Veronica Mosey has amassed considerable credits and a reputation for not holding back with her feelings onstage.
A fixture in the New York City comedy clubs and on the road, multiple guest spots opining on FOX News, performances on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and Live at Gotham, daytime appearances with Oprah and Dr. Phil, and festivals across the country and internationally, from Montreal to Stockholm and the former HBO festivals in Aspen and Las Vegas.
This was Mosey’s set six months ago performing on Gotham Comedy Live on AXS TV:
But she didn’t experience the joy of impending motherhood until hitting age 40.
And more recently, Mosey said she has suffered from the “overwhelming and extremely painful experience” of discrimination by continuing to perform while pregnant. She expressed her frustrations last week via social media, writing: “My new material works very well with both women and men and I only touch on the pregnancy for about three minutes before moving on to other topics. Yet a few clubs haven’t booked me AT ALL since I started talking about my big stomach 3 months ago.”
It’s a story that Carole Montgomery identifies with — she told Mosey and The Comic’s Comic that “nothing has changed in the 21 years since I’ve had my son” in terms of that type of discrimination.
Carey Reilly, a regular guest for both Wendy Williams and HLN, told Mosey that she was a series regular on one show but never heard from her agent again after telling him she was pregnant.
The Comic’s Comic followed up with Mosey to find out more.
How have you changed your act, if any, to talk about the elephant in the room which is the fetus in your womb?
“I basically address the pregnancy for the first four minutes of my set and then I move on. Much like a comic with a disability would. I talk about things people can relate to, like naming a kid in today’s trendy way. “Nobody likes traditional names anymore. I know a family who has twin girls named ‘Gunner’ and ‘Stryker.’ Of course, for some reason, their dog’s name is ‘Kevin.'”
When exactly did you start to notice that bookers and club owners were treating you differently? And in what ways did they do so? Have you noticed a change in how audiences perceive you onstage as a pregnant performer vs. before?
“I worked consistently at certain clubs — at least three weekend nights per month — and suddenly stopped getting booked after early August when my belly was just too big to ignore. Up until that time I basically hid it and just did my regular act. I asked Linda Rohe who books Dangerfield’s what was happening and she assured me it had nothing to do with my pregnancy, that the owner was just “mixing it up” and adding new people. First, a pregnant comic is a great way to mix things up. Second, considering this is a club that hasn’t changed its decor or its waiters since the mid-1960s, mixing things up isn’t really their forte. After not getting booked again for another few weeks, I called to follow up. Linda’s assistant answered the phone and I asked to speak with Linda. I was put on hold and then told that she had laryngitis and couldn’t speak to me. I had no idea I caused laryngitis to flare up on the spot. She never called me back. I also called and left two messages for the owner of the club and he never called me back either. Can I prove it? Nope. But whether its woman’s or mother’s intuition, considering Tony is an ultra-conservative, I wouldn’t be surprised if this is just a case of old-school thinking that pregnant people shouldn’t really be out and about. Strangely enough, I was on Red Eye on FOX News a few weeks ago. Not only did they point out my pregnancy a few times, they joked about it and had no issue with airing it.
I haven’t been booked at Stand-Up New York either. But I don’t think that’s about the pregnancy. I was told the booker was going with “younger acts.” So, at the dinosaur age of 40, that’s another category I can’t do much about. Louis CK isn’t exactly a young comic. Neither are most of the men booked. But women, of course, max out at around 32-years-old and must talk excessively about rape and sex. Basically, if a female comic is so busy getting laid that she doesn’t have any time to write jokes, she’ll get the job. Being funny isn’t as important as being fuckable. And most of the audience, especially married people who have grown kids and the money to afford the cover and two drink minimum, REALLY appreciate rape jokes. Any jokes about marriage or kids nobody wants to hear about. Maybe if I write an “I got pregnant when I got raped but the guy was cute so double bonus, riiiiiight?” joke, I’d get more spots.
The Comedy Cellar, on the other hand, continues to book me. Noam Dworman, the owner, thinks it’s hilarious and unique to see a pregnant woman onstage. And audiences love it. I have had both men and women come up to me after shows and say “It is so different to hear a pregnant woman get up and say whatever she wants.” I think people are only used to seeing pregnant women in stretch-mark cream ads and/or shows about adoption and teen parenthood. You NEVER see anything funny about pregnancy and there is a lot to laugh about!”
What have you learned from other comedians who are now mothers about their careers before/during/after pregnancy? Who have you spoken to among comedy moms about this? Comedians aren’t like other workers who have regular job benefits such as health insurance (not yet Obamacare!), vacation or maternity leave. So what has been your thought process about booking gigs up until your due date?
“Laurie Kilmartin has been a big influence on my continuing to pursue the biz. I asked her how she does it with her son in tow. She said “I made more money after I had my son than I did in most of my career!” Of course, she’s writing for Conan now and I applaud her. Most Mom-comics get along well. Its just a balancing act like any other job. But its difficult with most of the work coming at night time. Having a helpful and understanding partner or reliable babysitter definitely helps.
Of course, this also has to do with money. Not just emotions. For clubs to pull spots right before I’m going to be out for at least a few months really stresses me out. I know I’m not the only person to go through this. Black comics, Asian comics, Women comics, any unique act — all have been told to their faces “We don’t really use (insert minority here) comics at the club.” Showbiz is the ONLY business that can really get away with such blatant discrimination.”
This is Veronica Mosey now, circa October 2013, in a short film she just released, “From Here To Maternity.”
Veronica Mosey is due to give birth Dec. 2, 2013.
3 thoughts on “Joking for Two, Gigs for None? Veronica Mosey and the plight of the pregnant stand-up comedian”
Great interview. I agree (as much as a guy not capable of getting pregnant can agree) with Veronica’s sentiments. What I find sort of hilarious is this idea that you have to be “Young and hip” to be worthy. Veronica’s comments are spot on – from a clear marketing perspective, if more bookers really understood their audience and new audiences (i.e. – those with money, looking for a good time, disposable income, etc), it would change the whole dynamic and they wouldn’t be so dependent on bringer shows to force people to come. This is an industry in desperate need of some new and innovative thinking. I started a show on Wednesday nights and had over 50 people at the first one – all geared toward professional comedy – not squeaky clean, but not vulgar – and the buzz has been great because there is a real need for it. Just because people age, get into long-term relationships, have kids etc doesn’t mean they don’t want to laugh – there are just to much of the same thing around and geared toward one type of audience only.
A billion years ago when I was pregnant, there were less female comics in general. I was told by an industry insider that I was ruining my career by having a kid. Six months after he was born, I was on the Showtime Comedy Allstars. I saw nothing wrong with going onstage and talking about it. I got a lot of complaints about how vulgar I was talking about sex…….when of course that’s what got me pregnant in the first place. I took my baby with me for the first nine months, I got everything from you can’t bring a baby into the bar…he’s under 21 to having tattooed bouncers wanting to hold him.
As far as discrimination is concerned, the ageist attitude that is rampant in our business is sad. Most comics start to really do shine after living life for awhile as opposed to just popping out of the womb and climbing onstage. Though NYC would like to think it’s the only place in the world with great comedy, at some point you have to be able to entertain the masses and that includes people over 40. The reason companies like Netflix are kicking ass is that they are making programming for everyone, not just the 18-25 demo.
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