3 Reasons Why Taking a Break is Good for Your ART

Having a passion to be passionate about fills my heart with such passion.  But there are those times when being fully immersed in said passion can wear you down and start affecting your work.  Passionately.  Especially when, as humans, we live for so much more than just one thing.

Allow yourself the opportunity to take a brief break from doing what you love.  I myself had no stand up shows in the last two weeks, which was crappy, but then I had a really great set at Yuk Yuk’s on Wednesday .  I’m not talking about taking a nine-month hiatus because you have better things to do in the warmer months of the year, just embrace a break when one comes along instead of cursing it.  It’ll make you a better passionateer.

1) Time to Reflect

For me, not having to go on a stage for two weeks to retell the same handful of jokes that I’ve been working on was a blessing.  I came back with a fresh approach and appreciation for my material which had me more excited and the audience enjoyed it more.  And while you may not being doing shows, you can still be writing new material, exploring older stuff, or trying to come at your material from a different prospective, all of which will make you a more exciting and engaging performer when you hit the stage again!

2) A Chance to Heal

Even the most confident person can have their feelings hurt like a little girl in the schoolyard.  Even comedians are humans that have feeeeelings.  And there are times when you have show after show that just doesn’t go the way you’d hope, and that can really get to a person.  Comedians have the tendency to become jaded and fall into a downward spiral of negativity when they’re in this type of situation.  But the thing is, this happens to everyone.

Taking a brief intermission from doing shows five nights a week can give you a much-needed chance to focus on the many other aspects of your life for a moment and allow you to regain your confidence and come back at full strength.  On Wednesday night, I had no preconceived notion of how the show would go, I got up there and delivered joke after BRILLIANT joke with the confidence of a thousand nonchalant house cats because I felt fresh again.  Meow, bitches.

3) Take a Load Off

Constantly being “on” is tiring and stressful.  Taking a break means that you can be more casual about your brainstorming and writing.  It’s like anything, if it’s forced, it’s harder and less sincere.  Working with less pressure gives your brain the freedom to find the funny in anything, instead of searching for it in everything. 

When you find yourself under those stage lights again, you’ll find your jokes more fun to perform and easier to play around with because you’ll be free of all the stress and anxiety that tends accumulate. 

Taking a break: It’s a day spa for your wits.

5 Ways Stand Up Comedy Is Like a Zombie Apocalypse

Maybe it’s the excessive amount of TheWalking Dead that I’ve been exposed to lately, or maybe it’s the recent mentoring that I’ve received from comedy Guild Master Kyle Bottom and friends, but I’ve come to realize that doing stand up comedy is a lot like living through a zombie apocalypse.

1) Survival of the Fittest

Competition is essential during a zombie apocalypse, and it’s equally as important in a stand up setting.  Bold statement?  Perhaps.

Everyone wants to be the best writer/leader, get the most laughs/kills, be the most recognized ont the street/famous on the battlefield, and those that are no good often drop off the radar pretty quick.  Competition is good because it forces us to be better and, let’s face it, the weak are just not worth having around (they make good bait though).  So keep your skills sharp, your wits sharper, and your weapons sharpest. 

2) Getting By With a Little Help From Your Friends

During an outbreak of a mystery virus that is causing people to turn into monsters that eat flesh, it’s important to stick together and work as a team.  Although everyone is competing to survive, helping each other survive will contribute to a successful survival process even more.

Just like in the comedy world where people are competing for stage time, gauging their progress against others, and being jealous, people have to remember to stick together and build relationships as well as jokes.  You need a support system when you’re performing/slaying zombs.  People with whom you have things in common.  With comedy especially (I’ve never lived through a zombie end-of-days, so I can’t speak from experience), the whole stand up world can seem so abstract and ethereal, so talking with other people in your situation can make things feel more real and concrete, your goals more realistic and attainable. So buddy up!

3) Equal Rights, Right?

“In the criminal justice system there are two separate yet equally important groups: the police who investigate crime, and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders”.  Similarly, society and comedy both need the variance of two groups, men and women, to maintain order. 

Each provide their own unique and valuable outlook, opinion, and thought process, and contribute equally to creating a diverse and balanced survival environment.  Men hunt, women bear kids.  Men make dick jokes, women make jokes about dick jokes.  Balance. 

