Playin’ in a Travellin’ Band

I love to travel. This shouldn’t be surprising. A lot of people like to travel. You probably love to travel. People who don’t love to travel have either 1) not travelled or 2) not travelled right… yet. (There’s still hope for them.)

There were a few things I worried about when I made the leap to the life of a comedian. One was: will I ever have enough money to travel again? (Noting that I spent a year in Europe back in the pre-comedy days and it totally changed my life.) It’s well documented that amateur comedians often don’t lead the most glamorous lifestyles. Most of us are just scraping by to make rent and / or feed ourselves. A lot of us end up getting day jobs to make that process a bit easier. (See The Constant Struggle Podcast.)

When I was getting started, it seemed pretty obvious the only way I could ever continue to travel was to become a stand-up comic, get hired by Yuk Yuk’s and only ever travel in Canada. So I gave stand-up the ol’ college try. (Literally. I went to college for stand-up.) Along the way, I got side-tracked with this wonderful thing called improv, and again by the calling of the craft of sketch. What can I say? Humans are by nature social animals. (And empaths don’t do super well listening to that much misery and misogyny.)

In spite of the joys I was getting performing sketch and improv, I kept telling myself if I wanted to travel, I needed to put more emphasis on my stand-up.

I’m only now realizing that I was dependent on an outside source to give me the ability to travel; when, like many other things in my career in comedy, it is in fact possible to just do it myself. Thinking back, in my first year outside of Humber, I co-produced a tour that hit three Canadian cities; Stratford, Ottawa, and Montreal. Afterwards, I was part of a Fringe show that took me to Winnipeg for the first time in my life. I took some personal trips to the comedy meccas of New York and Chicago. Another Fringe took me to Halifax for the first time, where I also took the opportunity to road-trip around PEI in case I never got back! Last year my sketch troupe visited Boston. I began teaching workshops and doing shows that took me back to my alma-mater city of Ottawa, and this summer, I’m booking regular shows in my stomping grounds in the Niagara Region.  And lo and behold, should I be ever-so lucky to have been asked to do some travail that’s taken me the furthest West I’ve ever been in our great country. Vancouver! And on my birthday, no less.

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They have mountains AND water here!

I am grateful. I am happy. I am travelling!

The long and short of it is, if you want to make travelling a priority in your performance plan; make it so, number ones! Just take a look at what the awesome gang at Daisy Productions are doing. Funding can be an issue, so they worked hard to raise a bunch of dollars to take their production LOL LOL LAND all the way to Orlando later this year. With that, they can combine performing AND a trip to DisneyWorld all in one shot! It’s genius. As I type this, my Assembly buds Grim Diesel are currently rocking the Chicago Improv Fest. Improv pros RN & Cawls are currently Down Under teaching courses and no doubt getting more material for their podcast while they’re at it. And I’m here in Vancouver. On my laptop. When I should be on a suspension bridge or something! Maybe not. It’s pretty late.

I guess this is just my own reminder, and maybe it’s helpful to you too, not to wait for someone to tell you what you can do. Figure out how to make it happen, and in the immortal words of everyone in Letterkenny (which I think is appropriate given how that show came to be. Look it up.): PITTER PATTER!

My Honest Little Struggle with Sketch Comedy

/ a nerdy THANK YOU NOTE to my sketch partner

In 2011, I was accepted into the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival with the troupe I was in at Humber’s School of Comedy. We were one of the only active sketch troupes in the 2nd year of the program and were pretty much automatically allowed in by virtue of the fact we’d produced, like, one show outside Humber and a few video sketches (which are no longer available online, and this is probably for the best.)

Ever. since. then. I have been trying so hard to get a sketch project together, and in all honesty, it was not easy for me. I’ve been trying to be self-aware and to figure out why that was. Someone once told me I was difficult to work with; but I don’t think I’m difficult to work with. I work with a lot of people all the time. They don’t seem to think I’m hard to work with. I just don’t want to write sexist or misogynistic bullshit. Does that make me hard to work with?

It’s hard to get that note though. Because that’s the kind of stuff that sticks with you, and affects the way you approach future projects. All the future sketch projects I tried to get together consisted strongly of a constant monitoring of my behaviour to make sure I wasn’t over-Brie-ing it.

I tried a thing with trio that worked for a while, but not long enough to submit an application. We had problems coordinating our schedules and eventually faded out. I tried a duo thing, where we had one show, and it was fun, but it was not my partner’s priority, so that petered out too. I also never wanted to do solo-sketch so figuring it out on my own wasn’t an option either.

