Costello takes her story to the stage

Sue CostelloSue CostelloDorchester born and raised, Sue Costello always could turn any situation, no matter the circumstances, into a hilarious story later on.

“We used to go out on the weekends to the Dance Factory,” says Jennifer Gordon, who attended Mount Saint Joseph Academy with Costello. “One time Sue went out and got her head kicked in by five girls in the bathroom. I remember her coming in on Monday morning and telling us about getting beat up, but she made it comical.”

“She would put a spin on an experience and having all laughing at her tragedy. That’s one of Sue’s greatest gifts—her comedy is real and heartfelt.”

During her more than twenty year career, Costello has traveled throughout America performing stand-up comedy acts. She starred in her own self-titled television show and will appear in an upcoming film starring Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg.

Costello, at age 42, has used her knack for turning tragedy into comedy and used her experiences growing up in Dorchester and QUEST for self-confidence to create a one-woman show, Minus 32 Million Words.

Costello first performed on stage at UMass-Boston, where she majored in theater arts. Although the play’s director thought Costello’s portrayal of a hooker was hilarious, Sue feared performing standup comedy.

“I couldn’t walk even in to a comedy club, because I was so scared of doing standup,” says Costello. “And yet I really wanted to try it.”

Shortly thereafter, fellow OFD actor Kevin Chapman signed Sue up to do a standup act at a club in Boston called Duck Soup. Costello has continued to perform standup over the years and says that her childhood in Dorchester helped shape her comedy.

“There’s nowhere in the world where people are more funny,” says Costello. “People here have a quick wit and are constantly exchanging quick repartee, and that help me develop my humor. There’s also a strength that comes from living in a tough neighborhood. That toughened me for standup, which can be crazy vicious.”

She has also had supporting roles in two Boston-based movies, Southie and The Fighter, the story of “Irish” Micky Ward’s journey to winning the world lightweight title. The film is due to hit screens in December of this year. In the film, Costello plays a crack cocaine addict.

After appearing in Southie and an episode of “NYPD Blue”, Costello was given her own self-titled show on Fox in 1998; however, the network cancelled the show after running four episodes.

Costello’s friends say that overcoming this obstacle, which might have discouraged others from continuing to pursue a career in comedy, has made her a stronger person.

“In my venture into Hollywood, I tried to be fancy instead of acting like I was from where I was, and I put on this front,” says Costello.

“Being real is tough—it makes you vulnerable—but I’ve found that being who you are is better and there’s a strength in vulnerability.”

Costello, who now resides in Brooklyn, was reading the newspaper one day when she came across an article that said a study had found that four year-old children raised in low-income homes used 32 million fewer words than their middle-class peers.

Interested in performing a show about her experience growing up in Dorchester, Costello found this article particularly poignant and decided to name her one woman show Minus 32 Million Words.

The show follows Costello’s life from her days as a young girl — whom she says looked like Sheriff Buford Pusser from the 1973 biopic Walking Tall — through the present day. During the act, Costello discusses how her turbulent childhood in Dorchester led to her pursuit of fame and her realization that authentic happiness comes from being one’s own self.

She performed the show several times in New York City before bringing it to Boston in late March. Both The Patriot Ledger and Boston Herald gave the show positive reviews.

“It was moving,” says Judy Reilly, who also attended Mount Saint Joseph Academy with Costello. “I don’t just say that because I am biased and am friends with Sue. I watched the reactions of people who didn’t even know Sue and they were crying and laughing just as much as I was. It was an amazing show.”

Strong Women, Strong Girls, an organization that seeks to empower young women and girls through mentorship, approached Costello after the initial run of Minus 32 Million Words and asked her if she could perform the show again in a charity event.

“Sue’s message in the show is that being strong means having strong convictions and self-esteem, not necessarily being tough,” says the organization’s Boston executive director Michelle Harrington. “That’s the exact same message we’re trying to instill in young girls, so she was a perfect fit for us.”

Costello will perform Minus 32 Million Words again on August 4th and 5th at the House of Blues. The proceeds will benefit Strong Women, Strong Girls.

Friends say that for Costello the best is yet to come.

“She’s open, honest, and has no fear,” says Reilly. “If you tell Sue she can’t do something, she’ll go ahead and conquer it. She’s on her way up, and I think her character will help her get there. She’s so determined that she’ll probably end up getting an Oscar or something some day.”

For ticket information for Costello’s August shows, contact Nikki DiGuilio at or 617-960-8376.