And you don't have to be a Stanley Kowalski to understand why this street card with the desire to be the best is indeed one of the best.
From Russia with Lvov … the Soviet Jewish émigré is more yuk-worthy than Yakov Smirnoff, giving new laugh line readings to the meaning of a pregnant pause.
Baby – it's you! "Here I am with a baby about to pop doing comedy. But the baby won't come out," she hilariously harumphs for some belly laughs.
Maybe the kid's just waiting for the punchline to punch in? No joke: Stella, a Soviet Jew with a juicy jaw-dropping delivery – which is more than she can say about the kid as we talk – is one of the "Last Comic[s] Standing," the hit NBC reality series that figures … laugh and the whole world laughs with you.
And isn't that a great ratings ploy for big numbers?
But, alas, bang the shoe slowly, Khrushchev, for this joke has an early and not as comical a punchline: "Last Comic Standing," first comic leaving.
"They wanted to vote me off the 'island,' so go ahead, vote me off the island!" she challenged them.
They did. After one episode, they pulled a putsch, and Stella was voted off the … oy-land.
But the comic, who left Lvov at age 3 with her parents to bounce her jokes off Brooklynites, really knows that the last exit in Brooklyn for this "Last Comic" wannabe will be the maternity ward.
"Why doesn't it come out already? I went to the doctor; he said it's just happy being in my stomach. Look, it's well-fed, taken care of … "
Stella adorable; this comedy cookie hears the big break coming. As any comic knows, timing is … everything. And this may well be Stella's time no matter the quick hook from "LCS." She clocks in with a comedy that is sharp, satiric and right on: "Just like my Russians at home," she cracks about the Moscow mix at the kitchen table who make up her kitchen cabinet of comedy.
But before her big break … did her water break? What is this, she wants to know, "Lamaze for Dummies"?
Smart … she's smart-ass funny with a brain so quick, she probably was able to emigrate from the USSR because she promised them not that they were releasing a Jew – heaven forbid! – but that they were saving Soviet jewelry.
Her jokes are a gem if on the rough-cut side of caustic. How self-assured is she?
"I am," she quips, "the brightest thing to come out of Brighton Beach."
The sands of time … some here, some in Israel. "When we left the Soviet Union – actually, we didn't leave, we were thrown out! – in '75, half of the family went to Italy, half to Israel. I went with my parents to Italy, where we stayed for three months. Then we came here and, at age 5, I went straight to yeshiva in Flatbush."
She has always had a womb with a view for comedy, she claims. Now, at 33, already the mom of one, she can Trotsky her comedy routines out to audiences anywhere. "I can speak Hebrew, Russian, Polish, English … hey, I can do jokes in all languages."
What speaks to her now is standing out in "Last Comic Standing." But then, the stand-up with her own show at the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, has always stood out in a crowd: "Of course, I stand out. Soviet Jews are loud and brassy; they call me the ballabusta."
Is that because she busts … no, let's say she makes others bust out laughing. As for the NBC series, get serious, she says. Whether she wins, loses or draws out the best laughs in the future, she already knows she's accomplished quite a bit with her bits: "I'm happy. I'm proud of how far I've come, a finalist."
Finally … about that Tuesday TV contretemps two weeks ago with another one-named female phenom, Roz of Newark.
"Some of the girls had their own rooms, they put us in a closet together," she says of the cramped quarters she had to share with raucous Roz on a docked ship.
"It was a face-off," she says of the in-your-face odd couple: "Anger against raging hormones."
As for their quarters? It was no Love Boat. "This boat was no Carnival cruise line," she kibitzes of the waterworld accommodations she would grade a high-C.
Carnival? How about a circus? Stuff 12 clowns into a ship and get 12 angry men … and women; even a Volkswagen would bug out. "Oh, I was called a JAP, a diva because I complain," says Stella of the schmear campaign from her comic cohorts.
"But you know what? It's inherent for Jews to complain. We're born that way. It's not being JAPPY; it's being Jewish."
Born to be wild … and wacky? Her humor is as broadly appealing as a midnight buffet; okay, but some of the selections are oh-so-sweet.
Not bad for a woman whose family's idea of Russian roulette was whether there'd still be a chicken waiting for them when it came their turn in line at the USSR not-so-super markets.
"I never had many opportunities," says Stella of this once-in-a-lifetime TV opportunity to showcase her talents.
"I wasn't born here; I never graduated from college. Never had money. I've never had half the opportunities the other comics on the show had.
"The fact that they called me spoiled is comical."
Comical is what Stella is; bowling for dollars? Bowl-sheviks for dollars! And no one in her extended family is spared, especially her American husband.
Strike while the irony's hot, she believes. "It's great to make fun of him. Besides Jews don't believe in divorce; just look at my family. I have some of the most miserable aunts and uncles still together."
Throw a nyet over them?
You'll find them kvetching and grimacing at the family holidays dinner table.
Double-oy seven? "The minimum is always 50."
Fifty Cent couldn't get a word in at such gatherings. Culture shock for the uninitiated? More electrifying than putting a finger of vodka into a socket.
"I said to my father, 'Give Mishka [her daughter] a bottle.' So, he comes back with a bottle of Absolut."
Absolutely funny. "For years, everyone thought Uncle Boris was narcoleptic," explains Stella. "But you put 18 pieces of stuffed cabbage in your mouth and you'll fall asleep at the dinner table, too."
No Stalin for time; she's on a roll (make it black bread). But then, the rap on a hard life gets exorcised – and the mouth exercised – at such functions.
"I couldn't afford therapy," theorizes Stella, "so I do comedy instead."
She has good company couching her kvetching alongside such standout stand-ups as Robin Williams and Bob Saget, who have joined her on stage when she hosts the show at the Laugh Factory.
Williams as Mork from Gorky? For the star of "Moscow on the Hudson" (1984), in which he played a Soviet seeking asylum in the states, meeting Stella was like a homecoming.
If you live in a very loud house.
"Robin said to me that I'm so like the people [who were characters] in the movie. So I said, 'You know, we exist!' "
(Stella also produces "Hot Tamales Live" – think of it as blintzes with blitz-like humor – with an all-female lineup at the Comedy Store in L.A.)
What's in store now that she's the least "Comic Standing"? The exposure on "LCS" was so wonderful, she replies, it's like the Mastercard of mirth: priceless.
As she awaits her big break – and that water break – Stella can stand up to the critics. She raises the stakes as she raises her voice: "One name you know I won't be giving my child is 'Roz,' " she razzes.
Put 'em up, Putin? "I am an abrasive Russian Jewish broad from New York," she says of her not-so-ship-shape status among others aboard the comedy cruiser with jokes for sail.
As for those who question this comic's standing post-"Standing" … what does she want to do, become another big-mouthed mono-monikered Jewish comic, just like Roseanne from Utah?
"What's wrong with that? A hit TV show for nine years. 'You want to be another Roseanne?' Yes! I tell them. I'll take it! I'd be thrilled.
Bet the Mormons never heard a line like that.