By Thomas Crone
Mother’s Day is Sunday, May 13. The day before Mother’s Day is Saturday, May 12. This is the more-important date, as Kelsey McClure’s prepared a second edition of The Mom Show!, hosted again by Blueberry Hill, within the cozy confines of the Duck Room. It’ll feature a tightly-reined, 120-minutes of entertainment, as described by McClure below. (Event info.)
The Mom Show! is part of McClure’s continuing production work under the banner of Comedy Here. In the Q/A below, we discuss this show, in particular, but also her plans for coming events, current writing practice and some other odds’n’sods of interest.
I’m interested in going to your show. But I don’t understand how it works. Can you run me through the basics?
Sure. Mom Show! is a celebration of Moms. Imagine you’re watching Conan but instead of Andy Richter Conan’s co-host is his Mom. Think Jimmy Fallon with yes, you guessed it, his Mom. There are four interviews, all with a Mother/Child duo, a stand-up set and a segment I’m calling Story of the Mom where a few select Moms will spin a wheel with a variety of topics and share a personal experience. The show starts promptly at 8 p.m. and will wrap by 10 p.m. in consideration of bed times.
Was this a concept adapted from another one, elsewhere? Another one here? Or did this escape your brain, as-is and ready-to-show-run?
I was listening to the Tig Notaro episode of This American Life where she talks about the joke her Mother-in-Law wrote and then wound up telling on stage at Largo when the idea started to overwhelm me. My friend Sarah and I were both doubled over in laughter and tears and I said, “All I want to do is a show with my Mom.” She looked at me point blank and said, “You should.” I drafted a pitch, she gave it a quick review and within minutes sent it out. Not a week later I had the date booked at Blueberry Hill Duck Room. I had a very basic idea of how the show would play out but mostly I just imagined Tig and Carol (the Mother-in-Law) coming over for lunch and us bouncing ideas off each other.
Thinking back on last year’s event, what really “worked” about the event? What would you like to see this year?
It was in fact the first show and it was also the first time after a show I’ve produced that the bartender came up to me after and said, “You have to do this again next year.” There’s been well over a hundred shows at this point too. I knew I had something special and it was insane to think someone else thought so too.
The chemistry between Mother and child makes the whole show. I billed it as a comedy show but wasn’t entirely sure it would be funny. As a standup comic I felt like I was setting myself up for familiar but my very basic understanding of improv reminded me, entertainment is always funny.
I honestly can’t say I had a favorite segment, there were momentous times during each one. What impressed me, other than the Mothers, who all but one had zero stage experience and absolutely crushed, it was the audience. They were engaging and respectful and incredibly patient. Three-quarters of the people onstage that night hadn’t been on a stage since they walked across one to graduate, or for a few, ever. So the show doesn’t run with the same urgency as a comedy show. It’s much more relaxed, the whole process is happening right in front of you rather than just the final product.
This year we have American Sign Language interpreters for the show as one of the Mothers involved is deaf. So what I really want to see is how the show evolves and adapts through a form of communication. I haven’t seen sign language at a comedy show that wasn’t at The Fox or Pageant so I’m excited to open up an entertainment option for those who are hearing impaired on a smaller more intimate scale. I hope it brings out a more diverse audience and also reminds those who are frequent show goers how we can take for granted the thing we all desperately rely on, communication and understanding, especially when it comes to doing so with our Moms.
Let’s back up a bit. Tell us about your general show-running in town right now. What have you been working on? What types of shows interest you, as a producer?
I was running a multi-media friendly open mic that was the apple of my eye. Unfortunately the venue is no longer available so the search for a new space is on. 90-Minute Mic was every last Friday of the month in the garage at Gezellig (now in transition to become a pizza spot) that welcomed all acts but comedy was certainly encouraged. With it being on Friday it leaned to a walk-up audience so comics weren’t repeating jokes to the same crowd and comedy was being introduced to an audience that may not know to look for it.
I’m done seeking out comics to produce traditional standup shows. There’s more than enough people doing that in St. Louis now so I get to take my turn enjoying stage time, rather than creating it.
I think one-off, experience-based shows is the way to go. It’s been what’s happening in St. Louis in terms of music for awhile now and I feel like an idiot for not picking up in it. People love tribute bands. Comedy tributes no so much but they’ll take a risk on a beer and comedy show or themed show way before just going to hear someone tell jokes. Plus I’ve been bored by the traditional standup format since what feels like day one, and have been finding new ways to spice it up. For example, Giggle & Guzzle: A Comedic Beer Pairing is a standup show that pairs beer with comedians. It’s like a beer dinner but sub comics for courses that I’m producing at The Improv Shop for St. Louis Craft Beer Week. I’m still trying to figure out how to incorporate glitter cannons and fog machines into comedy but nothing has truly inspired that mayhem yet.
It feels as if you’ve traveled a bit of late, plus you’ve been day-gigging here and CoMo. Have you been enjoying some time for the craft of writing jokes, or have you been seeking out that time, of late?
I have been making time to write. A year ago I was dead set on recording an album. I set a date and booked gigs in LA to follow as an incentive to get it done. My goal was to knockout the album and then see if I could pull off those same jokes in LA. I wanted to find out if I was just funny in the Midwest or if I had a shot at actually going full comedian on the West Coast. I didn’t want to do a traditional album and couldn’t settle on the format so I ruled out the album. I was also deathly afraid it’d be a pity plea. I was afraid that the crowd would be out to support me because they owed me a favor or something and not my jokes. I was afraid if I recorded the album in another city nobody would show up and that if I recorded it in St. Louis it wouldn’t be authentic. It would be a Kelsey’s greatest hits, material everyone has heard, already laughed at and asking them to come out and listen all over again would be too selfish of me. You can absolutely tell on a recording when someone is laughing to be kind and considerate to the performer and when they’re laughing because what they’re processing is funny. I didn’t want the former and didn’t think I could avoid it.
So: yes. I’ve been writing. I’ve been seeking out gigs and taking my time on new material. I want to produce fewer, better jokes just the way I’ve been producing fewer, better shows. I’m trying to figure out if I’m a comic or a producer because I can’t be both.
What else, generally, should we know about this gig? The 5Ws and H we’ve got, but why is this the ticket for Saturday night?
Mom Show! is a night out that’s quite literally like no other show in St. Louis. It’s clean comedy without the label. It’s an opportunity to enjoy a night out with the family that doesn’t involve a buffet line or having to put on a slacks. It’s quick, it’s early and it’s not going to break the bank. My Mother and I are incredibly different individuals, as are all of the duos on stage. It’s an opportunity to see how compromise can be a celebration and not settling. I promised not to swear and Mom promised not purchase matching outfits.