Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Her laughter always filled the room

Denise Schultz-Sharkey
9/27/1955 - 3/4/2008
There was no better sound than her knowing laugh. The one that let you know she thought whatever you were saying was funny, which coming from her was no faint praise. She knew her funny. The same laugh, which also signaled she knew where you were going with 'it', you could hear coming with her breath, just a nanosecond before the laughter left her throat and hit your ears. She always got the joke, even the feeble or unformed ones. Years of improv had trained her to anticipate it at the threshold, before it dashed through the door and caught you unawares. Actually her talent was inherent. Improv may have honed the quick wit she was blessed with, but her level of skill was certainly natural born. To put an even finer point on it, most of the time, she probably knew the punchline of my stories before I did... and had a capper ready, to plop like a cherry on top! Quite a gracious fit for an improviser, waiting politely for your delivery, so she could counter with her own perfected bon mot. What a thrill she was to work with, what a joy that she was just as giving off stage. Here's the thing, most performers are a bit self-centered & selfish. (a bit?) It's part of the job description. Denise was above all that. Not only did she have funny down cold, but she coaxed the funny out of you in that playful way of hers. She was always up for a little of the old back and forth, the wordplay, even a sarcastic remark or two. (or two?) All in the service of letting the big laughs rip and fill the room. Denise was always my best audience and I flatter myself to think I truly tickled her with my silliness from time to time. I know the music of her giggle, her throaty guffaw, and even the supportive snicker will not fade away soon. I hold them too dear.
- Jeannene Hansen, fellow improviser, friend and cohort

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