Fight or Flight

I suppose it had been too long since I last fainted. Big thanks to my nervous system for always doing its job. Probably a little too effectively, I’d say.

I didn’t faint when I got my first dose. I figured I’d be in the clear. Everyone mentioning the second dose said it was worse than the first, but only in terms of side effects, not in terms of losing-consciousness-in-the-car-and-thank-goodness-I-wasn’t-the-one-driving-or-I-would-have-murdered-a-bunch-of-people-and-maybe-myself-but-hey-they-would-at-least-have-had-a-chance-because-we-were-relatively-close-to-the-hospital-to-get-the-care-they-required-to-make-it-out-alive.

Yup. I’m a fainter.

Do you have a History of Fainting?

Last time I talked about it live, someone in the audience also fainted, so content warning, I guess?

I do it a lot. The most critical time it happened was on an airplane. Shortly after, the sensations I get when I know I’m about to pass out decided to lend themselves out to general life situations that were a little higher stress than everyday life. Like that time I had to get scalped tickets for a Coldplay concert, and was afraid to get found out by the French police. (As if they give a shit, they’re way too busy being generally racist.) Or that time I was on the island making my way back from Osheaga and it took forever to get onto the metro back to the apartment where we were staying in Montreal. Wait. Why do so many of these panicked situations happen at / around rock concerts? I also fainted at a QOTSA concert. Wait. I’m sensing a pattern.

But hey. Vaccines are no rock concert.

Basically, when I finally had my anxiety disorder labeled, the symptoms matched up with the responses I feel when I’m about to faint. In my late twenties, they began to appear much more often than they should. When I was riding my bike, or sitting on a bus, or riding in a friend’s car or… yeah, you guessed it, at a dang music festival.

I went to a doctor and was officially diagnosed with an anxiety disorder, and prescribed medication. They’ve helped tremendously. I’m still an anxious person, but at least I don’t feel like I’m going to faint when I’m driving my vehicle anymore. (That was a scary time to be on a 400-series highway.)

Unfortunately the drugs apparently still can’t seem to calm my nervous system down when I get a fucking needle.

Second Verse, Not the Same as the First

What happened? Why was #2 so much worse than the first?

The first time, a nurse gave my my shot. She asked me if I ever fainted. I said yes. She said not to worry because we were surrounded by paramedics, firefighters, nurses and doctors. This put my mind at ease, I sat in the waiting area and went along my merry way afterwards. I felt a bit of anxiety, because I’m still not a huge fan of needles, (understatement.)

The second time, a doctor gave me my shot. He didn’t ask if I had a tendency to faint. He made some weird comment that when couples come up to him to get their shots, the wife always goes first, and why is that? Maybe it was an attempt at humour to put my mind at ease. Or maybe it was an offhand sexist remark. Anyway, the shot went in, quick and easy just like the first time. I went to sit down in the waiting area once again, and nothing. I felt fine. We left after the allocated waiting period, and I thought I was home free.

My husband and I checked in on each other. How were we feeling? I said just a bit anxious, like last time. He mentioned this time it felt like if he’d smoked a big cigar last night. (Whatever that means.) We were driving with the windows down and it was quite hot and muggy out.

And then it hit me.

I did NOT feel well. I asked Dan to turn the air conditioning on because it felt like there was no air circulation. He turned the air on, and I was like: NOT ENOUGH and pumped the AC to max. Still I was seating like a madman. I told him I was going to faint. I can feel it coming after thirty some odd years. He said I wouldn’t faint. And even if it did, it didn’t matter because I was laying down in the truck so it’s not like I’d hurt myself. Ever cool in a stressful situation, he is.

Then I went. I was gone. I never know for how long. It’s usually a few seconds. Oddly enough, it’s long enough to dream.

I came to and could hear how high the air conditioning was blowing, Dan had begun driving back towards the arena to get help. (I thought you said I’d be fine, Dan!) (He later told me if I hadn’t woken, he was going to head to the entrance of the arena and honk his horn until people came out to his truck to help. I’m not sure how effective that strategy would have been, but I do like knowing he’s a man of action.)

Apparently when I was unconscious, I shot my arms up in the air. I think maybe I was unconsciously trying to shoot the vaccine back out of my body via my fingers.

It didn’t work.

Everything ached, my muscles were all clenched. Slowly they relaxed, sometime on the way back home.

After that, it was just the normal side effects everybody else shared who got their second dose. Muscle and joint aches, drowsiness, and the sigh of relief that thank goodness I didn’t drive myself and end up engulfed in flames in a ditch somewhere in the back roads of Niagara.

