“Me and your last comic are wearing the exact same outfit right now,” says Rebecca O’Neal, pink hair shining under the lights in the small backroom of Timothy O’Toole’s Pub in River North. “Except he’s shaped like a grown man and I’m shaped like a sexy Teletubby.”
This kind of self-deprecation is typical for the 28-year-old South Side native, who grew up “very sheltered” and “nerdy in the hood.” Her stories, loose and wandering, jump from anecdotes about weed (she is an enthusiast) to failed relationships (she likes guys who are “hot and dumb”) and shameless sexual escapades (“I’m a hedonist pansexual”). You’d never believe that four years ago, O’Neal suffered from depression so severe that she tipped the scale at 300 pounds and couldn’t leave her parents’ house. “I don’t think I knew what was wrong at first,” she says. “It was just, I’m not going to leave the house for a while and see how that shakes out.”
O’Neal found an outlet on Twitter, where she posted daily musings about books, TV, and dating. Little by little, her quips (“I have the legs of a contractor who comes highly recommended on Angie’s List, so I don’t know why I even bother shaving them”) garnered notice. In 2011, The Huffington Post included O’Neal on a list of funny female tweeters. The nod, plus therapy, she says, prompted O’Neal to give standup a try.
Over the past four years, O’Neal has spent hundreds of hours onstage, hoping to get a break. Finally, this year, she did: a regular gig at the Laugh Factory in Lake View, where she appears a few times a month. On a personal level, things are better, too. She’s lost weight, and she’s been off depression medication since 2013. Comedy, she says, is a key to her contentment.