Windy Inspiration (This is not a post about farts)

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:

Chicacollage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mmm. Collagy-goodness.

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.

Impatiently Awaiting More Cold

You guys, I’m super excited. I’m sitting in the Porter lounge, enjoying a complimentary Coke (surprised?) and waiting to be transported to the ACTUAL Second City itself.

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Let's get going! #chicago

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Days Go By and Still I Think of…

…all the great stuff I learned last week!

All right, maybe I’m doing it wrong. Maybe I’m a total dork, but I am sortof obsessed about learning about comedy. I probably don’t watch enough stand-up comedy specials on Netflix, I do read about it often enough, (currently on Bruce McCulloch’s “Let’s Start a Riot,”) and I suppose one of the big fears I deal with regularly is how much I should be “learning” vs. how much I should be “doing.”

One of the major problems I face with my own comedy is time. I have a Mon-Fri 9-5 job, which is great for paying back debt, but not so great for staying up late and going to multiple shows and partying until all hours of the night at the local open-mic/watering hole. (I do this extremely rarely.) I’ve tried to strike a balance by producing many of my own shows, thus giving myself ample play time, but also seeing many of the acts around town who inspire me and more importantly, who make me laugh.

Another thing I’ve just taken on, is the co-creation of the “Women in Comedy Toronto” group. It seems, so far, that people are really excited about it, and based on the first couple events we’ve had, it’s really evident that this is the kind of community group from which women in the Toronto comedy scene can really benefit. For example, last week Christina Walkinshaw came by to talk to us about her career in comedy thus far, her writing process, tales from the biz, and many other fascinating tidbits, and I tell you, it was inspiring!  I think anyone who was in attendance will tell you the same.

Also, on Wednesday, I attended the I ❤ Sketchfest event at the Steamwhistle Brewery, where they screened the premiere of Bruce McCulloch’s “Young Drunk Punk,” which was excellent, and I’m sorry I didn’t give it it’s own page, like I did with “Sunnyside“, I just ran out of time.

Which is my point. By this point, it’s Wednesday; I’ve helped a friend film her one woman-show, produced a 2+ hour talkback with one of Canada’s most amazingly hilarious female comics, supported my favourite Toronto comedy festival… and I haven’t had time yet to do any of my own writing or work.

Problem solved: Thursday, I booked, produced, and performed in a show put on by my improv duo, Exit, Pursued by a Bear. Friday, I produced and performed in Improv Game Show (and I won! Thanks again Maddox! [as if he’s actually reading this!])

And alas, the weekend called for fun family celebrations in Niagara, which are lovely, but don’t really allow for much writing time. (Nor should they. Family time is important, dangit!)

So, I guess what I’m trying to say, is that it would be nice to have a little balance. Maybe last week was just crazy, or maybe I’m over-committing to stuff. Either way, I’d love to know what your solutions are to feeling like you can never get fully on top of the multiple things you’re trying to accomplish?

My brother recommended I read Chris Hardwick’s “The Nerdist Way,” and it already seems like a great process for helping people achieve their goals. But I’m already looking at it like “I don’t have TIME to create a fancy CHART with all my WANTS AND DESIRES on it, and make it pretty with pictures?!!?”

And again, so much is the nature of an anxious person.  Sometimes we have so much to do, and we can’t just… take… a … breath. It’s always go go go. Sometimes what we need is to slow down, and only in those times can we think clearly and make a plan towards actually accomplishing our goals. Like finishing this damn spec script I’ve been working on for MONTHS. (The outline is now finished. Thank you.)

Sometimes it’s about balancing a crazy week with a following week of cuddling up with your computer at home with a nice (several) cup(s) of coffee in a cozy hoodie.

That’s where I’m at this week.  Until I’m not.

 

Nous sommes tous Charlie

I know this is really just a blog about my own personal experiences writing and performing comedy in Toronto, and I don’t really take on topics that are too politically-heated.

In spite of that, the events in Paris today call for solidarity among all of us who poke fun at the world and how ridiculous it can sometimes be.

Nous sommes tous Charlie.

Guess Who’s Gonna Be Eating Bacon?

This message was posted on the Guess Who’s Coming to Improv? Facebook page today.  It is heartwarming and amazing:

Screenshot 2015-01-04 02.02.09

This message is a greater gift than any host could hope for.  And yet, tonight, Rachel came back to the show and gifted me with two hilarious scenes as well as the following:

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I didn’t really know what to expect when I started hosting #GWCI. I wanted to play more, I wanted others to have the opportunity to play more, and I wanted people from all levels of the learning spectrum to mingle and create magic together.