TDLR: Get the fucking vaccine.

Taking Vacation Post-Covid: Some Thoughts

I went on vacation this week. I almost asked to reschedule because I Think You Should Leave – Season 2 came out in the middle of my time off. Seriously. I thought about staying home when I found out the release date.

Not a surprise to anyone who met me in the hotmail days of tv_addict1@hotmail.com – (honestly, that email address might still work, I should really check it out and see if I’ve missed anything over the past decade.)

I did go. I was fully prepared to activate my delayed gratification function for the absurd sketch show until we got home. There wasn’t supposed to be any wifi at the cottage. It was supposed to be a tech-less paradise. That’s why I didn’t bring a laptop. I would have used it. For Netflix. And work. Not vacation stuff.

Given the past year and a half, I honestly think my Netflix needs a vacation more than I do.

That’s not true. I need one. Needed one. Took one, regardless of making Tim Robinson wait til I got home, like the cat — and stupidly like the cat, I checked in on Tim. We tried to stream episodes of ITYSL on a tiny iPhone screen. I think 75% of that show’s comedy is in Tim Robinson’s face and teeth, so we missed a lot of it being on a teeny tiny screen. Why couldn’t I just have let it go? Because most everyone went to bed and those of us still up were drunk and high, that’s why.

The weather was less than ideal for vacationing. Except that one day where the outside was nice but Lake Ontario is always fucking freezing. Luckily laughter is a good substitute for sunshine and we had it in abundance.

Every cottage needs a cheese grater. FACT.

It’s a weird thing being on vacation with people a generation younger than you. Why is the music so uggggh jeeez?

The extravert that had been suppressed during lockdown reemerged AT THE COTTAGE. It’s so nice to feel the buzz of being around people once again.

It’s also nice to be home now. There’s still no place like it.

When Anxiety Meds Work Too Well

Anxiety is weird and sometimes I think my SSRIs are even weirder.

Follow the Path

I’ve recently rediscovered a love affair with hiking. I live near the Short Hills Provincial Park, and over the past year I’ve spent a lot of time getting reacquainted with nature trails, steep climbs and butterfly cocoons. It’s also a great way to get my rings closed (amirite?)

I’ve got pretty comfortable with one trail in particular. It takes just over an hour to hike the whole thing and there’s a lovely waterfall along the way. Delightful.

But every once in a while, I don’t want to take the comfortable trail. It’s human nature to explore, so I seek out new paths.

Earlier this week, I went off and followed a different path than usual. One that indicated at the beginning that no horses were allowed. It started very tame, but after a while yeah, I get why you wouldn’t want to bring a horse along with ya. I eventually started to realize I had no idea where I was in relation to where my car was parked. I considered returning in the same direction from where I came, but felt like I was already too far gone to go back. And anyway, I think I’d jumped onto a completely different path along the way, so I’m not even sure I would have been able to find my way back!

I take my phone with me when I go hiking because I’m not an idiot. There’s still a fair amount of cellphone reception in the Short Hills that I could find where I was on Google Maps and try to connect up with some of the main paths outlined in the GPS. Except that my iPhone 7’s battery ain’t what she used to be, and the power quickly began to drain from 30% to 20% and uh-oh now the bar’s gone red I should probably turn it off and hope for the best.

An open field amongst the woods with a beautiful blue sky.
Conversation with myself: “Hey jerk, maybe you shouldn’t be taking pictures when your phone’s about to die?” “But look how majestic this open field looks now that I’ve escaped one heavily wooded area and am en route to another?”

Thought Process Pre & Post Meds

This is where pre-medicated Brie would have started to freak out. I even felt the urge a few times too. Thoughts came up like “maybe now’s a good time to cry super loud or just sit down and bash your fist against the ground? Maybe that’ll be helpful!”

And just as quick as those thoughts occurred, I could feel ol’ SSRI stepping up to the bat:

“No need to cry Brie – just keep walking, you’ll connect with the right way back anytime now! Trust your cadet training and outdoor prowess” and;

“Keep going. 5% is more than enough juice to call someone!”

It did go a little far when I recall myself thinking:

“Don’t worry Brie, I’m sure if your phone dies, you can sleep in the woods overnight and find your way back tomorrow! It’s totally cool out here, you’ll love it! Curl up to a cuddly critter for warmth!”

Very shortly after that, I did reconnect with the main path easily made my way back to the parking lot.

However, it did make me wonder if sometimes my medication might work too well.