I watched as people I had worked with got into the festival with other projects time and again, and thought – well, why can’t I get my shit together and work this out?

Enter Dave Lahti. My sketch-knight in shining armour with bad knees.

There’s a top 10 things I love about working in comedy, and working with Dave is definitely in the top 3. Though we’re both pretty busy people with real jobs and real relationships, and real-life stuff going on in the background, we work really well together as sketch partners. I don’t even think he minds that much when I go all ENFP with scheduling and rehearsals, and well, I guess all the normal stuff a sketch troupe needs to do to succeed that I used to be called “difficult” for wanting to try to figure out.

Dave made traveling to Boston work, even though he had a huge other engagement with a close friend and had to leave the day after our show. He still made the trip super fun and memorable.

He’s performed with me at countless Humber shows even though he’s never stepped foot on the campus. (As far as I know.)

Last year, we applied to Sketchfest & didn’t get in. We’d only had a few sets under our belt, but I panicked this would discourage him from continuing with the project. When I asked him if he still wanted to play together, he gave such a resounding “yes!,” I may have shed a tear. So we powered through; wrote more, played more, drank more tiny bottles of liquor and got to work. He even came to my wedding for Pete’s sake. (Not you, Pete.)

And now, we’ve done it. 6 years later, I finally get to play in the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival because we’ve earned it. Because I found my sketch partner. And because we paid the $25 entry fee.

If you want to see what this sappy bullshit looks like LIVE, check us out on March 3rd and 9th. We’re real fun. I promise.

screenshot-2017-02-10-21-45-47Here’s our Sketchfest profile, for your viewing pleasure and sexual excitation. (Click on the image.):

 

On Regret

Last year, after one of the Personal Space Invaders shows at Comedy Bar, I was having a post-show chat with some improvisers and we were joined by Tony Rosato. I complimented him on how funny and great he was that night and he did the same back to me. (He really didn’t need to, he’s Tony freakin’ Rosato.)

We kept chatting and the conversation shifted to sketch comedy. He told me he really missed performing sketch, and that its definitely something he’d like to get back into.

I had just gotten back into sketch (or rather, had finally found someone patient enough to work with me); so I was feeling enthusiastic about the art form. So I blurted out, as I often do when I’m feeling invincible and as though time is unlimited, that we should do some sketch together.

Tony sounded very enthusiastic about it. (Or at least as enthusiastic as his style could muster – he was a pretty calm dude) But he smiled.

I’d asked him why he stopped performing sketch after SCTV and SNL and he spoke very openly about the mental health struggles he’d had in the past.

But he was feeling like he was ready to get back into it if and when the opportunity had shown itself.

Well here it was. Opportunity.

*

The thing about making plans in comedy is that we often do that thing where we say “yeah, we should totally work together some day.” Sometimes we mean it. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we mean it and we realistically don’t know how we’re ever going to make it happen, even if both parties are willing due to time restraints or other commitments. Sometimes we figure we’ll get around to it eventually, once life settles down a bit.

But then, sometimes you lose the chance to ever get around to it.

We really don’t have much time here together. I want to stop putting off the things I want to achieve that can begin TODAY.

I don’t want to miss another opportunity to work with genius.

I’m sorry I never got to write, even just a single sketch, with my friend Tony.

OK so we're clearly not doing a scene together here, but it brings me huge joy to see that Tony's semi-smiling at what I'm sure was something very ridiculous I'd spun up.

OK so I’m clearly not doing a scene with Tony in this photo, but it brings me huge joy to see he’s semi-smiling at whatever the hell I was doing at the time it was taken.

Beautiful Mistakes

A great reminder thanks to People & Chairs.

People and Chairs

Cameron and I saw the Chihuly exhibit with our friend, Nadine Prada, yesterday. It was like walking into a glass wonderland, filled with colour and light.

Part of the exhibit was a film where the artist described his career in glass-blowing. He spent the first 10 years, he said, just “making mistakes.”

A decade is a long time to keep failing. And yet, the result of all those mistakes is now enjoyed by millions, in museums, gardens, rivers, and hotels worldwide. We wouldn’t have these breathtaking sculptures without all the crashing and burning.

As improvisers, we have the opportunity to make mistakes every time we perform. Chihuly’s work was a brilliant reminder of just what a gift that can be.

