No heckling from the crowd. 23-month-old Roman Booth plays while mum Jay listens to Hawke’s Bay comedian Karen Leslie (right). Photo / Warren Buckland
Have you ever wanted to go to a comedy show but struggled to get a babysitter? Or are you a caregiver looking for something a bit more exciting than your bog-standard playgroup?
Hawke’s Bay comedian and improviser Emma Bowyer thinks she’s found the perfect solution for you. She has launched Aotearoa’s first baby-friendly daytime comedy show.
It’s a seemingly tough crowd. Getting the giggles out of both parents and children is a mammoth task but Bowyer says there a lot more to it than just the laughs.
A mother of three herself and owner of improv company Flaming Mojo, she said the idea came from similar events overseas that looked to provide a safe space for caregivers to enjoy themselves with their kids.
“This is about mums and caregivers being isolated and not having enough for them. I thought, why can’t we do comedy gigs? Make it child friendly and do it during the day so they can bring their kids,” she told Hawke’s Bay Today.
There’s still the usual tea, coffee and cake on offer, but unlike any ordinary playgroup there’s also bright lights, beanbags and a whole lot of jokes. Parents are free to breastfeed, change and look after their children in a welcoming, no-judgement environment.
“Comedy is good for the soul. It’s well documented that it’s really good for everybody’s mental health,” Bowyer said.
While the comedy itself is targeted at adults, Bowyer said there would always be an element of kid-friendly humour and interaction in the mix.
“The material is for [the caregivers] to have a laugh. It’s not for the kids but being a mum myself I can’t help it.
“We play and we encourage, and we support the kids being there. We talk to them, and we might even play a little song or do something fun so they feel comfortable as well and want the be here so the caregivers can relax and enjoy themselves.”
A small but buzzing crowd was at the first event on Friday morning at Arthur Richards Hall in Napier, which included performances from Bowyer and local comedians Karen Leslie and Sundeia Lomberg.
“I’ve got kids myself,” Lomberg told Hawke’s Bay Today.
“I think it’s quite a novel idea to have something for mums to come out to, so thought it was a great thing to support.”
In their sets, the three comedians mused on the challenges of motherhood, the beauty of nicknames as well a few cleverly disguised puns.
On the odd occasion, there was a “stop-and-think” moment about whether the parents should cover the kid’s ears, but the two professionals masterfully meddled with their wordplay to please both tough audiences.
Gintarė McLean was one of the first people to arrive at the hall with her one-year-old daughter Daynora.
She said a friend had told her about the idea and she thought it would be a great way to spend her day off.
“I wish I knew about it myself,” she said.
“Often you can’t go to events like this with kids, so it’s awesome that we can spend the time together because Friday is my day off and we always do something special.”
Bowyer said the event at Arthur Richards Hall would continue to run on the last Friday of every month at 10.30am.
“I’m hoping that word of mouth will spread, and we get maybe 30 people on average.
“I think this is going to be really popular. The feedback I’ve had is that it’s something that people want to do.”
Tickets are $5 on the door.
Mitchell Hageman joined Hawke’s Bay Today in late January. From his Napier base, he writes regularly on social issues, arts and culture, and the community. He has a particular love for stories about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.