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A mom walks into a bar – our interview with funny lady and life long New Yorker, Nora Burns

  • Posted on 14th May 2015
A mom walks into a bar – our interview with funny lady and life long New Yorker, Nora Burns
Moms are funny. Y’know how they say everything changes when you become a mom and how true that is. How before you have a baby you’re this person, the one you were before you had the baby, and then you have a baby and it’s poof, you’re a mom. And of course you’re still that other person, but now, more importantly, you’re the M O M. Yes, yes, we can all still have fun and shake it like we’re 24…okay, 34 but perspectives and paradigms have shifted, there are people that need to be cared for, you deal with more shit (literal and figurative) than you ever thought possible and you don’t have a choice, you’ve changed.
And you’ve also become kind of funny. Not always haha funny, but funny in so many other ways, funny in the way you handle your kids, the way you deal with your family and friends and neighbors, funny about what’s important and what isn’t. And as a collective, moms are so easy to make fun of. My god, I drive a hybrid, spend way too much money at Whole Foods and farm a teeny tiny plot of land at the community garden. I sometimes run on the weekends and don’t let my kids watch commercial tv. I eat lots and lots of kale and dark chocolate and drink way more wine than is good for me. I wear Birkenstocks! I listen to and support public radio! And I’m not alone but also sometimes I feel very very alone. As mothers we take ourselves far too seriously and need to be laughed out, if only for our deep sincerity.

Thankfully there are people like Nora Burns, professional funny lady extraordinaire, to remind us of who we are, and that there aren’t any of us who aren’t a bit of a joke. Nora writes and performs her comedy stylings around the country, mostly in New York, where she hosts the amazing New York Stories, tales from pre-Guiliani days told by heroes of the downtown scene. Nora is also one third, along with David Ilku and Mike Albo of the hilarious comic trio Unitard, which if you hurry, you can still catch them killing it on Thursday nights at The Stonewall Inn.

IMG_1194Nora was nice enough to sit down and answer a few questions about what’s so funny about motherhood.

Who’s in your family? Where do you live? What do you do?
It’s me, my daughter Fred, 13, my son Bruno, 11, and my husband Pedro, old like me. I do edgy weird gayesque comedy. The kids and I live in an old school rental in Soho and my husband lives in Maui which he refuses to leave because men get to Hawaii, put on board shorts and flip flops, think they’re pirates and never want to leave.

Wait, you don’t live in Hawaii when you could?
Ugh, NO!   It’s a hideous place to live! I still don’t know what happened, my therapist is getting rich while I try to figure it out. My husband, then boyfriend, had decamped to Maui “for a couple of years’ which was fine bc we always did our own thing, then I had the kids and he wouldn’t leave. I should have just stayed in NYC but being a woman, we don’t always do the things that are in our own best interest so I wound up going there. I finally packed up the kids and came back 6 years ago bc my dad was dying. My husband has been saying he’ll come back for 6 years, but all I can say is he has a lot of frequent flier miles.IMG_1069

So, let me get this straight – you chose New York City over Hawaii to raise your kids?
Hawaii is a miserable place for a New Yorker to raise kids. I hate driving but I spent my days loading the kids in and out of the car, and once they were in I didn’t even know where the fuck to take them because I didn’t have any friends there and there are no playgrounds or parks or museums or cool things to do. People there just go to the beach, which is dull as shit day after day. My entire memory of my kids first few years is slathering sun screen on them and looking in the rear view mirror saying, ‘Beach again?’

The bummer was getting back to NYC w them and realizing how amazing it would have been to raise them here from birth. Before I had the kids I didn’t have any friends w/ kids bc my friends were mostly gay men, who hadn’t started breeding like rabbits the way they are now so I had no example of what life was like w/ kids in NYC. I knew I didn’t like being a mom in Maui, but I didn’t know how much I was missing here, which is    dumb bc my favorite thing has always been walking around NYC, so I could just have been doing that while pushing a stroller. I’ve also met all these great parents since I’ve been back and it would have been amazing to have had that all along, for my kids too. Since I didn’t have any friends, they didn’t have any friends, and I’m a public school person and in Maui all the whites (haoles) send their kids to private school and the local kids tend to just hang out w/ their families (ohanas) so my kids never got invited to birthday parties or playdates, it sucked.

Okay, but it’s HARD raising kids here and everyone’s always leaving to go be with their kids in nature. So what makes this place so great?
There’s just SO much to do with kids, besides parks, playgrounds and museums there are always all sorts of fairs and plays and events, it’s amazing, and the schools are wonderful and I encourage everyone to send their kids to public school and help make them be awesome. My daughter is 13 and she can travel around by herself and meet up with friends, it’s amazing, anywhere else I’d have to be driving her to the mall. I just LOVE planning stuff to do w/ my kids and their friends, like a trip to the Queens Science Museum or Rock Climbing in Long Island City or to Leroy St pool and lunch at Cowgirl. It’s really bumming me out that they’re getting to old for me to arrange their lives, dammit. I can’t believe I found out I was a great NYC mom right at the end.

IMG_1165What are you working on now? We’re still running Unitard every Thurs at Stonewall, which is a blast and I’m working on a new solo show about my best friend who dies of AIDS years ago, a comedy.

Who are your favorite mommy characters to play? I love playing horrible mothers, I have a whole series of awful mothers I’ve written at every stage I’ve gone through. The pregnant women who think they’re god’s gift because their egg met a sperm, the interrupting mother who can’t stop paying attention to their kid, the special need mom who’s obsessed w/ their kids allergies and learning disabilities, the list goes on…..

There’s so much to poke fun of in the world right now, what top three things would you write a sketch about? over-sharing on social media, hipsters and of course Republicans, a never ending source of material, unfortunatelyIMG_1195

Do your kids think you’re funny? Not really, but I think they appreciate that I’m not terribly serious about anything and try to make them laugh if they’re bummed about something.

How do you find balance between performing and mothering? It’s pretty similar, it’s all an act you hope you get away with.

If money was no object, where would you go on vacation right now? African Safari, it’s my obsession.

What’s the best piece of mothering advice you’ve ever received – from who?
Kids should be part of your life, not your life – from a dad friend

What’s one piece of mothering advice you would give to a new mom?
Don’t move to Maui!

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