Episode #10 with RYAN HUGHES is UP!

http://theconstantstruggle.podbean.com/e/e10-hurricast-with-ryan-hughes/

In this episode, Nick & Brie chat with actor, writer & improvisor Ryan Hughes about some of the struggles he’s currently facing in the pursuit of his art.

11390565_10152948715447887_3930064870947529080_n

Dis Ryan!

Ryan speaks of a few pros and cons of the day job, and what happens when it’s gone. He discusses issues of confidence and mental health. We also delve into a deep discussion about women in comedy and *~*GASP*~* even feminism!
***
With GREAT shout-outs to:
CARLY HEFFERNAN
JESS BEAULIEU & NATALIE NORMAN (THE CRIMSON WAVE)
CATHERINE MCCORMICK
DANIELA SAIONI
ILLUSIONOID
***
Be sure to check Ryan out on Twitter @ryanfhughes & his improv troupe
Peggy Molson @peggymolson
Peggy Molson are competing in the Big City Improv Festival’s “TKO” tournament. Their semi-final set is at Comedy Bar on Tues. Oct. 13th @ 8:00 PM. Go check ’em out if you’re in Toronto.
#StruggleOn

Advertisements

The Constant Struggle, Episode 3

If you’ve browsed elsewhere on this website apart from the front page, (or the article about the WWI brothel, which continues to get more hits than any other post,) you’ll know that my brother Nick and I have been working on a podcast over the past few weeks that deals with the ongoing struggles creative types face on their journey to accomplish their artistic goals.

This month’s episode is no exception as we delve further into overcoming rejection, navigating networking events and just getting it done!

Check it out:

http://www.podbean.com/media/player/8rght-5622a1?from=wp

If you like it, and you’re interested in sharing your creative struggles with us on an upcoming episode, feel free to write to us at constantstrugglepod@gmail.com.


 

*** *Note: the books we referred to during this episode are:

Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, by Blake Snyder

Elephant Bucks: An insider’s Guide to Writing TV Sitcoms, by Sheldon Bull

The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life), by Chris Hardwick

Elementary, my dears

Well now, my trip on the Bipolar Express has finally come to an end and with it comes the end of my experience with the Conservatory and the beginning of a deep, dark valley of despair and the unknown.

Wow, that got dark quick.

I am, actually, a bit down about being finished with the Conservatory.  In the same way I was sortof down when I was finished Humber.  Because now I don’t have any pre-determined path to follow on a regular basis to achieve a certain goal, or conclusion.  It’s like I’m back at the beginning again.

Chris Martin gets it.

If you’re reading this, maybe you can comment on some tips and tricks you give yourself to stay motivated and to keep creative?  I know, in the Winter months especially, it can be particularly difficult to come home from your day job and feel like working on creative endeavours.  Most of the time lately, I’ve just felt like curling up in my blanket and watching a Sherlock marathon.  (How has it taken me this long to watch that show, seriously?)

On the plus side, I have gone out and done a couple stand-up sets now, so that’s starting up again.  I participated in a show this weekend, an open-mic strictly for ladies at Free Times Café (try their brisket poutine, you’ll plotz.)  Put on by none other than than the fabulous Chicka Boom hosts; Jess Beaulieu & Laura Bailey, the night proved performer after performer of solid, fierce material in one of the most supportive evenings I’ve seen.  Maybe you see a trend here? Catherine McCormick runs an LGBTQ/Women only room = super supportive.  Chicka Booms runs a ladies-only room = super supportive.  All other rooms = hurry the fuck up and finish what you’re saying so I can get on and do my 5 minutes because they’re better than yours, and I’m more important than you, AAAAAAAH ANGER, HATRED AND RAGE!!!

Ok, not true.  Not all other rooms, but these ones do tend to be incredibly supportive and positive.  Not the material; the material ranged from dark and tragic, to adorable cat-related tales and all throughout, making a few dirrrrty stops at one-night standsville and period-town along the way.  From relatable to extraordinary, it was just a damn good night of comic entertainment and I’m glad I spent the evening there instead of streaming the Grammys.

