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.
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.
Episode 6 of my brother and my podcast, The Constant Struggle, is up & we’d love it if you’d giver a listen.
This time around, Nick’s got a new writing deadline he wants to get to before he takes off to Scotland with his family. Will the trip inspire him to write something while he’s over there? We’ll see!
Will Brie survive her month of insane-work hours and continue to work on her comedy all throughout, or will she have a complete mental breakdown along the way?
Find out, by downloading the episode on iTunes or checking it out right here:
Oh, and if you want to sign that petition to help get Kevin Smith Canadian citizenship, click here:
Struggle On, friends!
On 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:
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:
Books & Movies
Our newest episode of The Constant Struggle podcast is up, and for the first time, we’ve decided to feature a guest on the show. We invited Susannah Kiernan, member of the hilarious duo “L’il Rasgals” to come on by and talk to us a bit about the various challenges she’s had to face in the noble pursuit of her art.
You can also find the episode on iTunes by searching “The Constant Struggle”
It’s still cold, it’s still shitty out, but guess what? I went to Chicago.
That’s right, the Second City itself. I’m a little late to the draw at writing about this, but that’s because I had to spend a bunch of time putting together this cool collage:
I’m not going to sit here and tell you all about the trip in super-extensive detail or anything, as this isn’t a travel blog, let’s be CLEAR about that! But what I will do, is tell you that if you think there’s somewhere in the world that will inspire you, you should visit it, even in the dead middle of February where it’s equally, if not more cold, than your own crap-cold igloo of a town, because it probably will.
Inspire you, that is.
My buddy Sharilyn had mentioned she would be heading to Chicago in February to take a Second City intensive & I happened to be “dark” the week she was planning to go. (That’s TV talk for “the stars of my show had to go to a tropical place and work on their tans,” so we had to stop shooting for a week.)
Nevertheless, bit by bit, the plan came together and sure enough, we ended up in the Windy City, catching a different comedy show every single night we were there. (And bits and pieces of the SNL40 Special, which in hindsight, we should have just watched in its entirety.)
When I was asked at customs what I was doing in Chicago, and I answered “watching a whole wack-load of comedy,” it was a completely plausible answer. I feel like there aren’t many places in the world where you can tell a customs officer that, and not be thrown into some strange questioning cell.
Despite a bout of food-poisoning, the trip was a dream. An frozen, shivering, ice-cube of a dream, but a dream nonetheless. I imagine myself one day, holding a magical green card, actively avoiding some of the dodgier modes of transportation in the city when it gets dark, and performing every night on the various stages that launched the careers of so many of my heroes.
I wasn’t sad when I came back to Toronto. Because it just so happens that a bunch of my heroes started out right here too.
So now it’s back to work, a little more inspired.
We find ourselves at the beginning of another New Year, and like many bloggers, this is as good an opportunity as ever to think back over the past year and try to find some meaning in everything before moving on to the next.
1) I turned 30.
2) My best little friend and partner Peanut (my kitty cat) died.
3) I got let go from work.
Am I ready for a new year? Yes please.
Ok. So maybe I’m oversimplifying things by focusing on some pretty negative and shitty experiences. Like, maybe turning 30 isn’t so bad. And losing a pet is awful, but we know they don’t live forever when we bring them into our homes at the get-go. And when they’re super sick, sometimes it’s best to know they’re no longer in pain.
And as far as the job goes, I wasn’t a huge fan of the position quite honestly, and really welcomed the change. Also, because I’m a unionized employee, I was found another position within the corporation and have been totally loving the new challenges, coworkers and environment.
One year ago, I moved into an apartment in Bloorcourt; the heart of Toronto’s indie comedy action. I thought it would be the best place to live/be. As it turns out, my apartment overlooked the neighbour’s balcony and they could see directly into my tiny bedroom/kitchen, their cigarette smoke and blathering idiocy seeped in through my window, which was often left open given the ridiculous lack of temperature control in the building. I moved in 2014, again. Up the road, and this time, with my partner of 4 years, Dan. It’s already nice to have food in the fridge, cable TV, and someone to hug when I get home from late-night comedy shows who isn’t a cardboard cutout of Seth Rogen hanging behind my front door purposed to frighten off potential intruders.
I gave birth to a few babies this year: 50 Shades of 50, The Benoits, Exit, Pursued by a Bear and my fondest little project, Guess Who’s Coming to Improv? Each of these groups/shows have brought joy, fun and a stage to play throughout the year. I am incredibly grateful to all those involved, you know who you are. And if you don’t think I’m talking about you specifically, I am, so don’t worry. You’re amazing. I also adopted Improv Game Show, who continues to grow every single week; and I am as proud as an adopted parent could be of its’ potential.