I certainly never in the process ever expected BACON!

These are life’s wonderful little gifts.

Thank you Rachel!

The Actual Year in Review & Optimism

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.

Here goes:

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.

Happy New Year my darlings. To an amazing year ahead!

Naomi Snieckus & Alastair Forbes To Perform at next GWCI?

I’m so stoked to announce that this Saturday’s show features none other than Second City Main Stage alumni: Naomi Snieckus and Alastair Forbes. And if YOU attend, YOU might get to play with them!

Get to know more about these two phenomenal improvisers/people and read on:

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Naomi Snieckus is an actor, writer, improviser, voice over artist, and director. She studied at University of Waterloo and then Ryerson Theatre School before moving to Vancouver for five years. An alumnus of the world renowned Second City in Toronto she wrote and performed in 5 shows and met her funny man Matt Baram. She is a founding member (along with Matt Baram) of five time Canadian Comedy Award winning The National Theatre of the World and performs and produces: Impromptu Splendor, The Carnegie Hall Show and The Script Tease Project. The National Theatre of The World is a company in residence at The Young Centre For The Performing Arts in Toronto. They have traveled internationally to Berlin, Israel, Amsterdam, England, New York, South Carolina, Chicago, Los Angeles as well as throughout Canada. Naomi won the Canadian Comedy Award for best female improviser in 2010, as well as best female in a TV Series (Mr.D) and was nominated for an Actra Award in 2013 for her work in Mr.D.

STAGELA_STAGEComedypx468Alastair Forbes is a Second City Mainstage Alumni, Dora Award nominee and two-time nominee for the Canadian Comedy Awards Best Male Improvisor. You may have seen him on your TV (Insecurity and The Ron James Show, CBC; The Bridge, CTV;Breakout Kings, A&E; That’s so Weird, YTV) on your big screen (My Ex Ex) on your stage near you (Theatre by the Bay, Thousand Islands Playhouse, Centaur) or have seen his voice on your radio (Go!, CBC Radio One). He has written for YTV’s That’s So Weird and is a story editor on a CTV development project Matt and Jeff. Oh, and yes, he’s probably that guy from that commercial you saw. You can catch him almost every week performing at the Comedy Bar or with his critically acclaimed improv troupe Bonspiel!

For more information, check out:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1510937449152943/?fref=ts

Guilty Conscience

I was all excited to get out there and see some comedy shows this evening after spending a bit of time away to “recharge.”  (Note, I’m not a robot.)  But when I got home after work, (first day in my new job, I might add) I started to feel feverish, tired, unwell in general.  I kept saying: “I’ll feel better in an hour or so.” But my condition didn’t really improve.

I then get to the point where my mind asks: “Are you really sick, or are you just trying to weasel your way out of going to shows tonight?”  But I DID want to see shows.  And I was NOT feeling well.  Seeing shows isn’t like going to a job you don’t want to go to.  You don’t need duvet-days when there’s so much great comedy to see on any given night here in Toronto. 

How to balance this self-judgement?  People say I’m too hard on myself, but  aren’t you supposed to be in this business? Should I have just gone to the shows anyway?  I’ve done that in the past when I feel kindof sick, and I don’t get anything out of the experience, I just sortof daze through the show, even if it’s a really great show, I don’t appreciate it. Then, I just go right home because I feel too crappy to socialize with anyone and I worry about getting them sick in turn.

Is this rationalization?

Is it just anxiety and over-thinking?

Does anyone else get this way?

Send me your feedback.  I’d be glad to have a conversation on the body vs. mind + guilt = more guilt.

Bad Stand-Up Set? Try Improv.

The best way to get over a crappy stand-up set, I discovered last night, was to hit up an improv room.  Specifically, Natasha Boomer’s “Wheel of Improv.”  After a fair amount of ridiculousness, a little practice of my own, watching some newbies go up for the first time, watching some more experienced enjoy the challenge of working with the seasoned pros (in this case, special guests were Ken Hall & Rob Norman as well as a surprise drop-in from Becky Johnson & Kayla Lorette,) and finally chats and cupcakes at the end of the night, I felt a whole lot better about myself.

The stand-up bit needs more work, but at least I don’t feel as bitter about it after having been in the extremely supportive care of the Toronto improv community.

 

 

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! 🙂