Photo © Nadine Prada Photo © Nadine Prada

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My 2016

A lot of people think 2016 stunk like poop. And it many ways it did. But if there’s one thing my recent trip down Morning-Affirmations-Lane has taught me, it’s that sometimes is does the body a lot more good to focus on the positive rather than the poop.

So here’s a little highlight of some of the things I consider to be accomplishments from the year 2016 (in no particular order):

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  • Created/produced a new show called What If? Improvising Your Alternate Universe in which I get to play with some of my favourite people and live out the catharsis of some very interesting storytellers. The shows kicked off at Comedy Bar’s “Festival of New Formats” in January, and we’ve at least a show a month every since then, including a trip to showcase the show in Ottawa in March (and another one coming up in January.)
  • Wrote a handful satirical articles that were published on CBC Comedy‘s website.
  • Recorded 16 episodes of my podcast The Constant Struggle with my brother Nick, and we got to know more about many of our artist friends and the hard work they do to create their art.
  • Placed on a Longform Grad Team at The Second City Training Centre alongside some wickedly talented performers. We’re called Chakra Khan and we perform regularly on Thursday and Sunday nights at the John Candy Box Theatre.
  • Asked to produce one of the coolest shows in the Second City Longform Program’s new Thursday night line-up. It’s called POPAGANDA and I get to work with my bae, Antonis Varkaris, who hosts the show with an unmatched flare. To date, we’ve booked so many of my favourite improvisers, I think I may have lost count. (That’s a lie, I have a spreadsheet keeping track of everyone who’s performed.)
  • My show Guess Who’s Coming to Improv? continues to bring improvisers together outside the classroom and with some of our improv heroes.
  • Asked to participate in a review of my college program; where I feel my opinion was genuinely considered.
  • Performed in a duo with my wonderful friend Ashley Seaman.
  • Accepted to perform in the Big City Improv Festival.
  • Spoke on a festival panel about producing.
  • Awarded “Female MVP” on my comedy softball team. ❤ Jokebox.
  • Asked to be a model for the first time in my life & got to walk the catwalk at the Halton / Hamilton Bridal Show thanks to Bella Mia Bridal.
  • Performed in my first international festival alongside my bud David Lahti with The Utilidors at the Boston Comedy Arts Festival and got to play in the All-Star Traveller’s Improv Jam which was total chaos and complete fun!

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  • Travelled to Calgary for the first time in over 10 years to Emcee my first wedding (OMG how has it taken this long, this is my dream “job”) for 2 of my very good friends, Colleen Chan & Philippe Laroche.
  • Pitched a show to CBC with my great writing partner Chris Hedrick.
  • Asked to produce Monday shows all summer long for alumni of the Humber College Comedy Program.
  • Graduated from the Second City’s Longform Program alongside some wonderful baes.
  • Travelled to Ottawa to teach a sketch comedy writing workshop for women.
  • Formed a duo with one of my favourite improvisers Leanne Miller.
  • Performed on a team in a French improv league in Toronto.
  • Performed in the SheDot Festival alongside my platonic life wife Gillian English.
  • Was featured in a live promotional radio interview.
  • Was asked to be on a comedy radio show that also featured the Kids in the Hall’s Scott freakin’ Thompson! (And the delightful Stephanie Herreira)

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  • Produced and performed in my second annual World War One-themed improv show to raise funds for the Vimy Foundation.
  • Asked to host shows for the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival.
  • Took a road trip to NYC & got to see a taping of Late Night with Stephen Colbert, ASSSCAT 3000 at UCB and Dave Attell at the Comedy Cellar.
  • Performed an out-of-town stand-up show for a birthday party in Kitchener, ON.
  • Produced a night of stand-up and storytelling where comedians openly spoke about mental health issues; as a fundraiser for the Canadian Mental Health Association.
  • Helped a friend develop a concept for a new improv show in association with the Second City Training Centre. She’s still running it today!

On top of all that, I spent quite a bit of time planning my biggest show of the year; the one where I married my best friend; my partner in silliness Dan Dingwall.

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2016 was a pretty big year for me. And I can’t wait to see what 2017 has in store.

Happy New Year everybody!

 

 

Everything I know, I learned from The Simpsons

A job posting came up. I looked at it, and thought – what a cool job, but there’s no way I would ever get it. I’m don’t have enough experience.

But someone encourages me to apply. So I do.

I get the interview. I feel confident in the interview. It’s a job in Canadian comedy. I know Canadian comedy. I feel good.

Months pass. Months!

I find out this week, I didn’t get the job.

I don’t have enough experience.

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