|This article is written from a real-world point of view.|
Retta Sirleaf, better known simply as Retta, is an American stand-up comedian and actress, who portrayed Donna on the NBC comedy series Parks and Recreation from 2009 to 2015. She has appeared in several films and television shows, and has performed stand-up on Comedy Central's Premium Blend.
Retta is from New Jersey, and graduated from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. She started working in the pharmaceutical research field before moving to Los Angeles, California, to pursue a career in comedy. Retta started performing stand-up comedy in 1996, although she said she did not start "earning money" until 1998, when she started touring on the college circuit. Retta said she used to get "really nauseous" before a performance, but that the feeling passed with experience. Retta has said her stand-up material tends to be slightly embellished stories from her regular every-day life, family, and friends. She has also made jokes about her own heavyset physique. Retta has stated she would give up stand-up comedy for a full-time acting career if possible: "I'm not married to stand-up, just because it's a road thing. It's very lonely with all the traveling."
Retta has served as the opening act for such comedians as Shirley Hemphill and Bobby Collins. She has made television appearances on E! Entertainment Television's The Soup, Freddie, Moesha, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, the "Comedy Divas Showcase" segment of The Jenny Jones Show, Retta has performed on Premium Blend, a Comedy Central show featuring up-and-coming comedians. She has also appeared in the films Slacker, First Sunday, Fracture, Sex and Death 101, and Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star.
In 2009, Retta started making regular guest appearances on the NBC comedy series Parks and Recreation as Donna, an employee in the parks department of a fictional Indiana town. During a stand-up comedian performance at the University of Illinois at Springfield, Retta said the acting job on the show was stressful because it was unclear how long the show would stay on the air, because of the poor reviews it received during the first season. Alan Sepinwall, television columnist with The Star-Ledger, said Season Two episodes of Parks and Recreation have afforded more personality and funnier jokes to Donna and other minor characters.
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