Page was born Alberta Peal on October 19, 1920, in Cleveland, Ohio and raised in St. Louis, Missouri. Page attended Banneker Elementary School. Page began her show business career dancing at age 15. Page later worked in small nightclubs billed as “The Bronze Goddess of Fire,” an act which included Page eating fire and lighting cigarettes with her fingertips.
After paying dues on the club circuit, where she shared stages with noted comedians such as Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor, Page moved to Los Angeles, California in the early 1960s where she became a member of the comedy group Skillet, Leroy & Co. Skillet was Ernest “Skillet” Mayhand (1916–2007) and Leroy was Wilbert LeRoy Daniel (1928–1993). In Los Angeles, Page started honing the feisty approach to comedy that would make her famous. LaWanda Page and Redd Foxx (who portrayed Fred Sanford) were very close friends from the time they were pre-teens, having attended school and grown up together in St. Louis. Eventually, both entered the field of comedy separately and performed their own stage acts. During her tenure as a stand-up comic, a career she continued into the 1990s, Page often was billed as “The Queen of Comedy” or “The Black Queen of Comedy”.
Page recorded several live comedy albums for the Laff Records label in the late 1960s and early 1970s under her LaWanda Page stage name. Other than the relatively clean Sane Advice album, released two years after the run of Sanford and Son, Page’s albums and stand-up material were raunchy blue comedy in nature. She was one of the few women who performed extended spoken word pieces in the black signifying or toasting tradition. One release, a gold-selling album called Watch It, Sucker!, was titled after one of her Aunt Esther character’s catchphrases in order to capitalize on her newfound television fame.