What an exciting October! I relaunched Ronnie’s Awesome List, The San Francisco Giants are the World Series Champions, it did not rain on Halloween and now we get to look forward to an amazing November. So many great events, more awesome interviews and surprises to look forward to. If you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe to the NEW website for the latest information effecting Bay Area families, more awesome interviews and some very cool giveaways coming up.
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Tickets on sale NOW!
Marin Theatre Company, Mill Valley, Nov 6-Nov 9
Freight & Salvage, Berkeley, Nov 16-Dec 14
Dougherty Valley Performing Arts Center, San Ramon Dec 20-Dec 21
Children’s Creativity Museum Theater, San Francisco, Dec 27-Jan 4
The Bay Area Children’s Theater (BACT) brings the surreal world, inspired by Roald Dahl’s classic tale of James and the Giant Peach, to theaters all around the Bay Area. The story is about James, an orphaned boy, who escapes from his wicked aunts aboard an enormous enchanted peach inhabited by a bevy of bugs. I had a chance to speak to the Tony Award-nominated songwriters of James and the Giant Peach, Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, to give some insight on their creative process and background about writing the music for James and the Giant Peach.
What was your childhood like?
Justin I grew up in a musical home. My parents played piano, guitar and sang. When I was 10, my parents were looking for an outlet for me to do something that included singing. At that age, there were not a lot of options but they found musical theatre. Growing up, I performed in lots of plays. I loved singing, dancing, piano, acting and percussion. I had a very rich musical and theatrical childhood.
Benj Writing, poetry, and music was introduced early in my life. My mom is a developmental psychologist and on the side she liked to write songs to capture moments in our lives. This became very popular at my preschool. My mom and her friend became a children’s music duo and continued to write many albums of kids music about growing up such as “Jumping in a Puddle” and “Hugs and Kisses.” I grew up in an environment of turning every moment of life into song. As I got older, I became interested in writing my own songs. I was so lucky to grow up in a very supportive environment where theatre and music was accessible and encouraged.
As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Justin I knew musical theatre was something I had a passion for but I didn’t know I could do this as a career. I thought of it as just a fun way to express myself, exercise that creative muscle, and develop my talent. It wasn’t until high school when I realized that people do this for a living. Then I knew musical theatre was going to be more then just a fun hobby.
Benj Career day at school, there was no one who came to say “We write musicals, come and join us.” Even in most drama programs, the only thing you are ever given access to is the idea of being an actor. When you are a sophomore or junior in high school you start thinking about where you want to go to college. You’re not thinking, is there a song writing school. There is not an undergraduate program for song writing for musical theatre out there anyway. No one is told all the professions that exist in theatre. We both really love performing in the world of musical theatre but then when we got to university, other doors opened up to us as possibilities in the field of musical theatre. When that happened, it became a real ah-ha moment for us.
What advice would you give to a kid interested in pursuing theatre?
Benj What I have realize is the work we like the most and that we are most proud of is what we enjoy doing. If you can find joy in what ever you are pursuing you’ll find a career for that. Within song writing itself, when I find songs I have a passion for, I want to keep working on it.
For a kid, you might like painting and could look into a career in set design, or perhaps you prefer being in charge as oppose to being on the stage and you can manage the performance. People don’t realize, that in the arts, there are so many careers that you can pursue. We aren’t told that as kids. Both of us are very lucky that we were encouraged to follow our dreams as actors but that was the only option presented to us at the time. Follow what you love to do and eventually there is something that exists or create the career that you want just by following your passion.
For instance, Jennifer Ashely Tepper, created her own career by becoming a musical theatre historian and enthusiast. She’s not an actress or director. She created her own very specific career because she loves the world of Broadway and musical theatre. There is no one else like her. She is an historian of what is happening in the Broadway world, is a champion of new work, has written books, and she does this by creating her own path. Follow something that you love. Trust there will a way to make a living at it. I guarantee there is no college major or high school program that focuses on what Jennifer is most passionate for but it’s what she loves and she developed a career for herself because no one else does it the way she can.
