Fearlessly funny

Marilyn debuts on our website Tuesday, July 23!

If you’ve not yet heard about WHOA! Network, you will. Co-founded by two FOF dynamos, Lynn Forbes and Darryle Pollack, WHOA! is the acronym for Women Honoring Our Age. Each wonderful video on the network is produced on the premise that “women should be seen and heard at every age and valued more as we get older, not less.” The videos shine the spotlight on us, the most accomplished, daring, smart, funny, opinionated generation of women in the history of the world.

WHOA! and FabOverFifty are joining forces to introduce a really funny lady, Marilyn Kentz, who will be doing an exclusive video series for us, starting Tuesday, July 23.  Here’s a sneak peek video of Marilyn’s comedy standup performance, followed by a lively conversation we recently had with her. (Wait till you read about her marriages.)

Where did you grow up?
I grew up as a young catholic in Santa Rosa, a little town in Northern California, about 50 miles north of San Francisco. I denounced my religion when I got to be a teenager and started doing acid.

How old are you?
I’m 65.

What did your folks do?
My dad was a referee for basketball and football. My mom was a homemaker.

When did you get married?
I got married to Larry when I was 18, just out of high school. When I was 28, I met and fell in love with my current husband, Richard. He was also married and we had an affair for a while, but I told Larry all about it. It was a free love era and Larry said it was ok. Larry was a firefighter and he was gone every other night for three days at a time, so I’d stay with Richard. I asked both Larry and Richard to have vasectomies, kind of like the buddy plan. Although I’m a female, I still have balls.

Why did Larry go along with it?
We had gotten married so young, we were outgrowing each other. Fighting was not our thing. We were pushing 30 and becoming different people. We were growing up and growing apart. It was just easier for Larry to ignore. On Independence Day, I woke up and I asked Larry, ‘Have you ever thought of separating?’ and he said ‘Yeah. Have you?’ And I said ‘Yeah, Do you want to do it?’ and he said, ‘Sure, let’s do that.’ We then made love and that was the end. I just moved on. Richard and I married two years later, the same day Larry remarried. We called each other from our receptions. We also went together to get our divorces.

Marilyn and her soon-to-be-married daughter, Marcy.
“Marcy thinks it’s her wedding,” Marilyn jokes.

I had Aaron with Larry. He’s now 39. I never asked Larry for any kind of child support. I left him and took my child with me. He shouldn’t have to pay for that. It was another version of getting divorced.

Richard had a girl and a boy, who are now almost 43 and 40. I got two wonderful, darling step kids. They lived with us since their mom was in the army, learning to be a nurse. Then I wanted another baby and asked Richard to have his vasectomy reversed and he did.

We had a little girl, now 27, who is getting married in September.

Were you working?
I was an illustrator [self taught] and I did illustrations for Richard, who was working in real estate and writing a book to help people sell their own homes. When we started living together, I worked for a foreign exchange student program for 10 years.

Tell us about your career in entertaining?
When I was about 10, I accidentally got the role as an extra in the old movie Pollyanna. I went to an audition with a girlfriend, Mary, and her babysitter, for the heck of it. They didn’t take Mary; they took me instead. I thought I was such a hot shot when I was 10. But when my mother and I went to see the movie’s first release I discovered I wound up on the cutting room floor.

When I was pregnant with my fourth child, we moved to Petaluma. At the time, I was teaching drama at a private school. We did Gone with the Petaluma Wind with kindergarteners to sixth graders. Moms did the choreography and other things. My husband and I wrote the play. I always had entertainment in my blood.

Petaluma is a dairy and egg Parade, a small cow town. A very funny woman named Caryl lived across the street from us. Along with a third woman, we created Comedy Camp for Mommies, a comedy show for women who didn’t want sex more than once a month. We played the Petaluma Women’s Club and there was standing room only for our very first show. Within two years, we were playing in comedy clubs all over the Bay area, San Francisco to Sacramento. We had a gig almost every night. I was 40.

