Real-Life Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Comedian Felicia Madison, Raising Money For Repro Rights At Open Mic Nights

If you are as obsessed with the Amazon Prime series ‘The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’ as we are, well we have some great news for you once you’ve finished binging the latest season. If you are looking for a real-life fix of Upper East Side NYC humor, look no further than comedian Felicia Madison.

The self-proclaimed, real-life Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Felicia Madison, has been bringing audiences to tears of laughter at some of New York City’s most infamous clubs. The stay-at-home mother of three did not originally plan on a career in comedy. In fact, it wasn’t until after having her children and recognizing her love for the craft that she left her life as an Upper East Side stay-at-home mom to join the ranks of all the comedians who came before her. Since starting her career she has quickly become a prominent name in the New York City comedy scene, not only as a comic, but as the Director of New Talent and Talent Booker at the West Side Comedy Club in New York City, where since the overturn of Roe v Wade she has required all Open Mic guests to show proof of donation to a Pro-Choice charity to get their spot on stage. She has appeared in her one woman show, “The Miserable Mrs. Madison” which she wrote and produced, as well as a documentary about her start in comedy called, “Funny Felicia.”.

Felicia is also very open about her battle with mental health and is a firm believer that while she may suffer from depression, her illness does not define her. Through her growing platform she aims to inspire others to continue towards their dreams regardless of having kids, or mental wellness issues or anything else that society claims to be a reason to hold you back.

If you have read all the above and are now as in love with Felicia as we are, then check out the interview below, as well as some short Instagram comedy clips, to join us in our Marvelous Mrs., excuse us, Felicia Madison obsession club!

We love that you are described as the “real life Mrs. Maisel”, as we are obsessed with that show! Can you tell us a little of your own story and what made you decide on stand-up comedy as a career path after becoming a mom?

I always struggled with life as a stay-at-home mom. It is not that I didn’t enjoy being a mother (even though my comedy states otherwise) I just felt unfulfilled, like something was missing. I always brainstormed ideas and tried to come up with a new business or invention. I joke that on my tombstone it will say “She Tried”. Then one day a friend and I decided to take a comedy class together for fun. Since I always used humor as a defense mechanism, it was something I always thought about trying. My first five-minute set came to me easily as it was a conglomeration of almost 50 years of joke telling. Then at my graduation performance, I became hooked instantly, I loved it. They say stand-up comedy is like a drug, and I became easily addicted. And the rest as they say is “her” story.

Good comedy often comes from the comedian not taking themselves too seriously. Can you share about some of the aspects of your life on the Upper East side of New York City that you incorporate into your jokes?

A lot of my comedy is self-deprecating humor about life on the Upper East Side. Many times I have to explain myself or the joke so that non-New Yorkers and non-Upper East Siders “get it”.  For instance, I do a joke about me being fat. To the normal eye, I would be considered super skinny, but I have to let them know where I am from if you get to be larger than a size 2 you get replaced. You should see the recycle bins in my neighborhood: glass, paper, and housewives of NYC…or plastics…! Upper East Side women love to play the Hungry Games. I haven’t made that much fun yet of this unique lifestyle and you can find out why in one of the answers below.  

It’s so powerful seeing more women and minorities take the stage in comedy, moving away from the traditional “boy’s club”. But it’s also incredibly powerful to see moms representing motherhood on the stage and on screen. Why is this important to you, especially in light of everything moms have been subjected to during the pandemic?

YES, women are funny and thank goodness there are more of us on stage. It is difficult being a mom in stand-up because the audience at comedy clubs consists largely of young couples without kids. Sometimes when I ask if there are any mothers in the audience, there is complete silence. I then ask if anyone has a mother, which always gets a huge applause. This joke breaks the tension a bit and allows me to move forward with what I call my MomCom.  

The young audience is now looking at the mom jokes from their perspective. Having more moms on stage helps shed light on the joys and ordeals of parenting. There is so much we have to endure, juggle and struggle with and it is important for people to see this but in a comedic way. During the pandemic, women had to take on so much more or even give up their jobs to take care of the family. If we didn’t have this outlet to laugh about it we would most certainly be crying. Thank goodness for comedy!

You have been very open about your struggle with depression. How can more open conversations, even comedic conversations, play a role in breaking down stigma about mental health?

The ability of comedy to break down stigmas is essentially the core purpose of comedy. It enables people to examine difficult situations in a non-challenging, non-threatening way and makes us laugh and think about it. For instance, you might not feel comfortable talking about anti-depressants but when you hear a comedian making a joke about it, it becomes a little less taboo and thus more easily a topic of conversation. Many comedians talk about depression, it, unfortunately, seems to be a common thread in the stand-up world. One of my favorite comedians, Taylor Tomlinson, in her most recent special talked about her battle with mental health and how medication has helped her tremendously. Someone watching it who may be themselves struggling sees her being so open and successfully managing her mental health that they may be inspired to open up also and help themselves.  