***

On a different note, I got my first call-back EVER the other day.  So clearly my commercial acting career is taking off at incredibly fast speeds!  (SOC auditions are the BEST, amirite?)

Other than that, I intend to  keep plugging away.  I wish we could open this up as a discussion for other comics/performers making their way in the biz, so please share the posts & your own experiences.  Let’s get the conversation going!

In the meantime, I’m off to Netflix to watch my distant relative keep Cumberbatch in line.   I mean, I’m off to clean the dishes, Mom. 

Brieview: Slapshot of Love – Team Geri!

51obTk4uoyL._AA278_PIkin4,BottomRight,-46,22_AA300_SH20_OU15_

So, I freakin’ loved this book.  I was so happy that the main character was such a smart (shall we say geeky – but like, the Star Wars kind – not the “good at math” kind), strong yet insecure, down-to-earth, no-nonsense, hilarious and totally ass-kicking.  Geri is all the women I know who are so underepresented in literature and TV and media in general, but Gary Pearson brings this firecracker to life with such charm and compassion, and surrounds her with great supporting characters, some you love and some you’d love to see get hit by a truck.

The contrast between reality (the day-to-day; work, living accommodations, friends, family, Hamilton) and the dream-world of reality TV ($$$, hot babes, hockey stars and more $$$) are so wonderfully contrasted and eventually tangled that you become enthralled in the story and really feel for Geri and think; “What will she to choose?  What would I choose?”

And let’s be honest, anything that has to do with Reality TV that actually makes you think and feel is an amazing accomplishment on its own!  Read this book and feel something!

Who’s Got Two Thumbs and is a Humourless Feminist?

So, something weird happened last night.  For the first time, I felt my comedy career merge with my university studies.  And there were sparks.

I studied Political Science at the University of Ottawa and graduated in 2008.  In my year or two of studies, I discovered the academic field of Women’s Studies and suddenly began analysing each of my other courses from a feminist point of view.  In my fourth year Political Philosophy Honours seminar, I defended the fact that there is such a thing as a conservative feminist, even though such a descriptor seems fundamentally contradictory.  I took two courses in my last semester of university with the same professor, Kathryn Trevenen, who provided me with a fun-filled feminist fanfare before graduating from higher learning and on to, well… I’m still not there yet, so let’s move on.  Those two courses were: 4th year Feminist Political Thought and, because I had an elective left, 1st Year Introduction to Women’s Studies, which I completed with my highest grade in University of A+.  Though it’s been a while since I’ve had to think and write the way you’re trained to in university, something in me last night clicked.  And I’m glad it did.

Last night, organizers from SlutWalk Toronto, put on a night of comedy at The Garrison, in support of the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre & Multicultural Women Against Rape (TRCC/MWAR)  This is what the Facebook event promised:

_____
276666_329708620476668_244048313_n

Because humour can exist without rape jokes and some of Toronto’s best comedic talent is going to prove it!

Hosted by Natalie Norman,

Starring:
Ben Beauchemin
Derek Forgie
Christina Walkinshaw
Steph Tolev
Bobby Knauf
Amanada Brooke Perrin
Darryl Orr
Brie Watson
Catherine McCormick

Thanks to the hard work of local Comedian Natalie Norman, who took initiative to organize a comedy show to support anti-sexual violence action and survivors in Toronto, we’re inviting you to a comedy night packed with Toronto talent.
We know many people involved in feminism and fighting oppression are told that we take things ‘too seriously’, and often have our perspectives minimized with stereotypes, like that of the ‘Humourless Feminist’. We also know the value of creating alternative, safer spaces where communities can connect by challenging labels and gathering together.  This will be like any other comedy night, but with proceeds going to the Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape, and with no rape jokes, or other cheap-shot oppressive humour.
And sometimes, we really just need to laugh.
So come and join us!
*Unfortunately, this venue is not fully accessible. We apologize and we hope to find a venue that is in the future if we host more shows.

