Finally, screenwriting

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!

Le Workshop

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.

Le sit, le stand, le bend.

Le sit, le stand, le bend, mes amis.

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.

Recovering Nut

Recovering Nut

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.

Was there an on-board stylist?  Computer, hairstyle variation 372-D.

Was there an on-board stylist? Computer, hairstyle variation 372-D.

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.

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Wait for it… SMASH!

Maybe he just needed a nap.

Speaking of which, the hour has arisen, I must bathe and retire for the evening.  Thanks for reading! 🙂

It’s Latin so it’s Gotta Be Good

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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!

 

The Arrival and Departure of the Bipolar Express

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On Saturday, December 14th, my Second City Conservatory class completed our year-long training program at the Second City Training Centre teaching us how to improvise and develop premises for scenes used to create a Second City-style production.  We performed it on the Main Stage at 3pm.  I arrived home in Streetsville at 3am.  It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my comedy career to date.

Because I feel this blog post won’t truly be able to describe the sheer joy, thrill, pride (the good kind), love and fun that resulted from that day’s performance, I thought maybe instead, I’d offer up a few things I’ve written down over the course of the last year that I thought were worth remembering, and if anyone else happens to stumble upon this page, maybe you’ll find it helpful in your own pursuit of improvisational nirvana:

  • When you get lost, Stop & Explore;
  • Really Listen – like, the way you have to when someone with a heavy accent is speaking to you and you want to make sure you don’t give them the wrong advice, or send them in the wrong direction, unless you do it on purpose for hilarious consequences, but seriously, listen up!
  • Stuck asking questions in a scene all the time?  How about using a little thing called your emotions.  Be affected by the offers you’re receiving.  If someone says something mean, be angry, DAMNIT!  Don’t just try to think up some clever comeback.  Stop trying to be so damn clever, will you?
  • Learn the Dinosaur Game, because it’s fun.
  • Be present in your scene.
  • Like a fine wine, let those special moments breathe in your scene;
  • Shut the fuck up backstage!
  • If and when possible, use pyrotechnics.
  • Play real life characters, give people something with which they can identify.
  • Read Lord of the Flies;
  • Don’t be afraid to kill your babies, (even if they are great songs you worked your ass off re-writing)
  • Forgive yourself; the 2nd time you run a scene will probably be the worst.  Know that, and run it until it works;
  • Push your limits, and don’t rein it in until you’ve gotten as far as you can go – and then some.

It also helps to work with an amazing group of people who are all hilarious and wonderful; all from different stages in the game;  all dealing with their own crap outside the classroom,  but all of whom have had a remarkable impact on my comedic education thus far.  I was really lucky to get to work with such a great group of individuals and at the risk of sounding corny, I’m ridiculously sad that we only get to play together once more.

Oh that’s right, I didn’t mention the REMOUNT?  Well, for those of you who didn’t make it out on the 14th on account of the absolutely awful weather conditions, book off Friday morning from work because we’re boarding The Bipolar Express one last time on Thursday, January 23rd at 11pm at the Second City Main Stage and trust, you do not want to miss this party.

What a year, CCC readers. I can’t wait to see what’s next!

Craigslist – Stealer of Dreams

You want one piece of advice, starting out comedian?  Don’t move to the suburbs.  

This lesson I learned the hard way and tried to rectify by responding to an ad on Craigslist for a reasonably priced basement apartment at Bloor and Ossington.  Fantastic location for a striving comic.  Less than 5 minutes walk to the subway.  Stumbling distance to Comedy Bar.  Perfect.  I went to check the place out and everything.  It wasn’t great.  But with a woman’s touch, it could look pretty damn adorable down there.  Also, my pet cat Peanut has a way of making any living space adorable.

The landlady agreed that I could bring by a deposit for the apartment and I was thrilled.  I would be moving back downtown.  After 2 years in Etobicoke, and a brief stint in Mississauga in an attempt to save some money, I would be back in the centre of the action, and I could not wait.  I could dream-taste the downtown garbage-day air already…

 January 1st 2014;  with Second City’s Conservatory program now complete, moving into a new place, I’d have more time free than I’ve had in a while.  Time to get back out there.  Do more stand-up, more improv, more storytelling.  Maybe meet some people willing to work together in a sketch troupe.  Get working on my writing; spec scripts, originals.  The whole nine.  Productivity ahoy!  This is going to be THE year.  But then…

RENEGE!

The landlady informs me in a poorly structured e-mail (weird, for a former teacher) that her current tenant is not able to leave when he said he would.  Which begs the question… WHAT THE FUCK were you posting an ad on Craiglist for if you weren’t even sure your fucking tenant was going to be leaving?  It’s like.. “Here!  Do you want to buy this car?  Yes? Well too bad, you can’t  It’s not for sale, sucker! BAHAHAHAHAHAHA!”

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I’m fairly certain that’s the entire point of an online marketplace.  You don’t put something up, unless it’s good and goshdarn available!  I’m sure somewhere there’s a law against this type of flaking, but because no money was exchanged, it’s really just a matter of screwing over the person you lead on, then crushing her hopes and dreams.  (Dramatic, much?)

I know an argument can be made for the fact that it is possible to be a performer and live in the ‘burbs, but personally, I feel as though I’m wasting SO much time on the commute, which drains my energy and my drive.   If I stay in town after working an 8 hour shift, to see a show  instead of say, going home and preparing dinner, then going back to town to see a show, I’m saving time, but draining my wallet.  Ultimately, it’s a vaccuum of wasting time and money on eating out, gas, parking etc.  I think living in town, even though rent is more expensive, the ultimate savings occur in time.

