Beautiful, brazen, and blazingly funny, Sommore was the top-grossing female comedian in the country in the mid-2000s, appearing on the small and silver screens, and bringing side-splitting laughter to crowds of up to 50,000. Sexy, sassy, and unafraid to say exactly what's on her mind, Sommore has become, as Oprah Winfrey once famously said, "a force to be reckoned with." However, she preferred to be queen. "Anywhere, anytime—a queen rules her domain and when I hit the stage, that is my domain and I AM the queen there," she told Contemporary Black Biography (CBB). But what has really has made her the reigning queen of comedy is her dedication to the craft. "I'm constantly growing," she told the Ocala Star-Banner. "I'm constantly re-doing my show. And I'm constantly not taking my craft for granted, not taking the audience for granted and I really work on creating new jokes."
Became Funny by Getting Educated
Sommore was born Lori Ann Rambough in 1966 and raised by a single, working mom in a rough neighborhood of Trenton, New Jersey. Though an only child, Sommore told CBB, "my mom has five sisters and they decided to raise all the kids, 12 of us, together like siblings. We lived in a five-mile radius and were just a very close big family." Get-togethers were raucous affairs punctuated with laughter. However, recalling those times, Sommore told CBB "Honestly, I am not the funniest person in my family. I think that when it comes to funny, I have some cousins that are super funny naturally."
Instead, Sommore credited her comedic talent to the academic encouragement she got from her parents. While Sommore was growing up, her mother attended college at night where she excelled in mathematics. Though Sommore lived with her mother, she also kept in close contact with her father who was an English professor at a small college. Both parents pushed Sommore to do well in school. "In my house getting an education was mandatory. Math was mandatory. English was God," she told CBB. From their inspiration, Sommore learned to observe her surroundings, think analytically, and write down her findings. "I don't think I am naturally funny. I am able to find the humor in a lot of things, and because of my educational background, I can take that and write funny jokes. My writing is what makes me a good comedian," she told CBB.
However, Sommore did not aspire to be a comedian, nor even a writer. "I never knew what I wanted to be but I knew what I wasn't going to be and that was homeless or a prostitute or a drug addict," she told CBB. "In our neighborhood you saw those things around you and they were always options. But, I knew that wouldn't be me." One guiding principle that propelled her away from those futures was a desire to be rich. Her best friend growing up was the daughter of a very successful, wealthy funeral director and early on Sommore thought to follow in his footsteps. "Then my dad pointed out that it might not be a good fit for me," she told CBB. "I like people and am really social. The reality is that no one wants to see a funeral director at a party."
Dropped Corporate Day Job for Comedic Spotlight
After graduating high school, Sommore headed off to Morris Brown College in Atlanta, Georgia, where she majored in business and minored in math. "With business and math, I knew I could make money," she told CBB. "Also, I chose math partly as a challenge. There was always a stigma that women weren't good at math, so I wanted to challenge that." Degree in hand, Sommore set out on all-inclusive career path that included working in retail, substitute teaching, and a three-year stint as an employment counselor. "I was working and making good money, but I wasn't happy," she told the on-line Comedy Scene Magazine, citing "a lack of freedom."
In the early 1990s, Sommore began attending comedy shows at clubs in Atlanta. Something clicked and she knew she had to try it. She bought a book called How to Be a Stand-Up Comic and did exactly what it said, however it was what she wrote, not what she read that got her onstage. "I think my ability to write was my intro," she told Comedy Scene Magazine. "I wrote some material and went down to an ‘Open Mic Night’ and it worked!" As she became a regular on the Atlanta comedy circuit, she quit her day jobs and opened a shop selling imported African foods so she could be her own boss and have more nights free to do stand-up. "I was determined to be successful and I knew that there would come a point when I felt like I could leave working and be a comedian full-time," she told CBB.
