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 Caf√© 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. ūüėĘ
  • 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 √† ma tr√®s ch√®re grand-m√®re, qui nous a quitt√© √† l’√Ęge 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 sant√©, l’amour et la r√©ussite vous accompagnent dans tous vos projets. Bonne ann√©e!

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?

Anxiety & The Walls we Build

A thing I’m trying to work on these days:

IMG-8187

Good one, @Headspace!

For me, the problem doesn’t seem to be judging based on what we would like other people to be, but rather judging people based on past encounters or experience we’ve had with them or witnessing them.

Ideally, I wouldn’t judge anyone at all, really. But as a social creature, and an anxious one, I tend to build up walls to protect myself in different scenarios and judgement becomes a defence mechanism used to avoid getting hurt.

Recently, I feel like this defence has been bumming me out more than protecting me, so I’m trying to work on it.

I don’t condone this is in my improv, so why should I live by it?

In an effort to practice mindfulness, I’m trying to distance myself from thoughts about past interactions, observations and assumptions about people and working double-time on just being present with everyone I encounter, so that each new moment is a better opportunity for meaningful connection.

So far, I haven’t been great at it. In my mind, I already ruined brunch with two wonderful colleagues by complaining about situations over which I have no control. I should have just been present, enjoyed their company, and made new moments and memories (rather than obsessing over old, shitty ego wounds.)

But I will continue trying. And failing. And hopefully get better and better at just being with the multiple wonderful humans I have the pleasure of encountering in this incredible comedy community of which I am lucky to be a part.

 

 

 

Gallery

Chicago, my beacon

Last weekend, my longtime best bud Dina and I took a road-trip down to Chicago. I’d wanted to see The Second City’s all-women “She The People: Girlfriends’ Guide to Sisters Doing It For Themselves” because:

  • it sounded like a cool show
  • I like the idea of an all-women cast
  • I wanted to go back to Chicago & Dina had never been to this city of wonders
  • Feminism.

The show was fantastic and the experience had everything I could ask for, including an uncomfortable middle-aged white man at my table unsure as to why his wife and daughter took him to see this particular show. (See “feminism.”)

For the record, the scene with the dinosaur suit was hundo p my favourite.

I don’t do this very often on WordPress, but I thought I’d post a few choice photos from my trip to Chi-town with Dina.

Traveling for improv is probably my favourite thing to do right now; and that I got to have this quick little trip into improv mecca (we saw a show at the iO! as well) with my Dina, (who I’ve know basically my entire life and who has recently agreed to¬†start an improv company with me,) well that was just the icing on the cake. Or the cheese on the deep-dish, if you will.

I can’t wait to see where improv-travel will take me next. Or what all-women show I produce as a result of the burning hot lady-fire She the People lit under my ass.

 

 

It takes a village

Last night, my Niagara-based improv ensemble premiered our competitive-style “Improv Fallout” show for a standing-room-only house in downtown St. Catharines. It was, to be brief, incredible.

Mainly, I wanted to point out what else went behind the production, because it was one of the first times in my career as a comedy producer that I had a team of individuals around me, supporting a project so enthusiastically that ALL these things happened:

  • First of all, they actually invited people to come friggin’ see them perform, so we packed the house ’til it was, as mentioned standing-room-only.
  • When given the rehearsal schedule, some performers requested¬†additional rehearsal time to ensure their performance would be up to snuff.
  • They showed up for rehearsal like, AN HOUR before their call to help set up¬†without being asked.
  • They created an art wall for the show JUST FOR FUN.

