Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Men of Comedy: Guest Blogger Nick Carter

JH5 had originally planned to have a blog by Kathleen McGee today; however, we were concerned with excessive language on our blog :) We instead have a blog written by a local talent, and JH5 is dedicating this to McGee, as she is one of the ones who we feel gets it right. So please help us pay kudos to McGee, and to celebrate the talent of Mr. Nick Carter who writes on the subject of vulgarity.


I took a break from having sex with a member of my family in order to talk to you about “vulgar” comedy. To be honest I don't really like it (vulgar comedy that is, sex with my nephew is fantastic!) I would like to take a minute and explain to you why you hear so many bad “sexual” jokes in comedy (especially from amateurs), some thoughts on how to improve a “gross out” joke,  and help share some examples I've seen of people who do it right.

There's an old saying: “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.” And that's sounds about right. But what if your goal is not to catch the flies, but simply to get them damp? Will vinegar work just as well as honey? The answer is: Probably.

What's my point? Most amateur comedians are terrified of silence. They are going up on stage wanting to evoke ANY verbal reaction from the crowd, good or bad. They aren't looking for sweet sweet laughs. They just want to get those flies damp. So it would make sense to say if your goal was simply to avoid silence, a groan might be just as good as a laugh. I know it sounds like a strange theory but if you watch enough bad comedy (which I do) you see a pattern of people
willing to say anything just to get a reaction. Sure, they might THINK it's funny to them, but I like to believe that most of them know (on some level) it's simply going to be received as gross. And I believe that's what they are counting on to survive through their early performances. It's a mask of fake confidence  for people who don't have access to comfort and real confidence. Those tools just don't come right away for most people who try stand up comedy. So they try and fake it. Some people will start swearing way too much, some will talk really loud, others will just try to get really graphic  The rule seems to be: Say something that no one else dares say and you will instantly gain attention.

And this is a trap that new comedians can get into. Say gross things that will shock your audience into paying attention. Some never get out of this style of comedy and some don't want to. That's fine. IF IF IF you're good at it. But again, most aren't. (I would argue that almost every single working comedian has a really dirty joke they love but rarely makes it into their act)

Jokes of a sexual nature RARELY fall to silence. Even an unfunny joke that is gross will USUALLY get a large reaction from MOST comedy audiences. (One of the biggest exceptions to this is: If it's a gross joke coming on the heels of several gross jokes that have already silenced the crowd. At this point you're no longer a joke teller, you are just a joke. A gross, disgusting joke of a human being. If they didn't laugh at the first one chances are they won't laugh at the fifth one. But keep trying to win em over because they might just be a tight group!)

So it's often a fail safe for new comedians to have a series of “sexual jokes” in their early “acts”. To be honest, a lot of people who start out in comedy only know they are funny because their friends squirm at their over-the-top “I can't believe he/she said that” jokes they toss around at house parties. Their friends laugh and say “he/she should be a comedian!”  Unfortunately these he/she's are idiots. (If you are looking for a shemale joke here you probably shouldn't do comedy either)  

Please Note:  I am using a lot of “””” things in this because I am talking in very broad terms here... “vulgar” “sexual” “shocking” jokes can be about almost anything from masturbation to pushing your girlfriend down a flight of stairs. My focus is not on stopping people from talking about these subjects, no, my preference would be to get people to stop talking about these subjects in a base way where the reaction isn't laughter, but instead big ugly “groans” of disgust. (People who do it right: Aaron Berg has a classic “masturbation” story, and I heard a great “grandma down a flight of stairs joke” that was written by I don't know who).

Now, some groans should be considered acceptable, where some are not. This is where you need to use your judgement. If they groan and laugh, or groan then applaud you probably want to keep that one. They are disgusted but can't help from liking it.  But if you lay out a big fat pedophile joke and there is a feeling of disgust in the air, well that could be a sign you missed the mark. A good comedian will LISTEN to their audience to gauge their reaction. Listen to your audience. Comedy is a two way conversation. Pay attention dummy.

At this point I want to stop and say: You NEVER have to change your performance to please a crowd. NEVER! NEVER! You are in comedy to say whatever the hell you want! This advice is 
only a suggestion for people who are looking for new ways to try to connect with more people or possibly achieve some work at a local comedy club. At the end of the day you and only you can decide where you want to stand on the “art/business” balance of stand up comedy. Some great comedians appear to be uncompromising on stage. If that is your path I respect that 100%. If you're funny that's even better. If you think poop and sex jokes are the funniest thing in the world then talk about that. But just be aware that it's really easy to tell those jokes (watch any amateur show) BUT it is VERY VERY difficult to do it in a unique and creative way. (People who do it include: Mike Wilmot, George Carlin and Dave Attell)

So here's some things I can say to maybe help you:

I believe it was Greg Cochrane who told me “there is no such thing as hack premises, just hack punchlines.” That's a pretty good rule. You can talk about anything you want just make sure you aren't simply repeating an idea that has been worn out over the years. The best way to do this is to WATCH A LOT OF COMEDY. PROFESSIONAL COMEDY! This advice is for EVERY amateur. Hanging out at Amateur shows is like recess in school. Professional shows are like your Science and Art classes all rolled into one. If you call the club in advance they will probably let you in for free. Go on a Thursday and then again on a Saturday. See how the shows change with different crowds. See which jokes might be cut for the Saturday “mature” crowd vs. The rowdy “student” crowd on Thursday. If you are watching a “dirty” comedian talk to them after the show. Find out what bumps they learnt over the years doing “dirty” jokes and how they learnt to do it RIGHT. If you didn't think they were funny then you might be able to figure out what you didn't like and understand HOW you want to be different from them. Most Headliners will be happy to answer your questions if you are polite and offer to buy them a beer. (But be yourself) One of my fondest memories in comedy came when Bill Campbell took me up to his hotel room after a show and told me some amazing jokes that were “too edgy” for the crowd he just performed for. It was amazing to hear a comedian just spilling out all these wonderful bits and the theory on why they wouldn't have worked etc... Also I blew him.

