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!



Crrrrrrraydio Radio

They say life is cyclical and History repeats itself.  In pop culture; music & fashion, we see it all the time (why I’m wearing fluorescent spandex and a scrunchy as I type this message!)  With the surge in popularity of podcasts, younger generations are starting to get an understanding, even though they might not realize it, of what was so dang nifty about the radio.

Last Monday, some students in my year at Humber put on a Live Radio Show at Comedy Bar.  It seems weird to say that because we weren’t actually live on the radio.  We were performing live in front of a (sparsely attended) audience and simultaneously being recorded for a program that will hopefully be aired on Sirius XM Satellite radio, eventually.

The whole idea for the event was that of my sketch teacher, Robin Duke.   It was both an assignment on learning about the history of comedy and its origins on the radio (Air Farce started on the radio.  Did you know that?) as well as learning how to write sketch for a medium other than stage or video.

I thought it was a lot of fun. It allowed for my characters to survive a nuclear holocaust!  This is something I would NOT have been able to afford to recreate effectively either on stage or on video.  But alas, my awesome cast (Ashley, Brandon, Paige & Wheatgrass) performed wonderfully and over all, I believe the sketch was well-received.  Go us!  🙂  (Including Bruce & Lance for the tips!)

On the other hand, the whole radio play ordeal showed me a lot about the importance of adaptability.  Some of you may know that I work part time at the Career Centre at Humber College, helping people better their resumes in order to try to land a decent job… or at least, an interview.  Adaptability is a skill that is almost always sought by employers, and a really good skill to have at work, or in life.

Here we are: the scripts have been selected for the performance, the date has been chosen and all that’s left are edits and rehearsals.   And lo, the teacher catches pneumonia and has to take a few days off work.  As a result, communications get a little more complicated and people begin to panic.  “I don’t know when to be where.  I didn’t get an e-mail about this or that.  I don’t know what to do for this.  I didn’t bother editing this because I didn’t hear about that.”  Mass chaos.

In the midst of all the confusion, Robin Duke receives an e-mail from Bob Derkach, the musical director for our radio show and long time musical director at the Second City in Toronto.   He was to accompany our pieces on the keyboard and with sound effects.   The e-mail read simply:  “Digging the confusion.”

What an amazing way to look at the situation!  I feel like there are two routes you can go.  You can get frustrated and pissed off and complain about how much of a mess you think everything is, OR you can just go with it, accept that life isn’t always carefully planned out and make the best out of the situation.

Which one do you suppose is most helpful and beneficial to the project at hand?


Now… if only people had COME to the show…

Don Ferguson’s Centennial Project

This post is several weeks in the making – this past January 30th, a Canadian comic icon, Don Ferguson, of the epically successful Royal  Canadian Air Farce came to speak to the students of the Humber School of Comedy.

Here’s what I got out of it:

When I got the music, I got a place to go!

The Air Farce got their start back in old days of r-a-dio…. radio.  Is that how you pronounce that?  Radio?  Ferguson and the late Roger Abbott met in Montreal, where they began performing sketch comedy together in front of live audiences.  They would perform in theatres before they got picked up to do radio, which was advantageous to them because they learned by the reception of the audience what went well, what didn’t go so well and ultimately what worked.

It was then that they understood how much the audience wanted topical, current material. *For those of you who don’t remember, Ferguson took the role of many a politician on Air Farce, including this one:*

(Oddly enough, a similar reaction to that which I had when leaving Ottawa.)

Here’s what you could do with a live audience and with radio vs. on TV with a laugh track:

  • You can hear the audience laughing;
  • You can be plugged in to what they think is funny & relevant;
  • You can go more places (it’s almost like animation the amount of places you can go! But CHEAPER!)
  • Radio gets into people’s head & taps into their imagination;
  • Did I mention how much cheaper it is than TV?  Because it’s cheaper.

Ferguson mentioned how comedy, and particularly Air Farce’s TV sketches, demands precision.  Something can be funny if written a certain way, but then if you re-word it, the message won’t come across quite as clearly.  THIS is something extremely relevant to all aspects of writing for comedy, and probably especially to stand-up.  I’m currently in the process of conducting some massive edits to my stand-up bits.  It’s true, sometimes it hurts to kill your babies, or at least to dismember them, but it ends up with more laughs, then bye bye toesies!

Don Ferguson’s method for making it as a comedian in Canada:

  1. Get a show

  2. Be a hit

  3. Remain a hit

It’s as easy as that!   The pressure, he said, isn’t off as soon as you get a show.

Get a Show

“You can’t let up for a MOMENT.  It’s like being a pro-athlete.”

Crossing the Border = Security

If any of us Humber kids are in the mindset that comedy will provide us with any kind of job security, Ferguson reminded us that his longest contract was one of five years.  That’s it.  Everything else was shorter than that, normally one or two-year contracts with Air Farce.  That might make some people nervous, but Ferguson believes security can breed complacency in a business like this one.  The anxiety, fear and nervousness is what a comedian needs to stay sharp.

How’s that for noble, eh?

Ferguson and Abbott were asked to work on the American sit-com TAXI, but they declined as they’d realized “what Air Farce was doing on Radio was more important to [Canadian] listeners than ANY sitcom would mean to US viewers.”

Writing for Andy Kaufman would have been pretty... fun?


At this point, we skipped into a Q&A with Ferguson in which he gave us tips, tricks, encouragement and advice.  Because I pay so much for tuition, I’m going to keep this segment of our Prime Time with Don Ferguson private.  If you want more details, be sure to check this book out; a work that will serve to remind us how relevant; how important Air Farce really was for Canadians ever since their days back in R-A-D-I-O.

... no big deal. (!!!)

(Next on the schedule… Brie needs to dye her hair again!)

A Snippet from my Radio Sketch

ASHLEY:  Then how did WE survive?

BRIE:  Wheatgrass.

ASHLEY:  What?

BRIE: We were in the freezer with the wheatgrass.  Haven’t you worked here for like forever?  You should know that not only does wheatgrass prevent cancer and detoxify your body, it’s also resistent to thermo-nuclear blasts when cooled and kept in a confined space such as our refrigerator.

ASHLEY:  How do you even know any of those words?

BRIE:  D’uh.  It’s in the Booster Juice employee training manual.