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 Café 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. 😢
  • 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 à ma très chère grand-mère, qui nous a quitté à l’âge 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 santé, l’amour et la réussite vous accompagnent dans tous vos projets. Bonne année!

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.

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!

In the Air Last Night

Yesterday was a great day. And I’m not just talking about:

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But it certainly did help.

There was already so much excitement in the air because of the Blue Jays that it filled the city’s air with something vaguely magiacal.

I was a little bummed out because I wasn’t going to catch most of the game because I had a dentist appointment, but the dental hygienist had Yahoo! Sports tracking the score throughout my appointment and frequent radio hits between pop hits kept me updated regularly.

After the appointment, I met with a friend. We’d scheduled to meet to discuss an upcoming project that will certainly be very fun and for a great cause. We sat at a bakery on Bloor, where sure enough, the game was on. And, despite my pal’s obvious lack of interest in baseball, she was kind enough not to shit on me the couple times my eyes drifted to the screen. The meeting wrapped shortly after the bizarre incident with Martin’s attempt to return the ball to the pitcher’s mound, and the debate over the call frustrated me. I decided to leave the bakery and not watch the rest of the game, because if the Rangers were going to win on such a stupid call, then fuck them. That’d just be a crap way to go.

Except that how could I not watch the rest of the game? I walked by Comedy Bar where I knew people would be tuned in. I caught all of the 7th inning madness before I had to head out for a show.

I took the subway over to the Social Capital theatre, where I managed to catch the last inning of the game and the Blue Jays’ ultimate victory! WOoooooooooohoooooooooooooo! And what better way to celebrate, than to perform a super duper fun set at Improv League Toronto (that had nothing to do with baseball). What a cool show. You get to watch some awesome up-and-coming longform troupes doing their best, fun thang and you get to do the same. It’s friendly competition, and ultimately, I don’t know what happens at the end of the league, but what I do know is that we’ve had some fun sets so far in the league. At least, the ones I’ve been able to attend anyway. (I was in Halifax and I missed a couple.) I really love performing with this troupe. There’s something super fun about incorporating this particular era into our improv. And next week we get to do nearly a half hour set for BCIF! It’s going to be SO FUN!

After the set, I ran BACK over to Comedy Bar for another longform show I’d been asked to guest called Personal Space Invaders. What a fun show. Again, watching up-and-coming troupes find their stride. A bunch of different levels of experience and expertise, and I had the pleasure of performing a set with some dudes I’ve rarely (if ever) played with, and it was a LOT of fun!

Mmm. Improv AND baseball.

Maybe there was a light-heartedness to the air on account of the fact I was so stressed during the game, but I felt good about my performances, and I just enjoyed them so much. I understand that’s an important part of the process, but I felt it so much yesterday and was so grateful about it.

I could barely sleep last night I was so dang excited about the past day. Every once in a while you need one of those. Even if you feel like a rotten sack of shit waking up the next morning.

Wooden Anniversary with the 6ix

Thanks to Facebook, it’s  now easier to get super-reflective on the stuff you’ve been up to over the past, well… since you joined Facebook…. For example, on this day, 7 years ago, I visited Lyon, France. I had a panic attack in a taxi on the way to a Coldplay concert and wasn’t quite sure at the time what was going on. I carried on anyway because I would eventually stand so close to Chris Martin, I’d hoped to catch a bead of his sweat in my mouth. I would later discover Lyon is the hometown of the first CBC employee who would call me a friend.

See how close?

See how close?!?!

On this day 1 year ago, Gill and I had our first improv set together as a duo at Winprov at the Cage. We called ourselves Exit, Pursued by a Bear. A name combining her love of Shakespeare and my desire to be chased by bears. I would later discover we were bound for more than just that one performance. We founded a monthly show for emerging and established comics to come present and perfect their material all while doing the same with our own craft. This would eventually bring us out to Halifax, where I am currently enjoying performing daily hour-long improv sets for completely new and different audiences than those from our Toronto base at the Social Capital Theatre one Thursday night per month.

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“…unusually surrealist…”

At this time, 5 years ago, I was settling into my new apartment in Toronto, having up and left my life in Ottawa. I had some big dreams, which is apparently rare for someone leaving the civil service. I was happy because if I walked a few feet away from my apartment and gazed through the trees, I could see the CN Tower, not knowing how significant that landmark would become to me. I went back to school. I was weeks away from performing stand-up comedy for the first time. Months away to writing my first comedy sketches. Years away from producing my own shows and touring the country, working in one of Canada’s most significant cultural establishments as well as one of North America’s most recognized comedy institutions, from meeting my future husband, (still not used to saying that,) meeting new best friends, new amazing colleagues & immensely talented creative partners and laughing more and harder than ever before.

I would later discover Toronto (dramatic pause) …is my home.

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Happy anniversary, you beautiful bitch.

Non nobis solum nati sumus (It’s Latin for stuff)

I’ve realized that, as a writer, I’m not very good at writing about things that make me either very happy or very sad. Today, I will challenge myself to talk about something someone did for me that made me feel very happy about a situation that is very sad.

If any of you know my fiance Dan… (there’s one. I hadn’t announced on the Interwebs yet that I’m engaged, even though it’s been like 7 months now, so there you go.) … you know how much he hates Toronto traffic. And I mean, I know we ALL hate Toronto traffic, but he hates Toronto traffic more than anyone I’ve ever known to hate traffic. He can get pretty road-rage-y.

So, imagine my surprise and delight today when I suggested to him, two hours before I had to be at work, that there was something I wanted to get for my friend, who has recently lost someone very important to him. But, that that thing could only be collected at the Vaughan Mills mall, which if you know Toronto, is not the most accessible of shopping destinations, especially not in rush hour.

