Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley have a combined 40-plus years as practitioners of comedy through writing, teaching and performing. But when they became moms, the friends took their comedic tales of parenting woes to Facebook. The resulting web series, #IMomSoHard, quickly racked up 20 million views in the first five months.
A year later, the ladies and their respective broods are piling into a tour bus and taking their show on the road. "Moms Night Out," a national tour sponsored by Yoplait, rolls into Atlanta on Tuesday, July 25 at the Cobb Energy Centre.
The tour is a great adventure for the two friends from Nebraska who ran in the same circles but didn't meet until a one day at a comedy club in Venice Beach, Calif. when one overheard the other talking about living that Nebraska life. They have been pals since, seeing each other through marriage, childbirth, and more before they decided in May 2016 to turn all of those experiences into a web series.
Just a few months later, they did a few live shows and they kept getting requests to go to other cities, said Smedley. It made sense to pile everyone into a tour bus for the summer (it's fun traveling with their families and they have a lot of help, they said) to have the kind of interaction with their fans across the country that social media doesn't allow.
"We call it a monster truck show for women. It is sort of a raucous girls' night out. It is not polite and not sentimental. We talk about things we like to talk about. It is a two person standup with a lot of audience engagement. Kristen likes to say it also doesn't matter if we are there or not because the moms would have fun without us," Smedley said.
In some ways, the live show isn't much different from the web series which features the women talking about everything from the pain of swimsuit season (18 million views and counting) to why everything in mom-land should have a label on it.
They knew they would be able to translate the same energy from screen to stage. "I knew in my gut that it would work. We have very different comic sensibilities. I think that is the best recipe for something that goes on stage," said Hensley. "We had so many things we wanted to talk about that we didn’t talk about in the videos that we do talk about in the shows," she said.
The show includes topics that can lean toward the R-rated side of the spectrum like sex after marriage and other topics that are less focused on kids and parenting and more focused on moms as individuals. During part of the show, the audience is invited to ask questions and depending on how much bubbly has been flowing, things can get pretty racy, they said.
So much of what they do is lighthearted and fun, as comedy should be, but they also use their platform to bring awareness to real issues in parenting.
In partnership with Yoplait, the duo have embarked on a campaign to bring awareness to the issue of mom shaming and they use humor as a way to build empathy.
"We have all heard about women being mom shamed. We sort of found that might just be a world that lives online. In the real world moms have your back," said Smedley. The duo did a special series of hidden videos to show that moms will step up to support one another in real life.
But there are many other issues in parenting that need to be addressed and Hensley and Smedley feel it is their duty to take on those issues.
"Something that nobody tells you about when you become a mom is that you have this wonderful baby and you think it is going to be all balloons and glitter and at times you feel totally isolated and alone and really sad and you don’t know how to deal with it because your feel ashamed. We say let yourself feel those things. As a mom you are not alone and you have never had a thought that another mother hasn’t had herself," Hensley said.
Moms are definitely having a moment in society, from the success of movies like Bad Moms to working women demanding workplace changes that offer a better transition into motherhood. Hensley and Smedley said it is about time.
"I just think everybody is a little fed up," said Hensley. "All the d**k jokes have been told. Women have comedy. We have our stories to tell. How can you ignore a group of women who make up 70 percent of the workplace? They are making decisions, they are leaders and they are going home and they are raising kids. That is a fierce multitasker that cannot be messed with," she said.
On tour, Hensley and Smedley get to meet these very women up close. They enjoy looking out at the audience and seeing women renewing friendships, hugging, smiling and laughing while learning to take it all with a grain of salt and just keep moming as hard as they can.