The Ukulady (aka Thessaly Lerner): searching for the approval of 5-year-olds. Photo: Ariana Cosmos

By Tara Taylor

Mind your peas and carrots: the Ukulady is in town.

Performing in a toy store is not something new to the Ukulady (Thessaly Lerner).  She performed for a group of kids in Heebe Jeebe General Store in Petaluma, but performing at a toy store that haunted her as a child is a whole new territory for the children’s entertainer.

The Ukulady performs with Oakland children’s entertainer and puppeteer Emily Butterfly on Sunday August 27 at 3:00 p.m. at beloved Berkeley toy store Mr. Mopps’.

“I love to perform in unusual venues, like I would love to perform in a doughnut shop,” said Lerner.

Mr Mopps’ holds a special place in Lerner’s heart. Not only is it owned by childhood friend Devin McDonald – who she met at Wavy Gravy’s summer camp, Camp Winnarainbow, back in the late 1980s – but it is a place where she longed to shop as a child.

“I remember mostly that there is a lore about it (Mr. Mopps’),” said Lerner recalling her childhood fascination with the store. “We would drive by it and it was always closed; yet it was there.” Even as an adult living in San Francisco, Lerner always would think about the store. There was something calling her; luring her back.

A lot has happened since the days where little Lerner peeked out the window of a passing car at the closed sign on the door.

This Mill Valley native is now a successful children’s entertainer and voiceover actor living in Los Angeles; who, with the help of her creative cache of characters, is teaching kids how to contribute “downfall of evil” with silly songs and a strum of a ukulele.

“My goal is to promote fearlessness in small humans.”

Much of Lerner’s music and comedy stems from her outlook on life: adults take things too seriously; kids naturally find things funny because of their open hearts. She started out performing comedy routines for adults, and was good at it – but when she took out the swear words and some of the explicit jokes, her routine was a hit with kids.

“I was too weird,” said Lerner. “I didn’t really fit into the adult comedy box. Kids can actually appreciate a song about how chickens and dinosaurs look alike. Adults are too worried about paying their bills. “

Lerner has also expanded her entertainment to YouTube. She added in her alter egos (Velvetina Evilwitch, Astrid Strudelman “The Unicorn Whisperer”) and a few felt friends (Miss Carrot and the Peas) and created a YouTube station, featuring songs and web episodes just for kids.  She one day hopes to have a children’s television show.

“I have always loved entertaining kids, they have a sensitive humor that is intact. Adults are always afraid of things,” Lerner explains. “Now I am not searching the approval of my peers, I am searching for the approval of 5-years-old.”

To find out more about the Ukulady visit the Ukulady’s website. Mr Mopps’ is at 1405 Martin Luther King Jr. Way. The Ukulady concert is free.

Tara Taylor writes the Hip Shaking Mama blog where this piece first appeared.

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