Character Study: Selling Property and Punch Lines
Sarah Fearon says stand-up comedians and real estate agents both have to “pound the pavement.” Credit Ángel Franco/The New York Times
“Honey, I’m home,” Sarah Fearon said, stepping into a vacant apartment in an Upper West Side townhouse.
Ms. Fearon, 50, was not home, but she was certainly in her element making a typical wisecracking entry as she showed a client yet another property for sale.
While some people may see nothing funny about Manhattan real estate, Ms. Fearon, who is both a sales agent for the Corcoran Group and a stand-up comedian, seems to seamlessly combine two careers that she says complement each other remarkably well.
“If you are in the real estate business, you have to have a sense of humor, and if you are in show business, you have to have a real job,” said Ms. Fearon, for whom comedy and acting gigs are good opportunities to find real estate clients. Also, many clients who never realized she was a stand-up have become fans of hers.
“In both,” she said, “you have to pound the pavement, and audition to win people over, and hopefully you get a callback and close the deal.”
When the real estate job is going well — Ms. Fearon recently made Corcoran’s list of the top 25 sales agents in Manhattan — it pays the bills so she can keep performing. In drier times for sales and rental listings, and lags between commission checks, she eagerly auditions for paid roles as an extra. (Her next scheduled stand-up appearance is on Nov. 29 at Gotham Comedy Club, on West 23rd Street.)
Ms. Fearon, who grew up in Manhattan and the Bronx, graduated from the High School of Performing Arts in Manhattan and studied theater at New York University.
She has gotten small roles in films such as “Reversal of Fortune” and “The Departed,” in which she plays a mob wife who gets choked to death.
She recently landed work as an extra on “Saturday Night Live.” And when scenes from “The Comedian,” a new film starring Robert De Niro, were shot at the Friars Club in Midtown, Ms. Fearon — who is a member, a left fielder on its softball team and an indefatigable networker — again became an extra.
During lunch at the club, Ms. Fearon was getting ready to show some properties for sale to a client, Erich Stegich, a developer who buys and renovates Manhattan townhouses. He was interested in one at 110 West 81st Street, which was selling for $9.25 million. The other buildings were not to his taste, and Ms. Fearon jokingly compared her performance to striking out onstage.
“I’m bombing,” she said, as they headed to an open house on West 71st Street.
Mr. Stegich said he enjoyed Ms. Fearon’s personality, because with brokers, “95 percent of them are pushy, and I’d rather work with someone who’s not pushy.”
Even difficult situations, like trying to put a positive spin on small apartments with big prices, can be turned into comedic fodder, Ms. Fearon said.
“My line is that the beauty of a small apartment is that it’s going to seem like a lot of people at your shiva,” she said, referring to the Jewish period of mourning.
For other sources of comedic material, she reminds herself that “the first rule of real estate is to listen to the client.”
There was the potential buyer recently who seemed more interested in an apartment’s mirrors than its square footage and closet space.
“I’d say to her, ‘So what do think about the apartment?’ and she’s staring in the mirror saying, ‘I think I need a knee-lift,’” Ms. Fearon recalled. “I mean, what do you even do with that?”
Real estate has inspired her comedic character, Snazzy Peabody, a spoof of an aggressive real estate agent whom Ms. Fearon calls her alter ego.
“She’s an over-the-top real estate character who is the apotheosis of pushy,” she said. “Snazzy treats everything as if it’s for sale. She’s a real estate legend in her own mind.”
Ms. Fearon performs as the character in public appearances like charity auctions for the several boards on which she serves, including the Irish American Writers and Artists organization, whose semimonthly salons she helps M.C.
Ms. Fearon has made online videos of Snazzy trying to show the Brooklyn Bridge, the Empire State Building and the High Line park, during which the character worries she won’t make her commission if she is hit by a car on the way to a showing.
Extolling the view from the High Line, Snazzy praises the “craftsmanship” of the cityscape and reminds us, “They’re not making more of this — it’s an island.”
Snazzy seems to touch upon Ms. Fearon’s own feelings watching the beloved, gritty Manhattan of her youth steadily give way to gentrification. It is a conundrum for a native New Yorker who chases big commissions but also loves old-school New York.
“As much as I fight the change, I embrace it,” she says, as Snazzy. “I mean what am I going to do? Live in a pile of dirt?”
Name Sarah Fearon
Who She Is A real estate agent and stand-up comedian
Where She’s From Manhattan
Telling Detail “In show business, you’re only as good as your last gig, and in real estate you’re only as good as your last sale,” she said.
Copyright © 2016 The New York Times Company. Reprinted with Permission. Ángel Franco/The New York Times.