Were there any special teacher that supported you?
Justin Too many to name. I grew up in Connecticut and went to public school. I was really lucky, the town I lived in had a real emphasis on the arts. The best part was the opportunities I was given. In high school, they let me conduct the orchestra and lead the choir. My teachers were very encouraging and realized by giving kids responsibility and letting them rise to that challenge, that it was an incredible way of teaching. I was surrounded by supportive teachers. I had an intense, strict, classical piano teacher that knew I didn’t practice. She saw I had musical talent and ability but classical piano wasn’t the thing for me. She was so patient and I continue to take lessons with her. To this day she comes to all my shows and she was at my wedding. It was a really supportive arts community. I couldn’t do anything I am doing without those teachers.
Benj I have a relatively similar experience. I grew up outside of Philadelphia and also had so many teachers who were fantastic and challenging me to learn about things outside what kids typically learn about. My 9th grade high school teacher had us perform “Angels in America.” Not many schools would have done such a mature play. Being exposed to challenging work makes kids rise to that level and aspire to excel. One thing Justin and I learned when writing for kids is that if you don’t challenge them, you are doing them a disservice. Kids want to be challenged, they want to lean in and take on more then what is expected of them. My favorite teachers are the ones that challenged me and introduced me to more sophisticated work meant for adults. It gave me an appetite to work more and it felt like I was not being talking down to. I am so appreciative to those teachers that exposed me to challenging work. This is the kind of work you have in the Bay Area. It is more complex and interesting and not all rainbows and puppy dogs. With James and the Giant Peach, we tried to create something that is a little edgy, makes you want to lean in and grab a piece of it.
What advice would you give to a parent to help support a kid passionate in theatre?
Justin It’s tough finding that balance. Like with the piano; I can’t tell you how many times I wanted to quit piano lessons. As a parent, you need to pay attention and know what your child really wants. My parents knew me well enough that when I said I wanted to quit piano, which I said a lot, they knew that I really didn’t want to quit piano. I just didn’t want to put in the hard work and practice. It was one of the things my parents did push me to do but to they knew me well enough to know that I would regret dropping it. I had to force myself to do the hard work, practice and prepare, because, ultimately I love music and playing piano. It’s important knowing when to push your kids. They’re just being kids.
Also make sure it is what they actually love. There were so many things I wanted to do but didn’t have time for. When you’re a kid in school, I don’t think you know exactly what you are going to do as an adult. Do you play baseball in 5th grade because you really love baseball or is it because all your friends are playing it? When thinking about how your kid spends that extracurricular time, it’s important for parents to really know what truly motivates their kid. A parent can tell what their kids are passionate at, excelling at, what is it a phase or fad, or just doing it to be with friends. Helping kids sort through all that will help you understand what it is they really love to do.
Both of our parent were very supportive. There have been times where I’ve said this seems crazy to do theater, can I really make a profession of that? My parents had faith at times when I did not have faith in myself. They encouraged me to keep going. You would think it would be the opposite where a kid will say I want to be an actor or musician and a parent says how are you going to make money? It was the opposite for me; I said how am I going to make money and my parents would say you can figure it out if this is what you want to do.
You met at the University of Michigan. What was that spark that helped you realize you wanted to collaborate on projects together?
Justin We met at our freshman orientation the summer before we started at the University of Michigan and clicked as friends right away. We were members of the musical theatre department which was separate from the regular theatre department. There was only about 20 kids per class. In our freshman year, we dabbled in writing songs together, played piano, wrote lyrics, and had fun. In our sophomore year, we were both cast in very small roles in the school musical. This was embarrassing for us, but it inspired us to write our own shows that we can form our identity with and not be known as the guys that got cast in the really small roles. We wrote our first show together called “Edges” and people were receptive to it.
This happened in 2005, which was same year Facebook and Youtube first appeared. We were writing songs about 19 year olds, because we were 19, the people using the technology were our age, and we were able to spread our songs online using this new technology. It was a really exciting time.
