When Dena Blizzard started her stand-up comedy show, "One Funny Mother," the response from her audiences varied.
Some said the quips, jokes and jabs about Blizzard's years from a single gal to a mother of three (in five years time, mind you) made spectators feel normal. Others said Blizzard was a nut job. Blizzard, they said, became their new best friend.
The Burlington County-based former Miss New Jersey, who often comes down the shore to emcee the Miss New Jersey pageant in Ocean City and the preliminary nights for the Miss America pageant, will get a new title soon: Off-Broadway Producer.
A variation on her "One Funny Mother" stand-up show will debut at the off-Broadway New World Stage as a preview on March 31. Regular performances will commence April 9.
Think of her show, in its infancy when she was touring it in 2008 in New Jersey and Pennsylvania, as growing up and moving out of the house. Blizzard wrote, produced and will star in the show.
"The impetus for everything is that this is a topic that is so universal," said Blizzard, about being a mom and parenthood in general. "We've had great success on the road, and to bring it to New York ... it's just a dream."
Though the show is based on the stand-up performances Blizzard has done for nearly 10 years, she said it's not a stand-up comedy show. Stories mainly focus on family and relationships, she said. She even got some of her girlfriends to record videos that will be displayed ("I'm sure they all regret it now," Blizzard said).
The show will be staged Thursdays and Saturdays. Those other days of the week are packed anyway, according to the cheeky calendar on the One Funny Mother website. Sundays are for sleeping in; Wednesday's schedule is "PTA Meetings & (stuff)"; Friday is reserved for drinking wine.
And what do Blizzard's kids - ages 11, 13 and 16 - think of their mom being off-Broadway?
"I tell them, 'I put a lot of time into you, leave Mommy alone,'" Blizzard joked. They're all busy, ironically, involved in theater programs of their own: Her son is a lead in his high school's play, her middle daughter will perform in "The Wizard of Oz," and the youngest is helping with costumes.
To get her show off-Broadway, she worked with New York City-based actress, writer and producer Charlotte Cohn. Cohn has acted on and off Broadway since 2003, and made the switch to writing and producing shows such as "Handle With Care," written by her husband, Jason Odell Williams.
Cohn and Blizzard connected through a mentorship program with the Off Broadway Alliance. Cohn supposes a big piece of her paring with Blizzard was her co-producing gig on an off-Broadway musical titled, "Rated P for Parenthood." Three guesses as to the subject matter.
"From the first moment I spoke to Dena, I knew we were going to have a good time," Cohn said.
Cohn helped Blizzard get in touch with managers and lawyers and offered tips in how to finance a production. She told Blizzard that sure, she gave birth, but producing a show is even harder.
But Cohn said she already knew Blizzard had a hit on her hands from the first time she saw the "One Funny Mother" stand-up show at New York City's Players Theater.
"I laughed so hard, I cried, I laughed so hard," Cohn remembered.
The keys to the show's success, Cohn said, were its commercial and general appeal, its humorous approach and the fact that the show is officially opening in April. Peak time, right before Mother's Day.
"It's very much like being a parent. It's a tough job," she said. "And I really think Dena, out of the many people I've met, can handle it and handle it correctly."
When she launched her stand-up show, Blizzard said, she never anticipated bringing the whole show to the Big Apple. Opening night will be the put-up-or-shut-up moment of her comedy, she said.
"This was never on my agenda, but it's a fabulous detour," she said.
Dena Blizzard produces laughs with off-Broadway show