Before trying a new dirty joke ask yourself “What's the joke here? Why are people going to laugh?” Try to anticipate the reaction of NORMAL PEOPLE WHO DON'T TALK ABOUT THEIR ASSHOLES IN PUBLIC. If you think they will laugh simply because “it's funny” it might not connect. Funny to you may not be funny to anyone else. And again, let me stress you don't have to change anything for those people. People may just take time to come around to you. If you have a joke that you swear is funny but it never works, put it away for a while and try it again in a few months. If it truly is funny you will want to tell it in a couple months anyways right? Plus you may have a new perspective on the joke or maybe you have a joke that you could put in front of it to make a smooth transition. The theory is that you will use every joke you ever write.

Often jokes will work once you figure out how to trick the audience so you can catch them off guard. They never saw it coming! Or, with dirty jokes you can  create tension and then defuse it. Seinfeld talked about how a good joke will be like jumping a motorcycle over a canyon: The take
off is the set-up, the landing is the punchline. If their is too much distance 'tween them no one will make the leap with you. If it's too short of a distance their won't be any build up/pay off, no thrill.  Jon Dore is a great example of a comedian who can bring a crowd to silence with a set-up because his punchlines are so perfectly crafted that he doesn't have to be afraid of losing the audience. He can say the darkest things with a set up and bring everyone together with a clever punchline. And he can take an innocent set up and spin it into a dark punchline. It's that ability to play with audiences expectations that keeps them off balance and the comedian in a position to keep their attention. Although the joke may be “gross” or sexual in nature the laugh doesn't come BECAUSE it's gross or sexual. Well okay, it kind of does yes, but the laugh is bigger because it's done by crafting the joke in a way the audience members think “oh I better pay attention or I'm going to miss something”. If you catch the audience off guard they will learn to pay attention to you. No one wants to be left out or tricked. By misdirecting them' or sneaking in something unexpected 'you have done just that.

Of course sometimes a dick joke is just a dick joke. If you're just telling stories about sexual encounters just tell the story. You don't have to fancy it up. A writer would probably tell you to add in some descriptive words and metaphors etc... That's where your inner artist has to come out. (His name is Paul and he really likes ironic t-shirts)

There is a whole style of comedy built around vulgar, gross out comedy. And when it's down right it's great. A funny joke is a funny joke. Heck one of the biggest drawing shows at the Just For Laughs festival is the “Nasty Show”. So there is an appetite for this kind of thing. If you like being the filthy comedian I hope you continue to do it. I hope you have fun with it. I hope you remember to not only be filthy but also be entertaining. I guess maybe that's the key. Do whatever you want, just do it well. For the children.

Nick Carter

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Guest Blogger, Christina Walkinshaw: Maybe…? I should write more.

Hi again. Remember me? I’m the blogger who blogs whenever I feel like it. Not consistently, just when ever I want. By doing so, I also save you from reading about my mornings watching “The View,” and my hard ships waiting tables. You’ll thank me someday. But today, I have to write. I just have to. As comedians, we know that funny shit doesn’t happen every day. Sometimes you have to dig for it. Somedays, you don’t.

I was getting off shift from my serving job. A moment I love. Especially since I was “released” at 9:15pm. That’s pretty early in the serving world. I have two birthday parties I want to attend. One, is my new agent, Sarah’s. A quality chick, who I have not spent much time with. As much as I would love to go home, and watch the season finale of 24 (it’s been in my PVR for a month-it’s not going anywhere,) I feel some beers at Sarah’s birthday party will be more exciting. I head for Osgoode Station.

Every time I ride the subway, whether I’m in a rush, or not, I get this uncontrollable urge to run the second I enter the subway. It doesn’t matter if I can hear the train coming or not- I just run. The thought of standing around waiting for a train, or anything for that matter, drives me crazy. In fact, two weeks ago I walked home from a Jay’s game, just because the subway was down. I don’t splurge on cabs when the sun is still out. But I do buy street meat for the walk home.

I enter the station at the Four Seasons entrance. At Osgoode Station, I feel like this is the nicest entrance. I even press the big round buttons on the wall that automatically open the doors, as I walk in. Not for me, but for the people behind me. As I do so, I hear the train. I sprint. I run, and I run fast. I swipe my TTC card, showing to bystanders that I am NO tourist. As I hear the tones of the subways car opening, I run faster, and note that the escalator is working in my favour. As the second set of tones pipe up, I know the train doors are about to close. I run, and I just barely make it in. A small triumph for the day, but I’ll take it. I find a seat(another triumph) and just as I’m about to start reading my book, a guy approaches me.

“Wow, that was pretty amaizing!” Says Bill, or Ted, or somebody on an Excellent Adventure.

“Thanks,” I say, as I bust out my book.

“I’m recruiting for an all girls Volleyball team, and by Volleyball, I mean Roller-derby, and by Roller-derby and mean tennis- and by tennis, I mean I know nothing about sports- you would be perfect. It’s clear you can run,” he says. He’s scrawny, not visably drunk, but definitely eager.

“Well, I don’t really have a lot of spare time,” I say. Obviously. You guys know that, otherwise I’d blog more. I pull out my ipod.

“Wow! You have an ipod and a book. Cool! ” Yes, I can read and listen to Lily Allen at the same time. One of my two talents. As I try to ignore him, he keeps talking.

“What’s your name?”

“Christina.” I’ve never been good with fake names.

“I’m ——–.” I could write it, but I’m too nerdy. I protect the innocent… or the weird. He keeps speaking-shocking, I know.

“What do you do that keeps you so busy? You must have a controlling boyfriend that you’re running home to?” I love that he asks this, cuz he is giving me an opening to say “yes, I have a boyfriend. Go home to Plenty of Fish, or EHarmony.” Of course, I don’t really say that-I’m too nice.

“No, actually, my boyfriend is quite nice.”

“Oh, well, I’m a comedian,” he says. This is when I perk up. He’s a comedian? Are times as an open mic-er so bad these days, you try to make random chicks on the subway laugh? He doesn’t know who he’s dealing with- and I’m glad. Sure it’s sad he doesn’t know who I am-nobody does. But I still believe I’m slightly ahead of him in the game.

“Oh, you’re a comedian?” I ask. “Where do you perform?”

