4 Reasons Why You Should Love Getting Feedback

What does a horse say when he wants his food back?  “Gimme Feedback!”  BAAHAHAHA!

Feedback, good or bad, is what makes us grow and become better people in every facet of life.  Stand up comedy is no exception. 

Sometimes you get a lot of feedback, sometimes hardly any.  Sometimes from your amateur peers, sometimes from a pro.  Sometimes you love hearing it, sometimes you DO NOT.  But you gots to suck it up and remember that it’s for your own good.  I love getting feedback, tips, suggestions, etc. on any of my material and you should too!  Here’s why:

1. Get a New Angle

You can record and listen to your sets over and over again, but you are still only getting your own opinion of that material.  Someone else’s response represents a greater thought pool and brings more to the table for you to work from.  Also, outside eyes and ears see and hear things that you or people who know you well wouldn’t.  Maybe a couple of your jokes are a little to inside-jokey for the average audience to understand.  You don’t have to agree with everything that everyone says, but maybe you’ll get a new punch-line, explore coming from another angle, flesh out an idea, or write a catchy tagline based on something someone says to you.

2. “If you can’t take the heat, take Science 14”

This is what our teacher used to say when we thought Science 10 was too hard.  And he was right!  Although he was talking about Science, it can be said for comedy too.  If you can’t accept feedback as a learning opportunity as an amateur, how are you going to take it when you’re a professional?  People will always judge what you do as a comedian, since comedy is subjective, so get used to hearing what other people have to say.  It doesn’t always have to be taken negatively and you don’t always have to like it.  Graciously accept criticism, take it, and grow from it.  People generally tell you things because they want to help you improve, not lower your self-esteem and make you feel insecure.

3. Free Advice!

People pay many cash dollars to take classes with professional comedians to learn how to write jokes good.  But if you have a pro or two in your audience one night, ask them for some feedback on your set.  Professional comedians give some of the best advice because they know what to say and how to say it.  They know what to look for when it comes to vocal cadence, timing, physicality, and expanding on an idea, and it may be stuff that you would never have been able to think of or see yourself.

4. Joke Evolution (Jokevolution)

Whether feedback is good or bad, it will help your jokes evolve.  All criticism should be taken as an opportunity to re-evaluate and create the best work you can.  Don’t be afraid to get rid of material that just isn’t working and instead focus on building some quality material.  The more open you are, the more opportunity you are giving yourself to do your very best every single time you hit the stage.

Nervous Nerd Verse 2.0

Toots & Fruits

Once upon a time I was standing in a line,

An average line, to pay for groceries.

An old man made a fart that blew away my cart

Which was filled with all the means to make a snack.

I didn’t mention to him that I was on the brim

Of passing out right there b’cause of the fumes.

But as I paid for all my food, I started feeling really good

And I just started to giggle without remorse.

I didn’t know what was wrong, and then others joined along,

But no one knew why we were laughing, it’s just a fart.

The old man looked behind, a situation asinine

Unfolding before his eyes, like a cartoon.

And with a knowing grin perched upon his chin

He said he farts out fumes from smoking pot.

We didn’t know what to say – Standing in Safeway

Laughing b’cause we’re high on reefer fart!

The old man was a sweetheart, he went to fetch my cart,

And bought us all some snacks so we’d relax.

The moral of this tale: Don’t directly bail

If in line you stand behind a man that farts.

 

Don’t over-think it, Bruno Mars, this is all I need.

 

I’d make our house smell of Glade for you,

Be a manly French maid for you,

Board games? I’d LOVE to play,

Because you do so much.

I’d be your personal cook,

I’d read you erotic books,

Learn to undo bra hooks,

Because you do the same.

I’d pull the hair from the drain for you,

Massage your shoulders when strained,

I’d love your body AND brain,

Because you’re the best life-mate.

I’d write you romantic songs,

Let you hop on my dong,

Then hold you tight all night long,

Because I love you so.

Feeling Uninspired? 6 Ways to Pull Yourself Out of A Slump



(I chose this video because it really embodies the soul-wrenching lyrics of the song through excellent cinematography.)

Guys, girls, it’s time for me to drop an H-bomb on y’all.  HONESTY.  Sometimes I feel uninspired and overwhelmed by the world.  Sometimes there are personal issues involved.  So, what is one “funny person” supposed to do when they feel unfunny?  Here are a few tips, all of which I will do today.