How did this lead to the big time?
A manager approached Caryl and me in 1992 to play at a place called Club Soda at the Montreal Comedy Festival. Lily Tomlin was a host that year and Dave Chappelle was there. We didn’t understand that we were actually auditioning to get a TV pilot. So we did our thing and were a huge hit. We immediately got firm offers from NBC, CBS and ABC. We were so naïve, we chose NBC because ABC had Full House, which I thought was a stupid show. Caryl didn’t want CBS because she didn’t like Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. NBC had Cheers, which we both liked, so we chose NBC.

A promotional poster for the 1993 sitcom, “The Mommies,” with Marilyn and Caryl Kristensen

The show was called The Mommies and it was on Saturday nights for two years. Then we got an ABC talk show, called Caryl and Marilyn: Real Friends, for a year. The most exciting part was meeting Rosa Parks during Black History Month. My daughter’s whole 5th grade class came to the Green Room to ask Rosa questions. Then Barbara Walters wanted our time slot for The View. She was more powerful than we were, so we lost the show, even though the ratings were good.

Caryl went back to school after that. I co-wrote three books, including The Mother Lode, Not Your Mother’s Midlife: A 10-Step Guide to Fearless Aging and Fearless Women, Midlife Portraits, a photo essay of women over 40 who made a difference in the world. I’ve also made a living as a book ghostwriter. Right now, I’m doing a book with the fabulous Ann Lopez, who was married to George Lopez and gave him a kidney.

When I worked on Not Your Mother’s Midlife, I offered a 10-week course in Fearless Aging. About 12 women joined the group. The same women are still together 10 years later. It just worked. Today, we have three Fearless Aging women’s groups, two in LA and one in Santa Rosa. They’re support groups. When a women enters midlife there are certain distinctive challenges that come our way, such as empty nests, aging parents, and trying to find ourselves. We help one another through crises.

Now you’ve re-launched your comedy routines? How did that happen?
A year ago, I was asked to do a speech to a group of women about aging. I decided to use the interesting, little journal entries about aging that I’ve been writing all along. First, I practiced it on a group of women in a room in back of a restaurant, to get the timing and flow right. Over 50 women came, so I decided to do another, when over 100 women came. This is really catching on, I thought.

Then I work-shopped the routine all over Northern California and brought it to Southern California.

What’s the focus of your shows?
I talk about the changes and challenges that happened to us as young teenagers, when hormones started running the show, and how the same things are happening on the opposite side of the spectrum. Our bodies are changing. We have emotional challenges, some hormonally driven. I go over the changes and challenges that are universal, from middle age spread to some good things. I use pure honesty, plus humor, plus pathos.

How long are the shows?
45 minutes

So you book the space, promote them and sell the tickets?

What do you charge for the tickets?
$20. I don’t want to overcharge women.

How often are you doing your shows now?
I did about 30 shows in the last year. A couple of women have come five times. Now I’m taking a break because I have my daughter’s wedding to produce in September. I say ‘Move over, Martha.’ I’m doing things that Martha Stewart has never even thought of.

-3Such as?
I’m making 10-foot long runners, made out of vintage silk and cotton crocheted doilies, for 20-foot long picnic tables. I’m gluing them together in patterns. I’m also making paper magnolias, which will go on either side of the stage.

What’s been your biggest challenges since entering your mid 50s?
The aches and pains that have come along. But I’m a happy person (‘I’ve been on Prozac for 10 years’) and I love to drink at night. The minute I turned 60 I got arthritis. You can’t bend over without making some kind of noise. I’m also making the same kind of sigh that my mother used to make, but I never understood what it was then.

Are you a grandmother?
I have one little grandbaby but in a certain way I’m kind of a bad grandma. They call me and make me talk to two-year-old Amelia on the phone, but she doesn’t even speak yet. They say, ‘Say hi to Amelia’ but I don’t want to be foolish. Amelia is a mama’s baby. We babysat one evening when she was about six months old, and she cried the whole time and would not take a bottle. At one point, I said: ‘If you’re not going to drink, Noni is going to drink’ and I took the vodka.

Now you know why we’re so excited about the comedy of Marilyn Kentz. Don’t miss the debut of Marilyn on WHOA! Network and FabOverFifty next week!