“Yuk Yuk’s, Absolute… all over.”

I start to giggle. I can’t help it. Finally I have to let him in on what I do.

“Well, actually I work for Yuk Yuk’s. I’m actually on my way to Sarah’s birthday party right now. Do you know Sarah?”

“Umm… no…I know Jessica…” He says, getting nervous.

“I know Jess. Cool chick, shoulder length dark hair, tattoos, doesn’t like Celine Dion… that Jess?” Okay, I know that’s way too many details about Jess, but you get the picture. I know Jess.

“Ummm… No, I know Jessica the waitress at Yuk Yuks.”

At this point, he starts to lose all confidence. Heaven forbid that approaching a random girl on the subway, and claiming you’re a stand up comic, should come back and bite you in the ass.

“Well, this is awkward now…” he says. The only honest thing he’s said between Osgoode and Museum Station. At St. George Station, we both get off.

“Are you going to Sarah’s birthday party too?” I say. We walk down the stairs to the Bloor Line.
“It’ll be mostly comics there. You must know some of them.”

Is that bitchy? I didn’t mean to seem bitchy, but if this guy is really a comedian, even if it’s one I’ve never heard of before, that uses the TTC as a form of practicing crowd work, he could certainly drop by.

“Uh, well I know some comics… um… Gilson Lubin..” I pipe in, right away.

“I love Gilson! He’s great.” Bill/Ted is more terrified that I recognize his reference.

“And Kenny Robinson….” he continues.

“I love Kenny too!” I say. I know you’re probably thinking this guy is black, but he’s not. He’s as white as my inner upper thigh. And I’m only pointing that out because I want you to know that most of Kenny and Gilson’s fans are NOT this tacky.

Not much else happens between me and random “comedian” after this. I think I’ve shocked him by being a comedian. Later in the night, I ran into Rodney Ramsey(whom I mentioned in the last blog- a fantastic comic/buddy) and I relay the story to him. As it happens, Gilson was out tonight too.

“Tell the story, but make sure you drop the name of the “comic” at the end.” – Rodney.

Tons of laughing happened tonight. Most of it was off stage. That’s the best part about being a comic: Hanging out with comics. We bond just like any other co-workers. And I haven’t even started on my comedian friend Claire and her “Manbatical”(check for blog links on my Facebook page.)

So next time I enter a subway station, I may not run for the train. Like Gwyneth Paltrow in “Sliding Doors,” my. fate is my fate. I have many destinies, but only one can transgress.

comedian girl.

PS If you have seen that movie, just note that I prefer myself with long hair. I hope that doesn’t Fuck up my life

(Originally posted on June 20, 2010.  reposted with permission of author)

Monday, March 28, 2011

WHO TO WATCH: Christina Walkinshaw & Kathleen McGee

This week JH5 was indecisive about which of  two amazing women to profile for WHO TO WATCH.  Both Christina Walkinshaw and Kathleen McGee are coming to Ottawa this weekend to provide down and dirty comedy with a slight touch of class. The decision has been made, and BOTH talented women will be profiled.  They each have their own style, flair, and originality.  They each have their own unique voice, but together they are a force of female power; and most importantly, they are hilarious.

This interview was admittedly a lot of fun. It was at times hard to get the questions out, as when these two get together, it is a party waiting to happen!  One liner after one liner, these two women feed off each other’s energy and no doubt use it to write new material once they are home.  When questions were asked, they answered candidly, and were respectful that not everyone is knowledgeable about all things dark and dirty.  They excitedly described words when not understood, such as Bukkaki & Blumpkin.  (and, um, ewww)

Kathleen McGee started comedy five years ago.  The “funny one” with her friends in Edmonton, Mcgee always knew she was going to do something on stage, and moved her dream of Vegas lounge singer to stand up comedian.  She was heavier set, lost weight and gained the confidence to try comedy, and fell in love with the stage. She moved to Toronto two years ago, and her star is on the rise.  JH5 was first introduced to McGee in the summer of 2010,  opening for Darren Frost. McGee, from the first moment on stage, has the audience in her hand.  She has an abundance of charm, her jokes are well written; but beware, she is not for the faint of heart.  Once JH2 (Jenn) watched McGee’s set, she sent JH1 (Josh) in the next night to see her, and that was it, JH5 was a fan.  

Christina Walkinshaw began her comedy five years before McGee.  At age eleven Walkinshaw was already writing in her diary, which now reads as a strong comedy set.  One liners come easy to Walkinshaw, even from an early age.  She wrote continually, and began her career as a very young woman.  JH5 was introduced to Walkinshaw on Mother’s Day weekend, 2011.  Walkinshaw hosted a strong evening of female comedy for Yuk Yuk’s Comedy, sharing the stage with Wendi Reed and Jen Grant, both also very funny women.  As an aside, big thumbs up from JH5 to Yuk Yuk’s for understanding that NOT all female comics are the same and for continual mentoring of comedic talent, both male and female.

Mcgee and Walkinshaw met in Montreal a few years back while standing in line for Last Comic Standing Auditions.  McGee was flown in from Edmonton, Walkinshaw drove from Toronto, and when they met, the party started.  The auditions were held on St. Patrick’s Day that year during a gigantic snowstorm, and they joined other comics for a night they will never forget.  McGee then moved back to Edmonton, and they met up again when McGee moved to Toronto.

To maintain their lavish lifestyle of a comedian, and by lavish, they mean slightly below the poverty line, both comics have day jobs.  Walkinshaw is a bartender at Irish pub, and McGee for the past two years was a barista at Starbucks.  (She has since quit looking for another location, so is now a full time comic,  otherwise known as unemployed.)  Both women use their humour in the day jobs, having regulars who become repeat customers solely to visit these funny women.  

Both women admire comics such as Louis CK who can make horribly dirty things accessible, and is not afraid to say what is on his mind and take risks.  Walkinshaw listed Heidi Foss as one of her Canadian favourites and McGee cited Darrin Frost as her absolute favourite.  Both Foss and Frost are amazing comics, but also mentors, making them well liked by Walkinshaw and McGee.

