On Thursday, March 14, you may end up with a new friend. Her name is Anita Renfroe and she’ll be doing standup comedy in Wabash, Indiana, on stage inside the Honeywell Center’s Ford Theater. When she talks, you could end up hearing about your own life, by way of Renfroe joking about hers.
There is at least a chance you already know her, maybe not by name, but by her work, which is totally cool with her.
“The ‘Ohhh her’ is OK with me,” she said.
GoinG Viral Before Viral was cool
Renfroe catapulted to Internet fame from a Youtube video called “The Mom Song” or “William Tell Momisms,” as it’s listed on Renfroe’s official Youtube channel. It has recevied 1.3 million views, although the actual views are perhaps much higher, though hard to track, due to hitting the social media platform near the beginning of its cultural domination.
“In the beginning of Youtube, who knew exactly how it worked?” Renfroe said.
Other accounts shared the video, spreading it quickly, along with the knowing laughs.
“Now we take it for granted how quickly things go viral,” she said. “When I released it, we didn’t know.”
When her kids convinced her to put the video online, Renfroe was already an experienced singer and comedian. She had traveled the country on the Women of Faith tour, relaying her life in standup comedy. Audiences recognized the things she joked about as things they’d done, or seen, or agonized over.
You can hear the familiarity in the laughter on “The Mom Song” video. It hits the audience right as Renfroe says, “Don’t make me come down there…” in rapid-fire timing alongside the William Tell Overture melody.
When she gets to the line “Were you born in a barn…?” only seconds later, the transformation is complete: the audience is filled with friends, fellow exasperated parents.
Posting the song online was no huge marketing plan for Renfroe. It was a song people liked. They laughed when they heard their own mothers’ refrains and admonishments hit in time with the music. Once she posted it, however, the power of that connection was sending her comedy to places she hadn’t expected.
“I was way more surprised than anyone else,” Renfroe said. “I wasn’t known outside that niche market,” referring to her Women of Faith tour, “[and] it kind of put me into [the] mass consciousness.”
It was a new and natural fit. After the video spread, she garnered a guest spot on Good Morning America which led to recurring appearances. She was profiled in The New York Times and has performed at the Grand Ole Opry.
These facts may seem like the trappings of an artist leaving behind the day-to-day struggles and errands, but that would be to sell her short. She still visits Costco and still worries about shutting her trunk so her purchases from that trip won’t tumble free. She even pauses mid-interview to reassure her own mother.
“I’m on an interview,” Renfreo said after rolling her car window down. Her mother’s voice was just audible in the background. No doubt her mom was asking if she was going to sit out there all day, or telling her not to forget her coat.
The Truth Uniting us
Audiences at the Honeywell center can expect to find just such an experience on the night of March 14. Renfroe focuses on the truth uniting us as humans, then sets about laughing at that truth. It’s easy to hear how much she loves it, and how important the act of laughing is to her.
“I really love the gift of laugher,” she said. “We all get to laugh at stuff. It’s just stuff. It’s not that it’s the cleverest stuff, it’s just our stuff.”
When discussing her writing style and the pacing of her live shows, Renfroe mentioned getting right down to business, and specifically “dispensing with formalities.”
“I’m here, you’re here, let’s get at it,” she said with a laugh. The front rows are particularly on her mind. When she visits a city and has so many residents right there, all experts of their own world, Renfroe won’t pass up that opportunity.
“I love for the audience to inform me about their city,” she said.
It is most definitely mutually beneficial. She gets to hear about the cities she visits and audiences get to see themselves from a different perspective.
Yet those are secondary, as far as Renfroe is concerned. Her main goal is to have the audience leave with their cheeks aching from laughter.
And there is one word for a room full of people laughing at themselves: friends.
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November 17 • Honeywell Center