#BrieCIF2015

I did it! I performed AND participated in this year’s Big City Improv Festival! Huzzah. My first time performing in the festival! Youpidyday!

My own. My precious. (Also, that's not my thumb)

My own. My precious. (Also, that’s not my thumb)

My first performance in #BCIF2015 were interesting an unexpected. Such, I suppose, is the nature of the art we practice. I was asked by my former teacher Robin Duke to perform in a show with other Humber alumni. I said yes, because Robin Duke. It was a while before I realized this show was actually part of #BCIF. It seems that because Humber is a sponsor, this is the show they contributed to the fest. And I got to be part of it. Yay.

In all honesty, I really didn’t know how to feel about it. I remember improv not to be one of the main focuses of the Humber comedy program. In fact, here’s what I remember about improv class at Humber:

  1. Alan Guttman continually blowing my mind in class, dropping his early Second City and Johnstonenian wisdom and;
  2. Adam Cawley running a longform workshop, which likely convinced me to sign up for Second City classes.

The students interested in performing stand-up seemed to outweigh those interested in improv in number and in willingness-to-give-it-a-try-ingness. All I’m saying is, it’s hard for someone who’s hiding behind a microphone to completely throw themselves into improv; it’s a art that requires a lot of letting go. I think one thing that makes stand-up do their thing, is an inability to let go; and also, in fact, a desire to to instead repeat the thing most people would let go over and over again in exchange for the laughter of strangers. Don’t get me wrong, I love that laughter, but I think I like spontaneity and discovery a wee bit more.

That being said, I was incredibly pleased and delighted to find out that improv at Humber is stronger than ever. Our show featured short form games. The performers were quick, they played fun characters and they were SMART. I got to play a super fun scene with the wonderful Ashley Comeau who was generous enough to give me a gift that allowed me to have SO MUCH FUN. All she had to say was “you looooooooove her” to cool guy Malik Powell and the game was afoot.

Following that set, I ran over to a friend’s house for, get this: her birthday, pizza, carrot cake, the Blue Jays victory, a tasty butter tart & a Liberal majority in Parliament. I excused myself and ran down to Bad Dog where I had my SECOND EVER SHOW in BCIF. Two shows in one night! I waited years for one show, period. This is like a woman who can’t get pregnant, so she overdoses on fertility meds and ends up getting quints…OR so is my understanding of reproductive medications.

So, an 11pm BCIF edition of Improv Game Show was show #2. On a Monday. The same day the Blue Jays were playing. And everyone was watching a pretty historic election. And despite all of this, the show was great! The energy was fantastic. Oliver Georgiou hosted and rocked the night! Our tech Scott, who I just met for the first time that night was freaking hilarious. ALL the improvisers were GREAT and the games were so much fun. We play this game all the time, and yet this edition felt particularly special.

The following day, my 1950s-inspired babefest Fifty Shades of 50 performed a magical set in the cabaret space. It was pretty wacky, there was a lot of talk about fart-smells, and we mentioned a character named “Little Noah No-Arms”. So…you know… improv gold! I love this format & performing with these women so much.

Here’s a shot my camera took of us mid-action:12042790_10101301938113596_5355067159631151847_n

There were many other performers and performances at this year’s festival filled with hilarity and greatness. But that’s not what this post is about. This is a different post.

In this post, I did it! I performed AND participated in this year’s Big City Improv Festival! Huzzah. My first time performing in the festival! Youpidyday!

 

 

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Death & Rebirth: The Circle of Life…and stuff

 

There it is folks; shaking the President’s hand as I walk off with a brand-spankin’ new college diploma. The end of an era; an era filled with ups, downs, highs, lows, rape jokes and more uses of the c-word than I’d ever thought possible.  Yesterday, at the Toronto Congress Centre, along with a handful of my fellow colleagues, my parents & my man in attendance, I completed the final element of the Humber CollegeComedy: Writing & Performanceprogram.  And no.  That does not mean you get to stop reading my blog now.  Because as the title suggests, the end of my time at Humber is, just that; an end. An end to the daily classroom routine, an end to 9am stand-up & improv comedy classes, but I think most notably an end to one hell of a LOT of stressful social scenarios.