When asked about the comedy scene in Toronto, both women state it is very supportive.  They state the comics in Toronto are regular people cheering for each other.  They are friends unwinding after shows, and helping each other out where possible.  When McGee moved to Toronto she worried that the women would not accept her, as their is a stereotype of women and competitiveness, but found all the women welcomed her with open arms.  She is friends with most of them, brunching often.  McGee, Walkinshaw and their friend Clare Brosseau often go out partying together, but in the end just sit and text each other back and forth, so the world can see their fun exchanges on twitter.  

Wondering if there is anything negative about the comedy scene, the women are asked what drives them crazy about the comic’s life.  McGee gets frustrated when others get ahead of her, when she does not have a show, or was not put on a festival when others were.  Walkinshaw agrees, stating that they work hard, get good laughs and fans by the day, then nothing for a month, then poof, a magical phone call comes and she is opening for Russell Peters at Casino Rama.  Both lament that comics have to stay positive to keep their edge.  JH5 has thought about this, and what comics seem to go through for every job is the same stress level of a job interview.  Most people have a job interview maybe once a year if that, and comics do it each and every day to gain work for a craft they love.  Kudos.

Both women are affectionate and supportive of each other.  Walkinshaw is supportive of McGee’s fun bid to try and gain Charlie Sheen’s attention to open for his show (and stop the emails people, we are not supporting Sheen, but rather McGee.  If a woman can get ahead on the back of a misogynist and the public that will pay to see him, then all the better.  This will be a show where she is definitely the classiest person on stage!).  McGee also supports Walkinshaw's blog and her projects.  When Walkinshaw got the call for Russell Peters, McGee was thrilled for her.  This support will help them get through the good and the bad times of comedy.

Both women are realistic about their futures. They understand that stand-up comedy is not the highest paying career choice; they chose it because they are talented and they have a passion for it.  Their end goal is to continue to perform stand up comedy, and hopefully one day not have to live on Kraft Dinner.  While not aiming to be rich, they would both enjoy a shot to move above the poverty line!  Both women are excited to be a small part of a Dirty  Girl’s tour, led by the original Dirty Girl Shannon Laverty.  Both women cite her as being a ground breaker and paving the way for them to enter comedy and perform dirty comedy. Walkinshaw also adds she wishes to star in porn movie directed by Aaron Berg.

JH5 is exceptionally proud to present both of these women.  They have talent, they are generous and exceptionally nice people, but more important than all of these things:  they are funny.  Take or leave their style of humour, but JH5 will ALWAYS support a comedian who takes risks and says what they want to say as an artist.  As women they will continue to take hits for some for their humour as long as we still live in a society that has both spoken and unspoken roles that women should play, and lines women should not cross.  Both women can be found at Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club this weekend.  Please call (613) 236-5233 to get more information or reserve a table, and tell them JH5 sent you.

This week both McGee and Walkingshaw are JH5’s guest bloggers, and on Saturday night JH2 will undertake a special project of partying with these women, and blogging about it on Sunday.  Reporting on a full day in the life of a comic will be an interesting article, so hope you join us this week for an entire week of these two amazing women.

Until next week.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Jenn's Thoughts: March 26th What's in a show?

One of the best parts of starting JH5 this past year has been producing shows.  Whether big or small, each show provides learning and growth, and a tremendous amount of fun to produce!

This past week JH5 produced an exceptionally small show at Shanghai Restaurant.  It was a benefit of sorts to put on the play Any One of Us, Words From Prison.  (more on that play later)  It was ill attended, which made it nice and intimate.  Host Trevor Thompson can make a room of 35 or a room of 3500 laugh, and did a great job. Everyone seemed to have fun, especially the comics.  We as a company always ensure that talent receives somewhat proper treatment, if only some food and a drink at shows for which the comics volunteer their time.  After the show, one comic was outside.....well doing what comics do after a show, and a couple came out and gave their review of the show:  YEGCH.  The comic came back in laughing so hard he could barely get the story out.  All the comics found it funny, and really it is, but I found myself going "hey, that's my show you're talking about!"

Producing shows is a very personal thing at times.  As a producer, we choose the talent, the venue, the theme, pretty much everything, and when something fails, we at times take it personally.  Let's take a moment to point out the obvious irony:  we at JH5 write a review each week of Yuk Yuk's and Absolute comedy.  We try to be balanced, and honestly we call them more recaps then reviews; to get the potential audience in Ottawa to make an informed decision.  So, reviews are fun to do, not to receive.  That's the business folks!

Back up to our last show on March 8th, the Shattered Ceiling Cabaret.  We received a review, and it was quite nice, although they made a comment about one of the performers who they did not like, but overall it was good.  Back up to October where all reviews about CHICKLES:  A GALa Comedy Event were exceptionally positive.  After all these reviews, the one that will stick in our head is the one that went "Yegch".

No matter the review, we will continue to develop and produce shows, and continue to learn from them and grow.  While we at JH5 have over 16 years in event planning, learning the ropes of comedy has been a wonderful roller coaster, and we have had mentors that we work with closely who have helped us, and we thank them for that.

So let's take time to discuss our upcoming shows, and why we want your support at them.

Mid-late April:  Political Comedy Show (yet unnamed).  This show will feature hot local comedic acts discussing the election and all things politics.  This show is exciting as it provides an opportunity to engage younger people about politics, but also an opportunity for the comedians to get down to writing new jokes for the show.  Look to our site/facebook page for more information by April 1!

April 29th:  Taking a small break from comedy, we are enthusiastically producing Any One of Us, Words From Prison at the University of Ottawa Alumni Theatre.  We are excited to present this on so many levels, but given the political scene right now and different ideological views on the justice system, we hope this play, which allows people to understand a bit more the life that women in the prison system came from, will help the public make an informed decision.  It is a tragic and heartbreaking series of monologues penned by the author of the Vagina Monologues, and we are proud to produce this show for 100% benefit of the Elizabeth Fry Society of Ottawa.  