You trained as actors and not musicians. How did you make that transition and how does this benefit what you are trying to achieve?
Justin We started by looking into other peoples songs to interpret. As actors, that led us to think about how we create our songs? We applied rules you learn as an actor to songs. Asking questions like “whose my character speaking to”, “what does my character want,” and figure ways to learn how to act a song. We used our knowledge as performers as much, if not more then, anything we learned about composition or technical music. So much of theatre is about the emotions you are capturing, what feels right and what feel honest about the characters and the story. That trumps any conventional musical training or other things you might study up on. What we learned as actors guides us as songwriters.
Do you have favorite composers?
Benj We were always fans of the Golden Age of songwriters in Broadway. We moved to New York and and got involved in a number of writing programs and met amazing people in our industry. We had the opportunity to meet and be mentored by our contemporary peers. We were in a year long program with Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens where we would bring in songs and notes and they would give us feedback. Steven Schwatrz and Alan Menken would come to our shows or listen to our albums and send us notes. The amazing things about theatre is that so many of our heroes we’ve gotten to actually meet and they are eager to help and pass along what they’ve learned. There is nothing better then to meet, work and learn from a living legend.
What do you each bring when you collaborate on a piece?
Benj Justin is a wonderful musician and handles that component of what we do. I write poetry and stories and like the lyric element of musical theatre. We have very different personality types. Sometimes we get frustrated with each other but this is advantageous for us because we approach life from different perspectives and challenge each other. That spark means there is a lack of complacency. There is such a great advantage to disagreeing, and I mean it as a positive, because that fight is what allows something to go from being good to being great. This tension, coming at things from different angles, is what propels the song forward.
Can you give me the inside scoop about what it takes to create a Broadway musical?
Benj The biggest part of writing is creating something that people can relate to, respond to and that resonates with them. That all comes down to the music, lyrics, script, and song. Then you have 60-100 people coming together, working on their different specialities, to tell one story. There is sets, lights, choreography, wigs, make-up, sound, actors, dancers, back up, music, costumes, producers, marketing, etc. There are so many people doing so many different things and some how they all have to align in a magical way. It is a difficult and miraculous thing to get all those creative people to come together. When it does work, that is the magic of Broadway.
Roald Dahl’s book has a very heavy dark humor to it. What is at the heart of this story that you are telling and how does the music support it? How do you turn such difficult subject matters into something upbeat?
Justin At the heart of the story is a young boy who is an orphan and looking for some sort of family and place in the world. What you see is a bizarre family that forms and it’s a wonderful thing. We all have our ‘found family.’ Sometimes that includes blood relatives or friends. There are dark elements in the book but it would not translate well on stage to an audience, especially a family audience. In an earlier iteration of the show, we explored some of the darker elements of the story and ended up taking it out. James has these horribly abusive aunts that we kept but with musical theatre we are able to add humor to these characters. While they are still horrible, they are fun as a vaudevillian type of characters and we’ve written some fun songs for them. Audiences know in the end James will prevail but having a musical aspect helps us get a funnier side to those characters. They are so over the top you have permission to laugh at them. Audiences enjoy going with these characters instead of just hating them and they end up being audience favorites.
How would you describe the musical style of the James?
Benj It’s a wide palette we are working in because it is such a fantastical bizarre story and we have over the top aunt characters and anthropomorphized insects. It’s a wacky world so we wrote it in what ever style felt best for the moment and characters. We have everything from the aunts singing in a vaudevillian style, to James as our emotional musical theater and song, the insects often sing in a big band-swing-gospil style and scat makes all these great sounds that insects make. The earthworm has to put on a show to attract the seagulls and performs a latin number. It’s wide open stylistically. Once you have 6ft earthworm singing and dancing, in my opinion, you are not beholden to any rule. Then you can write what feels right for that moment. We had a chance to explore all types of music which made writing James really fun.
How did the Artist Showcase at the Freight & Salvage in Berkeley go?
