“The Pump and Dump Show” title is more than just a shout-out to nursing mothers. The live shows offer comedians Shayna Ferm and Tracey Tee and their audiences the chance to get things off their chest.
Friends since eighth grade in the Denver, Colo., area, the duo headed to separate coasts after college — Ferm to New York to do standup and play guitar, Tee to Los Angeles to study improv with The Groundlings comedy troupe and do freelance writing and acting.
They eventually returned to Denver, became moms at the same time, and after a playdate, decided to pool their talents and dive into parental pitfalls onstage. They took the plunge six years ago, staging a mom’s night out in a Denver bar, Ferm said. By 2014, they started touring, and have 21 weekend shows booked January to June 2019.
“We’ve grown and our fan base has grown, simply from being a show,” Ferm said.
The show biz limb of their family tree has branched out to include a book, videos, podcast, blog, school fundraising opportunities at the cities they visit, and merchandise including “breeder” T-shirts, a CD, keytags and more.
Their latest baby is their Parentally Incorrect Tour, landing at the Englert Theatre in Iowa City on Saturday night (11/10). It’s less standup and more like a variety show, Tee said. Audiences will see multimedia elements, a big screen showing graphics, original music that Ferm composes and performs, and games. One of the new games is a “Family Feud” style game called “Cervix Says.”
The most famous game, however, begins before the show even starts, when audience members receive notecards to jot down the most mortifying/memorable things their kids have said or done. Select cards are later read onstage.
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Previous true tales from real moms are featured in the duo’s new book, “Parentally Incorrect: True Tales by Real Moms About the (expletive) Things Their Kids Have Done.”
Ferm, 41, is married, with kids ages 6 and 7 and a dog. Tee, 42, is married and has a daughter age 7 and two dogs. So what tales would these two moms write on a notecard?
Ferm: “My son said something really funny the other day in a store. Because I’m not very good at keeping plants healthy, I said, ‘We just have to stop by this section, honey. We have to get a new plant because mommy killed the other one.’ And he goes in front of this lady who started laughing at us, ‘Well that’s why you have to buy a fake one.’ He’s so right.”
Tee: “My kid’s a big pointer and starer, and she’s very, very blunt — she’s very matter of fact. If she sees something that she doesn’t understand or a person whose appearance she doesn’t understand, she’s that kid who’s like, ‘Mom! Why does that person have such big hair’ or ‘Why are they walking funny?’ She doesn’t mean anything by it, but it’s horrifying every time she does it.”
On the other hand, both moms have learned valuable life lessons from their kids.
Tee: “Humility, patience. We just recorded another episode of our podcast yesterday, and I brought this up — that I quickly realized that any mess could be cleaned up, and that you just have to accept that there’s going to be slime and dirt and spills and stickiness all around you for years. And you also just have to know that it can be eventually cleaned up, and just accept it. Anything can go in the washer and you can mop up anything off the floor.”
Ferm: “Prioritizing what to be upset about. Choosing your battles is a big thing when you have kids — not only in every relationship around the children, but your relationship with the children.”
Even though their live show is intended to give moms a night out, men are welcome, too.
“Dads actually really love the show,” Ferm said. “I think there’s just so much universal stuff in parenting that we hit on in general. We’ve been very careful all these years. It’s not a show about man-bashing or kid-bashing. It’s really just about the experience of being a parent and how messed up that is.”
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WHAT: The Pump and Dump Show: Parentally Incorrect Tour
WHERE: Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St., Iowa City
WHEN: 8 p.m. Saturday (11/10)
TICKETS: $35, Englert Box Office, (319) 688-2653 or englert.org/event/the-pump-and-dump-show/