So now it’s back to the drawing board.  I’m off to spend hours on Craigslist, Kijiji, ViewIt.ca and other such sites in an ongoing search for a convenient, not horrible location that won’t break me financially and/or morally (that’s right, I’m not moving to Parkdale.)

Keep your eyes open for me please, friends.  And never, ever move to the suburbs if you want to keep performing comedy at this early and fragile stage.

Canadian Comedy Awards: 2013 Edition

OK – I just finished my last thing interfering with Conservatory this past weekend, so all posts until December, and then maybe a little bit in January, should be about this final process of the Second City Conservatory program.  We’re getting down to crunch time, and our scenes are coming together, I think,  and I want to work on my scenes and write about the whole process and let you know how cool it is… but I can’t yet… because I have to talk about this minor interruption.

The 2013 Canadian Comedy Awards Festival

If you’re a connection of mine on LinkedIn, and you should be, you’ll note that this year, I was asked to help out with the Canadian Comedy Awards Festival in Communications; predominantly social media.  So, I signed up for HootSuite and off I went.  I took on a number of different duties since my initial on-boarding, such as translation, submission vetting, and most recently; taxi service.  Ironically, I did very little social media work while I was in Ottawa for the festival this past weekend – most of the time was spent running around trying to meet various arrival/departure timings of guests and nominees and coordinate other people doing any number of the numerous tasks that needed to be done to, you know, make the festival happen.  I wish there was a way to simply describe to you how the weekend turned out from the perspective of a volunteer – well, not just a volunteer, but a coordinator of volunteers amongst other things.  The best I can come up with is “AAARHG!?!!!!$^@GOGOGOGOGOGOGO!!!!!!!!!!!!!”  Yeah. I think that sums it up nicely.

Though the organization of the festival was the butt of many of Awards host Ryan Belleville’s jokes at the award ceremony, I was very pleased to hear how appreciative many of the attendees were of the organizers and volunteers who worked really really really really really really really REALLY hard to make the CCAF happen.  (Did I mention it was hard work?)

And beyond the simple happening of the festival, it was really cool that this year seems to have sparked a deeper level of conversation about the very nature of Canadian Comedy.  Example, Naomi Sniekus & Lauren Ash’s speeches at the Awards ceremony and Steve Patterson’s HuffPo piece:

It’s Time to Take Canadian Comedy More Seriously

This was my 4th year volunteering with the Canadian Comedy Awards.  I volunteer because I think our comedic talent should be celebrated.  And I think we owe it to each other to support each other and the institutions that help us keep doing what we do.  That’s why I help out – I’ve met some great people in the community through this festival – people I hope to work with down the line, people who’ve become close confidants within the industry, and people who are just, plain and simple, awesome and hilarious.

I may still be quite green to this world (yup, 3 years is still green, Mom & Dad)  (Oh, green is industry talk for “new”)  (See, I am learning stuff) – but if there’s one thing the Canadian Comedy Award makes me want to do than anything else, it’s create comedy and be a part of this great pool of hilarious and talented people who makes the country laugh, make our great cities laugh, and hell just make each other laugh after working over 12 hours driving people to-and-from the Ottawa suburbs in an overcrowded van.

But the Festival is over – no more interruptions, I’m going to work on this Con show to make it blow your minds and bust your guts!  I’ve got some COMEDY to birth, Canada!

I don’t normally like wrestling…

I was feeling a bit frustrated the past couple days because I really wanted to check out the opening of the new Second City main stage show, We Can Be Heroes, but tickets were sold out and short from showing up and sneaking in, I couldn’t really afford to go anyway. I attended one opening when I worked there and it was such a great atmosphere among the crowd, which was filled with Second City alumni and friends of the community just buzzing over the accomplishment and excitement of putting on a brand new show.

So, I wondered what I could do that would be comedy-productive, since checking out the new revue wasn’t happenin’.  I decided trying to get on at Yuk Yuk’s that evening would be that thing.  It feels like it’s been a century since I last performed stand-up comedy.

I signed up for Humber night and was put on the stand-by list.  I pretty much swam to the club in yesterday’s crazy downpour and enough people hadn’t shown up that I was given a set in the middle of the line-up.  The sent went really well.  The club wasn’t packed, but the crowd was so into it, they were laughing heartily.  Ahhh… music to my ears!  Granted, I was a little out of practise, but – I was still pleased with how it turned out.  It was also great to see some Humber folks, past and present still going hard at working on their craft.

When I got off stage, I checked my watch and realized there was still time to make it to the Second City Training Centre Tuesday night improv drop-in that I normally don’t drop-in on on Tuesday nights because I typically have class.  And after 8+ hours of work and 3 hours of improv, I’m normally pretty pooped.  Anyway, I went – attended, participated as “The Mighty Cheese” (which is now my wrestling name) and had a fun time playing some silly improv games in what is admittedly far to close to an actual WWE wrestling format for my comfort.  But we gotta break out of those comfort zones, n’est-ce pas?  I played a game working on emotional levels, and another sortof confusing larger group scene which was… shall we say… interesting?

What a fun and productive day!  New jokes were told, new improvisers were met, new underwear were worn (I wish – I’m broke!)

Next on the agenda:  I’m getting new head shots!   Sidenote:  I’ve been meaning to get this done for MONTHS!   (It’s FINALLY gonna happen!!)

This is the look I'm aiming for!

This is the look I’m aiming for!