Sommore's comedic style soon emerged—equal parts wit and grit peppered with down and dirty language. "In the beginning, I used to worry about being too nasty because people criticized me," she told Essence. "But I realized I just have to be myself." That has meant turning a critical eye on her own life and experiences. "To be a good comedian, you have to be able to analyze what is happening around you, in life," she told CBB. She did just that, turning her astute observations into unadulterated onstage monologues that kept audiences and critics in stitches. She also took on the name Sommore. "I said to myself, ‘If you're good, what would they want? They would want some more,’" she told the Ocala Star-Banner. "I just think that all the stuff that I say, it just wouldn't sound good coming from a Lori. It just wouldn't be as believable."
Became the Queen of Comedy
Sommore's saucy style garnered her the 1995 Richard Pryor Award for stand-up comedy, propelling her career into fast-forward. She was selected to become the first female host of Black Entertainment Television's (BET) comedy show Comicview. This wildly popular show brought Sommore into the homes of millions of late-night television viewers, however it was The Oprah Show that got her name out to the mainstream masses when Oprah hailed her as someone to watch in the new millennium. By the late 1990s, Sommore was all over the place, touring full-time and appearing on shows like Def Comedy Jam and in venues such as Harlem's famed Apollo Theater. She told Comedy Scene Magazine, "I'm dedicated to what I do—and when I say dedicated to what I do, I mean that I intend to make a difference as far as black comedy, especially females." She did just that and by 2000 Sommore was the highest-grossing female comedian in the country.
In 2001, Sommore was chosen as one of four black female comedians to join the high-profile tour "The Queens of Comedy," a massively successful show that played to sell-out crowds in 31 cities. The Atlanta show had an audience of nearly 50,000, earning the comedic quartet a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records as the first female comedians to perform before such a large crowd. The Memphis show was filmed for Showtime and when it aired it became the highest-rated special of the year. "[Sommore] didn't start out being the marquee name, but she ended up being the person who closed each show," entertainment executive David Carlow told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. "She's by far the funniest of all the queens."
At a Glance …
Born in 1966, in Trenton, NJ. Education: Morris Brown College, Atlanta, GA, BA, business and math.
Comedian, 1990s-; Black Entertainment Television (BET), Comicview, host, 1995; actor, 1998-; The Queens of Comedy tour, featured comedian, 2000-01; The Queen Stands Alone, one-woman show, 2007.
Richard Pryor Award, for Comic of the Year, 1995.
Office—One Thousand Kisses, Inc., P.O. Box 451142, Sunrise, FL, 33345, tel. (954) 678-3995.
Sommore's career has not slowed since. In addition to performing non-stop, she has been profiled on CNN and Comedy Central and has moved into acting, appearing in the sitcoms The Hughleys and The Parkers and in films from the flop Soul Plane to the critically-acclaimed indie Dirty Laundry. Though she hoped to do more acting, she explained to the Ocala Star-Banner that she has turned down some roles. "All black women aren't mamas and we ain't all hungry for a man. Give me a show that's me: I'm an educated black woman that's working hard." In the meantime, she wrote a one-woman show, The Queen StandsAlone, which was set to tour in late 2007. She explained to CBB that stand-up is her proudest achievement. "Stand-up comedy is different from other genres of entertainment…. As soon as you thank the audience and say good night, it's over. It's done. You have to start all over again. You get a brand new start each and every time and I love that." Fans love it too and her shows have continued to be sell-outs as crowds across the nation clamor for Sommore.
Friday After Next, 2002.
A Miami Tail, 2003.
Soul Plane, 2004.
Dirty Laundry, 2006.
The Hughleys, 1998.
The Parkers, 2002.
Essence, July 2001, p. 46.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, February 9, 2006, p. D7.
"Interview with Sommore," Comedy Scene Magazine,www.comedycalendar.com/interview.html (March 22, 2007).
"Saucy Sommore to Spice Up Ocala," Ocala Star-Banner,www.ocala.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20061013/FEATURES08/210130395/1016 (March 22, 2007).
Sommore,www.sommore.com (March 22, 2007).
Additional information was obtained through an interview with Sommore on April 11, 2007.
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