Theater & Arts

#IMOMSOHARD thrills Lemoore ‘Navy b****es,’ mountain moms and more

Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley of #IMOMSOHARD
Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley of #IMOMSOHARD Luther Burbank Center of the Arts

This may come as a complete shock, but as a 28-year-old man I don’t mom very hard.

As such, I had no idea what to expect from the #IMOMSOHARD Mom’s Night Out tour stop at Fresno’s Saroyan Theatre. I knew basically nothing about Kristin Hensley and Jen Smedley, the two women behind the hugely popular Facebook page, before walking into the theater.

And what an interesting walk that was.

The night began at nearby Umi Sushi. My girlfriend noticed I was the only man in the restaurant not rolling raw fish. I began to hear the odd word from ambient conversations – “car seat,” “C-section” – and noticed a bottle of white wine had been massacred not four feet from me.

This was a pregame. A mom pregame.

As we picked up our tickets, a very nice group of women remarked that I must be the most confident man in Fresno to attend the show. What a flattering but terrifying comment. What’s going to happen in there? Will I survive?

One of the women said her husband told her as she left the house that she looked so good he worried someone may hit on her.

“There won’t be anyone to hit on me,” she said with a laugh.

As we lined up, I locked eyes with another man – the first of a few such exchanges – and wondered if a casual fist bump among strangers would be appropriate. I decided against it.

Inside was about what I expected. Throngs of women – some sipping pink drinks and wearing matching shirts – were talking in the intermission area. I would conservatively put the ratio of men to women at 1:100.

As I sat down, I was conscious of my manspreading. I have pretty long legs. I usually try to keep it in check but was aware that a failure to do so in this scenario could be fatal.

The theater was still filling as a video of Smedley and Hensley began the show. It was clips of from their YouTube channel, I think, but the volume was too low for me to make out what they were saying.

The audience erupted as the analog versions of Smedley and Hensley hit the stage. They were much easier to hear, and I was struck by how different they are. Hensley exploded with energy, while Smedley remained relatively still and delivered her jokes as a wonderful deadpan counterweight to her boisterous partner.

It was clear this was a scripted, rehearsed performance by professionals. I did not know until after the show that both Smedley and Hensley are working comedy writers and actresses. Hensley has acted in “Parks and Recreation” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.”

The show started a little slow, but the moms hooked the audience with a hilarious bit about “Game of Thrones” star Jason Momoa. Smedley’s delivery in particular sealed it.

By this point, every seat I could see in the orchestra section had been filled. If it wasn’t a sellout, it was close.

Hensley and Smedley then descended upon the audience to snatch up as many “mom bags” as they could. They then spent about 20 minutes digging through these strangers’ purses and riffing, which put the entire audience – myself included – in stitches. We would not have been mad if they just rifled through bags for the remaining 90 minutes. It was the highlight of the show.

The performance focused almost entirely on issues pertaining to women and motherhood, but I didn’t need first-hand knowledge of either to enjoy it. Hensley and Smedley are genuinely funny people with great comedic timing. I imagine either could make any subject funny to anyone.

That said, there was a wave of menstruation jokes that seemed particularly funny to the hundreds of women on all sides of me. I laughed, but it was sort of a nervous laugh that said “is it OK for me to laugh or should I sit this one out?” I spotted the stage-right usher in the same conundrum.

I explained this to my girlfriend. She laughed. “Yes, neither is correct.”

There also was a moment in which Hensley and Smedley described in graphic detail “what happens to your body after having kids that no one tells you about.” I felt the icy gaze of my girlfriend, who is pregnant with our first child, peer deep inside me. “May my death be quick and painless,” I thought.

The moms did a great job of transitioning between scripted routines and improvisation. In addition to the purse search, they also read questions from the audience.

This bit certainly jazzed up the crowd, but I found it more informative than funny. For instance, I did not know people from Nebraska have considerable difficulty saying Visalia. I also was surprised to learn of a group in attendance self-identified as the “Navy Bitches,” who are apparently the wives of sailors at Lemoore Naval Air Station. There was another group of about 60 women known as the “Mountain Moms.” I would love to hear their stories.

I had no idea what to expect from #IMOMSOHARD, but I ended up having a great time. I laughed deeply and often. Did I learn some things that will haunt my dreams? Probably, but it was worth it.