E73 – Gary Rideout Jr.‘s Habitat for Comedy

https://www.podbean.com/media/share/pb-dkzh8-10f1a98

Chances are if you’ve performed comedy in Toronto, you’re likely one degree of separation from this episode’s guest; Gary 

Rideout Jr., owner of Toronto’s famous Comedy Bar & Director of Business Development at The Second City in Toronto. This episode dives into Gary’s timeline as a budding comedian-turned-business owner and  tracks the many successes he’s had along the way, the struggles that come with taking risks and putting yourself out there, as well as some truly great lessons learned along the way.

With the recent tease on social media announcing the opening of a second Comedy Bar location, on the Danforth, we’re thrilled to get to chat with Gary about his journey in Toronto comedy and his excitement for all that’s to come. 

This is an episode for comedians and for fans of comedy. You’ll see what it takes to create a space for an entire community of comedy artists; how to foster that community and the heights where it can lead. 

KEY CREATIVE TIPS:

Comedy, Writing, Performance, Touring, Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Accessibility.

 

Nick’s Update:

Editing again, and prepping for NaNoWriMo

Brie’s Update:

Niagara Falls Night of Art, Improv Fallout back at Mahtay Café, Writing Accountability Partner

 

RESOURCES

Comedy Bar

The Second City

 

Thinking about starting your own podcast? Click HERE to get one free month of hosting.

#StruggleOn

A little support

The Ask

The federal election campaigns are now in full swing here in Canada, and I’m proud to say the this year is the first time I’ve ever both requested AND received a sign from the candidate for whom I intend to vote.

Although I must admit receiving the sign didn’t go down exactly as I would have imagined.

In my head, I pictured the candidate coming down, shaking my hand, celebrating my public announcement that I intend to vote. Making the neighbours uncomfortable with my oh so visual opinions, on display for all to see. A photo op maybe? The leader of the party even shows up on my doorstep and we play a game of “Questions Only” together because I’ve told him I run an improv company, and he cares about small businesses and the arts! (Swoon!)

Now, it’s been incredibly hot in Ontario the past few weeks and so stupidly humid. Also, I work from home, and when I don’t have to be on Zoom, then comfortable, breezy attire is the way to go for me.

I was working in the garden one day for a little bit – not too long, because it was so dang hot, watering some plants. (BTW I’m growing tomatoes for the first time ever, and it’s very satisfying. They’re turning out great, so if you want some tomatoes, let me know, because I don’t actually like to eat tomatoes.)

I went to return the hose and noticed a car pulling up in the driveway.

The Delivery

Now let’s be honest, this is not a common thing anymore. Since the pandemic started, it’s rare strangers just show up on your driveway, unless it’s to drop off the SkipTheDishes you ordered when you get too overwhelmed to go to the grocery store.

I was in a good “no ordering food online” place, so I was confused. Who was this stranger?

A middle-aged man steps out of the car and asks, “Did you order a sign?” (I do feel it’s important to mention his age and gender.)

Ah yes, this makes sense. He’s here to drop off my sign! I’m actually getting a sign!

I approach him, he asks where I would like it, I indicate. The whole time he looks me up and down very strangely. I attribute it to the pandemic regressing everyone’s social skills. I try to continue with pre-pandemic social pleasantries and carry on with exceptional politeness.

I ask him if he’d like a glass of water. (Again, because it’s friggin’ stupid hot out – he’s even commented on the heat by this point.

He looks terrified I’ve asked him this. He says “No thanks,” and basically runs back to his vehicle as quickly as possible. I wonder what I could have possibly done to scare this adult man. He then stays in the driveway for what I would describe as way too long, and eventually drives off. (Side note — if you turn down a drink of water and run away from a person, you probably shouldn’t linger in the driveway. It’s very off-putting.)

Just then, I realize I’m still in my gardening clothes. I’m wearing a shirt I’ve had for at least ten years. It has holes everywhere, namely a big one right above my nipple. Granted, I was wearing a bra, however the bra was skin-coloured, and may easily have been mistaken as my actual boob skin.

The Outcome

He caught me in garden-mode! I didn’t have time to change! I keep to the backyard! I certainly didn’t expect anyone to come to the door!

But NOW… this random NDP volunteer thinks I’m some disheveled boob-exhibitionist trying to lure him into my house with promises of water and who knows what other inappropriate propositions.

TBH, at 20% in the polls right now, they should really take all the support they can get. Boobs out and all.

2020 Briear in Review

Yeah I know it’s been a weird year, and yeah I get it’s totally OK of all you accomplished this year was staying alive, breathing and not murdering your roommate. I’ve been posting YIRs since 2016 and I’m not going to stop now. If there’s anything we’ve learned in 2020, it’s that among all the chaos, there’s still a whole lot to be grateful for and it’s easy to miss if you don’t take a second to appreciate it.

My lighthouse word for 2020 was NOW. I got into reading some Eckhart Tolle thanks to Pete Holmes and felt it’d be some super great reading for an improviser, an anxious person and for life in general. I think 2020 was the perfect year to have chosen that word, and that NOW couldn’t have come at a better time.