Gary Gulman, another comedy favorite, also talks a great deal about his battle with depression. His most recent HBO special, ‘The Great Depresh’, is all about this struggle. In both instances, they belittle people’s ridiculous stereotypes or negative feelings toward medication with comedy. Taylor laughs about discovering that she was bipolar on her own and learned that peanut butter actually doesn’t solve it. Gary discusses the terrible side effects of medicine, and jokingly points out that they are not quite as debilitating as the side effects of depression. I personally struggle with people always judging me for being depressed.  

They tell me I have it all I can’t be depressed which of course doesn’t solve my depression but just makes me feel sad and crazy. My comedy attacks this dialogue straight on. It is very dark and it can become tense in the audience. Eventually, that breaks when I give them permission to laugh at the absurdity of it and the tension immediately releases with laughter. Depression is a disease it is not something cured by a house on the beach. Addressing these topics through laughter is just one very effective way of doing it.

Something we LOVE about you – your fierce advocacy for reproductive rights and abortion access, especially in light of Roe v Wade being overturned recently. Can you explain how you have brought this advocacy into your role as the Director of New Talent and Talent Booker at the West Side Comedy Club?

Obviously, the overturning of Roe v Wade was devastating. I immediately started to brainstorm ways in which I could help. Women marching and protesting clearly wasn’t working. Women complaining and donating clearly wasn’t working. I wanted more people, especially men, to get involved in the fight. I decided to make the open mics at the club free with proof of a donation to a pro-choice charity. Some people, mostly women, loved the idea others, mostly men, hesitated and suggested I just collect the money myself and donate.

That simply would not accomplish what I wanted to accomplish. I wanted everyone, especially the men, to have to actively search and find an organization, input their name and email and as a result become actively involved in the process and the cause. Now I have men, and women, sending me snapshots of their donations to pro-choice organizations which I think is very cool. Most importantly, now they are on a list and will receive updates and information.    

In addition, one show at West Side Comedy Club, DYNAMOMS a show produced by yes you guessed it Dynamite Moms, donates its profits to WRRAP. These are only small contributions, but I am still brainstorming and thinking of other ways to make a larger impact. So look out for more of that to come.

Can you share about any material that has been hard for you to write, or challenging in any way?

There are two topics that I have not yet delved into in a big way. The first is talking more about the Upper East Side lifestyle. It is a little of the “don’t eat where you (let’s say for this interview) poop”. I am nervous my friends might be offended, not everyone is up for laughing at themselves like I am. It is, also, difficult to discuss having money and privilege without turning people off. I was told early on in my career by a teacher that people instinctively don’t like people with money and I should stay away from that material. I do not agree and actually can’t because it is an important part of my story which was more easily explained in my one-woman show, The Miserable Mrs. Madison. It is a big challenge and one that I am beginning to tackle more now in my stand-up.    

We could make a long list about the very regressive ways America treats mothers and women, from lack of federal maternity leave, regression on repro rights, the wage “motherhood” gap and more. What are some things that stand out to you, that are so absurd they deserve the comedy treatment? 

Well, reproductive rights are definitely the topic of a lot of humor these days. It is so preposterous in so many ways that it is almost easy to make jokes about it, the jokes practically write themselves.   

Women do so much more than men, the only reason why men seem to have it all is because they have us. One comic I love, Ali Wong, in her recent special says, “You know how much more successful I would be if I had a wife”.  Can you imagine what we could accomplish with some much-needed support?

The flip side of women striving to be successful and independent is I sometimes feel like it devalues the role of Motherhood. I want to emphasize the importance and incredible value of Motherhood while fighting for our rights.  Perhaps instead of showing your ticket at a show,  people will have to show a letter of appreciation to their Mother.

How would you encourage other moms wanting a career in comedy to pursue the path, regardless of the overwhelming obstacles in their way?  

DON”T DO IT…of course, I am joking…maybe? Stand-up comedy is a very challenging career for anyone but more so for a mother. I honestly don’t think I could have done this when my children were young. It is still difficult now and my kids are grown up. I know many comedy moms with young children that are tremendously successful but like anything in life, there are major sacrifices that have to be made You just have to decide if you are willing to make them. 

I think anyone pursuing any career, comedy or not, needs to start with tiny steps that keep moving you forward. I started with one class and it literally snowballed into not only a career in stand-up but also managing and booking a comedy club, creating and performing in my one-woman show, writing a second pilot and a podcast which I created with a friend, ‘MT Nesters’, which inspires and helps other moms follow their dreams. If you would have told me when I started that this was what I would have to accomplish I probably would have been overcome with anxiety and given up. Another important piece of advice is advice I received from someone else is don’t look left, don’t look right, keep looking straight ahead and keep your eye on the prize. You can do it, which is my mantra.  

Be sure to follow Felicia Madison for all the funnies, on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook  and her Website.

Comedian Felicia Madison. Image by JJ Ignotz.

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