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The oldest of three children born to Lebanese immigrants, Shamas left home at age 17 and moved to Toronto, where she held a variety of jobs before a workshop at The Second City inspired her to pursue a career in performing arts. She acted with Second City and Theatresports, and worked as a puppeteer on the children's series Fraggle Rock before deciding to strike out on her own.
In 1987, she applied to the Edmonton Fringe Festival to perform her first show, My Boyfriend's Back and There's Gonna Be Laundry. The show, a mixture of personal stories drawn from her own life and observational humour about dating and relationships, was accepted and became the smash hit of the festival, and soon Shamas was on tour performing the show across the country.
In 1989, Shamas began performing the sequel, My Boyfriend's Back and There's Gonna Be Laundry II: The Cycle Continues. A third show, Wedding Bell Hell, dealing with wedding rituals such as the bridal shower and selection of the wedding rings and dress, made its debut in 1991.
In 1993, Shamas took Laundry to the Old Vic Theatre in London for her first performance outside Canada, and was well received by the British audience and critics. The following year, she took the show to San Francisco, but was sued by the producer of that show after a number of events outside of her control interfered with the opening.
Shortly after the failed San Francisco show, Shamas' husband Frank — the titular boyfriend of the Laundry trilogy — filed for divorce. After some time away from the spotlight, Shamas returned with a new series of shows, Wit's End.
Shamas has been nominated for the Governor General's Award and the Stephen Leacock Award for the Laundry trilogy. She won a Gemini Award in 1991 for Best Performance in Comedy, and won the Best Theatre Award at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival in March 2003.
- "Cumulative list of finalists for the Governor General's Literary Award" (PDF). GGBooks.ca. The Canada Council.
- "Awards Database". Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.