Screenshot 2018-03-25 23.20.42

  • One of the performer’s partners agreed to work the Box Office.
  • One of the performer’s partners took really great photos during the show.
  • A performer who WASN’T EVEN ON THE SHOW agreed to collect email addresses so we could continue to spread the word about our group and ran back and forth to help make sure the show ran smoothly again,¬†without being asked.
  • One of the performers fearlessly approached people asking for suggestions before the show started.
  • One of the performers hand-crafted voting circles with one colour on one side, and the other on the other side, which was challenging she admitted, but worth it because they looked so good!
  • Some of our performers took to social media before, during and after the show to share the experience with others.
  • Some of our performers learned how to use social media for the show.
  • One of the performers went to Fabricland for the first time in her life to actually buy fabric to be used to discern the different teams on stage.
  • Our tech created a special playlist for the show to get the audience feelin’ funky.
  • One of the performers risked his neck to drape the curtains in such a way as to make the space look a bit more ascetically pleasing.
  • One of the performers drove a long long way to come to the show even though she’d worked all day and had to go right back immediately after the performance.
  • One of the performers refused payment until it was physically forced onto him. (That’s right, the performers were paid.)
  • All of the performers were super supportive of one another on stage as well as off stage and, even after being “voted off” the show stayed intensely engaged with participating in the show with members of the audience and online.
  • I’m probably forgetting a million more things…

 

It’s INCREDIBLE to know that this wonderful collaboration is what it can feel like to create live comedy.

My Creative Metadata

Again, reading along with Ben Noble’s weekly newsletter, he brought up the concept of Creative Metadata. Quick, read that article. Go on. I’ll be here.

OK good, you came back.

I thought it’d be cool from time to time to talk a bit about the creative metadata I produce as a producer of comedy shows (and an improv teacher / writer / podcaster / comedy performer/ etc.)

For example, here’s some metadata for today. Enjoy!

I bought a chalk-board to keep score for next week’s Improv Fallout show at Michael’s. It was not an essential purchase, but I thought it’d be fun / cute.

Updated bujo & trello boards. Doesn’t seem like English, but it helps keep me on my game.

I wrote up the structure for the games and the order of the games we’ll be playing at next weekend’s show. This is first show of Improv Niagara’s 2nd year in existence. In rehearsal, I had most of the cast try out the structure of the games. It’ll work better with an audience. Right now it feels less flowy than our regular rehearsals, but I think it’ll be a really great show. Slight hiccup with a thing I don’t want to go into too much detail about, but hiccup was had and water was consumed (this is a metaphor.) I switched up one of the games last minute because I realized it’d be more fun than the original one I’d written down. Nobody shines in Movie in a Minute. It’s just mass chaos.

Before rehearsal, I began editing a new podcast my brother and I recorded a few weeks ago. It’s a long one, but an interesting one. Tried to make sure to post a new quote from our last guest’s episode and to make the design interesting enough that people will be drawn to it. Update at the end of the day = no tweet likes. Stupid Twitter.

Realizing being home in Niagara is giving me tonnes of stand-up material I should be writing down. Operative note, should. This is why I stopped doing stand-up. Improv requires less pockets for tiny joke books. 

The official *data* of this will be an awesome improv show next Saturday and a great new edition of The Constant Struggle Podcast¬†and MAYBE a new stand-up routine in the near future? <— (and normally that’s all people get to see, none of this nifty behind-the-scenes metadata.)

Oh yeah. I forgot to mention one last important piece of metadata:

ALL TIME on the crapper is spent promoting shows and liking posts on social media.

ALL TIME.

Adulting Fail – Tax Edition

So, I got my taxes done this weekend.

0201_tax-return-cheap-intro_485x340

I try to do this thing, where I take note of everything I’ve accomplished. Not financially, necessarily. But achievements contributing to my dreams, and life-goals and whatnot. On that end, 2015 was great. I did a LOT of shows. I met a lot of great people. I created a lot of fun stuff.

That being said, nothing makes you feel worse about trying to be a self-employed comedian than adding up what you’ve spent to create a show; commission art for the show, book the venue & any additional supplies for the show, comparing it to how much your return on the door of said show was and multiplying it by however many shows you decided to self-produce in a year.

ESPECIALLY when you’ve lost most of your venue receipts because you’ve moved twice in the past year and it’s hard to keep your life in order. It leaves you ¬†VERY LITTLE proof to show the government you’re anywhere close to achieving those dreams, and life-goals you thought you were closing in on.

If nothing else, Tax Season 2016 has taught me to be more vigilant and organized. Next year, I will prove not only to myself, but to the Canada Revenue Agency that I am actually closing in on something.