Alyce in Laughland
Let me paint a picture for you: It was a beautiful Sunday morning. Not only was it not raining, but the sun was shining and it wasn’t too hot yet. I was sitting at the table on my patio drinking a cup of hot coffee. And though I was physically alone (read: no kids), virtually I was in great conversation with comedian Alyce Chan. You might know her as @momcomnyc, where her Reels about motherhood and parenting young children are comedy gold. Alyce was telling me about the round about path that led her to comedy, how she carves out moments for her creative work, and why her weirdness is her superpower. As a mom of two (including a newborn) the fact that I was enjoying a hot cup of coffee on a sunny day with someone like Alyce was downright idyllic. There’s nothing that puts me at ease quite like commiserating with another mom about the ups and downs of motherhood. Just as I felt my shoulders relaxing, as I shook off the exhaustion from the middle-of-the-night feedings, all of a sudden the door to my kitchen opened and a little voice from behind me interrupted our chat. “Mama, I have to go poop.” I looked at Alyce and we both laughed.
CP: I have to go poop. I mean, is that perfect material for you or what?
AC: Totally. I love it. I love that you’re in the thick of it. I’m a little out of it now, I don’t have to wipe. We just have to remind them.
CP: Yeah, I feel like that’s the next hurdle of her independence. I tell her she can go anywhere and do anything in life if she can wipe her own butt.
AC: Oh, I love that motto. Survival skills for sure.
CP: So, tell me about your family.
AC: I have two boys who were fighting horrendously this morning, nine and six years old. We live in the suburbs and my husband works from home. I was born in California and moved to Canada when I was a baby, so I identify as a Canadian. Then I moved to New York. It was supposed to be a one-year stint, then it became 18 years. So I’m stuck here.
CP: How did you get your start in comedy? How did
@momcomnyc come to be?
AC: I studied economics and I thought I’d go into either business or accounting or whatever. Then I worked at a bank for five years, and my parents were proud of that. And then I quit to do a one year intensive school in graphic design, web design and filmmaking. I moved to New York for a graphic design job, and then took acting classes. I was always kind of a lazy actor—I took acting classes, and I would do headshots, but only mail out like five or 10. You’re supposed to mail out hundreds to different agencies. But I also knew I’m in my late 20s, I’m Asian, no one’s going to hire me as the star of a movie or a TV show. I’d just be cast for commercials and that’s not my dream, so I quit acting school but I started doing improv comedy. I loved comedy, but I wasn’t good at improv. Someone told me to try stand-up instead, so I took a class at Caroline’s, at Gotham’s Comedy Club, and Comedy Cellar.
CP: Those are like the three best clubs in New York City.
AC: Right. The first show I did was at Caroline’s, and there was a comedian named Judah Friedlander, he worked on 30Rock. He does 20 minutes on stage, killed it. I had no idea who he was but we were talking before my set. I was like, How long have you been doing this? Oh, wow, 22 years. Good for you. And then I did my set and bombed. The manager of the club gave me some tips to make it better, but then said, I just want to let you know Judah Friedlander stayed for your set, he hardly stays for anyone’s set, and he said that you had good content. So because of that, I felt like I should keep going. And then we became friends afterwards.
CP: It’s amazing what a few kind, encouraging words can do right?
AC: So I kept going, and I did all these really bad shows. Open mics are hard because it’s after work, sometimes it’d be in the back room of a bar, which at 6pm is like, super quiet. Maybe there’s two dudes there. And then it got harder when I was pregnant with my first and I was in a room with guys who are 20-somethings. I was like, I don’t think I want to do this anymore. So I stopped for three and a half years and it was all about me and my baby. But I felt like something was missing. I started to do graphic design again, and photography. And then I had my second baby. And I still felt like there was something missing. We lived in Greenpoint, a block away there was a comedy show going on. I walked by every month, and every Friday night was an all-women’s open mic.
CP: Just for context, what year is this?
AC: It was 2017. So I went to a show. My son was like, three months at that point. You know, newborn phase, you’re going crazy, with your second especially, and I felt all these feelings resurfacing. I felt like I had to do comedy again. I go talk to the host like, Hi, I used to do comedy. And she’s like, Okay, when do you want to perform? And I was like, Wait, what, me? Okay, when do you have available? And she’s like, How about two months from now? So I start going to open mics again, just to kind of get my brain back, and then I did the show. I had some friends come and I loved the feeling again.
CP: How does your content at that point compare to the content you were doing before you had your kid?
AC: Great question. Same content. I was doing cat content, ex boyfriend content. Totally not me. I had no new content, I was just reverting to the way I was prior to being a mom. I had good dirty jokes. Dirty jokes always fly, always. It’s never the best way because they’re cheap jokes.