Justin The Artist Showcase was great. We got to come somewhere new and meet a group of people who are so passionate. From the kids who got up on stage and performed with us, to the actors and getting to meet Nina Meehan, the director of Bay Area Children’s Theatre. It has been amazing to be introduced to a community that is doing such great work and getting a whole new generation of theatre goers and families to the theatre to create amazing memories with their kids.
What is the best comment you ever received from a young audience member?
Justin Sometimes they have “talk backs” after the shows where we have a chance to meet the audience with the actors. In Seattle, there was a boy, about 7 years old, who said he had lost his friend. The story of James deals with very real issues of kids loosing people that they love and what happens to people after they leave us. The way we handle death in the play is everywhere that you are, the people you loose never leave us but are apart of us, they surround us and are there for us and that resonated with this boy. It was incredibly moving to see something we had written was the catalyst that made him speak and connect to this loss that he had. It was the first time he talked about loosing his friend because he was in a place that he felt safe and supported. To us, that’s what the goal of art is, to be able to reflect what is happening in our lives and allow us to explore ourselves in the world around us and how we feel about the lives we are living. For this boy, what we had written was so inspiring that he felt he could talk about friends death and how to process that, it was so moving. You don’t think you are there doing anything but to tell a good story; but when it actually resonates with kids it is a real inspiring thing.
If I sat in your car and turned on the stereo – what would be playing?
Benj We both listen to eclectic music. We like everything from Judy Garland to Taylor Swift. We have a real diversity of music. We draw inspiration from a lot of different styles. For us when we think about writing, it’s all dictated by the story we are telling. We never say, “we’re gonna write this style of music and hope that the story works.” We approach the story we want to tell and figure out what kind of music serves that. We have an appreciation for a lot of different styles because that means you can tell lots of different stories so we love diving into different worlds. We have an appreciation for anything from Broadway musicals to pop.
Finish this sentence – The best thing about being a composer, songwriter is…..?
Benj You get to encapsulate little moments that live on forever. It’s like a photograph except you are setting words to music. The words are what tells you the idea while the music contains the emotion. You combine it with this emotional feeling and create a mood that last the rest of your life.
Justin We are working on a couple of films that are movie musicals and also stage musicals. We love writing for Broadway stage and companies like the Bay Area Children’s Theatre. We’re really excited to dive into the film world more and the things we are able to do in film are different, exciting, new and challenging. It’s an exciting new chapter starting for us.
We are so excited about the production of James. It’s a great wacky colorful show that all families will enjoy experiencing.
Denise Albert and Melissa Musen Gerstein, THE MOMS, have turned motherhood into a thriving business venture that reaches millions of parents each year. The MOMS have collaborated with Fuel Up to Play 60 – American Dairy Association with NFL & Real California Milk on Tuesday, October 14th, 3:30pm – 5:30pm in Santa Clara for a very special event for families. Experience an active drill with the San Francisco 49ers Training Camp, giveaways, fun activities, photo booths, after school snacks and drills with the 49er’s Training Camp! Plus one lucky family will win tickets to a 49er’s game. I caught up with one very busy mom, Denise Albert, to learn more about The MOMS.
Q. Tell me about The MOMS.
My partner, Melissa, and I started The MOMS in 2010 because we felt there was a conversation missing in the parent space. Our backgrounds are as television journalists and producers so we wanted to create a company in a profession that we are familiar with. We started with a newspaper, then a television show, and then the Sirius XM radio Stars program The MOMS with Denise & Melissa. The premise is to engage other parents in a conversation. We focus on empowering moms by featuring moms on our show who are doing great things. We’re really just spreading the powerful word of moms.
Q. You and Melissa each had successful careers in broadcast before getting together. How did you meet and what made you realize you wanted to collaborate together and create The MOMS?
First time we met, I was a producer at Good Morning America and interviewing candidates for a position. Melissa’s resume landed on my desk. At the time she was living in Toronto launching Canadian Idol and wanted to move back to the states. The second time we met, I was still with Good Morning America and Melissa was working at CNBC. When she moved back we connected, realized we had a similar idea and started working on it on the side for three years while we kept our day jobs.