Phew.  Breath it in, readers.  Closure.

That being said, it also marks the beginning.  The beginning of a life devoted to humour.  From here on in, the performance and the quality of my work is in my hands alone and will not be judged or criticized by the same group of 11 others day in, day out.  (Until/if I get a job in a writer’s room.)  It’s the beginning of new sketch troupe potentials (Cumin Rice Violation, anyone?), the beginning of spec script writing, story writing in general, play writing, book writing, writing writing, the beginning of job hunting for something in the biz, as lame as the job may be.  The beginning of a life in which I received a hug from Andrew Clark. (Victory!) Also, very excitingly (ALMOST as exciting as the hug,) it’s the beginning of my improv training at The Second City.

I had my first class today with instructor Brian G. Smith who, I’m told, is an excellent teacher.  (So far, this stands true. :P) My classmates come from all sorts of different walks of life; journalists, mothers, actors, tradespeople & they all seem super nice/fun/cool.  Many of them took Level B together last term, so they’re all very tight & familiar with one another, but they’re quite warm and welcoming, so you don’t get that sense of high school cliquerie.

It’s also the beginning of my life with an air conditioner. (Better grad gift than a frame, I’ll be the first to admit.)

Beginnings.  Lots of them.

I intend to take on these new beginnings with poise, dignity and of course, humility.  Oh hey?  Did I mention I got top of my class at Humber?  Yup.  Honours Award for Academic Excellence.  No big deal.  What?

I’m actually really super excited about this. #nerd4life

Employed with two major Chicago institutions: The Second City & Oprah

It’s been another one of those crazy-busy weeks where I haven’t had time to post too often, but last night – Friday – I was at Comedy Bar, where I’d been invited to read a monologue as “Thinking Woman” The Panel Show, a monthly show put on by (a bunch) of the guys from the awesome sketch troupe Shoeless.  (Seriously – any chance to see one of this troupe’s shows – leap!) – followed by a delicious tasty gelato with my best pal from the olden days Dina & her sister Jess.

Another big deal of the week was that I was hired to start working at The Second City as a host – which is a totally huge deal.  I know in the past I’ve been like – meehhh, I don’t know if I want a job in the evenings because it’ll interrupt with my abilities to go out and do comedy.  Yeah, ok BUT… working in a comedy club – not just any comedy club, the fucking Second City, seems like a pretty smart move, I’d say.  So many big comics got their start at the Second City.  And, I heard through the grapevine that if you work at SC, you can get discounts on improv classes, which is great, because I was planning on taking the A-E levels after completing my program at Humber.  Anyhoo – I start on Monday and am totally and completely stoked.

I also interviewed for and was asked to help out as an intern on a new show soon to be shot for the Oprah Winfrey Network.  I don’t know that I’m allowed to talk about what it is or whatever, but they were looking for interns and a pal and I from Humber went on down to the Corus Entertainment building down by the lake on Tuesday morning and got ourselves some good old-fashioned unpaid internships!

In addition to that, we met with and pitched sketches to our director, Gary Pearson, for our end of year Sketch show, taking place at the Comedy Bar mid-April.  I’m happy to say two of my sketches were selected to be put into the show – so hooray for that.  Consequently, Gary is the first person to make a comment about the high-concentration of sex-themed pieces the people in my class write.  No big surprise there.  But he’s the only person in this two year program to say: “Uh, enough.  Talk about something else!!”   There go my next three sketch pitches.