(Sidenote: Comedy shows NEVER mention whether or not a venue is accessible.  This show apologizes for not being fully accessible!  How wonderful and amazing is that?! AND in spite of that, someone with a wheelchair showed up anyway.  So. freakin. AWESOME!)

______

Sounds like a solid premise, right?  It was totally, 100% up my alley.  I didn’t blink twice when signing this following check-in form, which was created by the SlutWalk organizing team specifically for this night of comedy, to ensure the space remained safe for audience members:

Thank you to all who have agreed to take part in our upcoming Humourless Feminists Comedy Night- a night to showcase comedy that doesn’t rely on rape jokes and cheap-shot oppressive humour! The response we’ve received so far is wonderful and it seems like people really want more spaces like this. We’re really thankful to all of you for participating in this evening to raise money for TRCC/MWAR and show that alternatives are possible.  As indicated on our Facebook page, though we understand that sometimes jokes can be made about rape in a way that is not trivializing rape, or not reinforcing rape culture, for this show we are asking that no rape jokes of any kind be a part of the evening.
 
We also wanted to let you know in a bit more detail what kind of safer space we hope to create at this comedy show and offer up a chance for you to check-in in case you have questions or concerns. Many people have experienced pain and disappointment when going to see comedy they have expected to be approached more conscientiously, or have over time lost interest in seeing live comedy due to feeling excluded from these spaces or having them feel like hostile experiences at times when the content has mostly been shock-value jokes putting people down who are already facing many social barriers. We hope that this night will be fun, joyful and will be a space where the comedy doesn’t rely on belittling, degrading, silencing or taking a cheap shot at:
 
  1. Racialized people (including but not limited to: people who are black or brown, people who are Indigenous/Native, people who are Asian, etc.)
  2. Indigenous/Native peoples, specifically about colonization, their historical and ongoing genocide, oppression, fight for recognition/land/rights
  3. people living with disabilities or struggling with mental health (this can include jokes about people who are “crazy” and what that can mean in a larger context of their struggles)
  4. people who engage in sex work/prostitution
  5. people living with HIV/AIDS
  6. people living in poverty or who are deemed lesser than because of their socio-economic status, income level, class
  7. people who identify as women/female or as feminists
  8. people who are not straight (who are queer, gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual, Two-Spirited)
  9. people who are transgender, transsexual, intersex, genderqueer and people who don’t fit into traditional gender categories or roles (the use of the word “tranny” is understood by many communities as incredibly insulting and degrading to trans people, especially trans women)
  10. people who are fat or who have non-normative bodies (bodies that aren’t deemed beautiful or okay in mainstream culture whether based in their shape or what’s on a body, like body hair, tattoos, scars, etc.)
  11. people who have been arrested, jailed, and criminalized (rape jokes aren’t funny or ok as prison rape jokes, etc.)
This list is not an exhaustive one but we hope it helps you understand where we’re coming from and what kind of night we hope to have.
 
These identities, experiences and topics aren’t off limits, but we hope if you engage with any of them it can be from a place of not trivializing these people or putting them down by reinforcing ways that they are already marginalized. We also understand that sometimes people of these identities may use humour to challenge the way they have experienced oppression, or engage in various kinds of self-deprecating humour, and this is something we fully support.
 
 If you have questions about any of this language, or around how things could be discussed in more respectful ways please feel free to ask us. Our team continuously roots our efforts in an anti-oppression framework with commitments to continue to make our efforts better.
 
