Motherhood might be described as inspiring or exhausting, simultaneously soul-crushing and purpose-giving. Los Angeles-based comedic duo Jen Smedley and Kristin Hensley tackle the subject with humor and heart, bringing #IMOMSOHARD on the road again for their fourth stand up comedy tour.
Smedley and Hensley take the stage at the Charleston Gaillard Center 7 p.m. June 17 with “Ladies Night Out,” a stand-up comedy show which they described as an “R-rated version” of the comedy they post online.
#IMOMSOHARD began as a YouTube video series started in 2016 by real-life best friends and has since evolved into a podcast. Videos like “I Spanx So Hard,” “I Appreciate Teachers So Hard” and “I Swimsuit Season So Hard” each have more than one million views. Smedley and Hensley say they started the video series one night over a glass of wine and many tears of frustration.
“When you have kids and you’re in LA and you’re in comedy, it really does cause everything to rotate towards your kids. Your career has to take a back seat,” Hensley said. “Because simply [things like] doing 11 p.m. shows, you just can’t anymore as a mom.”
Smedley and Hensley decided to take matters into their own hands. They wanted to continue their longtime comedy careers while caring for their families. They were both feeling creatively stuck after having kids, so when the two moms sat down to commiserate over wine one night, the idea for the series was born.
“We started laughing and crying about how terrible motherhood actually is. And that nobody was saying that there are these [parts of motherhood] that make you feel bad all the time,” Hensley said. “You have to rely so heavily on your friendships to get you out of the fog, to remind you of who you were before, or to laugh about shit that does not matter. And we gave that to each other.”
That night, they decided they’d shoot a video the very next day.
“In this moment when we were at our lowest, Jen [Smedley] was like, ‘Dude, if we made a video about this, maybe other moms would feel better about the job they’re doing if they saw the shitty job we’re doing.’”
Smedley and Hensley decided to speak openly on camera about their fears and failures each week. While shooting the first video for the series, Smedley forgot her newborn daughter’s name. That first video was an instant hit, which they took as confirmation that moms and women everywhere needed to laugh and be heard.
Five years of weekly videos later, they’ve sold out three national tours and even taped a stand-up comedy special for Amazon Prime Video.
The “Ladies Night Out” tour
This latest comedy tour is a show about “how every woman is dealing with all of her kid stuff in addition to all of her own stuff,” Smedley said.
“So you might be dealing with changes to your body, aging, not feeling as hot as you used to, mental health stuff. But you still have to make the perfect chicken nugget for your kids.”
The duo jokes during “Ladies Night Out” about sex after kids, dealing with kids as they go through puberty and how their kids critique their parenting.
“But it’s not a TED Talk,” Hensley said. “One of our goals is to make our audience feel very seen. Hopefully, at the end of the night, you want to go dancing. You’re not learning how to put on a baby Bjorn. We’re not sad. We’re not complaining. It’s really just like kicking down the door, being where you are and knowing that everybody is going through the same thing, no matter how specific or how terrible. Probably the woman sitting next to you that you don’t know is going through 100% the same thing.”
The duo said when they first started, they had no idea how many people their content would reach. When they set out to create the first stand-up tour in 2017, they were nervous that they wouldn’t be able to fill a 300-seat theater. They ended up selling out venues with more than 4,000 seats on the first tour.
“It’s on the internet, and so it doesn’t always feel like behind those clicks and likes really are a person,” Smedley said. “But then, they are, because when we go to the live shows and meet those people, they’re like, ‘Thank you for doing this random video five years ago. It really helped me at the time’ or something like that.”
The secret sauce, Smedley said, was to just “keep going with it.”
“It’s shocking that it’s so simple, but if it makes us laugh, it makes other moms laugh, right?” she said. “Everybody’s going through it. The more specific, the more universal it is somehow.” Love Best of Charleston? Help the Charleston City Paper keep Best of Charleston going every year with a donation. Or sign up to become a member of the Charleston City Paper club.
Tickets cost $40 and are available at gaillardcenter.org.
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