June 11th:  Back to comedy!  We are finalizing all the talent, but have booked Don Kelly & Friends at the Bronson Centre.  Don Kelly is a local comic, amazing person, and just happens to be a First Nations man with his own television series on APTN.  Kelly has brought two of his comedic friends to perform with him, along with Aboriginal culture and dance.  The evening will have a pre-show exhibition with raffles, silent auction items, and a chance to learn more about Aboriginal culture.  A portion of proceeds from the show, and 100% of proceeds from the exhibition will benefit Odawa Friendship Centre, Minwaashin Lodge, and one other charity focusing on Inuit needs.  This is both a passion project for promoting Aboriginal Awareness, raising money for Aboriginal organizations, and to support the amazing comedic talents of Kelly.  More information will be available on our web mid-April.

After that we are open except our annual fall show CHICKLES, with talent yet to be determined depending on sponsorships.  We continue to run our blog, contracted social media, and custom murder mystery parties.  The consulting portion of our company is always busy, most recently assisting non-profits to organize their fundraising campaigns, and some smaller promotional contracts.

As we continue to grow as a company, we hope you grow with us.  If you have a show or a  charity you think JH5 should produce, drop us a line.  If you think our other services could be of benefit to you, we are always excited to sit down and chat.

We hope to see you at one of our future shows, and fully and excitedly except reviews, but hopefully we can receive information to improve by, rather than just YEGCH.

This week please continue to check back to our blog, as the week will focus on two amazing women, Christina Walkinshaw & Kathleen McGee!

All my relations.

Jenn Hayward

Friday, March 25, 2011

Yuk Yuk's: March 24, 2011

 Yuk Yuk's on Thursday night, house is three quarters full with a very subdued crowd.  The evening began slowly, but picked up as the night went on.  The comedians had to work exceptionally hard to get this crowd energized.

Bryan Hatt is the MC for the evening.  Hatt worked hard to 
engage audience, but they just were not biting.  Hatt has a cheeky self depreciating comedy about being older, overweight, and single.  He got very chummy with "Spike", a gentleman in the front who was on a date.  Hatt eventually managed to endear himself with audience and received some solid laughs.

Opening performer was a local rising star, Peter Grunstra. Grunstra was faced with an unresponsive audience, and needed to dig in bring his "A" Game.  Grunstra 
did just that, and was by far the highlight of the show for this audience.  Grunstra immediately had the audience laughing at his witty observations about his appearance, then moving to comments on subject ranging from being a single guy,  to a proposed male version of Hooters.  Grunstra has a charming personality and a strong stage presence, making him truly fun to watch.

Headliner Ron Josol then took the stage. Josol is Asian-Canadian and describes himself as a rarity in the Canadian comedy scene, stating he is "like an onion ring found in your french fries".  Josol gets some big laughs, on his jokes about Culture shock, being raised by immigrant parents, asian stereotypes and parents with poor Engrish. 
Then the second half of his act deteriorated into old/predictable jokes about penis/sex, men are sex addicts/women are teases, men want sex/women want money.  The crowd enjoyed the jokes, but the momentum was lost in the room.  Josol then went on to discuss how hot chicks are bitches, which played well to many of the young single men.  
While this isn't necessarily JH5's type of comedy, it does appeal to others.  

This show receives a  What to Watch.  Bryan Hatt's jokes are solid, Gunstra was a crowd pleaser, and the first half of Josol's set was exceptionally good.  For this, we recommend you get out and see the show this weekend.  

Josh Hayward

Absolute Comedy: March 24, 2011

Thursday March 24, Absolute Comedy
Geoff Mackay/ David Acer/ Ali Hassan/ Dave Paterson

Host Dave Paterson came to the stage with a big smile and rosy cheeks, then proceeded to compare women to chicken wings- very accurately. The crowd loved his easy going personality and jokes about how much he cheats on his girlfriend (in her

Next up was Geoff Mackay, a local comic, who never fails to impress the audience. The crowd responded very well to his joke about the ‘baby on board’ signs on cars and he ended on a tale about homosexual sky diving.

Ali Hassan arrived on stage and began his set with a bolt of energy. At one point he pretended to have a small penis for the sake of a joke, but then clarified after the punch line. His stories about eggs and testicles were a great success.

When David Acer came to the stage, he didn’t waste any time. He immediately put his crotch into a man’s face and everyone fell in love with his relaxed style and hilarious material. Mid-set, he began to reminisce about a joke he told a few minutes prior. Acer was clearly a professional, his best jokes were his interactions with the crowd. He ended with a magic trick and left everyone in a great mood.

Absolute Comedy receives a What To Watch this weekend.  The crowd enjoyed the show, and left feeling they received their money's worth.

Sophie Buddle, Contributing Reviewer

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Men of Comedy: Guest Blogger Nobody

We do not have a guest male blogger this week, as four men are currently writing, and are not quite ready yet.  I am sure when they are, they will be marvelous!

To keep with the theme though, let's chat about some men in comedy.

There are in fact a lot of men in the comedy business.   I should amend this to state there are a lot of boys in comedy and a few men.  This is not in reference to the general maturity level of most comics (I just won't go there,) but that there are many boys under the age of 25 wanting to be stand up comedians.  I often wonder what makes someone with little life experience want to tell jokes.   I got an answer this week from Alex Wood, of whom I am a fan.  He said it was something he always knew he would do.  Is this true of all young men?   With so many young males trying to make it in comedy, how does one stand out?

Obviously there are those who have a natural talent.  Rumour is Dave Atkinson is just such a person.  He was signed in record time because he knew how to perform, he is theatrically trained, and has strong writing skills.  All together this made him stand out from the crowd and was signed within a year of performing comedy.

Atkinson aside, these young men are starting their comedy at an age where developmentally they are also "finding themselves".  Significant change and growing up occurs between the age of 20-30, and these young men are going through this, all while on stage.  I won't lie; there have been times I have wanted to smack the silly off of some young guy performing misogynistic and racist jokes.  I wonder if in 15 years these males are going to look back at their early years and think "i can't believe i was so ignorant!".  Most people will do this as part of looking back through their life, but these young men have recordings of their development and ignorance. 

