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 Caf√© 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. ūüėĘ
  • 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 √† ma tr√®s ch√®re grand-m√®re, qui nous a quitt√© √† l’√Ęge 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 sant√©, l’amour et la r√©ussite vous accompagnent dans tous vos projets. Bonne ann√©e!

Outlaugh: The final confessional

For the past 2 months, I’ve had the pleasure of being part of a wonderful comedy experience by the name Outwit, Outplay, Outlaugh Toronto – a live comedy-version of the popular reality TV show Survivor.

At first, I really didn’t know what to expect. I’m not much of a Survivor fan, (much to the dismay of many of the die-hards in the Outlaugh cast.) In fact, my main relationship with Survivor was my obsessed-roommate (at the time,) printing out and posting east new cast above his bed and X-ing out everyone who was voted off. And the buffs. The buffs are cool.

I didn’t expect it to be such a fun and collaborative experience. I didn’t expect to connect with so many awesome Toronto comedians and performers. I don’t know why I didn’t expect these things. The producers involved know a lot of awesome people in Toronto’s comedy community. I guess the anxiety of the unknown made me believe it was going to be a cutthroat and nasty competition, but it was the total opposite. Well, it was still cutthroat, just not quite so nasty.

Every week we had new challenges, wherein we work on different comedic elements and styles, improv, sketch, stand-up. We even created a mini late-night TV episode in Week 3, (that was the day a snowstorm didn’t keep a full house from showing up, and one in which I got to portray my dream-role, that of a WW1 ghost. Hey. It was Remembrance Day. Give me this one.)

I got to work with such a wonderful variety of people I’d never met, let alone worked with before. It was just awesome to work together, knowing that, as well as wanting to win the competition, we were all working hard at creating the best show we possibly could while we were at it, or at least that was my strategy.

Not surprisingly, the challenges helped me realize how incredibly well I work with deadlines. In fact I may even call Jared Laxer (the live show’s Jeff Probst) ((the host of Survivor)) ) up after tonight’s finale to give me some writing assignments and check in on me to make sure I’m getting them done!

The show is so incredibly well produced with Jared, Linda Ellis and Matt Caldwell at the helm, and many others contributing to its smooth running and many moving pieces. There are video confessionals at the top of every show and throughout the live show too, actual immunity idols, and buffs. Again, so many buffs!

Look, I didn’t even mind getting voted out. (*cough*) Luckily, I lasted long enough where I could be in the Jury and my vote will now count in choosing a winner of the entire competition, which happens TONIGHT at the Social Capital Theatre at 8:30pm. So if you’re wondering what to do tonight in Toronto, do yourself a favour and check it out. It’s going to be intense, and it’s going to be hilarious. The tribe has spoken. See this show.

Daphney

It was so fun to get to interview my friend Daphney Joseph on Nick and my recent Constant Struggle episode. She and I have had some great chats in the past when we were NOT being recorded, so I knew¬†be very valuable to have her come and chat to us in a conversation we could share with the whole world! (Or mostly Canada and the US, to be honest. Some people in the UK too…one or two Australians as well.)

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She and I are both French Canadian, but from two different francophone communities. Montreal and Welland are pretty much worlds apart in terms of French culture, but somehow the language has the ability to bring people together in this country. ¬†So much so that we’re now both playing LNI-style improv with Les Improbables, the popular French-language improv group in Toronto. This style of improv is the first kind of improv either of us learned, since both of us went to French language schools growing up, and this is pretty well the most popular form of improv among French-speakers worldwide.

Check out what Daphney has to say about francophonie and SO much more in our latest episode of The Constant Struggle.

Download this episode (right click and save)

the constant struggle - chibbi (1)

New Episode of The Constant Struggle Featuring The Dandies’ Dale Wells

Our latest episode of The Constant Struggle podcast is up and this time, we had the pleasure of interviewing Dale Wells, improviser and co-founder of The Dandies & Holodeck Follies.

http://theconstantstruggle.podbean.com/e/e12-follow-your-passion-with-dale-wells/

close-shave-2013-dale-wells-c-neil-muscott

Dale speaks about the benefits and challenges¬†producing live comedy shows in Toronto. We talk about the history of Star Trek improv in the city, about geek culture, and about his show; Holodeck Follies, kicking butt at this year’s FanExpo. Dale and Nick chat about what it’s like to be a Dad artist with a day job. We bring up his love of singing and the various ways in which improv can bring joy to your life.

