When Wendy Maybury took the stage recently at the Mall of America in Bloomington, someone else’s vomit was splashed all over her cardigan. And she didn’t mind one bit.
Neither did the audience. Most of them have been there.
Welcome to Day Drinking With Mom, a monthly comedy showcase at Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy built around the idea that parenthood can be pretty funny. The vomit in question belonged to the newborn daughter of comedian Marial Elizabeth. The infant was snuggling up to co-host Maybury as her mom finished up her set. That’s when baby Autumn left Maybury with a token of her appreciation.
To some, a comedy club may sound like an inappropriate place to take small children. But Maybury knows it’s a near necessity for many parent-comics. “When you have a baby as a female comedian, it’s hard to find stage time,” she said. “Going to [open] mics is unpaid and baby sitters cost money. And that’s a terrible place to be, especially as a single mom. I wanted to make more shows that were both good for comedians who had children, and also for the audience.”
That’s the rationale behind Day Drinking With Mom, offering a chance for funny people with kids to get some mic time in a supportive environment.
Despite the title, though, the show isn’t only for moms.
“My rule is you have to either be a mom or dad, or have a mom or dad,” Maybury said. “So far, everybody’s been eligible.”
‘New mom material’
While the lineup usually includes a token dad or the occasional comic with no children, moms are definitely the dominant voice.
A casual comedy fan might be surprised to find a lineup made up largely of suburban women over 30 — but that’s sort of the point. This is a show that subverts perceptions and challenges norms, not through shock or edginess but simply by providing a different angle on stand-up comics and moms.
Since launching the show in June 2017, Maybury and co-host Karen Pickering tried to ensure that Day Drinking With Mom paints an inclusive portrait of Minnesota mothers. The show regularly spotlights comedians of color and LGBTQ performers, all in different stages of motherhood.
“We’re both white moms,” Maybury said. “Karen has older kids and I have a little kid, so we try to hit the demographics: age of kids, men and women, different backgrounds. We try to get some variety. We don’t want it to all be the same.”
As veteran comics, Maybury and Pickering also try to use their platform to encourage new talent. “We’ve had people who have never [done stand-up], moms who’ve always wanted to try it,” Maybury said. “We want to give people their first three minutes, because it’s such a warm, nice audience.
“So far we’ve only had women ask, because men would try going straight to Acme,” she quipped, referring to Minneapolis’ highest profile comedy club.
Booking four to five comics for the same night can be a challenge for the pair, but the artists they present appreciate the effort. With a small child at home, Maybury’s schedule is pretty tight. Pickering’s children are older, giving her more flexibility to hit up open mic nights and scout out talent.
“We don’t get out as much as comedians who don’t have kids or family responsibilities,” said comedian Randall Reid. “It feels super-supportive to know someone understands that you can’t be out every single night. Because you want to, but sometimes you have to go to a swim meet at 7 o’clock in the morning. Which is horrible.”
For Elizabeth, Day Drinking With Mom also provided a chance to perform before a uniquely receptive audience.
“This is my new mom material,” she said. “There’s usually moms at any show, but you can tell there’s a lot more here. It’s hard to practice this set at an open mic!”
With three young kids at home, including newborn Autumn, Elizabeth also appreciated the show’s openness to babies. “I never took my first child” on stage, she joked. “I was a good mom then.”
Extensive time on the open mic circuit gave Maybury and Pickering strong ideas for what they wanted to avoid with Day Drinking With Mom. After her son was born, Maybury started noticing how many standups had bits mocking children. Or they would incorporate kids into shock-value punchlines.
“That’s really hard stuff for new moms to hear,” she said. “I wanted to create a show that’s pro-kid, about the crap we’re in as parents together. Celebrating that as opposed to being anti-kid.”
After all, a good chunk of audience members will be exhausted parents, there for a break from family responsibilities. Then there are those who would do anything to have kids of their own. “If you’re just [hating] on kids, it sucks for them,” Maybury said. “There’s a million other mics you can go to and hear people hate on children.”
Pickering added, “We don’t want to be mean to kids or anybody else in our material. It’s also important to me that nobody gets up and attacks anybody politically.”
Maybury agreed. “Political stuff is just everywhere, all day every day, and you just get exhausted. You want a break from the craziness.”
That’s not to say Day Drinking With Mom falls into the “clean comedy” genre. Graphic sex, pre-baby hedonism and other adult themes show up regularly, usually with at least some relation to parenthood. “I don’t want it to be vanilla in any way,” Maybury said. “All I care is that you leave feeling good. I want you to leave going, ‘I should go to comedy more!’ ”
As valuable an outlet as it is for the performers, the hosts agree that Day Drinking With Mom is ultimately about serving an audience that may not get a chance to see much live comedy. “You’re fighting this weird mom thing, this martyrdom,” Maybury said. “ ‘Oh, I can’t leave my kids to go have fun!’ It’s really isolating when you have a baby. You’re attached to your kid 24/7. You kind of lose your friends, or your friends change. We’re hoping to build an audience and a camaraderie together.”
Pickering said, “You’re teaching people to come to a comedy club and get outside the house. Leave Netflix alone, go out and interact with other people.”
Ira Brooker is a freelance writer and editor living in St. Paul.