Another way to stand out from the crowd it so do comedy that makes sense to everyone.  There is a little one named Greg Stringer here in Ottawa.  He is a mere child of 16, and does jokes about being a sixteen year old.  He gets laughs almost every time!  Not condescending "look a kid" kind of laughs, but laughs because he is doing honest comedy.  I often look at young men doing offensive sexual references and think to myself that there is no way that boy has ever had sex!  It doesn't portray as honest to me.  Make sense and find the style that fits for you!  I certainly won't be doing jokes about partying all hours of the night at a rave, because the audience would not only be confused, they may call social services for an intervention!

Wow, it sure sounds like I do not like male comics!  Nothing could be farther from the truth; however, when you watch as much comedy, both amateur and professional as I do (once weekly on average) you see a lot of great comedy, some poor comedy, and a lot of generic comedy.

We have developed a current top ten list.  In we, I mean both my husband (JH1) and myself (JH2).  We have distinctly different types of comedy we enjoy.  He likes dark, I like light, he is on the edge, while I have to bring a sexual thesaurus to dark comedy shows!  The funniest moment for my husband was watching a dude eat a banana on stage for five minutes.  I kid you not.  So when we both like someone, I mean really like a comic, then they have passed all of our critical filters and become dear to our comedic hearts.  Here is our top 10 of male comics we have seen live in the past two years, and before you get pissy, understand that we both have to have seen said comic, so these are OUR top picks.  Think you were missed?  Let us know and we will make a point to come out and see you while in town!  My promise!  Digressing, here is the list, in order:

1.  Mark Forward:  Our favourite, hands down!  We took born again Christians to the front row of Forward's show.  Imagine four of us sitting in the front row....two born again Christians, an angry feminist, and a laid back beatnik hippie heathen...all laughing with hysteria at everything from jokes about squirrels to pedophilia!   He had strong broad appeal for different tastes and we all walked out talking about his comedy!

2.  Darcy Michaels:  We saw Michaels at the PRIDE show at Yuk Yuk's this past summer.  Now I will caveat that I am madly in love with him as he is the gay version of my husband.  Everything I love about my husband, with none of the sex!  That aside, he is funny, rip roaringly funny.  He has charm and a laid back style that makes everyone else relaxed, and ready to listen to his jokes.  He is a must see!

3. Don Kelly:  Don Kelly is what one would describe as a classy comic; one can envision Kelly sipping JD alongside the Rat Pack.  Kelly's style aside, he is a strong writer, and a stronger performer  He does mainstream comedy, and has amazing non-polarizing comedy about being Aboriginal.  There are other Aboriginal comics, who are great for Aboriginal crowds, but lip biting awkward when around non-Aboriginal folks.  Kelly can transcend all audiences, regardless of cultural background.  As an aside, my eldest son (9) is pretty much president of Fish Out of Water fan club, so Kelly is a draw for the entire family!

4.  Graham Chittenden:  A great writer, an amazing story teller, and a very enjoyable comic.  We have seen him headline twice and enjoyed both times.  He will be featured in WHO TO WATCH in April!  Come out and see him when he is next in town!

5.  Trevor Thompson:  We first saw Thompson two years ago at a New Talent Showcase when Yuk Yuk's was on Albert St.  He has a unique style, an escalating rant within his set done with charm and wit. He can be seen very regularly at Yuk Yuk's.  We have talked at length about Thompson on this blog, so moving on!

6.  John Hastings:  This young fellow has a nerdy, slacker vibe on stage, but look further and you can tell he is a pretty cool, and more importantly a good comic.  He does not hold back on topical jokes, and finishes them with a charming smile, and the audience eats it up.  Very good, and a JH5 pick!

7.  Alex Wood:  Obviously we enjoy Wood, as he was profiled in this week's WHO TO WATCH.  Wood has energy in abundance, and looks like he is having the time of his life on stage.  We have seen him perform many times, and have never seen him hit a bad set, making him one of our favourites.

8.  One of those Carter boys:  JH1 came home one day after a review and said "I really, really enjoyed that Carter boy!".   I also enjoy a Carter boy.  Turns out we like them both but each have our favourite.  Nick and Matt Carter (no relation) perform together at times as The Cartergans, as well as their indivdual comedy.  Nick Carter has strong writing skills (JH5 hired him to write and produce vignettes on International Women's Day) with a dry sense of humour that is appealing, and Matt Carter has a strong stage presence and pleases the crowd with impeccable timing.

9.  Fraser Young:  Young is a funny young man, with off beat goofy comments mixed with intelligent banter.  We have only seen him once each, but will go to see him again.

10. Bobby Mair:  Known at our house as "the lanky guy who does the milk carton joke", Mair delights audiences with awkward, dry humour.  His jokes do not provide small amounts of increasing laughter throughout, but rather a few BIG guffaws.  Will continue to watch his career, and he made it as one of our top 10!

So men of comedy, you are out there in abundance.  What does it take to be in someone's top ten?  For us, it comes down to originality, personality, and consistency.  With these three traits we are bound to remember the comic, and then become a repeat customer.  Here is to the young ones striving to be great, and old ones still trying to make it, and to the ones that we can't get enough of!  Get your laugh on people, and these are some of the men to help you out!

Who is in your top ten list?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Women of Comedy: Pro Comic Diva

Well alrighty then let’s get to it! The first question that most people ask a comic is when did you know you were funny? Some say in school when they got booted from class for being a disturbance others say when they got that first boy or girl they
liked to smile and give them a chance, even though they were kinda nerdy, fat, or still suffering with acne. And still others will say they sort of figured it out over time others don’t remember at all.

Well I knew I was funny the day I laughed my momma out of an ass whupping.

Oh you know you got to bring some serious funny, to stop a hickory switch beating from a hell-bent for leather, you ruined my best tube of Marilyn Monroe red lipstick, [of which you cannot deny since the goop was still plastered on your face along with the mascara and eyeliner you were not supposed to touch either] enraged Sistah.

For those of you who weren’t raised by a black momma, take a moment and think of
the movie “Precious”.  Okay she wasn’t that bad but damn! We are talking back in the good ole days when parents could whip your behind black n blue in a public place and some stranger
would hold your groceries.

