Valerie Tosi has lived in Los Angeles for more than a decade, working her way up to headliner status as a comedian. She’s firmly entrenched on the Hollywood fringe.
But she grew up on the North Shore — first in Lynn, then in Salisbury. She still has East Coast sand between her toes, and Boston sarcasm in her blood.
She’s paid her dues and then some, from the band at Triton High School in Byfield and the theater program at UMass Amherst to the improv school at Second City Hollywood. Now she’s ready to celebrate with her first comedy album, “Beach Trash,” which arrives on Jan. 21. Blonde Medicine, a California record label that specializes in stand-up comedy, is the home of albums by Myq Kaplan and Bethany Van Delft, among others.
“I really wanted something tangible after doing stand-up for X amount of years,” says Tosi, whose family pronounces their last name “Tossy,” as in “saucy.” “This is a thing I can hold in my hands.”
Though she’s rooted on the two coasts, she recorded the album last summer in Bloomington, Ind., at the Comedy Attic. She has a quick answer whenever she’s asked why she didn’t tape it in Boston, which is often.
“I didn’t want my own family to ruin it!” she says with a laugh.
In fact, she draws much of her material from her parents, who are wilder than their nerdy, clarinet-playing first-born child has ever been. (She calls herself a “geriatric Millennial.”) Phil and Mel Tosi, who met when they both worked at GE in Lynn, love a good bar and a good Margarita.
Recently they moved to Florida, staying in Airbnbs while they scour the real estate market, their daughter reports. Phil, who loved tending his garden in Salisbury, has taken it upon himself to fill the birdbaths and trim the bushes on other people’s property when he realizes they’re out of town.
“I’m like, ‘You don’t own a home, but you own an extension ladder?’” Valerie jokes.
Unlike her parents, who have heavy Boston accents, she shed hers years ago. But she’s quick to relapse whenever she’s telling a joke about her mother.
“The first time people hear me do my mom’s accent, they’re just delighted for some reason,” Tosi says, speaking on the phone from LA. She worked for years at the Hungry Traveler, an old-school, family-style restaurant on the road to Salisbury Beach. So did her mother.
“How sad is that?” she jokes in her act.
Yet she loves her scruffy hometown unequivocally.
“Listen, man, no one here is putting on airs,” she says. Asked the standard Salisbury question — which “beach pizza” is better, Tripoli or Cristy’s? — she doesn’t hesitate.
“We all know Cristy’s is the best. Corner slice, extra cheese. We all know the drill.”
With her best friend, Darielle Rose, behind the camera, she shot a series of photographs to promote the album in and around Joe’s Playland, the well-seasoned arcade that anchors the Broadway Loop at the water’s edge.
“I got yelled at several times for climbing on children’s rides,” says Tosi, laughing.
Her memories of Lynn, where the family lived until she was 10, are less fond. Reminded that the city is undergoing a bit of a renaissance after decades of decay, she admits she has a hard time comprehending it.
“It boggles my mind. I’m like, ‘Are you guys sure? I know the pandemic really made us all rethink some stuff, but this … ?’ ”
The family’s house abutted one of the city’s cemeteries, so young Valerie spent plenty of time building forts on the fresh dirt mounds there. For her, a heap of discarded flowers was the “treasure pile.”
Maybe that’s where her dark sense of humor comes from, she suggests.
“Looking back, that is unhinged,” she says, laughing again.
Growing up near a cemetery is one of the many quirks she has in common with Dana Gould, the stand-up comic and longtime “Simpsons” writer who is another Massachusetts native. They met on the day that Tosi got kicked out of Comicon for using someone else’s badge, quickly bonding over Boston sports cliches and their respective family dramas. Gould helped her find her footing on the comedy circuit.
“I just adore him,” Tosi says. “He’s the best.”
Even in LA, fellow Bostonians gravitate to each other “like cockroaches,” she says. She recently did a set at the Comedy Cottage at Tom Bergin’s, the old LA pub where the horseshoe bar provided inspiration for “Cheers.”
When she stopped in on an off-night a few days ago, the manager told her in a thick Boston accent that she was funny, and he paid for her first drink.
“God, I love people from Boston,” she says.
At Ruby Room Comedy, Shaskeen Pub, 909 Elm St., Manchester, N.H., Feb. 23. At Hideout Comedy, White Bull Tavern, 1 Union St., Boston, Feb. 25-26. Details at www.valerietosi.com.
James Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @sullivanjames.