Stand-up comedian and Tomboy Tirade co-host Joanna speaks up for the stand-up comic mothers: I talk about whatever I want on stage.
I am nervous every time I get on stage. I have only one symptom: my tongue gets itchy. I would be questioning myself “Why do I get myself into this?” But clearly, it is too late. At that moment, one must focus and make it work, which is not unlike having children. Once they are out, there is no going back. You do the best you can.
I have a passion for stand-up and I love my kids, but it does not mean it is not a struggle to keep these things alive.
Being a stand-up mommy has its unique set of challenges. People have expectations, and this becomes a problem if you don’t match them. People have a high moral expectation for mothers, as if conception comes with a moral make-over. People think saint-ness coincides with conception. This, my friend, only happens to Mary.
If you don’t breastfeed, you are a lazy mother. If you talk about breastfeeding on stage, you are disgusting. You have a planned cesarean because you are scared of the pain? You are a weak mother. If you talk about your incontinence due to the collapse of pelvic floor muscles after having multiple natural births, you are disgusting. I once heard a female audience member commenting on my set and then said she does not like female comics in general as they always talk about their anatomy. We don’t only talk about our anatomy. Comics choose to talk about whatever they want regardless of gender. We don’t only talk about things that respect your sensibility. We talk about things that take our fancy. What she does not like is my set on a certain night, and then “boom”, a big statement about all female comics. Don’t gender-slice us like that.
One time on stage I said I regretted having kids sometimes and a mother in the front row with her grown-up kids gave me a disapproving look. She actually shook her head and stiffened her lips. She was clearly no longer living the sleep-deprived dream. I also regretted being married sometimes. Are we allowed to have some fleeting moments of fantasy when we dream of an alternative reality? I love my kids, but contemplating their non-existence and how my life would be then is also a fun thing to do. I also imagine being someone else’s daughter. It does not mean I want my parents dead. Suppress your judgment in a comedy show. Leave your moral judgment at home. Poetic license does not only apply to poets.
Bringing up children is a very humbling experience. I once called my 3-year old daughter’s breakfast beverage “milk” instead of “chocolate milk” and was asked to apologize. To be fair, it does have one spoon of chocolate milk in it to make it mildly sweet, so my fault, no doubt. Your children are very much like your audience if not worse. Even if you try your best, they might not appreciate it. You need to be in control, or else they get confused and uncomfortable. Things are much easier if they like you as a person. They can sense it when you are insincere. You get to earn your respect. It does not come with just pushing your kid out of your vagina or holding a microphone on stage.
As hard as it is, parents love to be parents and stand-up comics love doing stand-up comedy because that is where their heart is, and no amount of third-party criticism is going to take away the fun and devotion from them. And I will talk about whatever I want on stage.