Monday, May 20, 2024

Alyce Chan Is In The Parenting Sweet Spot


I know you’re familiar with Alyce Chan’s hysterical work on social media as @momcomnyc, because she’s a fixture on Scary Mommy’s very own Instagram. There she dishes up funny content about being a mom, being in a relationship, and being a person, period. Personally, I think about her very funny bit about parenting in the 80s versus today multiple times a week, usually when I’m trying to get my kid in the car to go somewhere and we’re already running late.

Curious to learn more about the Alyce behind the camera, I caught up with her on a recent Zoom about the differences between stand-up and Instagram, the glories of the early elementary years, and the difficulty of getting any work done when there’s anybody in the house. Plus, why she actually kinda enjoys hecklers.

Scary Mommy: Tell me what stage of motherhood you’re in. Your kids are 7 and 10, right?

Alyce Chan: 7 and 10, yes. Two boys, and I am at that stage where it’s fun being with them because they have personalities, we can actually have conversations. They get jokes themselves, which is really fun to see. This stage is easier because it’s still in control — you know where they are at all times. That’s what keeps me sane, because I know where they are, and I can control the environment, aside from them being at school.

They’re not giving me teenage attitude yet, so I’m still getting all the lovely, delicious stuff that we used to get when they were babies and toddlers without the tantrums, because they can express themselves. They can brush their teeth just by me telling them to brush their teeth. I don’t have to physically do anything for them anymore. They’re helping me clean now. They’re actually interested in cleaning, albeit I do give them some money and I have to motivate them with a lot of cheering and playfulness, but they do it. I am trying to savor every minute and trying to be present when I can. We still co-sleep and I love that. I used to be so against sharing the bed with a kid and I was very strict on the sleep training and now I’m like, “Okay, you know what? They’re not going to want to be near me all the time.”

SM: I have a 7-year-old, and it’s been a really long time since I have heard on a work call, “Mom, come wipe my butt.” They become rational actors. You can pay them to do stuff.

AC: They’re showing up in my videos now because they want to get paid. I’m like, “Hey, that’s fine.” I’ll pay you if you do the work. And I can tell them, “Hey, be quiet. I’m going to be on a call.” Whereas when you’re at the baby, toddler stage, it’s unpredictable. You’re just looking over your shoulder every five minutes or less.

SM: What do they make of your platform and your comedy?

AC: They obviously understand and they see me with a camera and I’m doing all these things and sometimes I’m pulling them in and I show it to them when I think it’s fine. I’m like, “What do you think?” And sometimes they don’t laugh and they’re like, “I don’t get it,” or, “It’s not funny.” My 10-year-old is watching a lot of YouTube and there are a couple funny teenagers that he follows, and he goes, “Why can’t you do something like this?” For instance, Wilson makes blonde jokes. I’m like, “That’s not my platform. I don’t make blonde jokes. I make fun of myself and you guys, that’s it.”

And they’re like, “Yeah, but it’s not funny.” So they kind of get that I’m trying to be funny. They don’t think I’m funny.

SM: When I do these interviews, it’s interesting how many times people specifically got started when they were in the house in 2020. That’s sort of when you moved from doing stand-up to let’s see what we can make happen on Reels, right?

AC: I guess that’s when you saw the influx of content creators — specifically stay-at-home parents — because they’re already drowning in this parenthood journey, but then now they have people in the house 24/7 and you can’t go out. So you’re unraveled, and you need to do something with that energy.

We were outside in our backyard, because that’s the only place that we could go, and my kid was talking about earthworms and sticks, and he was telling me maybe a hundred facts about it and I didn’t doze off but my eyes were glazed and I was like, “You know what, this is kind of funny. I’m just going to record his voice and my reaction,” because it went on for a long time and I just posted it because it required no acting. It was really the easiest thing ever.

