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!

Con Round 4, Fringe Round 2, Head Spinning Round and Round

It’s been longer than I would have liked it to have been between blog posts, but there was a good period there were my sole energy was spent on trying to stay awake, and thus blogging became less of a priority.  I have a new bed now, so that seems to have helped the situation, for now.

Also, I just read something that really inspired me to keep writing my little CCCs.   So back on the saddle again I go.

Today I am beginning the first day of my 4th Second City Conservatory course.  This is, for those of you who are not aware, when we begin to write what will eventually become our own little Second City-style revue.  We’re down two (and nearly 3 for a while there) people from when we began the process in January.  (Was it January?  Let me go back and check…yup January.)  We’re starting fresh with a new teacher (this guy)  and we were just asked to read this incredible blog about creating a Second City show from the perspective of a former Main Stage director in Chicago.  I was glad to have had the opportunity to have worked at the Second City as a host, specifically because I was able to witness this process first hand. (Not through the eyes of a director, however – Melody didn’t think the surgery would be particularly beneficial on her end…)  However,  I got to see what it was like for one show to slowly absorb new material and evolve into what would become the next revue.  I saw it and I wanted so badly to be a part of it.   And here we are in Con 4, a taste of what it would be if we were performers on the Main Stage.

 

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I look forward to documenting (more closely hopefully) the process from here until our big sexy Conservatory 6 production.

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Simultaneously, I am working at CBC still.

Simultaneously, I just moved to the suburbs.

Simultaneously, I continue to contribute my help, where possible, to the Canadian Comedy Awards Communications Committee.

Simultaneously, I try maintaining a relationship with a bear.

Simultaneously, I am working with my Water Wings partner on bringing the show a bit more up to snuff to take to Winnipeg, where hopefully we will get a bit more support from the community in terms of seeing our little comedy show and enjoying it.  We met a few days ago to discuss some modifications to the scripts, an edit here, an added dance here.  Things we can do to tweek the show and to make it better.  Not, because we didn’t think it was good before, but because these things are in a constant state of evolution.  What worked in Montreal may not work in Winnipeg.   What worked in Toronto didn’t work all the time in Montreal.  Adjustments, tweeks and rehearsals are critical within the next few days in order to ensure the show is superb by the time we bring it to Winnipeg. I had my first over-the-phone interview in French, by the way.  That was pretty excitant!  (But not in the France French way.)

I leave for Winnipeg in a week.  Holy crap.

I’ll have to miss two Con 4 classes for this.

And use up all my CBC vacation time.

But this isn’t complaining.  This is what has to be done.

 

Trading Faces

It’s hard to believe a year has past since I shared a stage with Dave Foley.  Not just any stage, the main stage at the Second City.  But alas, here we are, one year later, watching my successors have their moment in the limelight alongside another Kid in the Hall, and a most royal queen, Scott Thompson.

God Save the Queen

God Save the Queen

The show was really good, I was super impressed by the performances, a lot of the writing, but mostly the sheer joy on the faces of the performers as they showcased  what they worked really hard on, ans what they learned over the past two years.

…and I can only IMAGINE the infinitely more positive environment these kids had to work with in the writer’s room and in rehearsal.  They were having fun.  And being creative.  I bet they were encouraged to create, explore and push a couple boundaries.  And you could tell all that by the performances.

It was also nice to bump into some fellow alumni and other industry folk for the evening.  🙂  (Including the good news I heard about a sponsorship for Water Wings – but more on that to come…)

I left the Main Stage feeling pretty encouraged and motivated to work hard on my own stuff.  Nothing like a bunch of kids graduating and entering the world of what you want to do to motivate you to make sure you keep at it yourself!  But first, I must rest… because I’ve got this nasty  cough that just started out of nowhere and I’ve got a busy week (month, life) ahead of me!

Congrats Humber Comedy class of 2013!   Y’done good.  Now keep up the hard work and I’ll see ya on the circuit!

The Speed of January

Eee!  Last night I performed with my Con class in our first Con show to date!  I think it went well for the first time all of us performed together and I look forward to doing it more frequently.  But when? I’ve been so busy lately, except when I spoke to someone the other day, I was like… “oh you know how slow January can be?” What?  How can my brain think it’s simultaneously slow and incredibly busy?

I blame the weather.  It’s more difficult to operate at my pace when all day it feels like it’s 7pm, until 4:30pm, at which point it feels like it’s midnight.