1) Watch YouTube videos or read books of people who inspire you. 

Watching clips of the greats in your field remind you of the possibilities and get your creative juices flowing…in your brain. (Perv.) Some of mine are Carol Burnett, Ken Jeong in Community, Tina Fey’s book ‘Bossypants’ is great, or just watch THIS!

2) Go for a damn walk. 

Not to be confused with a dam walk, but that would be nice too.  Escaping  the confines of my 500 sq.ft. apartment and seeing the sky allows me to think better and clearer, and reminds me that the world is full of possibilities.  Probably just getting some fresh air is good for the ol’ Thinking Cap.

3) Talk to your peers. 

Chances are the people in your field have felt this way before too.  Probably on more than one occassion.  Unless they are already on happy pills.  Dick hats.  Last night I took in some stand up comedy and had the pleasure of chatting with the lovely Lauren McGibbon of stand up and improv fame.  She sprinkled these words of wisdom on me: “Dream big and remember, even if you’re funny, you have a vagina so nobody cares”.  It’s inspiring in it’s own way, trust me. 

Talking with your peers will help you to see that everyone gets into a funk once in a while and that they get out of it and persevere.  How did they got past all the negative occurrences to get to the point they are at now, THAT’S what is inspirational.

4) Make changes to your personal life.

If there are aspects of your personal life that are bringing you down, get rid of ’em.  The last thing anyone needs in their life are more downers–the world is cruel enough.  Get a new job, ditch your crazy girlfriend, reconnect with your mom.  And stop letting negative energy from other people in your field get to you.  People talk shit all the time, and usually it’s because they’re feeling insecure.  You are you, and you’re good at what you do, so keep doing it FOR you.  Whatever it is that’s causing a negative impact on your life, change it.  It’s up to you and only you.  Plus, you love your mother and she loves you, so give her a call and tell her you love her (…as long as she doesn’t bring up going back to school again).

5) Research your field and set some goals.

The pros get to where they are by putting themselves out there and taking risks.  Do some research on what you can do to get your name out there and/or get some experience.  Actor? Look up auditions for independant projects (film/TV).  Stand up?  Look into stand up comedy festivals and see what you need to do to apply.  Look for out-of-town gigs.  Take some courses to work on or expand your skills.  Read some books.  Build yourself a website and get some business cards made to advertise yourself.  Make yourself a good demo so that you have something to show people.  Do little things that will further your career and the next thing you know, all the little steps will have resulted in a big LEAP! 

6) Work hard and practise.

This is the most obvious yet, for me, the most underrated.  People aren’t magically discovered in mall food courts.  You have to practise your craft and hone your skills.  I could whine all day about how I don’t want to write or that I’m not feeling insipred, but then as soon as I sit down and focus, I remember that I actually LOVE to write and tell jokes.  Amazing how that works!  Do it for the love not for the money and fame.  (You’ll be disappointed)

***

Whatever you do to bring you happiness, make sure that it is in fact making you happy.  Nothing happens overnight, but damn, I sure wish it did.  APPARENTLY life is about the journey, not the destination.   So get out there and make Mama proud!

The Bonnie Brooks Radio Project

I got an amazing idea very early this morning as I was lying awake in my bed.

Those “I’m Bonnie Brooks, President of The Bay” radio commercials are bad. 

Very bad. 

I’m a voice artist. 

I have ideas and talents. 

I should do their commercials. 

I SHOULD do their commercials.

I’m going to send them a proposal for new commercials.

I should send them a sample commercial.

Whoa.

That was basically how the thought process went.  In case you are unfamiliar with the radio commercials I speak of, here is an example:

I feel like many can agree with the comments posted beneath that video.  Hence this project.

Bonnie Brooks is an extremely successful business woman and company President with an impressive resume, but perhaps her leap into the voice artist realm is one that she isn’t as well suited for.  I do admire her ambition and gumption in taking on the role, but there are reasons why companies hire professional voice artists.  We have knowledge and experience using a microphone and on delivering information effectively, we have vocal training, and we have experience to draw from.  I wouldn’t attempt to give a presentation to a Board of Directors because that’s not something I have any experience in.  I could learn, but it’s most effective if left to the trained professionals.