4) Getting Eaten Alive

Depending on your situation in relation to this post, you may either be in danger of being eaten alive by a very tough audience OR of actually being eaten alive.  By the undead.  There is always an element of danger, no matter how prepared you are or safe you feel.

People always comment on stand up comedians being so brave for being able to get up on stage in front of an audience of strangers.  And I’m sure they’d say that of apocalypse survivors too….if they were still alive to say it.  But they’re probably too busy trying to eat the survivors.  Sometimes when you are most confident, danger is most imminent.  Not to say that confidence is bad, it’s very important.  Equally as important as maintaining a humble heart.

5) Carrying a Weapon

Everyone knows that it’s important to have some sort of weapon on you at all times during a zombie apocalypse.  Preferably something powerful and not too noisy.  Likewise, comedians always need to have a couple of quick quips in their back pockets to shoot back at a heckler, or to pick up the energy in a dying set.  Either way, a few back-pocketers in the ol’ repertoire are always handy.  This way, no matter what, you’ll always be SLAYING!

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Remember, we all have to be able to laugh through life’s hardest moments, whether your baby’s arm just got gnawed off by a zombie, or you just bombed in a room full of talent scouts.  It’s all good, just keep at it.  Prepare by honing your skills in either stand up or combat and you’ll be successful at BOTH!  Survive and thrive!

4 Ways Stand Up Comedy Makes You a Better Writer

Writing is writing is writing, and no matter what kind you do, the goal is always the same. You want to get your point across as effectively, clearly, and concisely as possible. Unless of course your name is Herman Melville–geez, that guy!  I’ve tried to read Moby Dick like three times, and only ever get 12 pages in. Herman, read this post!

While my “professional” writing experience has been limited to stand up and sketch comedy and a couple of plays, the same rules apply. What I have learned from all this funny business is useful information for writing of all kinds.

1. Be Concise

The point of all writing is to get your point across in as few words as possible to make the most impact. Comedy is all about this. I’ve written before on the importance of being concise because, especially with stand up, no one wants to hear the five minutes of long-winded background to a joke – they want to hear the punch-lines. And if you want your readers to stay with you on your writing quests, you have to give them what they came for. Treasure!!

Cut out redundencies, choose words carefully, and create the best structure to accomplish max impact. BOOM!

2. Know Your Audience

While it may be a mutual dream for us all to write for our target audience (people with our same brains and funny bones), this is rarely the case. And we all want to spread our field of influence to gain a greater audience, right?  Right. Sometimes this means adjusting your voice to suit the type of audience that you are writing for in a particular case. I’m not going to go do a gig at a high school and tell all the dirtiest, cussiest jokes I know (I don’t actually have any…) because that would be considered “inappropriate”. Apparently. Depending on the assignment, you should adjust your tone, word use, structure, or length to accommodate a certain demographic.

3. People Pleasers

As with all art, writing is subjective and it’s impossible to please everyone with every single thing you write. There will always be some stupid dumb know-nothing idiot who doesn’t like your work or your opinion or your punctuation use, and they can all go straight to HECK!?!?!! But it is important to appeal to the audience with your writing and give people a reason to read/listen to your work.

People may offer you criticism, and you can take it or leave it, but rejection is and always will be part of the writing game. I wrote a post just last week about how accepting feedback helps you grow as a writer. Do what you love to the best of your abilities.  Keep your fans/followers/readers happy as long as it keeps you happy, and your audience will continue to grow.

4. Practise Makes Perfect

Most normal people have to really work hard to become great at the thing they are passionate about.  There are weird freaks who are naturally skilled at EVERYTHING (dicks), but they’re exceptions to the rule. Big, stupid exceptions. But as with comedic pursuits, writing is not something that people are just going to automatically start paying you for because you’re so wonderful. You have to pay your dues, do a LOT of free work, and practise perfecting your craft. But if you’re doing what you love, then doing it should be enjoyable, so no sweat!

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)

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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!

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.

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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.

Comedy Courtesy

As every comedian is well aware, it’s not likely that you’ll do a show that is going to pay thousands of dollars and be in a theatre packed with avid comedy fans.  More often than not, you’re getting paid in leftover popcorn and watered-down beer to perform in the basementof a pizza place where comedy-haters who came for a quiet slice were herded downstairs by the show’s promoter.  As you can imagine, this audience can be a hard nut to crack.  If you see the audience isn’t reacting the way you would hope, there are a few key things that you can do that will keep you from falling into a pit to despair.

