Even the hard times have given Tracy DeGraaf inspiration for her comedy routine.
When DeGraaf's mom was bedridden and dying at age 51, she was still up for a game of rummy. As the two played, her mom even goofed around and made light of her cheating at cards.
"Here was my mother, who was in the prime of her life, and she had lost everything," said DeGraaf. "But she wasn't focused on what she didn't have, she was focused on what she did have.
"She taught me so much at that moment about life," said DeGraaf, 48.
DeGraaf will be performing the second part of her three-act comedy, "Life Happens, Laugh Anyway," for women 18 and older on Friday at 7 p.m. at Southbridge Church, 15500 S. 73rd Ave. in Orland Park . The third part of her routine will be performed March 28 at 7 p.m. at the church. Tickets are $12 in advance, $15 at the door and $10 for groups of 10 or more.
The performance showcases the seasons of a woman's life from marriage, having kids and gaining weight to "growing a beard." DeGraaf said her own weight has gone up and down and she uses "self-deprecating humor" that she hopes other women can relate to.
DeGraaf's love of her five sons is a big source of material.
"Most women who have children know what kind of trouble that can cause," said DeGraaf about having boys. But it's all fodder for her routines. She talks about when one of her sons was seriously ill for two years. He is now healthy.
"It gave me perspective that life is too short to worry about all the mud on the carpet," she said.
Jesus also plays a central role in the show, especially at the end. DeGraaf uses the anecdote about her mom to show the audience, "Jesus is always there with them."
"I assure them that although life can get hard and scary, there is no fear with Jesus," she said.
The comedy routine has been popular at several area churches, drawing scores of women. The sanctuary at Southbridge Church can seat more than 100.
"It was funny and it was nice to laugh for awhile," said Pam Paris, a member of the church. "Her stories are very down-to-earth … you relate to it because it might have just happened to you."
DeGraaf trained at The Second City in Chicago. She has a self-published book on Amazon, "Laugh Anyway Mom: Hilarious Survival Stories from a Mother of Five Who Has Learned How to Keep the Joy in Motherhood and How you Can Too."