Things that Ms. Brooks lack as radio personality:

–          variation in vocal tone (emotion, emphasis, etc.);

–          a smile (it really comes through in the voice);

–          smooth tone (the heavy smoker debate continues);

–          relate-ability to the average consumer (do YOU want to be told what to buy from the President of a company?  I sure don’t.  That’s like getting sex advice from a parent.  Don’t tell me what to do!)

I am still brainstorming some ideas of what I can do for them that’ll catch their attention and seriously consider hiring me.  What I’ve got so far is that The Hudson’s Bay Company is the oldest department store in Canada, it’s a Canadian icon, it’s historic, they’re getting more and more into the big fashion brands, and they have something for everyone – men, women, young, old, rich….less rich.  So how does one portray a fashionable, fun, very Canadian company via the radio?  I don’t know, I’m asking YOU.  How?

I have sent an email to their inquiries address requesting the contact for the corporate marketing/advertising department.  Hopefully I get a response.

So that’s the project!  And I’m going to blog about the process and see how this goes!  The Bay is a big corporation, and I don’t have any idea how far I’ll actually get with this idea.  But it’s worth a try and it’ll be a fun project!  If you have any other suggestions or any connections to The Bay, post your comments below.

Small Town vs. Big City: Interview with Tyler Morrison

“I’m moving to the big city to follow my dreams!”  This is what a lot of people do because the big cities are where all the action tends to be.  But what if you live in a small town and you have dreams?  How do you go about pursuing them and do you necessarily have to pick up and move to do it?

Tyler Morrison is a major up-and-comer in the comedy scene and he lives in Bracebridge, Ontario – an hour and a half north of Toronto.  He has lived in Toronto on a few occassions, but always seems to end up in the just-north-of-Toronto region.  But his location never seems to keep him from ruling the stand up scene like a big city heavyweight.  He tours around Ontario, Quebec and beyond, and organizes the annual Cottage Country Comedy Festival in Muskoka which has grown in success every year since its inception in 2008.  I asked Tyler some questions about being a small town comedian and here’s what he had to say.

How did you get started in comedy?

When I was in eighth grade a teacher told me I should think about writing for the Tonight Show and it just clicked that I wanted to get into comedy at an early age.  I heard about the Humber College Comedy Program I thought it would be perfect for me.

Would you consider moving to Toronto to pursue your career?

I started my career in Toronto, so being in a small town has never really been a problem for me.  I initially moved back to Bracebridge after college when I did the Boston Comedy Festival and got some American representation.  [They] wanted to bring me down to tour and do a TV show (which never ended up materializing).  When it didn’t pan out, I kind of used being out of the city as a recharge/writing holiday before I moved back to Toronto.

I don’t think I would [move back to Toronto] unless the right job came along where I had to be there every day. We just bought a house here, and now with the comedy festival Muskoka is my home base.  I’m pretty mobile from Bracebridge and Toronto is a quick in and out when necessary.

What challenges does living in a small town pose for a comedian?

The biggest challenge is the whole “out of sight out of mind” thing.  If you aren’t out there in the city rocking it you won’t get as many shows or industry attention.  But at the end of the day you have to get your own gigs and that can be done from anywhere.  And most paid gigs are outside of Toronto.  The internet has really helped change things in terms of visibility, but before Facebook and YouTube it was hard.  Creating the Cottage Country Comedy Festival has helped overcome those challenges in a big way.

I have lived in Toronto a few different times and always made sure to ram it with as much stage time as possible.  The best way to overcome the lack of stage time [in a small town] is by writing a ton and really fine tuning it so when you do get on stage you know the material is solid.  In the city you have more chances to experiment, but being in a small town you want to make every set count.

What freedoms does living in a smaller town offer?

[It] gives you the opportunity to not get run down by the wear and tear of being in bars every night.  There’s a lot of temptation to drink all the time when you are doing open mics and getting paid in beer (truth!).   When you do go to the city for a show, people are viewing you with a fresh set of eyes [because] they haven’t seen you doing the same act every night [which can] work to your advantage in terms of standing out.

How often do you hit the road for comedy tours?

In the summer months I am pretty busy with the festival but I do my best to travel and get out to different towns. [In the winter] I did a small Ontario tour, and this year is going to be my busiest year for touring of my career.  I just got back from doing a couple shows in Montreal and I’m looking at going out west to do a bunch of shows.  (Come to Vancouver!  I have a futon)

What’s the deal with this Cottage Country Comedy Festival that I have heard so much about?

