When Jennie McNulty and Lisa Koch take the stage, you are guaranteed a night of rollicking good fun. Filled with song parodies about hot flashes, forgetfulness and gaining weight, they joke about aging in a very real way the audience can relate to. Their comedy delivers what we all need, a respite from the daily grind.
Whether it’s Lisa Koch playing Sister Mary Agnes or Jennie McNulty as the grandmother super football fan, their show is genius comedy at work. I saw their new show Wild Hormones, at the Rrazz Room in New Hope, Pa. and found these ladies to be just as charming and quick-witted off stage.
Jennie McNulty grew up in Detroit and said she always wanted to be in the entertainment industry. She was always involved in sports and after college had a job in a neurology lab.
Always thinking of jokes and making her co-workers laugh, her moment of truth came when a middle-aged co-worker had a mid- life crisis. Jennie said she realized that if she didn’t pursue her passion for comedy, she would wind up like him, unhappy in her career. It was perfect timing when she met up with an old friend from junior high who suggested she go to an open mic night with him. With jokes in hand, she took the mic and Jennie said, “When I heard the clapping, I knew I was funny.”
Lisa Koch grew up in Ashland, Oregon and began her career as a singer. She said she wanted to sing from the age of three. At the age of 13, she picked up a guitar for the first time and played four chords. By the age of 15, she was performing in bands with her brother.
Living and playing in Pittsburgh, Portland, Baltimore and San Francisco, she joined bands from Top 40 to club music. Lisa discovered that she could take a song and re-do it as a funny parody. Her first show of song parodies were the Carpenters’ songs in a show called Uncomfortably Close to You.
Jennie and Lisa met on an Olivia cruise 10 years ago and knew they would be friends and could work well together. Ironically, they said both their partners have the same birthdays and play basketball. When their schedules permit, the four of them get together. They both said it’s hard for their respective partners to travel with them on the road. Lisa joked that it was easier for the musician to get the girl rather than the comedian, but when she met her wife she hadn’t seen Lisa’s show and she knew it was the right girl for her.
Jennie McNulty talked about performing for the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2005 and 2007. She said it was the most rewarding and profound experience. She performed at “Freedom Rest” in Iraq where troops returning from the hardest combat went for a break. She said to see them relax and thank her for making them laugh, after putting their lives on the line for us is something she will never forget.
They both agreed that it has been harder for female comics to succeed in a male-dominated industry. Jennie said, ”You can’t focus on it,” but recalls trying to get jobs in comedy clubs where there were three males performing to one female. She said there is still a perception that “chicks can’t be funny.” Lisa and Jennie both admire Tina Fey and Amy Poehler along with pioneers Lily Tomlin, Gilda Radner, and Carol Burnett.
They talked about today’s fast paced world of social media and said how you have to be constantly changing to keep up with it all. Jennie said the entertainment industry changed with the Internet and everyone is “trying to find their way.” With the advent of Twitter, Instagram and the like, young entertainers are trying to find their niche. She said you have to “stay true to who you are creatively.” Lisa added that humor is ageless and her 14-year-old niece still thinks Lisa is “cool.”
Both Lisa and Jennie have stayed true to their creative selves. Besides their comedy shows, which they have taken worldwide, they each perform in other entertainment ventures.
Jennie McNulty just played the mother-of- the-bride in an upcoming film Freelancers Anonymous. She joked about auditioning for the bride’s part and being cast as the mom. Jennie said she had so much fun doing the movie she would like to do another film. Jennie is also a comedy coach and runs stand-up comedy writing workshops.
Since 1996, Lisa Koch has been performing in Seattle’s ACT theatre as a comedy duo with Peggy Platt in Dos Fallopia and they have taken this show on the road at countless venues and festivals. This holiday season Lisa will be performing her show, Ham for the Holidays in Seattle.
Lisa has also recorded four solo CD’s, her latest compilation, Enjoy the Ride. The title song is a tribute to her father; poignant and touching as her other songs on the CD.
Both women agree that bringing the LGBT community together is important to them. They said the goal is to have the audience laugh and have a good time. Jennie McNulty said, “We have to find a way to like each other.” Lisa plays a song, “Stand by Me” during the show. She said it is to show that people are not alone and are strong together. She finds power in singing together. Lisa Koch said, ”You have to find joy in what you are doing”.
They ended their show at the Rrazz Room with an improv act. Members of the audience are asked to write down a sentence. Jennie and Lisa ask the audience to decide who their characters will be and where they are. In a hilarious skit they pretended to be sisters in a convent, reading the sentences from the audiences in their dialogue.
You can see from their relationship both on and off stage that they have found “joy” in what they do, and are giving that back to audiences wherever they go. To follow these ladies and where they are performing next visit jenniemcnulty.com and heylisa.com.