greyscale image of a stop sign with the sky and phone lines in the background.

Stop Doing the Thing

Well hot damn, this took a turn. I’m always using my busy schedule as an excuse not to blog. Well, that’s not so much an issue now, is it? With Covid-19 spreading like wildfire (another very serious problem we’re also still facing globally), there seems to be nothing to do BUT write.

Or so I thought. But you’d be amazed all the stuff you can do instead of writing. I’ve managed to get all my physical receipts ready for tax time. Not enough, so I organized my husband’s too. I’m learning to teach improv online. (Yes, and… it’s gonna take some adjusting!) I’m sorting through junk drawers (and bags, anybody else got junk bags from moving so often?) I’m cleaning this and sanitizing that. I’m taking naps. I’m meditating. I’m watching way too much Netflix.

So here. Gah. Here I am, keyboard. Let’s type.

2020 was gearing up to be great and fun and BUSY:

  • I was about to teach more improv than ever before.
  • Improv Niagara had just secured a second monthly show, which was to take place in downtown Niagara Falls.
  • IN was about to make a huge deal about our 2nd Birthday Fallout show.
  • I was starting to get corporate gigs.
  • I was getting better at Pilates (ie farting less)
  • I’d received a newfound confidence from performing The Vagina Monologues in knowing a) I can, indeed, memorize big chunks of text b) I can, indeed, rock full-faux leather performance attire.

The last month of February was BUZZING. I’m telling you, BUZZING. A huge Improv Niagara event in Niagara Falls, followed immediately by two sold-out, explosive performances of The Vagina Monologues at Camp Cataract.

And now it comes crashing to a halt. No more shows. No more events of 250 people or more. Wait, now it’s 50. OK I get it. No more events. Gatherings = virus spreading. Non-essential services must cease.

Yes, of course, for the best. We must do our part to flatten the curve and keep as many people safe as possible. And yet, it is an adjustment. I guess at least with improv, we’re good with making those.

Me, as cult leader "John" in Outlaugh Toronto.

2019 Briear in Review

I get it. We’re well into 2020 by now, and I should have done this earlier in the year, but I’m not giving up on me, and the end of 2019 was rough, so just let me do me, OK? OK.

I’ve found tremendous joy in 2016, 2017 & 2018 writing my Year-in-Reviews and I don’t want to miss the boat. And hell, why not feel like it’s January again and not like 2020 is taking off like a rocket into the future and we have no control over it. That reminds me, my Lighthouse Word this year? NOW.

NOW…

In 2019 I…

  • had a continued run of successful Guess Who’s Coming to Improv? shows with amazingly talented special guest improvisers at Comedy Bar, allowing more opportunities for improvisers to share the stage with the improvisers to whom they look up.
  • Completed the Harold Studio Series at Bad Dog Theatre.
  • Released 7 new episodes of The Constant Struggle Podcast with my brother Nick.
  • Performed many fun sets as Semper Pie with my wonderful improv partner Alicia Douglas, including a few rounds at the World’s Biggest Improv Tournament and on the Stupid Good Comedy Show.
  • Continued writing and performing sketches in The Utilidors with my sketch partner Dave Lahti.
  • Continued seeing a counsellor to help manage my anxiety.
  • Had a super successful monthly run of Improv Fallout with Improv Niagara at Mahtay Café in St. Catharines.
  • Was invited to be a guest judge at the Brock Improv Summit.
  • Got a fun Valentine’s Day make-over on the Marilyn Dennis show with Dan.
That hair though!!!
  • Continued run of successful POPAGANDA shows at the John Candy Box Theatre with the amazing faculty members of the Second City Training Centre & other awesome local improvisers.
  • Taught my first (couple) Level C class(es) at SCTC.
  • Was asked to be the special guest in a few improv shows.
  • Improv Fallout celebrated its first birthday with a sold out performance, fun prizes and a special toast.
  • Changed my phone number. (Real-talk: I never liked the 647 one)
  • Survived another year around the sun.
  • Got to reconnect with an old pal & former roomie who lives far far away now.
  • Got back into stand-up comedy, performed all around Toronto & Niagara.
  • Opened an improv studio for Improv Niagara. Promptly closed it after 6 months because of its drain on resources.
  • Was asked to guest on a few podcasts.
  • Got a callback at Generals!
  • We released the series of informational videos about recycling for the Niagara Region.
Stuff Tie Toss!
  • Performed narrative longform for the first time with Improv Niagara in St. Catharines’ In the Soil Festival.
  • Played another season in the Toronto Comedy Softball League. The Jokebox, my team, took home the championship again, although I missed the finals. 😢
  • Performed in the Toronto Fringe Festival for the first time with the awesome KidsFringe show: BOY VS FLY
You don’t have to throw a shoe.
  • Ran a few improv & mental health workshops for women with Fantastic Funny Folks (Candace Meeks & Alicia Douglas.)
  • Survived a Twitter ban.
  • Had a blast hosting a fundraiser show for my buddy Dan Rosen.
  • Survived my car trying to kill me on College St. Subsequently got a new-to-me car.
  • More auditions this year than ever before. (Thanks Samm!)
  • Went camping for the first time in a long time with Dan under the craziest, brightest Full Moon.
  • Booked my first commercial!
More squeeze, please!
  • Taught stand-up at Second City for the first time.
  • Met the Mayor of St. Catharines at a flag raising ceremony for Culture Days, in which Improv Niagara participated for our 2nd year in a row.
  • Took a really cool photo I hope to be able to share with you one of these days.
  • Made it to our 3rd wedding anniversary with my love, Dan.
  • Took an improv workshop with the former Artistic Director of the UCB, Shannon O’Neill.
  • Made it to Tribal Council in Outlaugh Toronto.
  • Celebrated Guess Who’s Coming to Improv’s 5th anniversary! Brought the show down to Niagara for the first time.
  • Performed with a new improv duo partner, Andrew Lizotte, in a fun project entitled High Status Idiots.
  • Voted in another Federal Election. (My guy didn’t win.)
  • Sold a friggin’ house & moved into a new home.
  • Raised 150lbs of food for needy people in our community in Niagara.
  • Nous avons dit adieu à ma très chère grand-mère, qui nous a quitté à l’âge de 99 ans.

