What It’s *Really* Like To Be A Momedian

Jessica Delfino
5 min readOct 19, 2023
This Mom just told this baby a great joke. Photo by Raul Angel on Unsplash

In 1998 or so, I got bit by the stand up comedy bug after performing on an open mic in Philly. There’s no spray for that. I can’t really explain what it was that I liked about it, or what kept me coming back, because it was petrifying. I was a shaky, sweaty, nervous mess. But I stuck to my rough set list, got a few laughs and felt determined to return to the stage a few days later for some self-torturous reason.

Fast forward 2 decades, I’m still performing, but things are a little different now.

For starters, I have 0.0% stage fright anymore. This is a good and a bad thing; a little jitters keep a performer on their toes, and plus, the jitters can be kind of fun — they’re a callback to that feeling you get as a teenager going to meet your crush at the mall with your hair poorly styled, coolest shirt on, hair crisp with product, doused in too much of some god awful scent.

Next, I’ve done just about everything I set out to do in comedy— I’ve brushed elbows with, become friends with and performed alongside countless celebrities and heroes including Joan Rivers, Howard Stern, Janeane Garofalo, Jim Gaffigan, and of course, bla bla bla. I’ve performed and toured all over the place, winning over and alienating audiences around the world. I’ve been invited to participate in many of the bigger bucket list comedy festivals — let’s not think about that I was paid less than my male counterparts to be there for now; the point is, I was there. I’ve had national TV appearances on shows both the famous and the forgotten. I’ve been glowingly reviewed in countless known and unknown publications. I’ve missed a few goals, too, and have had some heartbreaking experiences. I’ve blown amazing opportunities for no good reason other than I was young and dumb. I’ve made powerful enemies with comedians who saw me as a threat or who I wouldn’t sleep with. I’ve seen really talented friends quit and lose their lives while pursuing this crazy dream. Drugs and alcohol are nasty accessories that this industry is rife with, and unfortunately serve as payment or partial payment for many (especially newer) acts. I’ve had close calls to some very big breaks but I never really got mine.

In the 20 teens, I got tired of the comedy grind and decided it was time for a new grind — the one where I start a family. I had a baby, a couple years before the pandemic, but I was not quite prepared for what that would entail. It was by far the hardest gig I’ve ever had; one where there was a much smaller supportive audience cheering me on, way fewer peers who admired my work and wanted to see me win, and my biggest fan was a baby who screamed all the time and refused to sleep.

Being a mom who is pursuing comedy has its pros and cons. The cons are, there’s never enough time to do all the things I want to do, leaving town for shows is more complicated and way more expensive than it ever used to be, and I feel a need to be more careful about the content I create, because other parents are watching and judging. I doubt that most male comedians share these as their own concerns. Pros are, my time is used much more carefully and efficiently, i.e., I feel like I get a lot more done in a smaller time frame than I ever used to, my kids get to see me pursue my passions and both win and lose which provides valuable lessons for them, and in my opinion, making them laugh counts as stage time. (It’s some of the only stage time I get most days!) They’re not a terribly easy or forgiving audience, either. Sometimes when I try to make my son laugh, he will say, “Not funny, try again!”

Being a mom comedian appears to be much more challenging than being a dad comedian. I’m not sure why. Probably because of some societal bullshit. But I do see that changing, and especially in situations where parents are both comedians. They understand the others’ need to get in front of an audience more innately than say, if one parent worked in IT and the other was a comedian.

Being a momedian brings more judgment, as well. As I mentioned, I feel obligated to soften my material for a number of reasons. I’m being watched and judged in a way that dadmedians simply are not. The double standard is real, dense and intense. It’s not so bad — before I was like a wild animal on the stage in terms of material. I’d go deep into topics that were taboo to the nth power. That isn’t what America is interested in, anyway, even with WAP and Amy Schumer topping the charts. Our puritanical foundation is too prevalent to allow for true mainstream exploration of the fringes, and it’s too bad, because it could do society some real good to allow space for that. I do see some movement in that direction, but it might be too little too late or the direction might be slightly off course. Now, the future of the planet and the planet’s health is or should be front and center of all of our minds. Although I am not denying that black maternal health and male aggression are two totally legit and important places to explore. Comedy is one way that society grows; it’s a pathway for ideas to permeate the zeitgeist and create change. Momedians like myself are always going to be at the forefront of that, because we are thinkers, doers, and makers. We have less time which we have to do more in.

Momedians are bad asses.

So, yeah. Basically, that’s what it’s like.

It’s also like this

Jessica Delfino is a comedian, writer, musician and mom who tries to balance her time between momming and performing. Her book Dumb Jokes For Smart Folks was a #1 Amazon bestseller. She has performed at festivals across the world, including Just For Laughs, SXSW, Reading and Leeds, Nell’s Bells and more. Follow her on Instagram @JessicaDelfino. Buy her dirty folk rock songs wherever music is sold.



Jessica Delfino

I write about life with 1 husband, 2 kids, 1 cat, sometimes funny. Instagram.com/JessicaDelfino Bylines: TheNew Yorker, The NY Times, The Atlantic, McSweeney’s.