After a four year hiatus, I figured if no one’s gonna put me in their show I’m going to produce my own show. I thought it would be nice if I could do comedy with my baby, and other moms could also bring their babies. So I thought of BYOB: Bring Your Own Baby comedy. I put that idea to a bookstore in Greenpoint and they said yes. They have a children’s section and a performance stage. I made it so that women felt supported and safe in a place where they could breastfeed their baby, formula feed their baby, change the diapers in the middle of a set, have the baby even crawl up to the stage without anyone batting an eye. I had sanitized toys, cookies for the moms. I wanted to take care of the moms because I know what moms need. And I felt like at that point in my life I wanted to mother new moms.
It took me a while to figure out what I needed in my life and I felt like connection was the key. The key to surviving motherhood is connection to community. At the end of the show women were hanging out, they weren’t leaving, they’re talking and I loved seeing that. And it wasn’t about making money. It was just watching a community build and watching moms getting that attention and support that they needed. And that filled my bucket.
CP: So did your content change from those first open mics?
AC: I was wearing my baby. I started doing jokes about my husband, and about having two kids, about the babies. As you know, there’s so much content, so much material. Very soon all that old material took a backseat because that wasn’t me anymore. These shows were for parents so now my jokes have to relate to them. It forced me to really be present about my life. How can I make it funny and make fun of myself. For two years I went on every month, and it became a sold out thing. The comics I had in the show were amazing. They were always available because no one’s doing comedy at 10 in the morning, right? Comics that were on Jimmy Fallon, David Letterman, HBO, they all said yes. It was perfect for everybody. And then the pandemic hit, we moved to the suburbs and it was over. That’s when I started my Instagram. Just write some jokes, do some memes. And then the woman behind @SnarkyBreeders asked me to join a shared group. I was very suspicious, I didn’t know what it was. But she shared one post and then my account started growing. Then other Instagram moms start sharing my stuff. And then after maybe two years @ScaryMommy asked me to create content for them. The pandemic forced me to do Reels, that’s when I started to create videos. I was trapped in a house, what else can I do to keep sane? I started making fun of remote learning, making fun of my husband working from home, just doing stupid silly skits. And it took off from there.
CP: I’m curious about your creative process, how you draw from your real life. Is it the kind of thing where in the moment you’re like, this is gold? Or does it come later with reflection?
AC: It’s both. Sometimes it’s in the moment. I’ll see my kids fighting and I’ll know this is good. I’ll remember some of the quotes. Or I’ll look back, like this morning. What did they do? Oh, the fight, that’s really relatable. Okay, I’m going to do something like that. I don’t write a lot down, I just keep it in the back of my head. I bank it until everyone’s out of the house—and that’s when I start filming. I don’t even write out the script. I’ll record maybe 10 lines, and I’ll use one of them. The whole magic is really in the editing. Then if it’s missing something, I need to re-record that. It’s a very time consuming process. Some of the most time consuming ones flop. And some of the ones that I’m just doing out of the womb…like, we went to the aquarium and I found myself nagging my kids, don’t touch that don’t touch that. I knew it would be good content so I just pulled out my phone and followed them around. I was parenting them while filming. So as they’re looking at stingrays, I’m like, don’t touch that, don’t touch your face, and then at the gift shop I’m like, nope you can’t have that, nope you can’t have that. I’m just recording myself and I knew it was gold because it was so authentic. No one’s acting. That one took off. It was the most raw, it was blurry, it was half of my face, the back of their heads. But people related to it. I think the gold is when you can really get that sweet spot.
CP: It was so relatable because you think you’re the only parent who lives and breathes saying the word no, right? Like, am I a horrible human because all I do is say no to my child? And then you see someone else do it and you realize you’re not alone.
AC: I’m so glad you said that. At the end of the day, when you leave my Instagram account, you’re going to feel better about yourself, you will feel less alone in this journey. Because it’s very isolating. Even if you have a great partner. My husband is great, he’ll help but sometimes he’s like, tell me what you need me to do. I’m like, Hey, I can’t manage that. It’s very sweet that you’ll do whatever I tell you, but I can’t have another thing to manage, you’re just gonna have to figure it out yourself. I feel like moms need that, to see this person was struggling. Because we all yell at our kids and feel like the shittiest parent and we’re not making every moment count right now, but that’s okay. Because you’re not supposed to. It’s an impossible task to enjoy every minute. Instagram is a beast, right? You can scroll and feel shitty about yourself. But my account, you will never feel shitty about yourself.
CP: Do you have any advice for parents when it comes to pursuing a creative field. Even if it’s not a profession and it’s just a hobby, just a creative outlet.
AC: Such a good question. I feel like first and foremost is to really get time to yourself. I know it’s a cliche but fill your bucket. Seriously, if you don’t have your bucket filled and you’re not taking care of yourself, you’re not going to know what you want in terms of your career, passion or even hobbies. Physically, I feel like you need to leave the house. You can’t force your family to leave the house, but you can get yourself to the train station. Take a walk, get in the car. Sometimes I’ll go grocery shopping and I end up in the parking lot for 40 minutes getting a lot done.
