HUDSON — Like many comics, Sharon Gabaree draws on everyday situations and family interactions to craft her comedy — like the time her 14-year-old son Sean, a freshman at Fivay High School, asked her to sign a waiver so he could see "The Miserable Movie" in class.
(He meant Les Miserables.)
"The kids say the funniest things," she chuckled, adding, "Though my daughter (11-year-old Emily, a student at Crews Lake Middle School) will always say, 'Don't tell that on stage!' "
Gabaree — a two-time finalist in the Florida's Funniest Person Contest who has been featured on the PBS program The Young Comedians Tour, HSN and on stage at Side Splitters Comedy Club in Tampa — has found a unique way to repay her kids for their endless inspiration, though.
She introduces young people to the educational benefits of comedy.
Her workshops show kids how to do improv, using humor to break the ice and break down barriers. Gabaree, 36, has done the presentations for her daughter's Girl Scout troop as well as Paul R. Smith Middle School and the Great American Teach In events at Crews Lake Middle.
"She taught them how to use comedy props, and even some of the more shy kids enjoyed the attention they got as they performed," said Crews Lake science teacher Rena Sadler.
"Through these presentations the kids learn not to take things so seriously," added reading teacher Erin Sichtemaier. "They learn confidence, to think on their feet, and to respond to situations as they happen."
She has done the same for parents: In 2010, Gabaree staged a full-fledged stand-up comedy routine for fellow PTA members at Moon Lake Elementary, where her daughter was a student.
Gabaree understands how humor can help children get along with others: She discovered the joys of comedy at a young age herself.
"My mom said I was doing impressions when I was 4. At dinner time, I would jump up and entertain," she said. "On snow days, my sister and I would sing along to the radio, and I would go all 'Weird Al' by changing the lyrics. In the fourth grade, I was doing Ronald Reagan impressions in the school talent show."
Her dreams of performing fueled by watching idols from Carol Burnett to Mel Brooks, Tracey Ullman to Lucille Ball, Gabaree stated in her high school yearbook that she wanted to be "a comic."
Yet it wasn't until 2007, after she had started her family and an administrative career, that her dreams came to fruition.
"I did a routine for an open mike night at the Comedy Zone in Palm Harbor," she said. "The emcee said, 'This is not your first time doing stand up.' I said, 'Yes, it is!' "
Gabaree soon became a regular at the Comedy Zone and other clubs, both here (performing at the Kickin' Wing in Hudson and Lonzalo's Pizza in Longleaf) and in her native New York (the Broadway Comedy Club, among other places). She also became a member of the Got Jokes Improv Troupe in Tampa.
She has been branching out into comedic acting and comedy radio, cohosting the Quiz Me show for Life Improvement Radio among other things. And last month she won two awards at the Entertainment Global Media Red Carpet Award Event. EGM is the parent company for Comedy Slam Radio, where she hosts the show Seriously Silly with Sharon.
As part of an EGM charity project, she has agreed to introduce an area child to comedy.
"I will be presenting a foster child with comedy lessons," she said. "I will be giving this foster child lessons on comedy, drama and improv for two months."
And with it: the power to spread smiles and laughter.