Tuesday was Round One of 2nd years’ Stand-Up Showcase at Yuk Yuk’s and HOLY COW was it a great show!  Solid 4-minute sets put on by half the people in my year, in front of alumni, other comics and a few big wigs.  It was great to see some people who don’t go out too often – sometimes they really surprise you.  You think, jeez!  Where have you been all this time?  Why haven’t you been doing this more?  My hope is that Round Two goes just as well, if not BETTER… because that’s the show I’ll be on, and it’s happening on my Birthday, so if it doesn’t go well, somebody’s going to be drinking away her sorrows instead of celebrating that night.

Why you scared?

Also – and nothing really do to with comedy school, Wednesday was “jab Brie in the arm day” at the doctor’s office.  Apparently my veins are difficult to find when I’m dehydrated due to mandatory fasting.  This was the result.  Bask in my pain.

Back to Comedy -> Saturday was the culmination of a project some of my school colleagues have been working on for the past little while.  They were to transform their 10-minute plays into radio plays with help from a pro from the CBC.  After much learning, editing, re-writing and other stuff, they finally recorded the pieces yesterday at Humber’s sound booth.  I still got to play one of the dogs in Ashley’s Dog Wedding: Rated Radio so what better way to spend a Saturday than trapped in a soundproof extremely warm booth?  No, but seriously, it was a lot of fun, even though my 10-minute play didn’t get picked to go on the radio.  Totally not bitter about that.  It’s really not a big deal.  Nope.  Not even a little bit. It’s cool.  I’m cool.  Everything’s good.

So as not to end on a (totally not) bitter note, last night I had somewhat of a high school reunion.  It’s fun to just hang out with people you’ve known from a simpler time – good ol’ Welland high school/cadet friend days.  Except…instead of MT Bellies, now we meet at Okrutny’s upscale downtown condo on Queens Quay and eat baked Brie.  Consequently, that is also my DJ name.

Cheers all!  Bring on next week!

 

 

O’Grady’s Launch

So, I’m an idiot sometimes.  Like the times when I shove my foot so far down my throat you can smell nail polish out of my butt.

I’m damn clumsy sometimes.  Like times at open mics when I trip over the mic wire and cause a tragic delay and enables me to say things that force my foot so far down my throat… get it?  It’s a vicious cycle.

All unfortunates aside, last night I performed at a Friday night stand-up show run by some awesome first year Humber students.

O'Gracious Host: Ben Beauchemin

The atmosphere at room-launches is always great, in my experience.  (This is my second room-launch performance.)  Everyone’s so excited at the potential of getting something regular happening and performing with people they know/like/respect/find hilarious.

The show felt like just that, and on a Friday to boot!  It’s amazing to get the opportunity to perform on a Friday because most of the time, it’s hard to find a spot willing to accommodate amateur comedy on a Friday, the busiest drinking night of the week!  And amateur comedians and their friends are usually broke.  The economics just don’t fly.

Doing inappropriate things to poorly drawn paintings of the Three Stooges however, soars… apparently.

Congrats to Cassiee, Troy, Ben & all the comics who made O’Grady’s kick off a great success!  Hope you let me back on next time!

"I sent my brother to Bear Night."

State of Play

As you may have gathered from the last late-night post reflecting my predictions of the inevitable discovery of my colleague’s talent by Hollywood or what have you, and the subsequent benefits of that association/friendship I shall reap, her play went rather well.  As did all performances Wednesday and Thursday nights.  Thus, our second year “Ten Minute Play Festival” and most of ours’ first attempt at play-writing comes to successful completion.

There were some neat ones, some serious ones, some non-verbal ones and it was always fun throughout to ask “which one of my colleagues wrote this one?” and to be pleasantly surprised at the answer.

Anyone who knows of my history as a tour guide at Vimy Ridge would not be surprised to discover I was the playwright of “the one about the WW1 brothel.”  It turned out well!  It was serious against a backdrop of ridiculousness; drunken and horny soldiers, Brandon in drag as the “Madame” of the establishment, Ron successfully pulling off a full “under the slip” boob grope to an unsurprised and perfectly-deadpan French whore, Ashley.  And my two leads, Kyle & Paige, keeping the romance and escape plan serious and honest while all this other nonsense is going around them.

