2017 Briear in Review

My lighthouse word for 2017 was wake. The idea was that I wanted to stop feeling like life was passing me by; like I was sleeping or dazing through things for which I should really feel present. Except for this past week where I literally slept through Christmas because I was recovering from a bad bout of bronchitis, I think I did my lighthouse word justice.

This year was crazy. At times it felt like absolutely nothing was happening, and other times, so much was going on my head was spinning. A lot of change, a lot of taking a few steps back in order to move forward. But nevertheless, here she is; the list of the things I consider to be accomplishments in 2017:

  • I joined the faculty at The Second City Training Centre in Toronto and began teaching the Improv program.
  • I maintained my first ever bullet journal in an effort to help keep me on track.
  • I performed stand-up comedy at Yuk Yuk’s downtown Toronto.
  • I recorded 13 new episodes of The Constant Struggle podcast with my brother Nick. We branched out a bit and started talking to visual artists as well as performing artists.
  • I continued to produce and host Guess Who’s Coming to Improv? for another successful year, a show that brings improvisers together outside the classroom and allows us to play with some of our improv heroes.
  • I went on an audition for a commercial sans representation.
  • I was asked to host improv shows by other troupes and performers.
  • I was asked to be featured on not one, but two podcasts (that weren’t my own.)
  • I continued to produce and perform my show What If? Improvising Your Alternate Universe, which traveled beyond Toronto this year to places like: New York City, Ottawa, Thorold, Niagara Falls & St. Catharines.
  • I continued to produced and perform in the super fun POPAGANDA at The Second City’s John Candy Box Theatre with my fantastic host Antonis Varkaris.
  • I wrote a column that was published in the Ottawa Citizen about disability and public transit.
  • I filmed and starred in a funny sketch comedy video with my sketch partner from The Utilidors, Dave Lahti and our newfound production crew Steve Mavilla and Matt Lazzarini.
  • My sketch troupe The Utilidors performed two awesome sets in the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival.
  • The Utilidors got themselves a shiny new website.
  • I produced and performed in a series of improv shows in the Niagara Region and founded Niagara Improv with my longtime best buddy Dina Senior. (We even made the front cover because of it!)


  • I performed in my first ever Second City BizCo production, which took me to Vancouver, BC. First time I’d ever been there too!
  • I traveled to England and France.
  • I performed improv in London, England in a super fun jam at The Nursery Theatre.
  • I returned to Vimy Ridge after 9 years to attend and volunteer at the centennial celebration of the victory at Vimy. I was reunited with friends Scott and Sydnie, who were the most wonderful companions with whom to share the experience. (While I was there I got to meet Paul Gross and chat with Peter Mansbridge. Not to mention got a few sightings of PM JT and HRHs the Princes Charles, William and Harry!)


  • I got to eat at my favourite restaurant in the world, the Carpe Diem in the city of Arras, where I lived for several months back in 2007-2008.
  • I was properly measured for a bra for the first time in my life in London.
  • I saw Daniel Radcliffe perform in a play in the West End.
  • I performed in the first ever 420 Comedy Festival in Toronto
  • I co-organized a Women’s Mental Health workshop using comedy and mindfulness to benefit women in the comedy community, and women-identifying people in general with my fierce and compassionate friends Alicia, Candace and Janet.
  • I continued to perform with my improv Chakra Khan, which had attempted to be dismantled by two different organizations. And still, we prevailed and now run a monthly variety show at Comedy Bar.
  • At work, I produced a fundraiser show and helped raise over $500 for the Heart & Stroke Foundation.
  • I produced and performed in the improv portion of Toronto’s SheDot Festival. And my face was on the poster!
  • I played softball for another season with Team Jokebox in Toronto Comedy Softball League
  • I submitted a pitch to Just for Laughs with my writing buddy Chris Hedrick.
  • My husband and I were approved for a mortgage.
  • I performed in the Del Close Marathon in New York City for the first time ever; and due to unforeseen travel circumstances, had to drive there with my buddies Coko, Daphney and Candace. This turned out to be the most wonderful adventure.