And it resonated with people because I think when you’re stuck at home, your kids don’t know that it’s boring. They think it’s the most amazing thing because they get to be with you, but they’re not giving you adult conversations. Your kid finds you fascinating, and those two things can actually make a really funny video.

SM: You have your online presence and you also have this entire stand-up career. How are those two things different? Is there a difference?

AC: There is a difference. My process for stand-up is I have to write every day because every word counts, and the timing and the delivery really counts. I’ve done one joke over and over again. Sometimes it kills and everyone in the room is laughing and sometimes it flops and I can barely hear a giggle and it’s because I switched a word or I said it too fast. So on stage, you really have to be present. I’m also looking at the audience for feedback — they laugh, I can add a tag, like a shorter joke that relates to the big punch line, or I can start interacting with the audience.

There’s such a connection [when I’m on stage] because we’re in it together, they get the joke, I just made them laugh. I feel empowered and sometimes the audience throws out funny comments and the whole room just laughs. Or sometimes there’s a heckler and maybe I’ll come up with something witty. It’s kind of like a tennis match like, bam, bam, bam, who’s going to fall flat on their face. Usually the comedian wins and the heckler’s just rude and the comedian comes back with a great comeback. The room just goes wild and it’s fantastic.

With the Reels, it’s premeditated. Okay, today I did something about parenting. Tomorrow I think I want to do something about marriage relationship material.

I don’t want to always do the same pattern, because I want to make the content diverse enough to include everyone’s interests and do stuff just like dumb stuff about awkward adulting because I don’t want to just focus 100% on moms. I used to, now I’m not only doing mom stuff. I’m also an adult, I’m also a daughter, I’m also a sister, a friend, and now a dog mom, so now I’m doing more dog material, right?

Those are really planned and it’s really when everyone’s out of the house, then I start recording on the whim. I work better like that where it’s more organic and I feel it. So today I’m like, “You know what, I’m really frustrated with laundry. I’m going to use that as fuel to produce and make my most authentic video.”

Also, obviously, on Instagram, I keep it very PG-13 or below, where onstage I really will say whatever I want. It’s more liberating to be on stage to be honest.

SM:. When you’re on stage, do you feel sort of locked in to the vibe with the audience whereas the audience is less visible on Instagram?

AC: Some comedians are like, “I have this set. I’m not going to stray from it and I’m going to do the set,” and I used to be that way and it made me more nervous and now I’m like, “I’m just going to feel out the audience.” On Instagram you’re kind of protected. You have a barrier, you just throw whatever, and you also can take it down if you’re like, “No one liked it, take it down.”

SM: I guess there’s sort of a pressure that comes from not being able to see the audience maybe?

AC: Yeah. And you get hecklers on Instagram, you know those people who are like, “I can’t believe you just did that to your kid.” You can mute them or delete it and then no one will see it.

SM: Do you find yourself sometimes with the hecklers in the audience being like, “If only I could just mute you”?

AC: Yeah, yeah. And sometimes it’s kind of fun to have a heckler, because you’re like, “Okay, you just made it really easy for me because you are now interrupting the entire room. The entire room now is against you. You instantly just put yourself as a target.”

Hecklers don’t understand, they think that they’re going to be the star if they’re funny enough, but usually it backfires because when you heckle, you’re disrupting the show and so you’re immediately the enemy and the entire crowd is on my side already, so you’re giving me more ammo.

SM: How many takes does it take on a Reel? What’s your ratio of attempts to get to final product?

AC: It varies. It depends on who’s in the house and who’s not. But when they’re not in the house, usually one take and I do it all in sequence.

SM: There’s something funny about doing work in your home where there’s this nice balance of intimate and not too intimate.

AC: Right. Unless I integrate my kids. There was one my kids were fighting and I was like, this is a perfect moment, so I took my camera and I’m just recording the audio, because you can’t fake that.

SM: ` Do they ever give you a little pushback?

AC: I get more bad acting and I have to be the director, like Martin Scorsese. I’m like, “No, do that again. Like, no, I want you to sound like you have a stuffy nose. Can you not sound like you have a stuffy nose?”