The Cottage Country Comedy Festival started up in 2008.  There was a bunch of good young comedians that I started with and not a lot of opportunity, at the time, for anyone to move forward.  So I decided to start a festival to help get these guys on some bigger stages because they were ready for it.  The first year of the fest we were fortunate that some awesome comics like Jon Dore (say what!?) came up and helped spread the word in Toronto. With the help of my family, some good friends, and support of our amazing sponsors, it just evolved organically from there.

***

There you have it!  With the help of technology and by staying an active member of the scene, it is possible to pursue your dreams without pursuing a move. 

Catch Tyler Morrison in Toronto on October 31, November 5, 6, and 7 as part of The Dark Comedy Festival.  For more information on Tyler and the Cottage Country Comedy Festival, you can check out the festival website and follow him on Twitter.

Chavril: Canada’s Royal Wedding

Did you hear!?  Chad Kroeger and Avril Lavigne are engaged!  Big Canadian news!  I really have nothing against either of them.  I’m not a huge fan of either, but I am certainly not a hater either.  But why is it such a big deal and why do I feel so strangely about it? 

WHY IS IT WEIRD?

When I first read about Chavril’s engagement on Twitter, I thought “uhhgg, weird.  How did that happen?”  I was kind of grossed out at first, and for no good reason.  Then I realized it was because they are two of the biggest Canadian artists that we all just love to hate.  Maybe you’re jealous that Avril can pull off wearing boys’ underwear (when apparently that’s weird for the rest of us girls to do) or that Chad has the hair of an angel and you’re a 24 year old baldy.  Maybe you’re angry because they are two of the biggest names in Canadian music but don’t make any good music that Canadians can be proud of.  Or maybe you feel they lack talent in writing thought-provoking lyrics yet Mr. Kroeger makes enough loonies to afford a 24-karat (?!) diamond engagement ring.  (I imagine him wearing a kilt and swimming in his loonie-vault like Scrooge McDuck.)  Whatever the reason, we like to dislike them. 

And now they have found each other!  How lovely, right?  But weird.  I didn’t think sk8er gurls went for Albertan cock-rockers ten years their senior.  But then I recalled that Avril once did a cover of Metallica on stage and Nickelback is basically a poor man’s Canadian Metallica, so it makes more sense.  Poppy punk + cock-rock = POPPYCOCK!  I just love word play.  I’m probably going to marry it.  (YOU: “Where are all the song lyric puns then?”   ME: Shut up.)

WHY IS THIS A BIG DEAL?

The British had their Royal Wedding in April 2011 when William and Kate tied the knot. It was a real-life Cinderella story.  Now Canada gets to have its Royal Wedding: Chavril.  First of all, that name: Chavril.  We are a classy bunch, Canada.  And in case having the beaver, moose, and Mounties aren’t funny enough icons, now we’ll have plates and tins with Chavril’s wedding picture, and dolls of them (each holding a guitar).  Maybe they’ll do an album together and they’ll cover some Barenaked Ladies, Bryan Adams, Celine Dion, and the Canadian national anthem.  Eat it up world!  This is what we are!  It’s actually pretty funny the more I think about it.  Why wouldn’t two big Canadian musicians join forces in holy matrimony?  Oh Canada, you’re so cute. 

THE WEDDING

Canada’s Royal Wedding will be just as pleasant as the British Royal Wedding was, only less elegant and more…..Canadian (read: practical).  Here are some of my predictions for the Chavril nuptials, using my Canadian experience and keeping in mind Chavril’s background:

– a rural setting (a lake perhaps)

– lots of devil horn hand gestures

– black and/or studded leather

– mesh-back trucker hats (top hat style?)

– beer bong

– leather wrist bands

– lawn chairs (with bows) & elegant picnic tables

– blood red roses & gothic feel

– ladies: black eye liner

– men: hair gel

– Avril in a Gwen Stefani-style dress & a black tie (half Windsor)

weddingenthusiast.blogspot.com

– Chad in sunglasses and leather suit jacket with tails

They should just hire me to plan the event because obviously I know everything about them.  And there is absolutely nothing wrong with any of these wedding choices or the fact that these two are getting’ hitched.  Let’s just embrace our Canadian-ness, appreciate Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger for who they are, and be happy for them!  Because afterall, he’s just a boy and she’s just a girl.  Can I make it anymore obvious?  CONGRATULATIONS CHAVRIL!  (invite me)