  • I got a car. My little red Ford Briesta!
  • I went on sabbatical from administrative job to pursue comedy exclusively for a year.
  • I was lucky enough to see Tom Petty perform live in Ottawa before he passed away.
  • I was selected to perform with a super fun new improv troupe Leopard Cohen as part of the newly formed improv collective; The Assembly.
  • I Won my first ever Beerprov and finally got to drink out of the mug of champions. (Side note, still don’t like beer all that much.)
  • I bought a house and moved in back to the Niagara Region and began my new role as a commuting comedian.
  • I took a workshop with impro guru Keith Johnstone.
  • I performed in a fun historical comedy play for the Bloorcourt Festival.
  • I completed a Voice Over workshop & created my voice demo reel.
  • I travelled to Chicago, Il to attend the first ever Yes and Mental Health conference with my friends Alicia and Candace. We enjoyed pizza and live comedy while we were there.

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  • I applied for and  received my first ever grant to create a comedy pilot, which is currently in production.
  • I celebrated 1 year of marriage to my love, Dan.
  • I found out I’m going to be an aunt; my sister’s expecting!
  • I performed in the Big City Improv Festival again this year.
  • I travelled to Upstate New York with my parents to take in some colourful sights.

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  • I started coaching an improv troupe in Niagara.
  • I organized a surprise party for my Mom’s birthday and caught her completely off guard.
  • I caught bronchitis. And though that seems like kindof a crappy way to end the year, it forced me to rest up, it allowed me to catch up on all kinds of awesome TV shows and movies I’d missed and it really refreshed me and got me ready for what’s to come in 2018.

Thanks to everyone who helped me stay awake this year and embrace the good.

Happy New Year!

Just Be Quiet

“If you continually criticize or silence your children, especially your girls, eventually it might take.”


I teach improv.

Sometimes I teach improv to kids.

Sometimes kids are more honest and revealing than their adult counterparts.

I was teaching improv to kids as a way of helping them be more comfortable with presentations at school. At the beginning of class, I asked the students if any of them identified as having stage fright.

Some did. Not surprising. We moved on.

Later in the workshop, we were playing a game called Make a Story. In this game, a group of improvisers work together to tell a story.  The instructor points to the different improvisers, who take turns providing the next chunk of the story. The idea is for the group to listen to each others’ offers, work together as a team and build a cohesive story.

This group was composed of the improvisers who’d waited a while to volunteer to go up. The more outgoing individuals opted to go first, while the more reserved ones wait to get an idea of how the game is played before feeling confident the game won’t bring upon them unbearable discomfort or embarrassment. This is high school, after all.

The more reserved bunch went up and told a wonderful story. Every bit of it made sense logically, and it rivalled any of the other stories I’ve heard being performed by a group of people playing this game for the first time.

When I asked the group how they felt about their story, one girl confessed that she found it very difficult. I asked her why she felt that way.

She said: “Remember earlier, when you asked if we have stage fright? I’m one of those people who hates making presentations.”

I said to her: “But you did great! You seemed so confident. I couldn’t tell at all that you were nervous. Why don’t you like talking in front of people?”

She replied: “because every time I mis-speak at home, my mom yells at me.”

Look, I don’t pretend to know anything about parenting. But something tells me that if you keep telling your kid to just shut up, eventually they’re probably going to get the message. And that might cost them; grades, jobs, promotions. Who knows?

I quickly reinforced to her that her contribution to the story was helpful, wonderful and so. incredibly. valid. But that moment made me feel very sad.

I am a big loud-mouth. I speak loud on stage and off. Growing up in my house, my instead of going downstairs to ask my parents a question, I would typically shout my request down to them, and for the most part, they’d return the conversation in kind. My voice is a valuable tool, and it has always been encouraged as such.

Most people I meet, after knowing them for a month or two will typically express something the likes of: “I can’t believe I used to think you were shy (/quiet.)” (What can I say, it takes me a little while before revealing my true self to people, especially in like, an office setting or an intimate piano lesson.)

You know what? I’m probably reading too much into this, and creating drama where there is none. This girl’s relationship with her mother is probably wonderful, and totally Gilmore Girls and everything is sunshine and unicorns. But I can’t help thinking, if you continually criticize or silence your children, especially your girls, eventually it might take.

They might lose their voice.

They might be profoundly uncomfortable in an improv class. They might never feel confident in a business meeting. They might not speak up in a moment of crisis.

And then what?

More silence.