SM: You’ve done some Reels about generational differences in parenting and conscious parenting – the millennial parenting style versus previous generations. How do you approach those jokes?

AC: I honestly read a lot of parenting books and follow a lot of parenting coaches. I’m trying really to break the cycle, because I came from a generation of immigrant parents and I got hit by a bamboo duster. I don’t know why. I think I was fighting with my sister and I don’t recall doing anything bad, and that’s my reasoning for wanting to break the cycle. If I was hit and I didn’t learn anything, then how was that valuable to me?

And I know that there’s a lot of truth behind conscious parenting and it has worked, but you have to be patient and you have to have the time to sit and be like, “I get it. You don’t want to go to school. You feel tired.. The weekend was…” I am like, “Oh my God, just get in the damn car,” sometimes. But seven out of 10 times I am really trying hard to do conscious parenting. And sometimes I didn’t get enough sleep and I didn’t eat a good meal and I haven’t had lunch, and so that will decrease my tolerance. I have to catch myself to not shame them, because I was shamed a lot as a kid.

That Reel was so true because that morning my kid didn’t want to go to camp. I was really irate, because it was very expensive and I just was like, “You can’t stay home. You can’t.” And he finally got to camp and then when I got home I was like, “Oh, I should have done that conscious parenting thing.” And so I made that video and it became a joke on stand-up.

When I can integrate that, that’s like chef’s kiss, because I’m struggling between mirroring my platform and my stand-up. When people come to my show, they’re usually from my Instagram. They probably do want to see some relation to my jokes on Instagram.

SM: Is that difficult to feel like you’ve got an audience who expects something? Does that feel creatively constraining?

AC: You know what, I still am very curious — I don’t know what the audience expects. I wish I could do a poll and ask so I can deliver better, but I try to integrate a little bit of that because I know, okay, people are coming for some parenting stuff. I think most people know my personality through the Reels and my personality is pretty much the same on stage, so as long as I deliver authentically … it’s getting less and less about parenting and it’s a lot more about me, my heritage growing up, then I tie in the parenting, then I talk about relationships, then I talk about awkward adulting moments. It’s really all aspects of Alyce Chan, so if you come to a show, you really get to know me versus what you see on the video, just really a snippet.

SM: What’s your feed look like? Like, who are you following on your Instagram when you go on and scroll?

AC: A lot of home renovations. Organizers — I love watching people organizing and before and after pantries and closet systems, cleaning hacks. I know this sounds so boring. And then some big comedians like Ali Wong and Kevin Nealon and some of my Instagram mom friends who started way before the pandemic, and we’ve become friends — women like Kiki Yeung (@kikifunnymama), Samantha Brown (@samanthabrowntravels), Rosie Nguyen (@thehustlingmama), Nicki Marie (@nickimarieinc), Tara Clark (@modernmomprobs). And a lot of parenting coaches.

SM: How do you unwind at the end of the day?

AC: I love just catching a show on Netflix and binging. I love anything that’s a woman main character. I think I was watching Queen of the South and my husband’s like, “Why are you watching that? It’s about a cartel.” And I’m like, “Yeah, but she’s such a badass. She was so wronged.” And there’s lots of funny mom comedy, Workin’ Moms. Shows that you don’t have to think too hard. I don’t want anyone to be around me when I’m watching my show because I don’t want comments or snacking next to me.

SM: What are you looking forward to for the rest of the year?

AC: I’m going to really focus more on my live comedy and probably go on a bigger tour and perform live and in cities that I haven’t been before. I still will do my Instagram videos, but there’s going to be a lot more traveling, so I’ll probably see less of my family.

SM: You’ll have time to catch up on all that Netflix.

AC: Yeah, yeah. Finally. That’s what I’ll do, catch up on my Netflix in 2024.

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

Photographs by Josh Francois





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