Round Rock's Jen Fulwiler finds the funny in being suburban, minivan-driving mom for Amazon Prime comedy special
"It is amazing what I will do to get an hour where my kids can't ask me for anything."
That is how Jen Fulwiler opens her Amazon Prime comedy special "The Naughty Corner."
The Round Rock mom is known for her show on the Catholic Channel of Sirius XM radio. She's also an author of spiritual memoirs including "Your Blue Flame: Drop the Guilt and Do What Makes You Come Alive," "One Beautiful Dream: The Rollicking Tale of Family Chaos, Personal Passions, and Saying Yes to Them Both" and "Something Other Than God: How I Passionately Sought Happiness and Accidentally Found It."
As 2019 was turning into 2020, Fulwiler, 43, decided to turn to comedy, but she had doors close on her by the traditional comedy industry outlets. She was told again and again that they didn't think there was an audience for the minivan-driving suburban mom who also is a Catholic with six kids she has home-schooled.
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Suburban moms, "we are not the demographic they are seeing at their clubs," she says. Yet, she knew that if her Round Rock neighbors had the option of going to a show like hers, they would do it.
She cold-called theaters and booked herself into a self-financed comedy tour using her credit card. When a theater asked her for her rider (that list of special requests the talent has), she didn't know what to send them.
COVID threw a wrench in the comedy plans
Fulwiler sold out all but two shows during her dozen-city tour. She hired a film crew to record her Chicago show, which became the Amazon Prime special.
She tried out much of her material on her kids, who are ages 7 to 16. They were tough critics, giving her advice about how she could twist a line to make it better, or how something wasn't that funny.
"If you can make your kids laugh, you're going to do fine in comedy clubs," she says. "I would go down to Cap City, and where the kids would laugh was where the Cap City drunks would laugh."
Fulwiler took a big chance on this tour. She quit her day job on Sirius XM radio after she had tried to do the tour and record a radio show.
By the time she quit, the pandemic already had started, but she thought for sure she would be able to do a fall 2020 tour to build on the success of the first tour. "I didn't think we'd be shut down this long," she says.
She has had to pivot and is trying to figure out how to release online comedy content and get paid for it.
"I started laughing so hard," she says. "My big plan here is to become a YouTuber."
She records YouTube content and Instagram posts from her mother-in-law's spare bedroom because it's become clear that trying to do this with six kids at her own house doesn't work.
"I have to make this space for writing," she says. "... I am honoring what I need to do to keep moving forward."
Finding humor in a difficult time
This year has been tough. She jokes that her vision board for 2021 is just a gin and tonic recipe she tacked to the wall. She wouldn't necessarily recommend quitting your day job in a pandemic to pursue what has previously been a heavily in-person art form.
"This year has been a financial disaster to me, and I'm trying to make sure any of this still makes sense," Fulwiler says. "I hope my husband still sees me as a MILF — a Mom He'd Like to Fund."
She describes her comedy as fairly dry and "mom's night out happy hour," which means she's not going to drop a lot of F-bombs and there are some things she won't say to protect the privacy of her kids.
"I like the absurd things in life," she says. "I love juxtaposing the ridiculous things. That is my Catholic side coming out. Catholics think of death and suffering."
Both Fulwiler and her husband, Joe, converted to Catholicism as adults; she after growing up an atheist, he after being non-religious. They went on a quest for meaning. "We read our way into Catholicism," she says.
One thing Fulwiler has always known: "Women were not meant to raise kids alone or in isolation."
She knows the importance of assembling a support team. When the kids were younger, "We would eat rice and beans so we would have money left over to have extra babysitting," she says.
She's quick to tell you how undomestic she is. "I do not cook, I do not clean," she says.
She loves to sit on her back porch with her family and listen to music and talk. "I'm not good at traditional things like playing board games," she says. "If we're going to bake cookies, it ends up with me on the brink of a panic attack."
She knows that there are other moms just like her. One of her hopes is to put together a comedy tour of mom comics.
"Comedy relieves our burdens, to just be able to have some comics come in and make light of it," she says. "I would love to reach as many people as possible with it."
When she does get back to touring, this time she won't do the booking. She has a promoter now.
"Now that we know there's a market for this, it's going to be great fun," Fulwiler says. "These nights are going to be a bunch of parties."
Nicole Villalpando writes about parenting for the American-Statesman. She can be reached at email@example.com.