So probably the end of the year is why it took me so long to write this year-end post. I realize that now. However writing it now feels very good, very cleansing. My grand-mother was full of joie-de-vivre and a very funny woman. I’m certain she would want me to continue doing a similar path.

Que la santé, l’amour et la réussite vous accompagnent dans tous vos projets. Bonne année!

Outlaugh: The final confessional

For the past 2 months, I’ve had the pleasure of being part of a wonderful comedy experience by the name Outwit, Outplay, Outlaugh Toronto – a live comedy-version of the popular reality TV show Survivor.

At first, I really didn’t know what to expect. I’m not much of a Survivor fan, (much to the dismay of many of the die-hards in the Outlaugh cast.) In fact, my main relationship with Survivor was my obsessed-roommate (at the time,) printing out and posting east new cast above his bed and X-ing out everyone who was voted off. And the buffs. The buffs are cool.

I didn’t expect it to be such a fun and collaborative experience. I didn’t expect to connect with so many awesome Toronto comedians and performers. I don’t know why I didn’t expect these things. The producers involved know a lot of awesome people in Toronto’s comedy community. I guess the anxiety of the unknown made me believe it was going to be a cutthroat and nasty competition, but it was the total opposite. Well, it was still cutthroat, just not quite so nasty.

Every week we had new challenges, wherein we work on different comedic elements and styles, improv, sketch, stand-up. We even created a mini late-night TV episode in Week 3, (that was the day a snowstorm didn’t keep a full house from showing up, and one in which I got to portray my dream-role, that of a WW1 ghost. Hey. It was Remembrance Day. Give me this one.)

I got to work with such a wonderful variety of people I’d never met, let alone worked with before. It was just awesome to work together, knowing that, as well as wanting to win the competition, we were all working hard at creating the best show we possibly could while we were at it, or at least that was my strategy.

Not surprisingly, the challenges helped me realize how incredibly well I work with deadlines. In fact I may even call Jared Laxer (the live show’s Jeff Probst) ((the host of Survivor)) ) up after tonight’s finale to give me some writing assignments and check in on me to make sure I’m getting them done!

The show is so incredibly well produced with Jared, Linda Ellis and Matt Caldwell at the helm, and many others contributing to its smooth running and many moving pieces. There are video confessionals at the top of every show and throughout the live show too, actual immunity idols, and buffs. Again, so many buffs!

Look, I didn’t even mind getting voted out. (*cough*) Luckily, I lasted long enough where I could be in the Jury and my vote will now count in choosing a winner of the entire competition, which happens TONIGHT at the Social Capital Theatre at 8:30pm. So if you’re wondering what to do tonight in Toronto, do yourself a favour and check it out. It’s going to be intense, and it’s going to be hilarious. The tribe has spoken. See this show.

First Ad

I’d like to share a commercial in which I had the pleasure of performing. It was so fun, and so funny and I was so lucky to be cast in it. I also think it’s real fitting that the first speaking role I get in an ad is for a CBD product. Truly, it all add up!

I really gotta write in this blog more. And not only when friggin’ sweet stuff happens.

A cat rubbing up against a laundry basket.

Dirty Laundry

I think the main difference between my life with a full-time, 9-5 job and my life now is that I have more clean laundry now.