Non-metaphorically, I welcomed a new brother into my family this past summer, as he and my sister threw the best damn wedding I’ve ever attended. And I’ve been to a few weddings in my short years on this earth, folks. This was hands down, the best. It brought my whole family closer together and it was such a gosh-darned delight to see my now 94 year-old grand-maman stand-up at her walker to boogie down to a few tunes.
I got to work with my brother and my boyfriend on a comedy project; a TV pilot about my hometown. Though nothing came out of the competition part of it, we still plan on creating something together out of the concept and working on other projects as well. We might totally be the next Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, but like, Canadian, …and funny.
I was hired by my dream employer last year to teach improv workshops for students both in English and en français; and every chance I get to share a teensy bit of what improv has done for me to other people is like a tiny little miracle.
I went to New York City to learn more about writing humour. I read both Keith Johnstone’s and Rob Norman’s book to learn more about improv. I read Mindy Kaling, Martin Short and Andrea Martin’s books for inspiration and am now onto Amy Poehler’s. I listen to podcasts about comedy and improv and society and life and I am more motivated than ever.
2014 was a good year. Tt felt like momentum was beginning to pick up. My hope is to keep up the pace and trudge on forward. It’s an interesting thing, finding what you love and working towards doing it as often as possible and trying to make a life out of it. It’s not easy all the time, but it sure is something.
Even though I still miss Peanut like fucking crazy.
I have finally begun writing a fucking script! I’ve been telling myself since graduation from Humber “Brie, write a spec script, Brie, write a spec script. Do it do it do it now!” But I didn’t. I don’t know why? Procrastination? I guess it’s because I can always go out somewhere and perform. It’s easy to put off writing by justifying the fact that you need to go out and do and see shows; to stay connected and to make sure people out in the community remember your face and that you do in fact, live and breathe. However, equally, it’s important to have a base of written work in case someone asks you to write for their TV shows one of these days. (Or so I dream.)
I decided not to write a spec script. Rather, I’ve had an idea mulling around the ol’ brain box for a number of years now, and I’m finally putting the ideas down in writing and creating my first script for a sitcom pilot. Of course we did work on similar tasks while at Humber. We collaboratively wrote a workplace pilot, which was altogether a very interesting learning process. But it was the entire class working on it, so my contribution was pretty limited. Nothing you could show to an agent or whatever. We also wrote pitch packages in our writing class, which was also an interesting exercise, and I was told to get writing an episode, but I never quite found the desire for it. It was a fun project to work on, but I didn’t see the show ever realistically being picked up. It was about army cadets, and I don’t think there’s a huge interest in youth paramilitary activities. At least, not since 1945 anyway.
In addition to the writing of words, I also caught a few live shows this week. On Monday, I attended the Humber College New Faces ’14 show. (I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since my face was new!) It was a classy show and featured a guest performance by none other than veteran comic Dave Thomas. Last year, I left the Industry Show with a sense of joy, maybe because I knew some of the performers still, and I was still riding high from my own experience from the year before, but this year the connection was a bit different. I now look at the shows more critically, thinking: “if I were ever to direct a show of this magnitude, I would do this differently, or I wouldn’t do this at all, or I would definitely consider this… etc.” Maybe having taken the Conservatory program at The Second City has given me more experience and a different approach to putting on a massive revue, but whatever the case, I felt differently about this show than I had in the year prior.
Then I thought about the aftershmooze. There were some people I would really have liked to chat with, but the room was clearing out and it seemed like everyone wanted to go home because it was friggin sweaty in there. Also, I felt like what’s the point of talking to someone if they’re really there to see and mingle with the people who just performed a huge show that took months of preparation and 2 years of training? It wasn’t my night to shmooze. Or was it? Who knows? Are there appropriate conventions to shmoozing? It was a great night to catch up with my ol’ teachers. Ever since high school I’ve found it slightly easier to connect with the teachers than to most of my classmates. I know. What a nerd, right?
Anyway, it was a great show, and it’s always a cool production to see such young, hopeful talent rockin’ their jokes & performing their little hearts out on the Main Stage. It’s also a great way to get motivated to get my own butt back in gear!
That being said, I also attended a show put on by a great Toronto improv troupe; Fake Cops. Every month they put on a free show at The Ossington. This week, they had some pretty awesome acts. It seems like a great show to be able to explore; to make crazy choices and see where that takes you. To do a set where you end up covered in cereal, or to perform with a mic stand wearing a wig. Either way, the result was laughter! There was some weirdness and some messiness, but it was all good, it was all interesting, and the night had a really good vibe going on. I highly recommend checking this one out (and I’d love to get on it one of these days, if any Fake Cop ever reads this blog.) Passive-manipulative social media marketing. That’s my bag!
Aaaaaanyway, I suppose I still have a job to go to tomorrow. I best be off to bed. Bonne nuit WordPress!
