P’ville Native Finds the Humor in Life’s Most Serious Challenges

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Singer/songwriter and comedian Alyssa Sequoia will be performing her stand-up routine at the Hudson Valley Writers Center in Sleepy Hollow this Saturday evening.

There’s nothing funny about suffering from Crohn’s Disease, yet through it all Alyssa Sequoia has managed to keep her sharp sense of humor.

The Pleasantville native loved comedy so much that starting at 19, she ventured to the clubs in Manhattan, bent on making a name for herself as a standup comic.

However, her health issues and her other talent and great love, singing and songwriting, has taken up most of her energies over the years forcing Sequoia to largely put her stand-up career on hold – until recently.

“I was in and out for various reasons because I was dealing with health issues with Crohn’s,” said Sequoia, who uses the pseudonym as her stage name. “I also loved music and I was always in a band, so it was the music voice (that prevailed). Your dreams can be like children, pulling at your pant leg, ‘Pay attention to me, give me the attention, notice me.’ It was always the battle of those two things.”

Lately, Sequoia has been making up for lost time. She’s been regularly hitting the clubs again in Manhattan, performing at gigs wherever she can find them. She also had an appearance at the Comedy Spotlight in Los Angeles.

This Saturday evening, Apr. 6, she will headline a four-comic program at the Hudson Valley Writers Center in Sleepy Hollow. It’ll be a chance to perform close to home. Sequoia’s parents still call Pleasantville home while she lives with her husband, James Sklar, in Nyack. It’s also a fitting venue for someone who is a self-described passionate journal writer.

Sequoia’s material often includes her battle with Crohn’s Disease, which she says she has conquered by using alternative therapies after a lifetime of flareups and trying to wean herself off as many as 24 pills a day. Like many comics, she draws on her personal experiences, including being a woman and being married, for her shows.

“I’m trying to find the funny in it because ultimately comedy is finding the funny in the pain,” Sequoia said.

Sequoia described her time growing up in the Usonia section, off of Nannyhagan Road, as “a very alternative childhood.” Her father, a doctor, and her mother were always busy, so she cut school, spending more time out of class than hitting the books.

“My parents, instead of getting me a nanny, got me a golden retriever,” she said. “It took me years of therapy to unlearn my golden retriever ways.”

There was a large record collection at home for Sequoia to find an escape, whether it be music or comedians. Listening to those records became her classroom instead of school. It was day after day of Month Python, Simon and Garfunkel, Sarah Vaughn and many others. She taught herself how to play the guitar by listening to the vast array of music and Richard Pryor and Joan Rivers became her favorite.

Although she had health problems since childhood, it was at 19 that Sequoia was first diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, after being rushed to Lennox Hill Hospital. She would soon be administered an aggressive regimen of steroids, biologics and antibiotics.

“I was not getting better and found myself even worse riddled with anxiety and side effects,” Sequoia said. “I found this approach was not authentic to me. I believed I could find answers and do better without meds and set out on a journey to heal myself and learn. I do not take meds now. I am healthy now. It’s taken years to get here – I’m aware and in tune with what’s going on.”

Her music career, which ranges a wide array of genres, including jazz, folk and gospel, has seen her record two full-length albums and two five-cut recordings.

But it was Sequoia’s desire to return to comedy that convinced her to now put the music career on hold while she pursues this dream.

“I have no expectations. I just want to enjoy this,” Sequoia said. “I want to keep it simple, get back to basics, keep my head down, emulate people who are doing well with it and just keep my voice.”

The event at the Hudson Valley Writers Center, “Stand-Up With Story,” is scheduled for 7 p.m. Tickets are $5 each. For tickets and more information, visit www.alyssa360.com.

 

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