It’s so rewarding to see the words you’d written and rewritten and rewritten performed on stage with the help of a seasoned director who can make your vision appear, and extracting emotional responses you hadn’t even considered in the writing process. There’s also some interesting feeling about seeing the actors work hard at memorizing their lines and becoming these characters; putting in the effort so that they too, can make your vision a reality.

I hope I was able to do that for the two roles for which I was cast – one as a middle-aged strict Russian dance teacher, propositioned by two jocks who just really need to pass their ballet exam to make the football team, at whatever cost. 😉 – and Gracie, the teen dog who’s getting too old to play pretend with her dog-brother and her human mother who wants nothing more but to create the most beautiful Dog Wedding in history.

Whether it was that or Romeo learning to appreciate his wing-man, or an English teacher getting his funk back. Getting past  St. Peter into Heaven or curing his son from his own online game persona.  Buttoning down and finally applying for that first job at No Frills, or  watching the Tooth Fairy struggle to get the job done…it sure was nifty to see the talent and creativity of my colleagues’ brainboxes come to life.

Bravo, all!

Andy Kindler and the Panopticon

More than a few times in comedy school, people will ask me if I like comedians, typically stand-ups, about whom I know absolutely nothing.  It’s always brought up the same way: “Are you serious?  YOU haven’t heard of such and such? How can you even be in COMEDY, you IDIOT! ”

Whenever I feel ignorant about the existence or talent of some stand-up comedian I’m apparently missing out on, I have to keep reminding myself that for the six years prior to my enrollment at Humber, I was learning about the political theorists influencing rebellion in the time of Louis XVI and certainly not the comedy of Louie C.K.

What guys?  You’ve never heard of Michel Foucault?   You haven’t critically analyzed his comparison of modern society to Jeremy Benthan’s “Panopticon” prison design?  Psssht!  We can’t be friends anymore.

I was a different kind of nerd, and it’s taking me some time to adapt to this new field of Comedy Nerdom.

The point I’m making is twofold:

  • First, the fact of the matter is, I’ve been out of the game a little while, and I’m only getting back in.  I was never a super-fan of stand-up comedy.  I was always into sketch, and my background is in improv.  So give me a break.  Instead of making me feel like a moron for not knowing someone like Andy Kindler, maybe recommend I go see some of his stand-up on Letterman, or on YouTube, or at the Comedy Bar and;
  • Second, I saw Andy Kindler at the Comedy Bar last weekend

I didn’t get to take any photos, so for any of you who read this blog and like me a few weeks ago, have no idea who Andy Kindler is, feel free to check THIS out.

The program coordinator of our Comedy Program is apparently a big BIG fan of Andy Kindler’s and arranged to have him perform a special show only for the students in our program.  We packed the Comedy Bar pretty well to the brim.  After his hilarious performance (pausing briefly to explain why we didn’t understand some of his references, and why he wasn’t getting the response he wanted on certain jokes – which was hysterical,) Kindler held back for a Q&A with us Humber rats.

He answered a question about how his musical background (he was a classically-trained violinist) helped train his comic rhythm and warned of the damages of censoring one’s thoughts in the writing process (you could be losing a few good gems.)  Also, he mentioned not to worry too much about where your career is and to focus rather on improving on your own terms (OK, Mom & Dad? – //jokes// they’re actually really supportive.)

Kindler mentioned a lot of other good stuff too, but to tell you all about it would be like betraying a sacred comedy oath.  And by that I mean, I’m too tired to activate my brain to remember everything he talked about a WHOLE week ago…Yeesh.

If you were hoping this post would be a review of the Kindler show, I do apologize.  But you can go HERE for that.

Although I’ll try my best to give you my own review:

  • My throat hurt from laughing so much.  THE END.

Good enough?

Now go find out about Foucault.