Our other owner and founder of NessAlla Kombucha is Vanessa Tortolano. Vanessa grew up in Hawaii on the island of Kauai. There, she spent most of her days running around in the outdoors being a dirty kid. Hiking, swimming, surfing, cliff jumping – all the things a normal island girl would do. She also grew up being a performer. Vanessa began singing and acting on stage at the ripe young age of 5 years old. She performed all the way through high school and moved to L.A. for a while. Not a huge fan of the city life, she moved to Madison to start a family.
Here she studied herbs, had some babies and sang in a band. Vanessa met Alla at a show she was in and they quickly bonded over their fascination and love of herbal healing. Within a couple years, they started NessAlla Kombucha together. While growing the business, she continued to be involved in performance and began immersing herself in to the wonderful world of improv comedy.
It actually all came about through kombucha. Reporter Dylan Brogan was checking out the local food scene at the East Side farmers market. He came across NessAlla and was immediately hooked. Dylan lined them up for an interview because he couldn’t wait to talk about his new found obsession. Dylan, also gave the ladies some free tickets to see Monkey Business Institute at the Glass Nickel East. They went and Vanessa fell instantly and madly in love. “That’s my family, and I need to be with them!” she proclaimed after the first show of many. Vanessa made it a hard goal to become part of the troupe and did just that in 2011. She wheedled her way in by trading improv classes for kombucha thus hooking the troupe on her charisma and delicious drink.
With a major addiction to making people laugh, Vanessa fanned the flames even higher by dipping her toes in to *cue dramatic music….stand-up comedy. She lurked, she watched, she plotted and planned. Vanessa has loved stand-up comedy since she was old enough to understand a joke. She would make up “bits” and sets in her head on the way to school. “Is everyone scared of the lunch lady, or is it just me?” She loved stand up greats like Ellen, Robin Williams, Whoopi Goldberg, Billy Connolly and Eddie Murphy. Vanessa never even thought about actually doing it until moving to Madison. She had never even seen very much live comedy until she started improv and found out about the amazing Comedy Club on State. Not to mention the fact that, if you have babies and a business you can’t really do a whole lot until all those things are at a more predictable age. Plus, she released an album at the end of 2012. NBD.
So, she dipped her toes in at some open mics and then jumped right back out when she realized the actual time commitment involved
Vanessa kept going to watch and voraciously consumed live Stand up all over the city, including Rated Har at the Inferno held once a month in a dark, dark bar dressed up with class and sass by the amazing promoter extraordinaire, Tulin Waters aka La Bomba. After attending her third Rated Har, Tulin said, “Why do you pay for these shows? You’re a comic.”
“No, I’m not. I just come to shows.” replied a confused Vanessa
“Yes you are. I’m putting you on the show for next month. You get seven minutes.” She says and walks away
“I don’t even have three minutes yet!!” Vanessa shouts after her
“Better get to work!” Tulin tossed back over her shoulder
So she got to work, and did her first seven minute set at the Inferno’s Rated Har in July of 2013. She actually did 10 because she went WAAAAAYYYYYYY over her time like a damn NEWB. She also killed it. Due to still working on growing the business and raising kiddos, Vanessa had very little time or wherewithal to pursue it much more. Not to mention the scene wasn’t the most welcoming to women, so she only did a few shows here and there through Rated Har/Her and Les Cougars a Variety troupe featuring women over 35.
In January 2016, Vanessa set out to commit hard to stand-up. With the kiddos in high school and middle school and the business being super successful, she had no more excuses. She set out to finally start the long and hard work of doing stand-up.
Almost two years later, you can catch Vanessa doing multiple shows a month all over the place. Check out her Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts to see what she is up to. She will be featured in the Lady Laughs Comedy Festival held here in Madison, Wisconsin on November 2-5 2017. She also still performs regularly with her “family” at Monkey Business Institute at the Glass Nickle East hosting The Merge, a monthly show featuring both improv and stand-up.
Vanessa and Alla both believe in the power of laughter. They each know how important it is to laugh in life and support women in comedy. NessAlla is a proud sponsor of the Lady Laughs Comedy Festival.