Dena Blizzard, One Very Funny Mother Makes Audiences appreciate the Normality of Their Own Crazy Lives
By Myra Chanin
Thirteen years ago, Dena Blizzard had just given birth to her second daughter, when her approaching thirtieth birthday hit her hard. “I thought my life was over and I was going to die soon.” To cheer her up, her husband Jim surprised her with the birthday gift of her dreams. Standup classes at the Comedy Cabaret in Northeast Philadelphia. Dena had already aced the beauty and brains circuits by representing New Jersey in the Miss America Pageant and earning a graduate degree in gerontology. “Standup was the only thing I still wanted to do! But I was always afraid I’d be embarrassed if I wasn’t funny. Then my son had a fit in the mall. Hoping nobody would know I was with him, I hid in the china department and realized nothing could be more embarrassing as motherhood.”
Dena was funny enough in class to be chosen to work at the owner’s club as a feeder girl. “In exchange for (a word I couldn’t quite make out over the telephone) to customers, I was given five minutes to do my comedy on stage.” I asked if she’d said seating or breast-feeding customers. “If I’d been breastfeeding customers, I would have demanded ten minutes of comedy time on stage,” she assured me.
Then Dena’s husband’s reserve unit was activated, leaving her alone with three kids and a body that had become community property. ”One of my kids always touching me. Standup put me around adults, but the clubs were horrible. Guys yelling, “You suck! “ or “Show us your boobies!” Fortunately, within three years Dena was appearing at the Comedy Stops in Atlantic City and Las Vegas working on a script about her conclusion, that children were a blessing but being around them too much gets on your nerves. Her script played second fiddle to more respectable paying gigs, i.e., warming up TV audiences for Nate Burkus, Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric and Paula Dean. “Anderson was a mentor. Working with him was like taking a Master Class in communication.” She worked for Couric briefly, trained her own replacement and went back to transforming the discarded script into One Funny Mother.
One Funny Mother just opened at the most Broadwayish Off-Broadway Theater for an open-ended run proceeded by a half-page Q&A with Dena in the Arts Section of The New York Times. Dena is a world-class household goddess, a member of the continuum begun by Erma Bombeck and branded by Roseanne Barr. She’s observational but respectively sexier than Bombeck and less aggressive and angry than Barr. Being slender, pretty and smart is a help. Dena puts her “crazy” out there for you to equate with your “normal.” Or as our neighbors South of the Border might put it, Su loco es tu loco.
The set, devised by Creative Consultant Carl Andress, looks like it came from the final sale room at Bob’s Discount Furniture. It contains all the makings of a maternal nightmare; every horizontal and even some vertical surfaces are strewn with wrinkled, recently washed or needing to laundered baby clothes. Arghh!! Folding and sorting occupies Dena’s hands while the words from her lips keep you nodding and laughing. How did she endure doing it day after day? The little bottles of booze hidden in every nook and cranny offer a clue.Her folding created tremendous anxiety for me. Would Dena finish sorting all those shmattas before the show came down. When Dena heads backstage to upgrade her outfits, very funny videos, taped and edited by Dena, of her New Jersey Greek chorus flash on giant screens to confirm her conclusions and keep you laughing..
Best of all, Dena connects perfectly with her audience, both male and female. She remembers not only what you said, but where you sat when she returns to you in an appropriate, likeable way. “Women always tell me my husband would love this show.” Even the geezers near me hooted as heartily as the gals did. Dena shares her life and observations, rightly certain, that you share her humanity.
New World Stages
340 W. 50th Street 10019