FOUR SIMPLE RULES

Firstly, try to read the audience and give them what they want.  Every audience is different and will laugh at different things.  Be aware that a group of middle-aged, wine-sipping tourists will react differently than a group of beer-bonging college kids, and be respectful of that.  It’s your job to make people laugh and in order to do that you may have to alter your set and/or delivery.

Second, commit to your jokes.  Even if the audience is sucking your will to live, stay confident.  You know you are funny and unique, so stay true to yourself.  If you normally deliver jokes as a cheerful optimist, fake that you are cheerfully optimistic and people may just believe you!  The last thing an empty/quiet/laughless room needs is negative commentary on how the night seems to be going.  The audience will remember the comic who went up there and just told their jokes in a way more positive light than the comedians who got up there and scoffed at the poor turnout and lack of laughter.

Third, keep it tight.  This particular situation may not be the time to do your seventeen minutes of new rape jokes (but then again, it never is).  Maybe you just do the tight five that you know rocks and throw in one or two new bits to test the waters.  Just try your best to give the audience what they came/were forced down there for, and that’s all you can do.

Lastly, and most importantly, don’t you DARE beg for laughter.  I can’t stand it when comedians stand up on stage and belittle an audience because they won’t laugh at their jokes.  Sometimes people aren’t laughing because the comic is just NOT FUNNY!  Pure and simple.  A comedian’s job is to entertain an audience, not scold them.  Shame on you for thinking that!  Make light of the situation and it won’t end up being such a big deal anymore.

THE SUMMARY CHEAT-SHEET

DO                                                                             DON’T

– stay positive                                                     – lose confidence in yourself

– know your audience                                      – try to force laughter

– appreciate the audience you have          – berate the audience

– your best!                                                          – give up and admit defeat

– a tight set of good jokes                               – try 10 minutes of new material

Whatever obstacles you may run into performing, all you can do is your best and give the audience what they came for.  As long as they leave having had a positive experience, who cares how much they laughed.

Fu*k This Sh*t

True or False: Swearing always makes comedy funnier.  FALSE!  Despite the way many people think nowadays, swearing is highly unnecessary and often has the opposite effect intended.

Remember back in the day when people would speak as respectable human beings who wanted to sound intelligent and demanded respect through being respectful?  I DON’T because I was born in the 1980s.  Swearing has always bothered me because it’s so negative.  It makes me feel uncomfortable and gives off an air of hostility and ignorance that my inner old lady does not appreciate.  The quality of stand up comedy is diminished by “bad words” because it takes the emphasis off the content itself and puts it on the crass delivery.  Swear words have been around for a long, long time, but the fact that they are so tolerated in mainstream society is beyond disappointing. 

It’s true that comedy is about pushing boundaries and provoking a response from the audience.  As a result, over the last couple of decades especially, swearing has become a lot more prevalent.  I don’t have a problem with swearing in comedy, I have a problem with excessive swearing in comedy.  And there is a difference.  Far too many comedians rely on combinations of horrible words to shock their audiences.  But why, because shocking = funny?  Sometimes, but only if that person is actually making a funny point.  If they’re just swearing for the sake of being outrageous while making no point at all, who cares?!  So many amateur comedians resort to excessive swearing when they are floundering on stage, berating the audience in an attempt to make themselves seem bigger.  Jerry Seinfeld agrees that “most of the time…it’s someone who’s lost and scared and uses swearing to save their tail” and it’s generally unsuccessful.    

BUT I do believe that swearing can also enhance comedic writing if used properly.  British writer and comedian Arthur Smith says it perfectly that “a well-placed swear word is a marvellous bit of grammar.”  Go ahead and punctuate with a little swear word if it will actually compliment the material.  But if bad words are overused, they lose their effectiveness and just come across as trashy, ignorant, and offensive. 

I recently got to visit my marvellous grandparents and my Nana can’t stand modern-day stand up comedy because of the extreme amount of swearing.  Isn’t that sad?!  Personally, I like to be able to share my passions and talents with all my favourite people, without fear that they may feel alienated and uncomfortable watching.  Everyone likes to laugh which means that everyone should enjoy stand up comedy.  And comedians constantly need audiences.  So why would anyone completely chop off major demographics just because they feel that the only way to be funny is to curse like a sailor? 

Comedy doesn’t constantly need to be cruel.  With some intelligence and effort, we can all be PROUD of what we do and even invite our grannies to come watch.