Q. When did you know you wanted to let go of your day job and take a chance on making The MOMS work full time?
It wasn’t easy. I left Good Morning America after had my first son. I found it very difficult to try to be the kind of mom I wanted to be and continue my career with Good Morning America. After I left, my old boss was running a show with David Blaine so I went to run his company and produced his television show. Melissa and I continued working a few years until we were able to make The MOMS work full time. We were working two jobs: after coming home from a full day at the office, we would be with our kids, put the kids to sleep and back to work on The MOMS at night. That’s how we got started.
Q. Can you give me a little history of how it branched out into other business channels?
We had no business plan which is why we were able to make this work. It goes against everything that anyone who went to business school has learned. We have a lot of different pieces of what we do because we love what we do. When we get an idea we go for it. The MOMS is a lifestyle brand. We have the Sirius XM radio Stars program The MOMS with Denise & Melissa, a media company, our Mamarazzi® events hosting celebrity moms and dads in a unique town hall setting, television appearances, we have a new fashion line called Musen Albert, and show we call Strut, the fashionable Mom Show.
Q. What are the ongoing challenges you face in your business?
We have challenges every day because we are a start up. It’s just the two of us and we finally got a wonderful assistant. But the biggest challenges we face is that there is not enough people, not enough time, but the one thing Melissa and I have, that is so incredible that works, is we have each other. We are so lucky that we have the right partner. We both work hard, both have strengths and weaknesses and it balances out perfectly. When we have a challenge, we get through it together.
Q. You mention strengths and weaknesses. What are your strengths and weaknesses balancing one another?
It’s not really about strengths or weaknesses. We are different people socially, in our work lives and it works out perfect for us. We make appearances on many TV shows to discuss various parenting topics because we are known for how very different we are as parents. We write about it on our website called MOMmentary. We are very different people, Melissa is from a small town, I am from NY, she is madly in love with her husband, I couldn’t be happier divorced, the way we parent is very different.
Q. You said you are a better mom because you work. What does motherhood bring to your business and what does your business bring to motherhood?
It’s everything. I couldn’t do what I do without being a mom. I have to pinch myself how lucky I am. We pick our children up from school and get to be with them. We get to do what we love everyday which is what we worked so hard to build and not have to answer to anybody. I can’t believe how much my life has changed. Melissa and I work so well, together. Although we have a long way to go, we get to be moms and work without guilt.
Q. You write a column for the Huffington Post, had many television appearances, you’ve produced televisions shows, celebrity events coordinator, radio show presenter, and a mom. It’s hard to image one person doing all of this.
It’s who we are. There is still so many more things I want to do. I feel lucky that Melissa and I found each other and that we created something special. It’s not that hard for us. We worked 20 years building our careers and with rigorous hours. We pulled many late nights when we were covering a story. We still working extremely hard and long hours but were doing it on our time and that makes a big difference.
Q. Where do you envision The MOMS brand in the future?
We want to keep growing. We want it to be the best place for all moms to have a conversation and feel empowered. We love everything we do. We want to grow our Mamarazzi® events and include more people through social media. We dream of doing our own television show again but we don’t want to do it just because. We’ve had offers and turned them down. We want to choose the right project that aligns with our business and is true to who we are. We still think there is more for us to do in television, we just want the right opportunity.
Q. You grew up in a broadcasting family. Now that you work in the field, do your boys show any interest in what you do for their future?
One of the best things about what we do is we can bring our kids to everything. My older son is coming with me to our San Francisco event this Tuesday which he is really excited about. We just did a Mamarazzi® even with Jennifer Garner who was there as we screened her new movie, “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.” My kids were so excited to be there. My older son is 9 1/2 years old and is interested in every aspect of what we do. He’s the first person at every event asking questions, inquisitive, a natural, and has the reporter like me in him. My younger son is 6 years old and born with the family sports gene. He knows every single thing about forts and is not as interested in what I do.
