and “Comedy Bang! Bang!,” giving her direct access to the art and production of TV comedy.
Draper never imagined a career in comedy during her days at CHS, though she was performing comedy before she realized. She was a voice student of CHS Theatre Director Lauren Cochran — a big supporter, Draper said — and performed in “The Red Ruby of Calcutta” and other CHS productions. Auditioning admittedly made her uneasy, however. She naturally made other people laugh, particularly her cheer and track and field teammates.
“I did things that would make other people laugh,” she recalled. “I would break up any tension. I didn’t get embarrassed easily, but when it came to auditioning, I would get really nervous.”
Draper fondly recalls a story about an essay she wrote prior to attending Stonehill College, about what she wanted to bring to college: A human form of entertainment.
While she forges on with her standup, Draper’s goal is to create and star in her own comedy series. She has already developed several pilots, which she hopes attracts the attention of one of the networks.
“It’s the Amy Schumer model,” she said. “That’s what I’m gunning for. And I just want to keep creating and performing around the clock.”