Here’s some of the good to come out of my many NOWs in 2020:

  • Ran two successful in-person editions of Guess Who’s Coming to Improv? & brought it back via Zoom just in time for its’ 6th anniversary.
  • My company held our first corporate events.
  • Continued teaching improv with The Second City Training Centre & successfully transitioned to doing so online since March. During his process, I taught my first Level D class, the highest level I’ve taught thus far.
  • Held my first table read for my sitcom pilot.
Improv Niagara team reading Brie's comedy pilot.
We had La Croix because this was a LEGIT writer’s room.
The cast of Improv Niagara and friends with Colin Mochrie.
Improv Niagara meets our improv hero Colin Mochrie
  • Continued seeing a counsellor to help manage my anxiety.
  • Performed in the Worlds Biggest Improv Tournament with Linda Julia Paolucci as Niagara Balls, and shared that one awesome night playing arcade games and eating garbage.
  • Auditioned a bunch in person, then sent out self-tapes galore.
  • Continued writing sketches with my Utilidors partner David Lahti, closing in on what will one day be an epic themed sketch revue.
  • Maintaining a 17-year tradition of interrupting my friend Curtis in the middle of the Super Bowl.
  • Held a short run of successful Improv Fallout shows at Mahtay Café before things closed down. (Bringing it back via FB Live in 2021!)
  • Held a short run of successful POPAGANDA shows at the John Candy Box Theatre before things closed down. Attempted one online version, which proved to be very complicated.
  • Performed stand-up comedy around the Niagara Region.
  • Recorded seven new episodes of The Constant Struggle Podcast with my brother Nick.
  • Performed many improv scenes and sets in Toronto & Niagara, including a set with the Second City Main Stage cast.
  • Performed in The Vagina Monologues at Camp Cataract (ICYI – I performed the The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy monologue – that’s me to the right, in the pleather.)
The Women who performed The Vagina Monologues on stage at Camp Cataract in Niagara Falls, ON.
The incredible cast of The Vagina Monologues at Camp Cataract in Niagara Falls, ON
  • Participated in a Race & Theatre in Niagara workshop, hopeful more work continues on this front.
  • Premiered our pilot “Time Slicers” at the Toronto Sketch Comedy Film Festival.
  • Built up the courage to ask for something I really wanted.

And then, things happened. Life shifted. From home, I created different NOWs.

  • I binge-watched SO MUCH EPIC TV.
  • Many sweaty Sherwarrior workout sessions.
  • Performed many mini-online shows with Improv Niagara in the early days of the pandemic.
  • Began performing in Toronto-based online shows like Duo Derby and Connect 40, which did a great job of bringing the improv community back together in these tricky times.
  • Grew a vegetable and herb garden in my backyard.
  • Held my second official Writers’ Room. This time, digitally.
Zoom meeting of people's faces, reading Brie's pilot script.
Script Read-thru | Round 2
  • Participated in improv jams and classes with people from around the world from the comfort of my own home.
  • Participated in the virtual edition of In the Soil Festival with the women & enbies of Improv Niagara.
  • Held outdoor, socially distanced improv rehearsals in my backyard and in local parks.
  • Protested anti-black racism, police brutality & social injustice.
  • Spent a few weekends in London, ON working on an indie comedy about a cult.
  • Read 50 new, original Canadian comedy plays.
  • Began co-leading improv & mindfulness workshops with Stream Yoga + Meditation
  • Attended the Our Cities on Our Stages symposium online though Bad Dog Theatre.
  • Improv Niagara’s newest Kids’ Instructor, Simon, offered workshops with the Town of Pelham.
  • IN held a series of outdoor, socially-distanced improv shows at Camp Cataract for the summer.
  • Attended my first Zoom bris.
  • Was invited to guest on Tuong La’s Ranked podcast with Dan & Nick.
  • Celebrated 4 years of wedded bliss at the top of the Skylon Tower.
  • Learned how to grow and harvest cannabis.
  • Booked a role on a French web series for TFO & shot it in December (where I got my first swab.)
Selfie of Brie in full make-up, hair done, on set for the French webseries shoot.
On set as Mme. Gisèle.
  • Participated in an online version of Culture Days with Improv Niagara.
  • Participated in the Niagara Leadership Summit for Women and was reinvigorated by it.
  • Took an awesome workshop with my Chicago improv heroines Susan Messing & Rachael Mason.
  • IN participated online in Dunnville, ON’s River Arts Festival.
  • Improv Niagara wrote & performed a virtual sketch for Suitcase in Point’s Community Comedy Series
  • IN’s held our first ever student show, broadcast live via Facebook (because groups of 10+ were not permitted.)
  • Welland finally got a Starbucks
  • I stayed alive.
  • I breathed.
  • I Didn’t kill my roommate.

I’m thankful for all of the NOWs 2020 brought along and I do wish to continue working in being present and in the moment (luckily I’m in the right field for that.) NOW, my word for 2021 is very different. Stay tuned.

2019 | 2018 | 2017 | 2016

HAPPY 2021!

Carry On

This Remembrance Day in particular, I’m mindful of these men.

These are The Dumbells. They were a comedy troupe consisting of Canadian soldiers during the First World War. Them, The Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry Comedy Company, and as many as 30 other such troupes performed in France to entertain their fellow troops, and to help boost morale.

It got me thinking that throughout history, there are always people who feel a call to lighten the darkness others experience during difficult times.

They’re out there now too, throughout this crazy pandemic. Trying to make us laugh. Taking our minds off the rising numbers and harsh news, if only for a moment.

Understanding what we’re all going through, and expressing it in such a way as to allow us to carry on a little further.

I strive to honour that particular calling.  And today, I commemorate these giants who did under truly extreme circumstances.

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!

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.