Q. If you can go back in time, what advice would you give to the 10 year old Denise?
Everything always works out for the best. My grandfather used to say that. It’s true. Hard to see that when you are going through something but always works out.
Q. Who was your favorite person to interview?
They’re all so great. Jennifer Garner was so impressive to me. She walks into the room, she shook Melissa’s hand and said “Hi Melissa, so nice to meet you.” Then she did the same to me. Does she know who we are? Probably not, but she cared enough to find out our names, and that tells you something about a person. She’s very real.
Hugh Jackman is also one of my favorites. We’ve done three events with him and every time we do an event with him, he remembers us, he does his homework. He is one of the most sought after and talented actors and yet he takes time to learn about who he is going to be talking to and that to me is extraordinarily special.
Celebrities love our Mamarazzi® events because no one is there asking them who they slept with, are they getting divorced, or other gossipy questions. We’re just a bunch of moms wondering what they do with their kids. It’s the kind of conversation they are talking to their friends about. Real people simply asking how they are doing in a very real conversation. We’re very fortunate that Mamarazzi® events are going so well.
We are doing something different to what all others are doing.
Denise Albert and her partner, Melissa Musen Gerstein, The MOMS, are co-creators of a multi-platform lifestyle brand featured on TV, online, and now on radio nationwide. The MOMS are hosts of the Sirius XM radio Stars program The MOMS with Denise & Melissa., moderators of Mamarazzi®, have their own fashion line Albert and Musen, fashion show co-founders for Strut, The Fashionable Mom Show, hosted a half-hour TV show with NBC called Moms & the City and A Dad Named David, are regular contributors to The Huffington Post Parents, have appeared on The Today Show, Good Morning America and Fox News Channel among many others. And first and foremost, they are moms!
Tickets on sale NOW for:
The Pump and Dump: A Parentally Incorrect Comedy Show and Night Out For Once with Guest Comic, Nato Green
October 15, 2014
Doors: 7pm / Show: 8pm
Sweetwater Music Hall, Mill Valley
[DISCLAIMER: This interview contain explicit language.]
Hot of the heels of their sold out show last March, Shayna Ferm, comedian, musician and mother of a two and a three year old, and her coach, Tracey Tee (a.k.a. MC Doula), mom to a three year old, return to host another raucous evening of comedy, inappropriate music, prizes, drinking, and swearing. Mark your calendars, get ready to knock a few drinks back and laugh your ass off because you’re in for another wide ride with the moms of Pump and Dump. I caught up with Shayna to see what these crazy moms are all about.
How did you get started in comedy?
I had been doing comedy for 11 years in New York City before I had my first kid. We moved to Denver when I was pregnant with my second. I knew I would produce something in Denver, I just didn’t know what. Then I had the idea of the Pump and Dump while I was in the shower and my son was a few weeks old, and I was obviously in the throws of pumping.
How did you and Tracey come together?
We went to junior high and high school together in Parker, Colorado. Then I moved to Chicago and New York and Tracey went to Los Angeles. Tracey did comedy at “The Groundlings” and a lot of writing in Los Angeles. We reconnected through Facebook when we found out that we were having babies three weeks apart. She was living in Denver and I was moving to Denver so she asked me for a play date. It was very natural to ask her to do this show with me. We created her persona of MC Doula as my sidekick and the partnership was born.
Tell me more about your show, The Pump and Dump.
I was reading some of the local mommy websites and community boards and I just kept thinking, “Man, these moms need a night out.” It’s so hard to just stop for a second and laugh about how truly fucked up being a parent is. I also think that there is something to be communicated to moms who have experienced lives of independence before children and are trying to reconnect with their identity. We need to step back and realize that it’s okay to miss who we were before children, celebrate who we are now and realize that we’re all just doing the best that we can. So we put together a night out (for us too) for moms to go out for an hour and half and still get home in time to get sleep – because we knew they’d have to wake up in another three hours (like us). It’s grown exponentially over the last two years. Now we tour the country and we have two venues we perform at monthly in Denver that sell out every show. In Denver alone, we reach over 500 moms, LIVE, a month.
