A daytime mother and baby comedy gig offers the chance for new parents to reclaim a bit of themselves, writes stand-up and mum Katie Mulgrew
So, you go to your local coffee shop of choice. Maybe to do some work, maybe to read a book, maybe to enjoy a nice long leisurely frothy coffee and a piece of cake with a pal. You walk in, carrot cake, perhaps? Brownie, maybe? What a time to be alive. Then your heart sinks. There they all are. The massive buggy brigade. A group of mums with babies and you decide, “Actually… it’s to take away?”
I get it. I used to be you.
Then I became a mum and honestly, we get it too.
I reckon we should give new mums the uniform of a high vis jacket and a hard hat. Just due to the amount of times people will look at you and your small human like you’ve just set up a building site in their local Costa. Irritated by the noise, mess and disruption you are going to cause them in the duration it takes to drink their flat white.
Mums with babies feel their imposition on the rest of the world. We are the human equivalent of a diversion traffic sign. An inconvenience to the general public. It’s why we end up sticking to safe spaces. Sitting cross-legged in parish halls and community centres clapping along to ‘hello’ songs or waving maracas along to ‘incy wincy spider’. In our heads we are really wishing incey would give up, move on to a nice dusty corner perhaps or just drown already. You also may find us hiding in soft play centres trying hard not to be passive aggressive to other parents’ older children who keep almost trampling on our infant.
As a new mum there are lots of things to do with your child where you don’t feel an inconvenience. Where you don’t feel the side eye glare from a couple who are uncomfortable eating their paninis next to the baby dining out on your boob.
There are the story time groups, the sing-along groups, the playgroups and the baby sensory groups. All lovely and my God in those first six months you just need stuff to go to that occupies the time between naps.
These groups are all great but sometimes, especially in the hormone maddening and exhausting first year of parenthood it’s nice to remember that you are not just a mum or a dad but also a grown-up who likes grown-up things.
Which is why I started a mum and baby comedy club in Manchester, where I live.
I’m a stand-up comedian and when I had my son I only gave myself about six weeks’ maternity leave before I was back gigging and I found it really hard to leave him. It got me thinking, well what if there was a gig I could take him to? In the afternoon? And what if the audience were like me? New parents who could bring their babies?
So I started Mum’s the Word comedy club. I found a lovely little venue in South Manchester called the Edge Theatre and we’ve been running a monthly comedy club there now for two years.
I’m not gonna lie, it is a bit bonkers but fabulous. Having that many babies in a room can be incredibly distracting for the comedians but then again not any more distracting than some of the more rowdier stag or hen dos any of us have had to deal with in the past.
The mums (and dads; we’ve also had grandmas and child-minders too) make themselves and their babies comfortable and then it’s just like a normal comedy club show but it starts at 1pm in the afternoon. Oh and the audience are dribbling and shouting because they are under 18 months, not because they’ve had too many jagerbombs. During the show the mums are totally free to breast feed, walk around with their babies if they need to, change the babies if they need to. All in a safe space that’s just for them.
I’m the host and every month I choose two brilliant comedians to perform. They do completely normal comedy club material. There might be rude and adult content because it’s all for the grown-ups. And don’t judge me but there is something quite liberating about swearing at babies. C’mon, they don’t know! We have an under 18 month policy because nobody wants the toddler walking into crèche armed with all those new and funny words they got from the comedy show.
My little boy is two and a half now so he’s been officially barred from my comedy club. But I still love running and hosting it. The feedback I get from the mums is just lovely. I’ve had mums tell me they love it because it feels like they’ve been on a night out but they are home by three in the afternoon. I didn’t ask whether they are getting kebabs and then falling out of a taxi on the way home too. I’m not there to judge.
I’ve had mums that have come on their own and made friends to come with next time. I had a mum message me after one of the gigs to tell me how low and exhausted she’d been feeling that week. Her four month old wasn’t sleeping. She told me that a friend had made her come to the show and she was so glad she did because it felt really great to laugh happy tears.
What makes mum and baby gigs so brilliant is that they are a way for mums to have that little bit of a release, escapism and a good giggle but brilliantly they get to share that with their babies. None of that new mum guilt of leaving your little one too soon.
It’s also a really supportive audience.
The youngest punter (baby) I’ve had in the audience was two weeks old. All of the other mums started spontaneously applauding the mother. I started applauding her too. She’d left the house with her hair brushed AND she’d showered. We almost broke into a standing ovation.
I know from friends who have suffered from post-partum depression that laughter can be such a brilliant medicine in difficult or trying times. So can a sense of community. Of being around people who are having the same shared experience as you. It’s important to feel that as a new parent.
I’m not the only one who thinks so. Mum and baby gigs are happening all over the UK. Comedian Hatty Ashdown who has a toddler and another baby on the way, hosts her Screaming with Laughter parent and baby comedy gigs across London. Comedians Carly Smallman and Alyssa Kyria run BYOB: Bring Your Own Baby comedy clubs in venues in London, the south-west and in the Midlands. There are others as well popping up all over the place, all giving mums somewhere to go with their little ones without the incy wincy spiders, maracas or hello songs. Just brilliant comedians.
I’m now working with the Gilded Balloon bringing Mum’s the Word to Edinburgh every couple of months. The next one is running at the Rose Theatre on Rose Street tomorrow and if you are a parent with a little one you should come down. Have an exhausted giggle. No high vis jacket or hard hat required.
The next Mum’s the Word gig is at The Basement Theatre, The Rose Theatre, Edinburgh tomorrow at 1pm, hosted by Katie Mulgrew. Parents with babies (grandparents, friends, aunties, uncles and nannies; as long as you are accompanied by a baby) welcome. There is an 18 months old and under rule for the babies as comedians will be performing their usual stand-up set. You’re welcome to bring children over that age but please note the sets may include swearing and adult content. Tickets for the grown-ups are £10/£8 concession (babies go free) can be purchased online or on the door. For more information visit gildedballoon.co.uk/whats-on-this-week/