But I digress…. Now where was I oh yea………

So there she was coming towards me switch flicking back n forth as she tested it for
durability, cause of course it would not do for it to break mid beat now would it? Although she would make you go pick another one and then sit there while you stripped the blossoms off of it knowing in moments she was gonna tan you some more.
She took another step and was just raising the stick for the first lick, when I
suddenly went down on one knee and burst into “Mammy…… how I luv ya how I luv
ya, my dear old Mammy!

I saw the anger flee from her eyes and the corner of her mouth twitch. What made her laugh the most I think was the fact I was singing Mammy to the tune of Swanee River [both Al Jolson, black face songs for those wondering].  So it was all around wrong to be singing it at the top of my lungs whilst covered from head to neck in her expensive makeup smeared all over my face but that’s how scared I was and having to think fast well it was what it was.

Now I don’t know what you would have done but I tucked that little nugget away for future use. I had no idea what I would do with it, just that someday it would serve
me well and if I was lucky, save me another ass whupping.

Now I know what you’re thinking, you’re thinking, okay so now here’s where I tell ya all about how I became a comic and my first gig. Well I’m not, nope see, I figure here is a good time to learn ya some things Now here I am speaking directly to you up n coming young comics, cuz I realize I got lucky, I found out what my funny was in a real natural way so it wasn't as influenced by years of watching and emulating other comics. Don’t get me wrong I had/have some favourites.  I meant I found out who I was first, before I started listening to them. sort of like
the saying no thy self! Or whatever!

Comedy 101

Anyone, I repeat anyone, with the guts to try can become a comedian; however,
becoming a good comedian is a tad more difficult.  How many amateur nights have you watched several wanna be hopefuls tank like a lead balloon, the flop sweat pouring down their face, the palms of their hands so wet they damn near electrocute themselves holding the mic?

Once off the stage they pour over their material going over and over it, wondering
where the hell they went wrong.  Now it might very well have been the jokes, but maybe not for the reasons they think. So before you jot down those ten sure fire killer anecdotes, that your friends laughed at and assured you would ‘kill man’, STOP, step away from the keyboard
and ask yourself the million dollar question.

What is it that makes me so darn funny?

Do I tell funny stories that make not only my friends, but anyone I tell, laugh so hard
they spit out their false teeth? Or maybe you have the gift of snappy one liners and zany zingers that can set someone in their place.  Perhaps you've got the gift of mimicry and can toss out an imitation of some one famous or create your own unique characters that take on full lives of their own. No matter what style of comic you are, the more familiar you are with the topic, or
the more original the concept, the better the chances of it being funny, at least to
someone.  While imitation is considered the highest form of flattery that only really applies to
impersonations. Let me tell you why.  In today's easy access to footage of most well known comics out there, simply trying to fashion yourself after one of them, when it may not really be your niche  
is a mistake.  Especially when you can so easily be held up to said original for comparisons and
are found lacking.

Comparisons are made all the time, just watch the entertainment shows when they
are hyping some new on the scene comic and listen to the comics they are being
compared to.  The key difference is the ones that really know their stuff didn't imitate, they were
inspired by them yes but, then they brought their own flavour into the mix. Meaning there's a big difference in taking from a fellow comic that which fits you and works for you, then trying to just get up there and be that other comic.

So after first establishing who your influences are, let's figure out if you’re that type
of comic.  Are you a story teller, a one liner, A prop comic, current events, political humorist,
insulting or self deprecating, or a cultural humorist using your ethnicity as a tool?

That’s a lot to think about right?  Ask yourself when do you feel the most in the zone, where it all feels natural and organic, which one or ones from the list above seems to fit you?  Then move on to step two.  Like a dedicated actor studies their craft, your next step is to go to school.
Sit down in front of your TV and watch not just the comics that you aspire to be
something like, watch the new batch of up and comers that have made it at least to
a half hour special.  You’re watching not just to learn what they do right, but also to get a real good feel for what they still seem to be doing wrong.  Pay close attention to how those comics handle it, when their set seems to be going down hill.

What worked to bring that crowd back around? After hours of study, it's time to put your new found knowledge to the test. Keep in mind it is also important to stay open to the moment. What if you step out on stage and you hit them with the first couple of jokes and they don't seem to be biting, but then out of the blue you ad lib something maybe in response to a heckler, but the result is the crowd digs it.

Take the risk go in that direction, if they continue to come with you then go full steam ahead.  At the end of it, if you realize you didn't use any of your prepared stuff don't sweat it, write down what you can remember of what you just did and store it away.

Why? Because you just might need to pull it out again.

Tip material that works for one crowd may tank with another and the smart comic
knows to keep their options open.  If you get a chance before the show take the time to go mingle among and read the crowd.  Or if you're lucky enough not to be the first one on stage, pay attention to what is working and not working for the comics prior to you. Then ask yourself will the stuff I have planned do the trick, be ready to switch up if you have to.

Not that it works every time, but as I said earlier learning to read the room helps
because if the crowd is not the greatest to begin with a plan b or c won't matter
much but at least you will know and recognize what part of it was you and what part
of it was a lacklustre audience.

Let’s say they are part of a big convention of funeral directors out on the town after
a long day discussing death. Maybe just maybe, they really do just want to have a
couple of drinks and retire with that great looking blonde from the bar.

So learning not to take it personally when it is clear the audience is just not into
comedy by anyone, not just you is another component to store away.

In between gigs, practice, practice, practice. Now some would tell you to do this
while looking in a mirror or when with friends, but I say if you really want to know if
you are funny, then take it to the streets.  Just about any time is the right time to start the funny, [with crime scenes and accidents being exceptions].

The best places I have found to try new material: Waiting in line at a movie
theatre, on the bus, on the subway, at the bus stop, a dentist’s office, the bank, in
line at the DMV, in a coffee shop........See the point is if you can make total strangers laugh in mundane settings, you just
might have something there.

Added Tip; when you do this impromptu gigging, I have one suggestion don't use
any of your established material, wing it since most likely that's what you did when
you first discovered you were funny in the first place.

Not only will that put you to the test, it will also give you new material.

One last pearl of wisdom, make yourself laugh!