What did you do to become a comedian?
I was an actor in Chicago and then moved to New York City with a play in 2001. I started doing comedy because I could write and perform anytime I want to rather than wait for someone to hand me a job. I started in the NYC sketch and alternative comedy scene which was big in early 2000’s. I never ever imagined that parenting would become a part of it.
What kind of surprises are in store for your audience?
The show is so much fun – a lot of audience participation, we give away a lot of wine. I don’t think people know what to expect because the concept seems a little cheesy, but when people come to see the show they realize there’s nothing cheesy about us. It’s an honest and real approach to what is funny about being a parent. We say the things you want to say. I think people are surprised at what a great time they have. The positive response is overwhelming and the word we hear and are touched by the most is “validation.” So, to answer your question, audiences will be surprised at how genuinely hard they laugh and how great of a time they have.
Your March show sold out and was a smash hit. Is there anything different that we can expect?
It’s always a little different. Tracey and I pull from our own experiences which change day to day, really. We have some new songs, new trivia questions, new things we’ve developed since March. The nice thing about music is that people do want to hear their favorite songs again.
Do dads ever come or is this pretty mom focused? Should a dad be concerned about being in the audience?
Dads are welcome!! In fact, we give them free shots we call “The Emergency C-Section.” We also lovingly refer to them as “Motherfuckers” because, well, they fuck mothers. Dads come all the time, people without kids come. This is as much of a Date Night as it is a Girls’ Night Out. There is no dad or kid bashing.
Are you pleased that the show gets people laughing about things that would normally make us want to cry?
Yes, I feel like it is the pressure gauge for a lot of moms – it’s certainly our own. The response we’ve had is overwhelming. The people who come tell us they needed us. There is a camaraderie in the commiseration. We end the show with a song called “You’re An Awesome Mom.” We’re all so hard on ourselves and so critical of ourselves, it’s nice to be in a room full of all kinds of parents, with all kinds of different views on parenting – from people who eat placentas to people who have never tried a cloth diaper – all of us in the same space, laughing about the same things. It’s all part of a movement that we have created called the The Mom to Mom Project. Our mission is to spread generosity and humor, mom to mom.
As a comedian, musician and mom you’ve carved out a unique niche for yourself. What obstacles have you encountered bring so much diversity to the stage?
It’s really more that other people don’t know what to do with me. But after all these years, I know clearly what I want to communicate to the audience. I definitely consider myself a comedian. My music isn’t anything but funny. And, I just want to be clear – I could not do the show with out MC Doula. She is my co-host and guides us all through the experience. She is not only an amazing business partner but also an integral part of who we are.
Which comedians inspired you to get on stage?
I grew up in love with abstract comedy. I am a huge Steve Martin. I loved Saturday Night Live as a kid. I’m not sure I aspired to be like anybody because my goal wasn’t necessarily comedy. In doing it, though, I found a great deal of people that I highly respect. One of my favorite comedians is John Mulaney who was just starting out when I was in New York. I was fortunate to be surrounded by an amazing group of young comics – Kristen Schaal, Demetri Martin, Nick Kroll, Eugene Mirman – who have all gone off to do awesome things. I was really lucky to be a part of the glory days of NYC alternative comedy.
Can you tell me about how juggling motherhood with two young children and a career is working out for you.
Tracey and I are work at home moms. We do travel, but only once a month. We are actually bringing our kids with us on this San Francisco trip and we’ll see how that goes. The balancing act and day to day with the kids is not easy at all. More so, juggling the exhaustion from having really young kids and finding energy to do all that we do is the biggest challenge. My youngest was 6 weeks old when we started this show. I still wasn’t sleeping through the night. People would say “I can’t come to the show. I’m going to have to get up in a couple of hours.” and we’re like “Yeah, us too!“
Do your spouses ever comment about using them as material or embarrassed by some of the things you say? Does your spouse think you’re funny?
Our husbands are so proud. They love that we are making it work. People talk to us, share their stories with us, we’re on tv, we’re in the newspaper. They are 100% behind us. I think the thing they enjoy the most is watching other people experience the show.