Fuck it. Who wants to go play in the woods?

Do one thing every day that you really really hate, but you know you have to do because it will make you a better performer

Earlier this week I tried something I hate.

A character monologue.

I’m always fascinated by some comedians I know who seem to come up with this plethora of weird and wonderful characters, for which they’ve created this fun universe and they bring them up on stage and speak to the audience in that character for upwards of ten minutes, and people love it. They tell jokes in character. They have funny accents. They dress up.

I just hate it so much.

Not when other people do it. I just hate doing it, myself. It if were to serve a sketch, in which there were several people, no problem. I’ll play a weird and wacky character. But on my own, just speaking directly to the audience? No thank you. Well, that is, outside of comedy school and this past Tuesday’s “Bombaes.”

I wrote and performed a character monologue inspired by something Kate Mulgrew said while promoting her book last month (was it last month?) at the Toronto Reference Library. It seemed to get very little response while I was speaking it, which is bizarre. As a stand-up comic, you’re used to getting a laugh at certain points in your set. But either it wasn’t funny, or it was just not good, I felt like I got nothing back from the audience, apart from polite applause when I was finished my bit.

Stand-up, fine. You’re telling jokes, and the audience responds in such a way as to let you know whether or not your jokes are hitting or missing. Improv, GREAT! No problem making people laugh there. But this? GAH. This is PAINFUL.

PAINFUL! AND DIFFICULT!  AND SCARY!

That being said. If anyone has a solo-sketch/monologue night in Toronto, I’m totally ready for you to meet this gal. She’s a real something else.

 

Woman Seeking Multiverse

First stand-up set in a while tonight at Yuk Yuk’s. I’ll say I need practice. I will say that. I will also say that people were NOT on board with my joke about how hard it must have been for conservative dudes to admit they felt a budge upon first glance of Caitlyn Jenner.  Perhaps it was the delivery. Perhaps it was a room full of conservatives. Either way, I thought it was hilarious.

It’s insane how quickly 5 minutes goes by. When I was writing out my set, I prepared so much more than what I actually had time to perform. I need to practice more.  I need more hours in a day because I love improv too much to give it the back seat.I need Hermione’s Time-Turner so I can do equal parts of both.Time Turner… too geek?Nah. No way.

 

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

Humour and Remembrance

I just wanted to write a little follow-up, albeit a late one, about the First World War themed improv show I held with co-producer Aaron Peever on Vimy Ridge Day, this past April 9th.

One of my huge concerns about the show was that people, especially the performers, would take it seriously. And, I know the reason I was concerned. I was met with a certain defensive suspicion whenever I mentioned the idea to people. I could tell the instinctive reaction was something along the lines of  a “how dare you make fun of people who sacrificed their lives for our freedom?”-mentality, which I think is certainly reflective of the way we’re expected to feel about most military action nowadays. Either you’re you support the troupes, or you hate Canada, right? And making jokes about the War sure doesn’t sound like supporting the troupes!

Here’s the thing. I hand-picked the improvisers to play in this show based on one fact: their knowledge of First World War history. Some of the cast weren’t even improvisers, but were excited by the opportunity to give their knowledge of history a new platform. In fact, most of the improvisers I asked leapt at the opportunity to play in this world, to combine their knowledge with their amazing abilities to create realistic relationships, characters and scenes specifically within the realm of that era. I mean, some of them were pretty stoked to history-nerd out! (Myself included.)

The platform was wonderful. I chose this cast because I knew they would not mock the War. They would create characters and scenes within the very real context of the War based entirely on their historical knowledge of the events in question and their respect and appreciation of its history. The characters they chose were real. The scenarios, likely, given the context. The result; pure unbridled silly awesomeness. NOT mockery.

We’re all so sensitive to political correctness now, I felt like I was walking on eggshells producing a show based on events that took place nearly ONE HUNDRED YEARS ago!  The more I thought about it, the more I came to wonder why people didn’t really get it. And here’s what I came up with.

1) People, in general, aren’t familiar with longform improvisation, or any improvisation for that matter that doesn’t follow the Whose Line Is it Anyway? model they’ve seen over the years on TV. This, to me, is tragic. Longform improv at its core is about playing real, honest characters and having them tell a story and transport you to a place and a time that, when done correctly, will have you in disbelief that it’s all made up on the spot, but also, in stitches. The scenes last much longer than what you’ve come to expect out of Whose Line, which allows for more time to create very realistic world right there on stage.