Any comic will tell you three minutes can be the shortest, or the longest time of your
life. So when you sit down to write material, if you don't get a little glint in your eye,
or a chuckle or a big out and out belly laugh from it as you are writing it, maybe it
isn’t funny.


Sunday, March 20, 2011


Alex Wood

Picture a young man of 18, ready to try his hand at stand-up comedy.  He is confident, ready to take on the stage.  He knows he will do great, it is inevitable for him.  He plans to have one great show, then an even better show, and his third show will be on the Tonight Show (or other late night equivalent).  He is psyched!

This was a young Alex Wood, a current darling of the Ottawa comedy scene, and without a doubt one of the future superstars of comedy.  Fast forward six years, and Wood has learned a lot.  He has learned that there will be good and bad comedy shows, and that the road ahead will be paved with hard work, rejection, and lots of partying.  At age 23 Wood demonstrates confidence on stage, with comedy that appeals to all generations.  His comedy is clean, but with an edge.  His laugh is loud, and when he laughs and smiles on stage, the audience wants him to succeed, and most often he does.  

Wood always knew he was going to do comedy.  There was no reason for it, he just sort of knew.  He had three careers to choose from:  NHL, Professional Wrestling, or Comedian and lucky for comedy the first two did not pan out. Wood has taken to the stage, and slowly developed himself as one of the most charming young comedians today.  In 2008 he participated in the prestigious Just for Laughs Homegrown Comedy Competition, and in November, Wood was signed on by Funny Business, the agency that delivers the talent for Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Clubs, as well as corporate and fundraising events.  This is a big thing in the comedy world; they don’t just sign anyone.

When Wood is on stage, he looks like he is having the time of his life.  He looks like he is merely 
having a fun conversation with many people.  When asked how he feels on stage, Wood states that he is not taking the time to enjoy being on stage.  He is like a robot at times, and goes on auto pilot.  He is thinking while talking about what to say next, how to use things in the audience as humour.  He is processing many factors while on stage, making decisions as he goes as to the best next steps.  He is a technician, who leaves the stage analyzing his performance.  No matter how good or how bad he feels he did, he tries to remain neutral, and not go to extremes in emotion.  

At this time in the interview Wood is interrupted by his mom.  I cannot hear what they are talking about, but I think she offers to make him a sandwich.  This is charming, and serves as a reminder that comics have to work hard while making minimal money on their way to the top.  Some work 2-3 jobs, some live with their parents, but this does not mean they are not successes, it merely means they have chosen a career that requires significant sacrifice to make it to the end.

Alex Wood

A little embarrassed, Wood asks if this can somehow look cool in the article.  Assured he will not come out as a mama’s boy, we continue.  Wood likes the opportunity to develop a small relationship with the audience.  He loves, absolutely loves when an audience member falls into a trap, and yells something out to which he already has an answer to.  He has a joke about the “C” word, where he states out saying “women don’t like the “C” word”  (he says ‘C word’, not the actual C word).  At times a woman will yell out “that’s not true I love the C word” to which he counters “CLASSY women don’t like the “C” word).  What looks like a spontaneous moment to the audience, is a pre-thought out response to situations like this, allowing a stronger performance and that much more fun for the audience.

Wood shares an experience he had while on the road.  He was performing for 500 male mushroom farmers, and not the good kind either.  The show was in a barn, part of a small city fair.  Right before he was brought out, the promoter said to Wood, “don’t worry, we talked to everybody about throwing things at comedians like last year”. A young man in front of 500 drunk mushroom farmers gets scared when given this information right before he is to go out.  The promoter then goes out to announce him, and reminds the farmers that they are not to drink and drive.  There are 40 beer cans piled up high in front of each farmer with pick up trucks lining the parking lot, and the mushroom farmers begin to HECKLE the announcer over drunk driving.  Wood is scared, but gets out there and not only made it out alive, he makes them laugh.   

Alex Wood, Julien Dionne, Trevor Thompson
Wood’s favourite comedians are Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappell, Mitch Hedburg, Norm MacDonald and Mike Wilmot. Wood goes on to discuss his favourite Ottawa comedians.  He enjoys Matt Carter, Nick Carter, Trevor Thompson, Greg Schroeder, Peter Gunstra, Dave Atkinson, Don Kelly, Geoff Mackay, Wafik Nasralla, Mike Beatty, Julien Dionne, and he adds diplomatically but unnecessarily, Jenn Hayward. He is worried he has left someone out.  Asked why so many favourites, he tells me that what he loves most about comedy is the camaraderie with the other comedians.  He loves it when they go after a show, grab a beer or late breakfast, make fun of each other, and just having bonding fun.  He is often taken with the fact that so many strangers from various backgrounds can come together and bond over the love of comedy.  It is an unspoken brotherhood, then sheepishy adds that he enjoys the females as well, citing Melissa Morse, and yet again, Jenn Hayward.  It is clear that Wood loves not only being on stage, but the comedy life itself, and nothing is more charming that someone enjoying his job, giving kudos to those he respects around him.  Or he is a big suck up, but let’s go with the first thing.

Overall Wood will go far in his comedy, of this JH5 is certain.  Wood himself is insecure, and discusses with his comedy friends the need to get out there and promote himself.  He knows that promotion is a big part of comedy, and that people can be perceived at a status above where they actually are.  He is frightened by the idea of a website; he has an inner critic, and imaginary voice saying that he doesn’t deserve this, just be quiet, do your work and don't draw attention to yourself.  He knows deep down people will be supportive, but has his fears, and will need to conquer them to take the next steps in moving forward.  At age 23, he has done much already and will be able to take the next step in self-promotion when he gains more confidence.

After discussing self-promotion,, Wood becomes agitated and feels he has lost something valuable to him.  He puts the phone on hold, then comes back and says “it’s okay, I found it”.  He assures me that it is okay to say what he lost, but I will leave it to your imagination.  If you know comedy, you know there is only one thing that would put a comic in a panic like that if lost, and rest assured, Wood found his.

Wood will continue to do comedy for the rest of his life.  He uses a poker term as being ‘pot committed’; he has put too much time in to give up.  JH5 fully supports Wood and is proud to showcase him as WHO TO WATCH.