Your comedy has been described as sexy, risqué and raunchy. Do you agree?
I think my brand of comedy, my persona on stage, has always been irreverent and a little “off color,” as my parents would say. Any comedian will tell you it takes ten years to perfect your persona. So what I am communicating on stage, I’ve been developing my entire career. I’m always writing edgy material. It’s my sense of humor and I don’t see anything wrong with it. That’s just who I am as a comic. I think that in this show, we say the things that people want to say but don’t and it’s a relief to hear someone get up there and talk about it. We’re certainly not trying to shock anybody – just do it the way we do it.
What is your process for writing, editing, to forming a great joke like?
There are two sides to this. There is the song writing which is where I am inspired by concept. Then I decide how to approach it, think of rhymes and things that make me giggle, then it comes together. For the show itself, we are always writing new questions to ask our experts, new “Never Have I Ever” ideas, trying new segments, etc. We sketch an outline for the show, decide the order of the performances and figure out the new stuff we need to write. The music is a separate entity. I’m happy when I can get my shit together enough to write a new song. I actually just wrote a song for the last show that has a very Joanie Mitchell style, which surprised me. The concept is that I would do anything for you; I’ll clean your puke, I’ll wipe your butt, I’ll drive you to school – but please don’t make me push you on the swings. Every mom has that ONE thing they just don’t want to do, right? I fucking hate the swings.
When it comes to motherhood and marriage, there’s always a good dollop of recurring topics. What would you say today is the biggest modern day buzz with being a parent?
It comes back to what we talked about before; trying to remember who you were before kids. There is something about when you have little kids, you lose yourself for like 5 years. I’m not sure our parents felt they could complain. The truth is, complaining doesn’t make you a horrible person, it’s difficult or maybe impossible to enjoy every minute of this. It’s SO HARD! So lets just talk about it. The best thing you can do, we feel, is tell another mom they are doing a great job. When someone tells you that, you remember it.
You are from Denver. How do you think Marin moms are similar &/or different from Denver moms?
The reason we are coming back to Sweetwater is because we loved the Marin moms so much. Despite the requests for appearances at cities we have not been to yet, this is the first venue we’re coming back to a second time because we had such an amazing time. I am not sure why there is such a strong connection but it’s a really beautiful place to live like Denver, great place to raise kids, a lot of people who appreciate culture have a great sense of humor. It was such a great experience that we cannot wait to come back.
What do you have planned for the future?
We will continue to tour thru 2015. We have some great partnerships in the works, we’re working on a book deal, we are making music videos to a lot of the songs, and we are keeping our show going in Denver. Ultimately, though, we just want to bring this show to more people.
We also have developed a product line alongside The Mom to Mom Project. We sell gifts for moms to give to other moms including cards, gifts, bags, and more. So keep an eye out for us.
For more information about the Pump and Dump show visit their website at thepumpanddumpshow.com.
Looking for something AWESOME to do every day of the week. Be sure to check Ronnie’s Awesome List – October 2014.
I also have 2 great drawings happening now! Winners will be chosen from my Facebook followers, click the “Like” button at the top. You will be automatically entered.
4 tickets to see Disney on Ice, Worlds of Fantasy
The Oracle Arena on October 8-12 or SAP Center at San Jose October 15-19.
The winner gets to choose the date and place!
2 Tickets to the 3D Sideshow
October 12, 11am, Smith Rafael Film Center, San Rafael
Winning names will be drawn this Wednesday at 5pm. Winners will be notified directly.
More great prizes to come soon!
I have 2 tickets to see Disney on Ice, Worlds of Fantasy at either The Oracle Arena on October 8-12 or SAP Center at San Jose October 15-19.
The winner gets to choose the date and place! To win you must be one of my Facebook followers. Go to https://www.facebook.com/ronniesawesomelist and click the “Like” button to be automatically entered into the drawing.
The winning name will be drawn next Wednesday, October 8th at 5pm. Winners will be notified directly.