A shopping mall might be the last place you’d expect to find a vibrant standup comedy scene, but Shonda O’Neal had a vision and a story to tell.
At 6 feet tall with heels, the striking 49-year-old single mom from Dallas with blonde hair and a Texas drawl, O’Neal was not shy when she walked in to an open audition at Music City Mall Lewisville.
Her talent? Standup comedy.
The rest is history. Her Clean Comedy Show every second Saturday of the month routinely draws as many as 200 people to the Grand Stage at Music City Mall.
O’Neal is now focused on a different kind of comedy show – an all mom performers set just before Mother’s Day.
“There’s not a lot of comedy moms out there,” O’Neal said. “I knew there were stories to be told, and we want to be real and relatable to people.”
That relatability is easy to find for O’Neal and the three other moms performing in the Mother’s Day show. Much of their standup material is written based on personal life experiences – both good and bad.
“I wanted our stories to get out there that we’ve had bad things happen and we talk about them and laugh about them,” O’Neal said.
Even as a victim of rape, O’Neal said comedy helped her face that traumatic experience.
“We’ve had crappy lives, we’ve had things beat us down, but we’re still moms, wives and mothers,” O’Neal said. “I wanted to be inspirational. I don’t want people in the audience to think we have it all together.”
Healing through laughter
Britainy Goss wrote her first jokes while battling breast cancer.
“I had a guy call me sir by mistake because of my bald head. My daughter said, ‘Mom, don’t cry, this is hilarious. When will you ever get the opportunity to be called sir again?’”
Comedy became her lifeline in a dark time.
“I take my tragic and painful situations and make them funny,” Goss said. “There is healing in the laughter. I also want people to know there is hope and you will get through the hard times.”
“I think healing through laughter is the best way to heal, I don’t know if it’s the easiest, but it’s the best,” said Comedy Mom Megan King.
‘We’re the only people that can talk about kids!’
“I think moms have a unique perspective that nobody else has,” said Angela Owen-Walker, who – without revealing her age – has the most life experience of the Comedy Moms.
“Only a mom can get up and say, ‘There’s not enough duct tape in the world for children!’” she said. “Dads don’t get to talk bad about their kids.”
Owen-Walker is trying to break into the vibrant comedy club scene in DFW. It’s not without its pitfalls – especially with an age gap between her and the audience.
“I want to get up every single time and go, ‘No, this is not a ministry. I am not trying to minister to you.’”
Owen-Walker worked as a hairdresser for 35 years and raised her kids before discovering her new love for comedy.
“I walked into a comedy class, and for the first time in my life it was like finding your tribe,” Owen-Walker said before another quip. “Comedy is what I’ve been doing for the last 35 years behind the chair – now I just have an audience of alcoholics.”
Divorce, addiction, motherhood – comedy got her through it all
If you ask Magen King about her childhood, she’ll be open with you – it was “crazy.” King saw firsthand the pain of her parent’s divorce and a drug-addicted father. Then came the biggest challenge of her own life – motherhood.
“I haven’t dealt with everything that’s happened to me – but comedy has really helped me,” King said.
Now her goal is to make comedy a full-time job – something she is scratching at while still working as a freelance actor and voice-over artist.
“I hope my kids realize they can make a living off of doing their passion,” King said. “That’s my goal for them to know.”
When it came time to pose for a photo shoot for the upcoming show, O’Neal insisted on two very specific scenes – expectation and reality.
“That was the spoof on the picture. The ‘Vanity Fair’ cover photo is all glamorized, but the second take is reality,” O’Neal said. “Down under we’re real moms, trying to get through life and struggles like everyone else. I wanted our stories to get out there that we’ve had bad things happen, and we talk about them and we laugh about them.”
You can laugh along with Owen-Walker, O’Neal, Goss and King at 6 p.m. May 11 at Music City Mall Lewisville. More details at mcmlewisville.com.