Big Comedy Go-To

Cool People Doing Cool Things

Meet Jayson McDonald. I've mentioned him within these pages before, mostly as the producer of one of my very favorite little festivals - London's Big Comedy Go-To (coming up in an April near you!) But Jayson is also the creator of some of the most awesome Fringe shows I have ever seen (including one that I was so very proud to be a part of The Last Goddamned Performance Piece). The first McDonald show I saw was in Ottawa in 2008. It was called Boat Load and it just blew me away. In a previous post I said of it that "I never realized until then that one person could do so much on stage with so little and still tell a beautiful and compelling story."

I remember talking to everyone I knew at the Fringe Tent about Boat Load and how amazed I was by it, so much so that I think I saw it twice. The general response from people in the know was along the lines of "well of course it is, haven't you seen him in Robot?" Oh Giant Invisible Robot, how you have haunted me since then.

Giant Invisible Robot was Jayson McDonald's first solo Fringe show and it has always been an incredible success.  It had played at the Ottawa Fringe Festival the year prior and, somehow, I had missed it (if you can believe it, there was actually a time when I didn't see everything).  In 2009, I started my own touring adventures on the Fringe Circuit and Jayson became a good friend. He's produced Giant Invisible Robot multiple times to unbelievable success everywhere he's gone, but somehow I always missed it. I would never be in the same city at the same time. Robot became my Polkaroo. This went on for FOUR goddamn years. It got to the point where I was asking Jayson if I could just give him some money RIGHT NOW would he just do the show for me.

One person shows work that way, right? Unless they take place on roller skates, in which case I will tell you I am wearing the wrong pants and can't give you a personal performance of Roller Derby Saved My Soul.

I thought this trend was going to continue even after hearing that Giant Invisible Robot would be clearing a path of destruction all the way to the Gladstone Theatre in Ottawa, because, BLAST, I was going to be in Toronto. But then Fate intervened. It just so happened that I would have an audition in Ottawa on the very same day that Robot would be opening. Now, my plan was to attend the audition and then boogie back to TO in time to catch my roommate's opening night of Dying Hard because, I don't know if I've mentioned it before, but I love my uber talented roommate very much. When she caught wind of my plan and realized that I hadn't seen Robot yet ("What do you mean you still haven't seen it? How is that even possible?" - see my response above), she convinced me to stay in town to watch it. I'd be able to catch her show later on in the week anyway, but this could be my only chance to see Giant Invisible Robot. And, in her words, I just HAD to see this beautiful show.

And you know what? She was right. So right that I sent her flowers. The show is as worth it as everyone has told me it was.

Well, what are you waiting for Ottawa? I waited FOUR years to see Giant Invisible Robot, you shouldn't wait another minute. It's at the Gladstone Theatre until Saturday. And if you're feeling extra keen, stick around on Friday or Saturday night and catch another personal favorite of mine, Paul Hutcheson, in Third Time Lucky, right after Robot. That is one awesome night of theatre right there!


If you are a regular follower of this blog, you are well aware of my absolute fan-girl obsession with a little festival called the Big Comedy Go-To in London (ON). I had attended the first two festivals, which brings together some of the best stuff on the Fringe Circuit with some hilarious local acts (and from a town that brought you Paul Hutcheson, how could the locals NOT be funny?), mixes them all together into one giant cocktail of awesomeness that gets delightfully shotgunned down your throat by master bartender mastermind Jayson MacDonald. Now in its third year of existence, I was tired of being a simple looky-loo and desperately wanted to participate. Safe in the knowledge that I would (finally) be performing my one-woman show at the Ottawa Fringe, I figured if I could get something ready for this April festival, by June I would be laughing.

April was probably the most stressful month of my life.

Swamped with various work projects, I toyed with the idea of quitting EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I have to send out a huge thank you to Chris, Linda, Emily, Tim, Margo and everyone else who listened to me rant and offered constructive criticism when all I really wanted to do was go hide in my room and throw my laptop out the window. Somehow, through what can only be magic and the bending of the space-time continuum, it all came together.

I arrived in London late Friday night after spending the day doing re-shoots for a student film I worked on in Hamilton. Though the timing of the re-shoot was not the best, the offer to buy me a train ticket to London (and the total wonderfulness of the director) convinced me to do it.

Before I had even walked into the pub where that nights events were taking place, I got dragged into participating in an Improv Cage Match. Thinking this would be a great opportunity to "use the chair," I agreed to play. About a dozen improvisers get mixed up and put into teams of two or three with people they have never worked with before. The audience then decides who brings the most funny and the winners move on.

My team got eliminated in the first round. This stupid contest was obviously fixed.

I found out that my tech time was scheduled for 11 am the next morning. That said, my billet's house often dubs as after-party central, which means getting more work done or, you know, sleeping was out of the question. Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em in the hot tub, is what my mother always used to say...