I’m not saying I was some filthy dirtbag at work or anything. Just that I remember doing laundry was always a scramble. And maybe it still is from time to time. And maybe you’re thinking: “Why is this so-called comedian talking about laundry?” Well, you do laundry, don’t you? We all do freakin’ laundry! It’s just nice to be able to get ready to go to an audition, or to go play softball, or to have a gig at night, and not have to fish out what I want to wear out of the dirty clothes basket, or the floor for that matter in all it’s wrinkly, deodorant-stained splendour.

Also, this is ultimately more about time than it is laundry. It’s nice to have the time to do basic human maintenance.

Sometimes, it’s these little things that stand out and need acknowledging.


What are some of the little things you do to help keep you feeling positive?

It is awesome!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted on this thing, and what’s the point of having a blog if not to post? I guess I’ve been feeling the need to post something profound or meaningful like other bloggers I follow who put a bunch of preparation and research into their pieces. But that was never the point of Clown College Confessions.

CCC exists so that years down the line I can remind myself of what was going on throughout the stages of my journey in comedy from clown college onward. And, if it can help / entertain others along the way, bonus round! Let’s take a look at what’s new then, shall we?

Fringe

I’m so stoked to be in a Fringe show this year. Last year I stage managed a really awesome show, but I learned that working the tech could never satiate the desire to be on stage. So, the opportunity to perform this year is a huge #blessing for me. I’m playing a Mom/Teacher (totally my wheelhouse) in a Kids Fringe show called “Boy vs. Fly.” If you have kids, nieces, nephews or you just like cute shows, you should totally check it out.

The poster for Boy vs Fly - the Fringe show in which I'm performing this summer.

It's a bright photo with a cartoon image of the cast. Next to it is the title of the show, along with names of cast and crew.

In the Soil

St. Catharines, or the Niagara Region, I should say, doesn’t have a Fringe festival per se. They do have something called In the Soil, which is organized by the Suitcase in Point theatre company. A huge endeavour to showcase visual and performing artists of the Niagara Region.

I was very happy when I found out Improv Niagara was accepted to In the Soil this year. The point of the festival this year (or maybe every year?) is to present something brand new that audiences have never seen a particular company present. For IN, who regularly perform a short form competition show, we were happy to try something new to us. Narrative longform improv. *insert dramatic sting.

We rehearsed a BUNCH. IN is the first team I’ve really coached/directed, so it was friggin’ incredible to see a few things:

  1. The progress from the first time we tried to run a long form and were like “wait, how do we include all these extra bits if we’ve never just done narrative before?!” Rewind, let’s start from the beginning.
  2. The progress from the first time we got to like, 20 minutes and thought that was a victory, knowing eventually the show we were going to put on would be closer to 50 mins.
  3. Seeing the group come together, learn each other’s and their own individual strengths and weaknesses working them over and over again in rehearsal as we improvised a number of different books from sci-fi to Harlequin romance. Not to mention the discovering the complications of time-travel.
  4. The audience’s delighted response when we finally got to put Off the Shelf on its feet. Knowing the hard work paid off and that people were following along with our story as it built up to a ridiculous blaze of gun-shot sound effects (as these things do.) Ugh, what a fun and special and proud and awesome feeling.

Oh hey, I don’t thing I posted at all about opening a studio space, but we did that too. (Improv Niagara, that is.) Lots of stuff keeps happening, and for some reason I don’t think it’s worthy to blog about. But it is. It’s awesome. And I’ll try to keep it up.

Recycling Matters

Oh yeah, ALSO… the Niagara Region released some of the short videos we created a while back. Check out the first one, and then just keep watching them all and learn to recycle properly, k?

The Improv Niagara crew are about recycling!

What are you working on that’s awesome these days?

Fallout Triumph

How epic was this Friday’s Improv Fallout?! The house was absolutely packed. There was a line-up to get in. A line-up! People came from out of town (read: another country) to see the show, to laugh with us and to celebrate.

The support from the community in Niagara has been absolutely incredible, and I mean that. Because I know what it’s like to put on a show, and to have it fall flat with low support from community. I know what that feels like when you put on a show that you think people will really enjoy, you assemble a great cast, and the concept for the show is really interesting, then for months, nobody shows.

Because I know what that’s like, and because I know how much the cast of Improv Fallout actually cares about getting up there and doing their best, supporting one another, and putting in the effort, judgement-free and enthusiastic, that’s why I feel a whole year of Improv Fallout is nothing short of a triumph.

That’s why I feel honoured when new audience members come to check us out. That’s why I feel proud when audiences return time and again.

This cast is an ensemble. They have grown together. They lift one another up.

No pretence. No competition. They prioritize learning, growing, friendship and in-so-doing, they make funny, funny magic.

I feel lucky to be a part of it.

Photos by Erica Sherwood. Except the one OF her. Who took that one?