Without any protest, Dan responded: “Well, we’d better go now if you want to get it done in time.”

So off we went, in crappy Toronto traffic, to Vaughan and back downtown in rush hour traffic, with only a few minor swears along the way, all due to legitimate cut-offs. (Have you noticed how terrible people in Toronto drive?)

I’m lucky and grateful to have a partner who knows the value of helping others. And the value of helping others help others.

I feel like a shmuck for writing something nice, non-comedy-related, and relationship-y. But uh… you’re just going to have to deal with that, ok readership? Ok!

Also, thank you for visiting my blog.

Chicken Pod! (The Constant Struggle’s Newest Ep!)

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:

http://www.podbean.com/media/player/audio/postId/5711034?url=http%3A%2F%2FTheConstantStruggle.podbean.com%2Fe%2Fe06-chicken-pod%2F

Oh, and if you want to sign that petition to help get Kevin Smith Canadian citizenship, click here:

https://www.change.org/p/government-of-canada-grant-kevin-smith-a-canadian-citizenship?recruiter=309221733&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=share_twitter_responsive

Struggle On, friends!

Woman Seeking Multiverse

First stand-up set in a while tonight at Yuk Yuk’s. I’ll say I need practice. I will say that. I will also say that people were NOT on board with my joke about how hard it must have been for conservative dudes to admit they felt a budge upon first glance of Caitlyn Jenner.  Perhaps it was the delivery. Perhaps it was a room full of conservatives. Either way, I thought it was hilarious.

It’s insane how quickly 5 minutes goes by. When I was writing out my set, I prepared so much more than what I actually had time to perform. I need to practice more.  I need more hours in a day because I love improv too much to give it the back seat.I need Hermione’s Time-Turner so I can do equal parts of both.Time Turner… too geek?Nah. No way.

 

The Constant Struggle, Episode 3

If you’ve browsed elsewhere on this website apart from the front page, (or the article about the WWI brothel, which continues to get more hits than any other post,) you’ll know that my brother Nick and I have been working on a podcast over the past few weeks that deals with the ongoing struggles creative types face on their journey to accomplish their artistic goals.

This month’s episode is no exception as we delve further into overcoming rejection, navigating networking events and just getting it done!

Check it out:

http://www.podbean.com/media/player/8rght-5622a1?from=wp

If you like it, and you’re interested in sharing your creative struggles with us on an upcoming episode, feel free to write to us at constantstrugglepod@gmail.com.


 

*** *Note: the books we referred to during this episode are:

Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need, by Blake Snyder

Elephant Bucks: An insider’s Guide to Writing TV Sitcoms, by Sheldon Bull

The Nerdist Way: How to Reach the Next Level (In Real Life), by Chris Hardwick

Birthday Reset

Confession time: I  had a great Easter/birthday long weekend.

It was the perfect reset I needed to help me put things into perspective and refocus my goals, but also celebrate and reflect upon another year on Earth. And despite a slip and fall accident resulting in an incredibly bruised and sore coccyx, I’m doing that thing right now where I might be producing my very own Dopamine and Serotonin. Happiness, folks.

My birthday fell on Good Friday this year, which is great for sleeping in, and not so great for feeling the contemplation and sorrow that are typically aligned with this particular holiday. That being said, I have a commitment to Improv Game Show, a weekly comedy show I co-produce with Cassie Moes every Friday evening, and we typically go strong, even on holidays. This particular rendition was very well attended; the cast was excellent and Gillian English (my very darling friend and the show’s host this week) went so far as to invite my friggin’ improv hero, Rob Baker, to come play the set with us on account of it being my birthday. The following shot I think demonstrates how I felt about the news:

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🙂

The evening continued with drinks and chats at SoCap, which is quickly becoming my home-away-from-home and then across the street for food and more drinks with members of the cast, other improvisers and friends. I’m so thankful to be a part of this awesome community. What a super swell birthday! 😀

Speaking of which, the following day, my monthly improv baby; Guess Who’s Coming to Improv? took place at Comedy Bar, and was filled with wonderful audience members and hopeful participants. I got to play a few good scenes, and to watch some that ended up like this:

11024610_939177692773145_8952240762142397804_nSo, pretty good time overall.

I was so lucky/happy/ #blessed to have had Jan Caruana agree to be the Special Guest improviser this month, because she’s such a fantastic performer. She’s got such a great mind for crazy references, and it seems like her brain works so super fast to come up with really great scenes, so it was such a treat/joy to get to play with her, and to watch her play with those who were lucky enough to get their names pulled with hers! That show is so much fun and personally, I think people should make it a priority to attend. (Maybe I’m a bit biased…)

ANYHOO. I went back down to Niagara on Sunday for Easter proper. Spent the day with my family, who surprised me with a birthday cake, even though I’m twenty-nine again and so technically a grown-ass adult. (Whatever that’s supposed to mean.) It was so lovely to be surrounded by the whole fam-damily. I won’t go into too many details, because my personal life is MY OWN BUSINESS DAMNIT! But I will take the time to brag about how awesome my 94 year-old grand-maman is; she was singing songs from back in the day and dancing as best she could; enjoying her chocolate eggs like a champ and chatting us all up. Here look & tell me you don’t think she’s the cutest grand-maman in the world:

With the added benefit of getting Easter Monday off, because I sortof work for the government-ish, I got to get in an important meet/chat and a headshot shoot, both of which helped put my mind at ease on a number of different things pertaining to my life/career at this stage of the performance-game.

This was a wonderful long weekend filled with wonderful people, and I think this happy feeling is going to last a while; at least for the first five minutes of my administrative workload tomorrow morning anyway.

My butt still hurts. But I’m alive.

Thanks for reading. 🙂