Tanyalee Davis is no stranger to “short jokes.”
Standing at just 3 ft 3 in (99.06 cm) tall, she is the shortest female stand-up comedian.
Tanyalee, of Bradenton, Florida, USA, has Diastrophic Dysplasia, a rare genetic condition that causes dwarfism.
But she has not let her disorder define who she is.
“I have been in the comedy business for 33 years and I constantly get ‘short listed’ for awards but sometimes miss out on the main prize,” said Tanyalee.
“They can’t take this record for a whole year. Plus, I’m 52 and shrinking so at this rate I’ll be the record holder for the next few years.”
Tanyalee first began stand-up comedy on 23 January 1990 at Yuk Yuks Comedy Club in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
“I didn’t even know that stand-up comedy was a thing,” admitted Tanyalee.
“I grew up watching American Sitcoms and British comedies, so I loved to laugh and wanted to be a comedic actress.”
Understanding that she clearly had a talent for being on stage, Tanyalee’s family encouraged her to study theatre.
She began performing at a children’s theatre and got the lead in the first production she ever auditioned for.
“I was Perry the Penguin,” said Tanyalee.
“I started dating a guy who played the villain. Apparently, he had a thing for penguins.”
Tanyalee’s date invited her to the comedy club to watch him perform at an open mic, in what would be her first time ever at a comedy club.
“I watched this guy on stage and he wasn’t very good,” said Tanyalee.
“I instinctively knew what he was doing wrong. So, when he came back, I was like ‘wow that was bad'.”
Tanyalee was certain she could do better.
She began writing her own material and three months later began performing her own paid comedy skits.
“Four months in and this guy goes and dumps me,” said Tanyalee.
“I guess he couldn’t handle the competition. It turns out he started dating a seal.”
Although Tanyalee does not necessarily “write” her material, she does practise her comedy skits before performing them in front of an audience.
“I don’t need to write material because I live my material. I am a storyteller,” she said.
“I sometimes will tell a story during one of my ‘lives’ on my late-night app Clapper to see what the reaction is and if I can make a complete story.”
Pre-lockdown, Tanyalee had been touring internationally since 2004.
She would tour for weeks at a time throughout the year and says her favourite place to perform is at the Stand Comedy Club in Glasgow, Scotland.
After the pandemic, however, the way Tanyalee performs changed slightly.
“My act has changed since the lockdown when I took to social media. I realized that I am a natural storyteller and that just by living my best life I am inspiring and motivating people to live their best life,” she said.
“That’s when I realized that even though I’ve had adversity my entire life I have not let that stop me from accomplishing many amazing things. I don’t let me size define who I am. I am UnstoppableMe.”
Despite being a male dominated business, Tanyalee has earned her name on the wall of the World Famous Comedy Store at the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, California, USA, alongside some of the greatest comedians ever.
She says she feels most at home when she is on stage and enjoys seeing people smile and hearing their laughter, which she describes as “good for the soul.”
“Laughter releases happy hormones in our bodies,” said Tanyalee.
“I love sharing my experiences and taking my audience on a journey. They also learn stuff along the way.”
But one of Tanyalee’s very favourite parts about being the shortest female stand-up comedian is the empowerment that comes along with it.
“I’ve been underestimated my entire life, but I’ve achieved some amazing things. It’s about never giving up,” she said.
“I believe there is a place for me and my comedy in the world and as long as I feel like I’m getting better, I keep on plugging along.
“I’ve had bookers say they wouldn’t book me because they booked someone with cerebral palsy and the audience didn’t like them, so they probably won’t like you. I’m short but many people in the industry are short sighted.”
Tanyalee feels that she is doing exactly what she is meant to be doing with her life and is grateful that there is a plan for her that she has been able to enjoy.
She was also excited to be recognized as a Guinness World Records title holder and thrilled to share the news with her friend Imaan Hadchiti, who holds the title for the world’s shortest stand-up comedian.
However, Tanyalee says her ‘UnstoppableMe’ mantra isn’t just for her — it’s for everyone.
“Stop focusing on what you can’t do and focus on what you can do. I am living proof,” she said.
“I do not have a victim mentality because I am capable of accomplishing extraordinary things, I just figure out my own way of doing them.”
Tanyalee says it is important to inspire and motivate younger generations, because having a sense of humour makes things much easier.
“You can’t control what other people say, you can only control how you react,” she said.
“I choose to have a sense of humour regarding the situations I get into because of my height and that’s why my life has been filled with incredible stories which I now share on stage. #UnstoppableMe”
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