It takes work to UN-learn a lot of harmful ideas about other people and to learn how to be more aware and supportive, so we try to work together in communities to do so, and we’re really glad to have so much support in creating this evening. Thank you for donating your time and talent to this effort. We’re really, really excited about this night!!!!
_____
 

Did you read that? All of it?  Good.  Because it makes so much damn sense it both enrages and excites me.  To the comedians who might read this and think: “Sheesh!  Why don’t these people just relax and learn to take a joke!” I say: “Why don’t you wake up and write something that doesn’t shit on people who have already got it really fucking tough?  Why don’t you take a minute and think about what you have to say and why it’s so filled with hate and disregard, often for people you don’t know or haven’t taken the time to think for a second what it must be like to go through life in their shoes.”

“Freedom of speech man, I should be able to say what I want, when I want”

Ever heard of Hate Speech Laws?  Maybe look those up.

And, as Catherine McCormick so elegantly and powerfully put it last night, as she rocked the mic harder than I’ve ever seen it rocked, with both her brilliant comedy and her words of women’s advocacy within the comedy community, “You’re not being edgy, you’re being your dad.”

The success of last night’s show speaks to the need of events such as these in our comedy world and in society, in general.  I’m still quite new to all this, relatively speaking, but that was the most successful show I’ve seen in terms of turnout and not-being-corporately-funded. It filled with people who were so damn happy to be able to laugh out loud and have a great time, and not have to worry about whether or not somebody might say something that will shame them or make them feel lesser than who they are.

Also, we raised over $900 for TRCC/MWAR, so turnout, as you can imagine, was pretty good – imagine how it would have turned out if it hadn’t been snowing!  We were already at standing room only!

Last night was inspiring.  Though my act isn’t filled with demeaning humour as it is, show urged me to write more about what I’ve learned, in school, at work – out in the real world.  Next time I do a Humourless Feminist show, I will drop a Simone de Beauvoir joke and not be afraid to do so.  Among my peers at college, I was often dissuaded from writing from that part of my brain and every time I brought up an issue, a critique, a thought that was even remotely F-word related (Ohhhhh those evil scary feminists! How dare they use their brains and mouths to access any of the pie that I’ve been greedily holding onto for such a long time to the detriment of humankind!) I would be met with an eye roll and a “here we go again” – look that brought the movement back 50 years.

You wanna talk privilege?  Yeah, I’ve got a bunch of that.  But not as much as a lot of comics have, on account of my boobs.  But nevertheless, I use mine, my experience, and my stage time to share stories that will make people laugh and think (or at least that’s the goal) not that will make people regret supporting the industry in which so many of us so desperately want to work.

Colleen Westendorf, Communications Coordinator of SlutWalk and organizer of the Event last night, you are right – there certainly would not be a shortage of jokes if you take rape out of the context of stand-up comedy and last night, we proved that.

And we’ll prove it again and again.  And, in our little way, we will try to help cheer up people who can really use it.

That’s why I got into this.  Why did you?

***It takes work to UN-learn a lot of harmful ideas about other people and to learn how to be more aware…***

Don’t Blame Me, I’m Just a Girl – Reflections on WIFT’s “Women in Comedy” panel

For as much negative press Facebook, other social media and the Internet in general lately have been getting about “well, we’re basically spying on you”-type problems, as a budding comic, there really is no better tool to help keep your finger on the pulse of what’s going on around town.

For example, the other day, a fellow-comic and the first person who ever paid me to do a set, posted an event on Facebook that caught my eye: Goodmans Presents: Women in Comedy a panel discussion presented by the not-for-profit organization for women in screen-based media; WIFT.

  • Sidenote:  The discussion was held at the head office of the National Film Board, which I thought was pretty dang neat.

Should I have taken photos of the panelists as well as the coolness of the NFB build-your-own-igloo display? Yes.  Did I?  No.  I’m dumb.  Maybe it was the complimentary wine, or the excitement of meeting female writers and filmmakers living out their dreams as artists and encouraging me to do the same, but for some reason, photography was not a priority.