2) People have short memories. We’re certainly not the first people to make comedy about the First World War (or any war for that matter; look how many movies came out of Vietnam, and what about M*A*S*H, set in Korea? That show was on the air for over 10 years!)

But, specifically regarding  WW1, how about the greats? Here’s some Monty Python for your faces:

Hell, during the Great War itself, Canada had its own group of comedians who would entertain the troops with their vaudeville act, which went onto Broadway after the end of the War!

a005739

The horrors these soldiers faced during the war are not something we want to mock. Quite the opposite. Why not use humour as a way to help people REMEMBER the war, rather than making people paranoid about even talking about it, lest they express some criticism that might make them seem unpatriotic?

If you still don’t catch my drift, come to Toronto on June 6th, and watch this amazing group of improvisers storm the beaches and pay homage, in our own special way, to the Canadians in WW2.

For King and Country – Vimy Ridge Day at SoCap

Tonight, I’m producing an improv show which brings together my love of improvisation as well as my passion for World War One history. For those of you who did not know me before moving to France, I was once (or twice, or four times) a Tour Guide at the Vimy National Canadian War Memorial, in France.

The whole experience had an extremely profound impact on my life and today, on the 98th Anniversary of the Four Canadian Divisions storming the ridge, all together in formation for the first time in our history, I and several of my hilarious colleagues, will be presenting:

WWIMprov

All funds raised will be going to the Vimy Foundation and Wounded Warriors Canada.

It’s a worthy cause, so…

e010695900-v8

Birthday Reset

Confession time: I  had a great Easter/birthday long weekend.

It was the perfect reset I needed to help me put things into perspective and refocus my goals, but also celebrate and reflect upon another year on Earth. And despite a slip and fall accident resulting in an incredibly bruised and sore coccyx, I’m doing that thing right now where I might be producing my very own Dopamine and Serotonin. Happiness, folks.

My birthday fell on Good Friday this year, which is great for sleeping in, and not so great for feeling the contemplation and sorrow that are typically aligned with this particular holiday. That being said, I have a commitment to Improv Game Show, a weekly comedy show I co-produce with Cassie Moes every Friday evening, and we typically go strong, even on holidays. This particular rendition was very well attended; the cast was excellent and Gillian English (my very darling friend and the show’s host this week) went so far as to invite my friggin’ improv hero, Rob Baker, to come play the set with us on account of it being my birthday. The following shot I think demonstrates how I felt about the news:

11138076_470277076457124_5532606819525507406_n

🙂

The evening continued with drinks and chats at SoCap, which is quickly becoming my home-away-from-home and then across the street for food and more drinks with members of the cast, other improvisers and friends. I’m so thankful to be a part of this awesome community. What a super swell birthday! 😀

Speaking of which, the following day, my monthly improv baby; Guess Who’s Coming to Improv? took place at Comedy Bar, and was filled with wonderful audience members and hopeful participants. I got to play a few good scenes, and to watch some that ended up like this:

11024610_939177692773145_8952240762142397804_nSo, pretty good time overall.

I was so lucky/happy/ #blessed to have had Jan Caruana agree to be the Special Guest improviser this month, because she’s such a fantastic performer. She’s got such a great mind for crazy references, and it seems like her brain works so super fast to come up with really great scenes, so it was such a treat/joy to get to play with her, and to watch her play with those who were lucky enough to get their names pulled with hers! That show is so much fun and personally, I think people should make it a priority to attend. (Maybe I’m a bit biased…)

ANYHOO. I went back down to Niagara on Sunday for Easter proper. Spent the day with my family, who surprised me with a birthday cake, even though I’m twenty-nine again and so technically a grown-ass adult. (Whatever that’s supposed to mean.) It was so lovely to be surrounded by the whole fam-damily. I won’t go into too many details, because my personal life is MY OWN BUSINESS DAMNIT! But I will take the time to brag about how awesome my 94 year-old grand-maman is; she was singing songs from back in the day and dancing as best she could; enjoying her chocolate eggs like a champ and chatting us all up. Here look & tell me you don’t think she’s the cutest grand-maman in the world:

With the added benefit of getting Easter Monday off, because I sortof work for the government-ish, I got to get in an important meet/chat and a headshot shoot, both of which helped put my mind at ease on a number of different things pertaining to my life/career at this stage of the performance-game.

This was a wonderful long weekend filled with wonderful people, and I think this happy feeling is going to last a while; at least for the first five minutes of my administrative workload tomorrow morning anyway.

My butt still hurts. But I’m alive.

Thanks for reading. 🙂