Late last summer, Traci "Keychain" Kanaan was in the middle of a typical whirlwind week: Besides managing her Palmetto-based business, Traci Keychain Advertising Specialties, Inc., she was sharpening her standup comedy act for three shows-on Wednesday night at Coconuts Comedy Club in St. Petersburg Beach, on Thursday night at McCurdy's Comedy Club, and on Saturday night at Frankie and Johnny's Pizza in Fort Myers.
The self-professed "love child of Dolly Parton and Klinger" fell into her after-hours hobby a couple of years ago when somebody told her she was funny. "Standup comedy was the one thing I never wanted to regret trying," she says.
After an improv class at the Manatee Players and the role of the pregnant bridesmaid in a local production of Tony and Tina's Wedding, Kanaan was ready to join the area's "very small standup community, all four of us," to write jokes and practice routines. So far she has 30 minutes of material and performs two or three nights a week at comedy clubs from Lakeland to Naples. She is just starting to get paying gigs.
The half-Italian, half-Lebanese comic mixes family and political humor, writes song parodies and is producing her own CD. ("My Song" by Elton John becomes "My Thong," for example.) "I'm not squeaky clean, but I'm not filthy; I try to keep the bad words to a minimum," she says.
Kanaan's always had a flair for the theatrical; she made her big business break by sewing 250 of her 1,000-plus sample keychains on a jacket that she wore to business functions. The attention-getting gambit worked; soon she was known as Traci Keychain and her specialty promotions business took off.
"Sales calls are always intimidating," says Kanaan, who is also president of the Palmetto Rotary Club and immediate past chair of Keep Manatee Beautiful. "But after I started doing standup comedy and started getting rejected by a whole lot of people, it made them a whole lot easier."