What a positive guy!

***
With GREAT shout-outs to:
ANDIE WELLS
NATASHA BOOMER
ROB ARISS HILLS
THE 404s
GARY PEARSON
MARK LITTLE
KEN HALL
ALAN LEIGHTIZER
TODD VAN ALLEN (COMEDY ABOVE THE PUB)
GILLIAN ENGLISH &
TODD GRAHAM
***
 Be sure to follow The Dandies on Twitter @TorontoDandies & catch the next edition of #HolodeckFollies at Geek Hard Live!
#StruggleOn everybody!

#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!

 

 

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.

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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‚Äôs ‚ÄúTKO‚ÄĚ tournament. Their semi-final set is at Comedy Bar on Tues. Oct. 13th @ 8:00 PM. Go check ‚Äôem out if you‚Äôre in Toronto.
#StruggleOn

Struggling On

logo1On a day like today, the first day this month that I’ve had to work full time hours on the weekend (just Sunday this week, in the coming weeks it’ll be expected of me Saturdays and Sundays), more than ever I feel the need to promote the latest episode of Nick & my podcast; The Constant Struggle:

http://www.podbean.com/media/player/a28d3-56ed11

This episode was taped on Father’s Day, and we discussed the grind of getting your creative work done under not-so-ideal circumstances. I have a feeling the next episode is going to talk about more of that because this month I will have even less time to do the things I love, which is pretty crazy disheartening.

It’s getting more difficult to manage the balance of work and passion. Work seems to be weighing more heavily. Too bad I’m not a millionaire, y’know?¬† Anyway…

In this episode, we give shout-outs to:

  • Drop & Give me 20 stand-up show (Marc Hallworth)
  • Robert Ariss Hills (improviser, graphic designer)
  • Dan Dingwall (a dude)
  • Susannah Kiernan (triple threat)
  • Ken Hall (improv guru)
  • Alexis Bernstein (networking queen & creative expert)
  • The bird clock
  • Porter Airlines

Books & Movies

  • Save the Cat (Blake Snyder)
  • Whiplash (2014)
  • Inside Out (2015)

Podcasts

  • The Moment (Brian Koppelman)
  • WTF (Marc Maron)
  • The Crimson Wave (Jess Beaulieu & Natalie Norman)

***

#StruggleOn friends!

Watch Sunnyside, Damnit!

Do yourself (and me) a favour and watch Sunnyside. It premiered tonight, and it was super funny, super original and super Canadian.

It reminded me of that improv game Goon River, except, they weren’t speaking in monologues, but it IS about town filled with¬†fun, quirky characters. Although nobody died… so… maybe not so much like Goon River…Oh no wait. Someone died. ¬†Cool. ¬†Totally like Goon River.

Anyway… I really liked it! And not only because I know the creators, writers and cast personally and am super proud of their hard work not only being produced, but finding a broadcast home amidst a dark period of TV history in which few networks are willing to take chances on new ideas in general, let alone great sketch comedy ideas.

The show is co-created by Gary Pearson (who, if you’re a reader of this blog, directed a sketch show I was in back at Humber called #clich√©: based on the novel Push by Sapphire) so… it’s cool, we tight. I think I also reviewed one, if not both of his novels here as well. What I’m saying is, I’m a fan.

The cast and writers are ALL people I’ve seen CRUSH¬†around Toronto’s live comedy scene. Stand-up, improv, sketch. You name it, they’re made me laugh doin’ it.¬†I’m super excited for this show, and I’m super excited for all the talented people involved/responsible for it.

Now YOUR job, reader, is to go watch the darn thing and enjoy it. That way, they can keep making it, and maybe more opportunities will arise for the hardworking hilarious people trying to make a living making YOU laugh! It’s a win win!

Is this too ranty for a post about a silly sketch comedy show? ¬†Meh. I don’t care.

Watch Sunnyside, damnit.

Dr. Strangelove

This is a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, for various reasons, but I thought about how fitting it would be to know how even the greats had their tough moments of eating shit on stage, and that should be motivation to keep on keeping on.

 

 

 

Not to ensure this doesn’t happen to me when I deliver my Maid of Honour speech tomorrow…