But I digress.  So Con’s going well.  The Incubator’s going well. I’ve got an upcoming news-show I’m beginning to prepare for with some other exceptionally talented ladies.  Trying to do sets here and there. And I really want to get writing some spec scripts and other types of packets.

Also, I just found out I get to help out again at this year’s Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival!  CODPIECE wasn’t quite ready to apply for the festival, so I’m glad I can participate at least in some small part!  Keep an eye on my posts on the TO Sketchfest website and BUY YOUR TICKETS NOW!

 

PS.  The Second City Festivus party was awesome.  Working at the Second City and therefore having that venue in which to party is right up there with: Partying at the Governor General’s house and Partying on the battlefields of the Somme.  (Man, I’ve worked in some pretty cool places! #lucky)

CON-gratulate Me

Great news, folks – I was informed last night that I’ve been accepted into the Second City’s Conservatory Program!   Huzzah!  My audition went super well last week, despite my being fully stuffed of delicious prime rib because I’d left directly from our office Christmas luncheon (…if ever there was a first world problem…)

Then, I found I was way too sweaty to perform well in an audition so I ran to MEC to purchase a new sweater, which I did not wear at the audition because I thought it fit funny.

But it’s warm and cozy and I’ve been wearing it ever since immediately after the audition.

Anyway.  I begin classes in January so stay tuned to find out more! 🙂

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For more information about the Conservatory program, (Mom!,)  click on the image below:

 

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Brieviews – Adieu Forbes,Comeau & Heffernan

What a splendid evening of comedy last night at The Second City as friends etc. gave their send-offs to main stage cast members Ashley Comeau, Carly Heffernan & Alastair Forbes, all people I got the pleasure of watching during my stint as a host at Second City and who have now become softball buddies & confidants during tough-life-decision-making-moments.

I was thrilled to get to see some of the sketches from their previous shows, those I hadn’t got to see because I still lived in Ottawa and/or was too dumb to come see Second City revues.

If you missed the show last night, well that’s a big tough titties.  BUT, this NOW magazine article written by Glenn Sumi will hopefully make you feel a little better as you get to know a bit more about the newly added alumni of the Second City Toronto:

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Click & be magically taken away to the NOW Magazine article.

Sweet Meaty Relief

Fresh Meat is over friends. We can all breathe again! Inhale some of that delicious oxygen! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaand breathe out. Nope, not working. Still on edge! Well, I guess it’s time to sign up for a new yoga class, Brie!

The Fresh Meat show was a huge success!  The theatre was full (not full-full – because I know what that looks and feels like – but, good full), the masses were laughing and the comics were knocking ’em dead.  All in all, what a wonderful show to have been a part of!

Props & hugs to the producer, Dee and to everyone else I saw running around working hard!  ( Photographer James & Emily backstage +DJ the host) for such a smooth running professional evening. Even content-wise, I was pleased to see a good number of smart, sophisticated humour –  (mixed in with a very healthy blend of the irreverent.)

It was also so great to see all the fun people I normally work alongside, smiling encouragingly as I told a very embarrassing story on stage and reaffirming me afterwards that I didn’t stink!

As silly as it sounds to say it though, I think my highlight of the night was the moment I walked out of the green room after my performance and thought: “PHEW!!  It’s DONE!  Now I can just sit back and actually ENJOY the show!”  I think DJ Demers, the host, summed it up pretty nicely when he commented on how a bunch of the comics were puking backstage because they were so nervous.  It was a nerve-wracking show.  And a healthy dose of competition is good, sure.  Fine.  But this isn’t athletics.  It’s not like we all go at once and then the fastest, or the furthest wins.  I do not envy the performers who had to sit through the entire show, seeing all the performers kill and think – “Oh jeez, I have to do better than him, and her, and them etc.”  Whereas I got to just rip mine off like a Band-Aid.

Most of the time, I like to go last or near-last at a stand-up show, but definitely not in competition, I learned.

It was great to see the members of the community, once again assembled to celebrate and encourage those starting out in the business.  It’s great to hear that that’s what Tim Sims was about – because it’s not an easy thing to get into and to continually rationalize and justify as your debts pile higher, but your gigs get better… slowly.  Slowly.  And you work well into the night – performing, writing, re-writing, rehearsing, hounding down colleagues to coordinate stuff, producing, etc.  It’s not easy.  But is it worth it?

Three minutes, we got on Monday.

Three minutes to myself on the Second City main stage.

You’re damn right it was worth it!