Shayna Ferm, a prodigal Coloradan who's returned from years in the New York comedy scene, hosts and organizes a monthly show called Pump and Dump, designed to engage young moms and provide a sorely needed evening of fun. Ferm, a young mother herself, was frustrated by the lack of entertainment opportunities for new moms and created a show specifically suited to their unique needs. In doing so, she has not identified an underserved demographic, but brought cathartic laughs to many overstressed local mothers.
In advance of Saturday night's show at Local 46, we met with Ferm to discuss Pump and Dump, moving back to Denver and the Highlands Mommy mafia.
Westword: How did the Pump and Dump show come together?
Shayna Ferm: I've been doing comedy and producing shows for the last twelve years, and when I got here I had kept my eye out for opportunities. I was at Local 46 right when they opened, and I saw that they had a stage and they were in my neighborhood and I knew the owner through a friend, so I thought that would be a good place to approach about doing a show. I actually thought of the idea for Pump and Dump in a conversation with a friend out at Local 46, so they've been unknowingly involved all along. I met a friend who's also a new mother, and we went out to get a drink because I could now, finally, and I think this was the first time I'd been out drinking since my son was born. We realized how huge the parenting community in the Highlands area is.
Seriously, the Highland Mommies listserv is a phenomenon, it's wonderful, I read it every day. Sometimes it's inspiring, sometimes it's severely disturbing and sometimes both at once. Anyway, my friend and I were talking about how we wish there were more opportunities for new moms to just chill out, have a drink and a laugh, just take it easy because they seem so worked-up sometimes. It's not their fault that parenting is so hard, and extremely fucked-up and funny. A few days later I was in the shower, because it's the only place I have like five minutes to myself, and I was still pumping milk at the time, and I thought, what if we have a show called the Pump and Dump that's a talk show, and we'd be the jerks no one wants to be, saying the things that everyone's really feeling but can't say in polite company. The first show was in October. The Mother's Day event is our fifth, and it gets bigger each time.
Why did you decide to move back to Denver?
Well, I grew up in Denver, my parents still live here. I always knew I'd leave New York. It wasn't a place I wanted to raise kids or grow old. I had such a love affair with New York; I think that everyone who lives there does, and I had my first child there. But the affair ended. We went on a family trip and when we got back after a couple weeks, we felt like crying.
I never regret leaving, I could not have had a second baby there. The comedy community here is so inspiring, I feel excited to be meeting all the people involved here. I get paid more here, and there are more shows available for me to do. Back in New York, for like a year, I was dragging my baby to auditions like three times a week: Commercials are a decent way to make a living as a performer in New York, and it was awful. I would have to hand my baby off to someone in the lobby and hope she didn't cry while I walk into a room and recite dumb ad copy, saying dumb copy like "I love bagels" over and over; meanwhile there's spit-up all over my wrinkled clothes and I haven't showered. There was also a stigma as a mom and I was auditioning for older and older roles, which I didn't feel like it fit. I get to do graphic design work from home here, which is a mixed blessing to be sure. I never get a break from parenting. Sitting here with you, this is the first time I've been away from my kids all week.
Can you describe the upcoming event?
This is our special Mother's Day eve performance, which we're starting earlier and holding on a Saturday so we can have a dance party afterward. I had the idea a few months ago; I got really stoned with a friend of mine who brought me to an event, and people were dancing so I danced for the first time in forever and I danced my balls off. I had the best time ever. I had the thought that there's nowhere you can go dancing in Denver before eleven o'clock, which is too late for most moms to be out. So there will be a 7 p.m. Pump and Dump performance and then an 8:30 DJ, so moms can come dance early and still be home by midnight. The next day is Mother's Day, anyway, so let the dads get up with the babies.
Were you surprised by the response from what appears to be a underserved niche market?
We're surprised and not surprised. We knew that there were a lot of women who needed something like this, but the response has been overwhelming. The show is bigger each month. Moms come up to us afterward and thank us, saying that this is the first time they've been out post-partum, and there will be these groups of moms who get together at our shows. We're all in this together, which is important to realize because motherhood can make you feel so isolated, so alone. It's nice to have someone who can relate, and come together by laughing at something fucked up. That's not to say that we offer therapy. If anything, it's more like commiseration.
Do people bring their kids?
No kids allowed. There's a lot of cursing involved.
That could be a whole dual revenue stream for you guys, you could offer daycare service and comedy.
It's at 8 p.m. Most kids are in bed by then. What's the show like?
We always have a headlining comedian who's a mom or a dad. It's Jodee Champion this month. I always perform music; I have an EP of mom songs. The first song is called "Eat Your Fucking Food." I write songs that are completely inappropriate, just for being in public, but especially as a mom. You feel so guilty about everything. I feel like when moms hear that other moms are kind of shitty at mothering, too, it makes everyone feel better. I am a good mom, but I do stupid things sometimes, and there's so much pressure to get everything right and not let your baby eat honey or peanut butter.
Do you think your show offers some kind of catharsis?:
There's something lovely about hearing people say things that you could never say. A relief to be able to laugh about it. At the beginning of each show, we hand out notecards asking the audience to write down the most fucked-up thing their kid has done this month, and we go through them and read the funniest ones to the audience. That really sets the tone for women who haven't been before. Some of them are mind-blowing. Babies are fucked-up, motherhood is fucked-up, breast-feeding is super fucked-up, there's so much that's fucked-up about being a parent. It's gross. Children are disgusting. Anyway, we give away a lot of prizes. We play "I have never" for a prize, and basically the woman who admits to being the worst mom gets a bottle of wine.
Can I hear a few sample 'I have nevers'?
Never have I ever picked a piece of shit out of my kid's diaper because I was too lazy to change the whole thing. That was a winner. Never have I ever had sex with the sleeping baby in the room? Never have I ever tasted someone else's breast milk?
Gross. Is it mostly women showing up then?
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We get a few men, dads usually. We call them "mother-fuckers." We give them all prizes just for being there, but they have to say something appreciative about their baby mamas first. We have sponsors, and we get a lot of donations from local companies, mostly mom stuff and wine. The Mother's Day Eve Pump and Dump starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, May 11 at Local 46. Find more information on the Pump and Dump Facebook page.