CP: That’s a great tip, even though it’s kind of sad (laughs).
AC: Oh, it’s so sad. But hey, you take whatever you can get. And enjoy every moment when you’re by yourself because you’re needed and wanted as soon as you walk in the house. The kids, they sense that you’re there. Even when you go to the bathroom, that’s not your alone time. No, you need to go to a public bathroom to get time. You need to drive to the mall, get into a public bathroom stall and then have your alone time in peace.
CP: (laughs) Set up your station and work.
AC: Yeah, exactly. Get a stall, that’s your co-working space now.
CP: I love that you referred to filling a bucket instead of filling a cup. Because I feel thinking of it as a cup, like it’s this pathetic little thing that we only get this much. I love the idea of thinking of it as a bucket to fill, a giant bucket. A lot of your videos make fun of parenting in the 80s or 90s versus parenting now. I’m curious about your take on the concept of back to school. How has it changed from when we were kids to now?
AC: You know what? You just inspired me to make a Reel and that’s how it happens.
CP: I feel honored.
AC: I used to wake up by myself, I don’t know if I even had breakfast. I got dressed myself and I remember I would always wear the same outfit, like three days in a row, until my older sister would tell me to change. We would always have the same sandwiches, right? A bologna sandwich. We ate that sandwich, crust or no crust. Kids these days. I’m hand delivering the kid to the teacher, like our hands are touching, like delivering pizza. And I’m like, alright, I’ll just go hide in the bushes to monitor them during recess. I’m always early to pick up, I’ve timed it. After 86 times circling the school, pick up time. I think we want to do better than the last generation. I know I do. Gentle parenting works. I make fun of it, but it does work. Parenting nowadays is the hardest, because we’re breaking generational trauma. We no longer have the excuse of I didn’t know better. A lot of people say, My parents did the best they could, they didn’t know better. We can’t say that.
CP: Comedy is a creative career. How do you foster that same creative spirit in your kids?
AC: I really try to let them see that side of me that’s always been labeled weird. When I was a kid, I was called weird and it did a lot of damage to me mentally and emotionally. But as soon as I became a mother, especially once I turned 40, I was just like, Who gives a shit about what other people think? That weirdness is really what makes you stand out from everybody else. I want them to know that if they’re ever called out about anything that makes them different, that they can embrace it. They see me be really stupid and silly and weird. I’ll dance in front of them and be really goofy. They’ve seen my videos, they understand what I do somewhat. Even my nine year old, I could sense he’s very creative, so sometimes I ask him for an idea, a concept that’s funny. But he needs incentive so I pay him.
CP: I love that. How do you think your “weirdness” and your creativity are linked?
AC: Being called weird will still triggers thoughts and feelings I had when I was a kid. But it no longer gets to me nor do I feel ashamed. Now, I really do embrace it because I truly believe that’s what makes me stand out as a comedian. Weird means non-conventional and not ordinary. Who wants to be boring? People describe people being weird when they can’t quite pinpoint what it is, but they know that person is different. Being weird got me noticed by popular parenting and online platforms, Scary Mommy, Vogue, PureWow just to name a few. They appreciated the comedy I was delivering. It was fresh and something new they hadn’t seen. If you’ve been called weird, it means there’s something unique about you. You have to find out what that is, harness it and express that in some art form. For me, having unique perspectives even on the most mundane things can be gold for comedy.
CP: What’s your advice for a parent whose kid comes home saying they were called weird at school?
AC: The first thing I would say is, “Wow I’m so glad they noticed you are different and not ordinary like everybody else.” Then I would ask how they felt. I think if anyone called my kids weird I’d want to hear from them what differences they think they have that makes them stand out. I would tell them it’s a good thing because that’s what makes you YOU. No one wants to be the same as everybody else. That’s boring.
Check out some of Alyce’s favorite IG follows — get ready to laugh.
@nicoletravolta — Her impersonations have me keeling over. She does a great Jennifer Coolidge. Follow her if you want a good belly laugh.
@stonecolddaddy — Paul is super honest about parenthood, the way he talks about his kids has me rolling. Follow him if you want a dad’s (hilarious) perspective.
@snarkybreeders — One of the first accounts I followed when I started my journey on the gram. Her memes are edgy, raw and will have you laughing out loud. Follow her to feel like you’re doing an incredible job at parenting.
@thehustlingmama — We stalked each other on social media and then met in real life at a mom conference. She has such range: sometimes she’ll put a comedic twist on her family stories and sometimes it’s a tearjerker straight from the heart. Follow her if you like family adventures.
@saraheika — This woman is phenomenal! She is a dance instructor and choreographer who cleverly mixes her dancing and fitness tips into easy and entertaining bite-sized content. Follow her if you love dance and feel-good family moments.