Well blog, I’m sorry. It’s been a while. I know you’ve been sitting here, waiting for me to feed you, but I’ve been busy. I know that’s not a good excuse, but I’m here now aren’t I? So let’s get to it.
Huge news. I’ve recently been OFFICIALLY hired by The Second City to lead improv workshops in French and English as part of their Educational Company. Last Friday, I lead my first workshop at a high school in Brampton and I was absolutely thrilled to go back to feeling the way I did when I was a tour guide, or a cadet instructor, but for something I like even more than First World War history and paramilitary youth engagement; improv! Good old fashioned make-em-ups! Hopefully one day I’ll have the same impact on a kid’s life as Daniel Ayotte did on mine when I was a young Rosario Tanguayan in Welland; making things up on the spot and feeling tremendously free; even for an 11 or 12 year-old, who was already pretty void of responsibility. Sure, I may have lost it for a while there after high school, pretending to be a very serious political scientist, but it’s such a joy to have it back and to now get to share it with others.
Also great, my boss at el-dayjob and I worked out an arrangement so that I can continue to work at both companies without conflict… of course I had to clear it with my team, the union and Human Resources, but that’s the joy of kindof working for the government.
In addition to that, I have a new comedy troupe in the works. We’ve performed one improv spot to date, and we’ve got a few sketch shows in the works. Right now though, we’re all very concerned about our Second City general audition. After such a great year working on Conservatory material, it’s wonderful to start thinking about the next steps the Toronto comedy scene has to offer, and though that sometimes feels very scary and uncertain, it also lights a fire under one’s ass to get producing funny ass shit for the world (and mostly your friends, peers and family) to see.
On the home front, my Peanut has fallen ill with a bit of a weak liver. She was hospitalized for two days last week and let out right before my birthday, which was a phenomenal gift! Though I have to feed her myself these days because she’s not got much interest in eating, she is doing a bit better. She used to hide under the bed all day, but now she surfaces up onto the bed and appreciates a good cuddle. Hopefully she will become stronger (and hungrier) as the days progress.
As a result of the Nut issues, I had to cancel a gig this past week, and I feel absolutely horrible about it; they were very understanding, but there’s something about not-showing up for a gig, especially when the people who run it are awesome in every way, and it involves Star Trek cosplay, that really bites total butt. Tina Fey talks about saying yes to everything, but at that moment, I had to say yes to making sure this tiny creature under my care survived the night off her IV, even if that meant omitting the strenuous process of putting a sock in my hair to simulate Captain Janeway’s awful hairdo from Seasons 1 – 3 ST Voyager.
Writing all this helps with stress. I’ve been feeling it pop up a bit more frequently lately, maybe because so much seems to be happening all at once. But it’s not as bad as this dude on the streetcar after the Blue Jays game who kept making really loud exhales whilst punching the side of the streetcar wall. I suppose we all have our own techniques of dealing with stress, but I awful concerned this dude was going to have a total Hulkesque breakdown and just smash the back of the streetcar and go running down Bathurst Street jumping on cars and crushing them in his wake.
Maybe he just needed a nap.
Speaking of which, the hour has arisen, I must bathe and retire for the evening. Thanks for reading! 🙂
Last night I had the pleasure of hosting a fantastic comedy variety show at Musideum; that word, that name… you know any venue with a Latin suffix is bound to be awesome! This amazing little space on Richmond St. was filled with hundreds of musical instruments, a beautiful grand piano and, in this case, a bunch of hilarious performers and a super-supportive audience.
The weekly show is put on by The Sandbox, comedy troupe formed in the Second City’s Conservatory program, who’ve stuck together to continue their comic journey. Damnit, now I’m describing the Conservatory program as a journey. What have I become?
Anyway, The Sandbox kicked off the show with some great fun and lively improv. They were followed by a musical comedy troupe called The Sour Keys, who were super impressive. They performed songs ranging from adorably punny to really disturbingly cute. Next on the bill was 2 Humans, a great little sketch duo set to perform at this year’s Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival (so go check them out!) Finally, closing the billed show was a solid and hilarious improv set put on by well-known troupe Sneak Attack. The night wrapped with an improv lottery jam, in which yours truly was invited to participate; and I was a dinosaur and a horned-up old lady at the LCBO hitting on a 19-year wine salesman. Playing within my range, y’know.
Oh, did I mention there was a gigantic, awful, miserable snow storm yesterday? And yet, the Musideum was packed to the brim for the show with a warm and very supportive audience of people who just seemed happy to be there and were rewarded and delighted by the night’s hilarious performers.
What a fun night of comedy! Even better, there’s a new Comedy Night at Musideum every single Wednesday, so next time – you can be there to experience the fun for yourself!