Here’s what I think about some of the topics the panelists covered and how they are relevant on my end of the spectrum (starting out) all the way through to those who’ve made their living from it.  Like her:

Female Role Model

The Drop-Off Rate:

The drop-off rate of women in comedy is huge.  This was attributed to many factors identified in the panel – but mainly, other things getting in the way.  Some of the gals discussed such life events as marriage and having kids.  It seems fairly evident that if you’re a woman who wants to settle down and have a family, the life of a stand-up comedian, performing nightly in dingy bars, and eventually working your way up to touring the country and even the globe, doesn’t seem all that conducive to typical parenthood.

I feel there are probably some lady comics who quit because they feel they do not have a place within the thousands of rape, abortion and baby killing jokes you have to sit-through as an amateur.

The high-testosterone-charged environment also makes it tough as a lady, because you might have to deal with some not-so-well adjusted men behaving in such a way, speaking in such a way as to make things rather uncomfortable.  *CERTAINLY NOT ALL male comedians are like this. Most aren’t!  But the few who do tend to stand out and can make an environment rather uncomfortable for someone who just wants to get up and get some stage-time, not be propositioned, or judged according to looks, breast size, waist size, length of legs, length of skirt…you catch my drift. Hell, sometimes it only takes one creepster!

I guess what I’m trying to say in old fashiony terms is that these environments are sometimes (*insert old British man voice*) “No place for a young lady!”  But listen, we want to be there, so make room and stop fucking around, guys.  We’ve got shit to say too!

...and planes to fly!

The panelists touched on this a little when we discussed the success of Tina Fey and Melissa McMcCarthy.  Both very successful ladies owning the scene right now for their work on TV and film.  I won’t go into much detail about these women or the other famous and successful women the panelists identified as their “comedy idols” because everyone knows about how most of these people got to where they are as most of them have written, or are in the process of writing, bestselling autobiographies on the subject. So you can just read those, ok?

OK.

Another way to look at it, and one of the panelists did, is that there is often an unintentional exclusion among male and female comics because say, some men might not feel comfortable writing for women and vice versa.  Men want to talk about what they know: guy stuff and same with girls.  But there are a lot of girls out there who want to write both for men and women and basically cover the whole human condition.  It becomes difficult to navigate when these boundaries exist, especially when people aren’t aware they’re putting them up.

Sometimes women do it to each other too.  “Well, I cover the woman-quota for this troupe, so no more chicks allowed, k guys?” Girls are awesome at treating each other terribly out of whatever; competitiveness, jealousy, territoriality, you name it!  This is something I’ve studied in sociological setting, but women are often terrible to each other; worse to each other than they are with men, hands down.  It’s awful.  In a perfect world, we’d all work together and everything would be peachy, but as it stands: “Kim’s a total slut, and rumour has it she fucked Sally’s ex, so you probably don’t want to put her on tonight’s bill, do you? I’m manipulative!”

Your Art

There was a strong overall sentiment of “Do it yourself and for yourself” among the panelists, stating that in this business, women must “work twice as hard and complain half as much”

*JUST TO CLARIFY, RE: The amount of complaining in this blog… just ignore it guys, OK?   Can I get a job now?*

Here are a list of several tips to this regard I thought will be helpful for the budding lady comic:

  • Latch onto people who WANT to work;
  • Reach out to the community if you’re struggling.  Lots of the gals have gone through what you’re going through and will be glad to help lift your spirits and encourage you to get back to it (sometimes with the help of a couple delicious pints, while they’re at it.)
  • Comparison is the WORST kind of self-harm
  • Perform AS MUCH as you can (if you want to be a performer… if you want to be a writer, substitute PERFORM with WRITE, if you want to do both, don’t sleep.  Ever.)
  • Collaborate with like-minded people;
  • And don’t give up… because if you give up, the terrorists win.

Thanks to Sarah Hillier, Sharilyn Johnson, Catherine McCormick, Erin Rodgers and moderator Jocelyn Geddie for a truly inspirational evening. And to all the other wonderful and talented women I had the pleasure of meeting that evening.