Podcast hosts of #IMOMSOHARD Kristen Hensley and Jen Smedley had many opportunities to meet each other before they finally did. They both went to school in Lincoln, Nebraska, where they studied the same topics and had overlapping friend groups. They both moved to L.A. and performed standup at many of the same theaters. The near-misses all came to an end one night when Hensley was invited to go to a comedy show.
“I saw this very funny blonde girl on stage dressed in a lot of pink. We had beers in the parking lot after the show and realized we were both from Nebraska, and that was it,” Hensley recalls. “We were talking at such a high pitch that dogs were barking all over the neighborhood."
The connections didn’t end there: The next day, Hensley and Smedley met for coffee and discovered they lived a block away from each other and both drove Mini Coopers. They became best friends, and throughout the next few years saw each other meet their husbands and have kids. Newfound motherhood inspired Hensley and Smedley to combine their comedy with the #IMOMSOHARD web series five years ago, and it was wildly popular. The series evolved into the podcast, which they launched in 2020.
“We're comedians and always looking at things with an eye for how things can be funny, and that was heightened when we became mothers," Hensley says. "It feels very lonely, and you think that you’re sort of terrible at it all the time. But if you have a friend going through the same thing, they help you understand that it’s totally normal, that there’s nothing you’ve experienced that someone else hasn’t experienced before.
"It has nothing to do with being a comedian. It has to do with friendship," she continues. "But that’s what lit the fire.”
The success of the #IMOMSOHARD partnership has a lot to do with the two friends' comedy and effortless interaction. It’s led to a standup comedy special on Amazon Prime, a New York Times best-selling book, a series of children’s books, and branded deals with Walmart, Unilever and other Fortune 500 companies. They've also had two sold-out national tours, and are stopping in Denver on Sunday, January 30, for their latest. Tickets are still available, but selling fast.
#IMOMSOHARD all began with a single video on Facebook. “That first video was supposed to just be an introductory thing,” Smedley recalls. “Kristen introduced herself, gave her kids’ names and ages, and I introduced myself and completely forgot my daughter’s name. And as any good friend and real asshole will do, Kristen laughed uncontrollably.”
“I’m gonna be honest,” Hensley interjects. “I peed my pants. It was the universe immediately getting back at me.”
“We posted it, and the video just took off from there,” says Smedley. “It got shared and shared and shared.”
That humble beginning defines the spirit of the #IMOMSOHARD performances, no matter the medium, which have sparked an online community of over 2 million parents seeking laughs, a little compassion and a lot of commiseration. Their videos spanned all the things that go along with being a mom, but aren't often talked about, such as, “hemorrhoids, nipple hair, sex after marriage, mom bods, Spanx, wedding dresses and swimsuits.”
Social media was not only the platform for Hensley and Smedley — it was also the impetus. “I remember feeling so terrible about what people were posting on social media about what motherhood was or should be," Smedley says. "Kristen and I were like, ‘I can’t get my family to all wear white and run on the beach for a photo. ... How the fuck is everybody doing this?'"
Hensley and Smedley say they’re always excited to get out and see their fans, but coming to Denver is almost like coming home for them. “Since we lived in Nebraska, Denver is like a hometown show," Hensley explains. "We always went to Denver for family trips. When we do a Denver show, like half the audience is my cousins.” Smedley says she’s looking forward to visiting Bear Creek Distillery, since it was started by one of her friends.
But ultimately, their show isn't about what city they perform in. It’s about moms. “And more and more, dads, too,” Smedley adds. They both agree that the pandemic years have brought more men into their audience.
“Husbands always liked the show,” Hensley says, “but now they’ve had a chance to experience what moms have for a long time because they’ve had to stay at home to work.”
“Now we all get to experience how universal parenting is,” says Smedley. “It doesn’t matter how powerful the person sitting across the desk from you might be: If they have kids, we all have a story about how they got out of the house late because one of their children couldn’t find a shoe. It doesn’t matter what personal woes you have, because your kid will still demand a snack in the middle of your heart surgery.”
“It’s good, too,” Hensley adds. “It sort of shows you that life does go on. The kids are our common denominator. That’s why we do this show."
Kristen Hensley and Jen Smedley of #IMOMSOHARD at the Paramount Theatre, 1621 Glenarm Place, Sunday, January 30. Tickets are $49.75 to $59.75. See the website for more information.