I’m not a mom. I don’t want to be a mom. But if I were a mom, I’d obviously be in the “Cannabis Moms Club.”
After a late-summer debut on WhoHaha, the female-focused comedy site founded by actress Elizabeth Banks, the eponymous web series was the company’s first exclusive distribution deal and quickly lauded by the likes of NPR, Vanity Fair and Mashable.
Co-creators Deena Adar and Kai Collins originally met in 2007 at an improv class at longtime comedy institution The Groundlings, and have collaborated ever since, officially launching their own production company Quiet Duke in 2010. Since then, they’ve written, directed, and produced projects including the comedy pilot “thirty*ish*” and the short film “How to Survive a Breakup,” which had a successful run on the film festival circuit in 2015, also winning the Audience Award at the LA Comedy Festival.
Between tracking crappy weed sitcoms, a borderline obsession with re-watching “High Maintenance” before its splashy HBO premiere, and a general aversion to anything “mommy” related, I only recently dove into its five episodes — all streaming for free on WhoHaHa.
As the first episode opens (watch the video below), the ensemble cast portrays a group of half-hip, half-basic housewives gathered in a living room for a jewelry party while the kids are at school — that is until “Caroline” (Shannon Nelson) accidentally reveals a vaporizer she has in her purse. After cautious looks are exchanged, the ladies begin to pass it around — the reoccurring hostess “Kim” (Danielle Weeks) even trying it for the first time. The series continues to reunite and loosen up the seemingly motherhood-hating ladies at Kim’s house, where her husband “Paul” (Daniel Kash) comes home at the most inopportune of times, nearly busting their beloved secret sessions.
At its core, “Cannabis Moms Club” epitomizes the very bond that only sharing a smoke can bring out in a group — revealing stories from their glory days, confessions of getting high at work, and laugh-crying through the horror stories that come with the challenges of motherhood. Members of Cannabis Moms Clubs everywhere are not bad moms. They love their kids, they love their husbands, they love their friends, and they love cannabis…most of the time.
Finishing the series in one night (each episode is under seven minutes) and then taking to IMDb to find out they were fellow festival folk, I wanted to connect with these two Film Fatales to learn more. Here, we chat about reversing the stigma, rocking a two-day shoot, and how your best friends truly are family.
The Cannabist: Are you both moms?
Deena Adar: I’m a mom to two boys (ages 6 and 3). I’m lucky to have all the hair on my head.
Kai Collins: I’m not, actually. I’m a “surrogate mom” … we kind of co-parent! And Deena’s husband plays “Paul” on the show. But having experienced motherhood so closely through my friends and family members, I feel like I’m very well aware and have zero illusion. I’m always surprised when new parents say, “Wow, it’s so much harder than I thought it would be.” I’m like, really?
Cannabist: How did you get the idea, and was it immediately developed as a web series?
Adar: We got our start in commercials, but had done a short film about a breakup that went to festivals and got distribution and some other shorts before that, so a web series seemed like the next logical step. But this specific story stems from this mommy group I belong to on Facebook. A mom had posted an Amy Schumer-size jug of wine and was sitting in her driveway asking, “Who’s with me?” All these moms were commenting like, “Hell yeah girl, get your drink on!” So we thought, “What would happen if this image was swapped with a joint?” It brought up this extreme stigma and double standard that exists with marijuana.
Cannabist: What has happened? Have you gotten any negative feedback from the mommy groups out there?
Collins: We haven’t actually — with the exception of some people not wanting to show it to their grandparents. It’s been amazing to see how open and receptive people have been, both on WhoHaha and Facebook. We’ve been surprised to see some of the comments of how many moms out there are so excited it even exists.
Adar: With our title, you eliminate certain demographics right away. But it’s been very exciting to see the number of men and non-smokers watching the show and giving us feedback like, “This is the funniest thing we’ve ever seen.”
Cannabist: Was reversing the stigma a goal for the series?
Collins: Yes, and it seems to have achieved it. It’s opened this necessary dialogue — especially for parents. Like, “Why is alcohol acceptable to post on Facebook — with your kids in photos with alcohol?” Moms are doing countdowns to when they can open a bottle of wine … talking openly about popping anti-depressants. Why are those OK, rather than (marijuana)?
Adar: We wanted to open a dialogue that’s non-judgmental too. About all the ways we judge ourselves and others…as parents, as women. It’s interesting, and kind of funny, to see how people are outing their friends by getting tagged in the comments. But our hope too is that people who watch can relate to these characters. There are so many outlets and forums for parents to feel bad about themselves for making the wrong choices, so the series came from a place of letting go of judgment — a great theme to think about, especially now.
Cannabist: Are you both cannabis consumers?
Adar: I went to Berkeley, so I think that kinda says everything. I don’t drink and other moms always seem to be flabbergasted. It’s easier to write from our own lives, coming from a more honest and real place.
Collins: Absolutely. There are so many benefits to cannabis use from a medical perspective … benefits that outweigh the outdated social stigma. And socially, you know how people just suck, and then you find out they smoke weed and then you’re like, “Oh, let’s hang out, then.”
Cannabist: Totally. And I’m not just saying this, but Kai, you’re my favorite character in the series. How did you decide to also appear in front of the camera?
Collins: We had specific actors we really wanted to work with from our other projects, but when talking about different types of parents and fleshing characters out, we included “Sam.” She’s a character I created just for Deena when we were waiting to meet an agent. We always get nervous…we’re sweating…eating Altoids. So as a distraction, I started talking about (in an Australian accent) bottled spirit water and dancing with ancient aboriginal people, and it made Deena laugh. I wanted to explore her on a deeper level and make her more grounded, so we thought it would be fun to write her as a real person. It’s been a really great opportunity to get back into acting.
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Cannabist: How did the WhoHaha deal happen?
Adar: They had just formed a few months prior to when we shot this actually. So, when they had officially launched, the timing worked out perfectly. After we wrapped, we literally just reached out via their contact form and told them we’d love to be a part of it with our new project. It’s been an amazing, supportive partnership. We couldn’t be happier.
Cannabist: How long did the series take you to shoot?
Collins: We were wildly ambitious. And we are known to prepare to an absurd degree — picture color-coded binders. All five episodes were done in two days. We wouldn’t do it again this way, but we also had the benefit of working with the same crew and actors that we have collaborated with for so many years.
Adar: We knew we were going to crank it out in those two days from the beginning though, so we wrote it in a way to keep locations, actors, and wardrobe very limited.
Cannabist: What’s next?
Collins: We would love to see a second season happen. We have it outlined and ready to go. The number of views we’re getting, the positive feedback … we hope it leads to additional time with these women. And maybe we’ll even include cannabis dads!
Adar: That would be amazing. When we wrote it, we saw so many avenues and set up these characters so we could at one point spend more time to explore these women’s lives in more depth. And I mean, if Netflix or Hulu wants to call us, we’re here.