The Joke's On Us: Comedian Moms Share Tips to Keep the Laugh Track Rolling
Mona Concepcion (with son TJ), Shannon Koyano, Danielle Gregoire and Nicole Santora share tips to keep the laugh track rolling.
Photo: Joshua Huston
It’s no surprise that parenting and comedy complement one another. Not only is parenthood full of humorous moments, from toddler talk to slapstick, but we kind of need humor to survive it.
“Parenting is hard," says Mona Concepcion, a Seattle stand-up comedian, blogger (Hey Mona!) and mom to two boys. "If you don’t have a sense of humor about it, good luck.”
That’s not just talk — laughter may be more beneficial to our health than we realize. For example, a recent Korean study found that postpartum women enjoyed a boost in immune response after a prescribed hour of laughter twice a week. Another study from 2014 shows that laughter decreases stress and improves memory, which may or may not be something you’re after, depending on how much of yesterday's tantrum you'd like to forget.
Here are four professional comedians who combine wisecracks with wise parenting observations:
Kids: Ages 9 and 5
Background: Four years ago, Concepcion signed up for a stand-up comedy class offered by the University of Washington’s Experimental College, which culminated in a show for friends and family at Seattle’s Comedy Underground. Today, she works a full-time job at the UW, while also working the stand-up stage twice a week or so. She has taken her comedy routine to Spokane, Portland and Los Angeles.
Motherhood is just one source of comedic fodder for Concepcion. She also talks about her mom, cultural differences, and growing up on the island of Saipan (located near Guam). “It’s all about how I navigate this weird world, find the crazy in the weird parts, and what makes me laugh,” she says.
On parenting and humor: “Moms are natural storytellers,” Concepcion says. “It’s nice to laugh about craziness we have in our lives. Moms do that well and kids give us tons of material.”
Her kids are proud of their mom’s career. “If I’m going out, they say, ‘Have fun. Make sure you’re funny. Don’t bomb. Don’t embarrass me.’”
Tips for parents: Try blogging. Concepcion keeps track of funny life moments in a journal or on her blog, Heymona.com, which she started in 1999. “Find a safe place, and find your humor,” she says.
Kids: Ages 4 and 7
Background: Gregoire is well known as an avid supporter of women comedians. She founded and produced the Comedy Womb, a female-focused stand-up comedy night in downtown Seattle. The night ran for almost three years and now has become Comedy Nest, a stand-up night that doesn’t allow hateful material or heckling.
Gregoire also produces The Moth’s Seattle Storyslam—an open-mic storytelling competition presented twice monthly in Seattle by Abbey Arts, and at the 2016 Seattle Fringe Festival Gregoire created and produced "A Necessary Sadness" — a variety show exploring the sorrows that "exist and connect us."
On parenting and humor: Comedy shows like Roseanne and Grace Under Fire helped lay the groundwork for mom comedians of today, Gregoire says. “It was OK to be funny and be a woman and have kids,” she says. “Then kids went out of vogue.” As did many network comedy shows.
Tips for parents: Gregoire suggests keeping a parent diary of the funny things your kids say and do. A bonus: “If they get married or have birthday parties in the future, you’ll have a great way to embarrass them,” she says.
Gregoire’s son and daughter have that fresh, raw sense of humor found in so many children. “Mostly knock-knock jokes, and a lot of fart jokes,” she says. And some physical comedy as well. Of course.
Kids: Ages 11, 8 and 6
Background: Single mom Koyano has been earning laughs for three and a half years at local comedy clubs (or wherever). For many years previously, she wanted to do stand-up comedy, but it seemed out of reach. She likened it to other fanciful goals: “Like, I want to ride in a hot-air balloon someday. I want to ride an elephant.”
Because of her intense stage fright, Koyano would do secret bits in her car or shower where no one could hear. Then she started performing on a friend’s podcast and became more comfortable speaking into a microphone… and getting laughs.
On parenting and humor: “Even getting the kids to school, I’m using my sense of humor to help me get through the tough times where my kids don’t want to cooperate,” she says.
Comedy can lead to honesty and good communication. “We talk about whatever they want to talk about. If they’re going through struggles, they can come to me about anything,” Koyano says. “I don’t tell them R-rated jokes or curse, but I’m very real. So we all joke and laugh a lot.”
Tips for parents: “If there are women out there with or without kids interested in pursuing stand-up, I would encourage them to give it a shot,” she says. “It seems impossible when you’ve got kids, and when they’re little, you don’t feel like you have the time. But if you feel passionate about it, try it.”
Kid: Age 13 months
Background: Not all mom comedians in the area are strictly stand-up, of course. Trained in the dramatic arts, Nicole Santora has worked in stand-up comedy but in 2014 joined three other Seattle female comedians to form the local sketch-comedy group, Day Job. They perform all over Seattle wherever the best sketch comedy can be found, and were selected to perform at the 2016 Sketchfest running September 15 - 24.
On parenting and humor: At home with her toddler son, Santora finds much of her energy is focused on curbing his unintentional yen for self-destruction.
There’s “Life, death and everything else,” she says. Young children have a way of testing this theory daily — with electrical plugs, an affinity for sharp objects, and falling when you least expect it.
“I find humor trying to keep him alive, and making it to the end of the day with him still being alive and well. I love to make him laugh. He’s an easy audience, I just have to make a funny face or play peek-a-boo.”
Tips for parents: De-stressing is important, she says, even for those born with funny bones. “Recharge those batteries,” she says. “Whatever that means.” She’s joined PEPS and Facebook parent groups for community, and watches light TV shows like The Office, 30 Rock and Jane the Virgin during the day to refuel her humor tank.