With less than two hours of sleep, I was up and at 'em, rewriting scenes over breakfast while burning my sound cues before the venue opened. Tech went well, as did the rehearsal photoshoot for the festival. I followed that up with a lunch outside with festival organizer Jayson MacDonald before participating in a panel discussion on comedy. These discussions where always my favorite part of past festivals so I was thrilled to be invited into this one.

That done, I quickly grabbed a tea (coffee jitters be damned!), printed out a fresh copy of the script for my technician and myself (I had decided that this would be a staged reading after all), and got ready for my show. As I put on my roller derby gear, I tried not to let my nerves get the best of me.

And you know what? It was awesome!

It was a very friendly audience that laughed and was with me throughout the whole show. After, I got some great feedback from people I respect and realized that, yes, I do have a show in there. I could finally breathe. A little.

After a quick bite, I came back to watch some of my favourite Montrealers, Uncalled For, in their new improv show, Trial by Jury. It was brilliant. These guys are amazing. And I now have a bit of a girl crush on the lone female member in the troupe.

But my night wasn't over yet. We still had the "Big One" stand-up comedy night to get to. And yes, I was participating in that one too.

After I was done, I felt the adrenaline leave my body. I was falling asleep in my chair, but toughed it out until the end of the event. I passed on the post-show festivities and took a cab to my billet's, secure in the knowledge that he was out of town and I would therefore be able to avoid any after-party at the house.

After what was probably the best night of sleep I'd had in months, I woke up feeling happy and creatively refreshed. I had great Easter breakfast with a bunch of the festival performers before heading back to Ottawa.

Thank you London, thank you to my billet Jeff, thank you to the Big Comedy Go-To and Jayson MacDonald! But most of all, thank you to Peter Janes for believing in me and this show before there was even anything to believe in. I would not have been able to do it without your support.

Ottawa Fringe won't know what hit it.

Just Shoot Me Now

The last time I wrote a play, I was torn apart by the critics, lost my shirt (metaphorically) and my best friend (literally). So you can probably understand why writing a new play terrifies, nay petrifies me. Though I've been talking and talking about it, my show about Roller Derby, lets be brutally honest here, is barely past the concept stage. Because every time I want to get something done, I freeze. Or something comes up. I need to do just one more hour of data entry for the GCTC. I need to create a better chart for Odyssey Theatre. Hey, a benefit performance for Evolution Theatre's next show sounds like an amazing idea! Let's do that! Please. More work. More distractions. Get so exhausted that I can't even focus my mind, let alone write something coherent. Theatrical. Let's do anything and everything except write a godforsaken play that will probably suck balls and tarnish any goodwill I have built up as an artist.


People have been asking me how it's coming along and I want to throw up in my mouth a little. I can't even look you in the eye. I want to run away, hide in a deep cavern, preferably underwater, never to be heard from again. Because for some reason there are people out there who actually believe I can do this. People who have donated time and money and encouragement. To me, those people must be fucking crazy. I feel so very unworthy of those people.

But the safety bar has come down, the ride has started its slow ascent up that giant hill and it doesn't give a shit whether or not I'm scared of heights. There's no getting off now. My money has been handed in, scheduling is currently underway and, like it or not, I've got deadlines that demand to be respected.

So, you heard it here first:

Roller Derby Saved My Soul By Nancy Kenny Directed by Christopher Bedford

Big Comedy Go-To - London, Ontario April 23, 2011 - 7pm

Ottawa Fringe Festival - Ottawa, Ontario June 16-26, 2011

Venues and Times TBC

Nancy's MUST SEE List at the 2010 Calgary Fringe

I was beaten to the punch.  Another local Ottawa blogger has already put out a pretty stellar list of things to see at the Calgary Fringe this year AND HE'S NOT EVEN GOING TO BE HERE! So go ahead.  Click the link and see what The Visitor has to say.  See if I care.  I'm just going to go ahead and put out an almost identical list below.

Actually, the main difference with his list and mine is that he's actually seen all of those shows, whereas I've been saving up until Calgary to finally catch them all.

So without further ado, here's what I think should not be missed at the 2010 Calgary Fringe Festival (have you downloaded the App yet?)

Of course, you just HAVE to come and see The Last Goddamned Performance Piece, featuring yours truly and the incredibly talented Ben Meuser.  The show goes from hilarious to touching to hilarious again in 2.5 scenes.  And everything will go wrong due to the actions of a certain ass-faced ex-boyfriend.  You will enjoy yourself, I promise!

Actionable - This show has gotten a lot of buzz throughout the Fringe Festival Circuit, in no small part to Bob Wiseman's history with Blue Rodeo and the fascinating subject matter.  There are already three or four Calgary Fringe preview articles that include him as a show to see.  On a personal note, I just met him in a Starbucks in Calgary and he was really nice.

Antoine Feval - The incredibly funny Chris Gibbs (who I saw in Toronto recently and had no clue he would be here as well) has another one man show that I am just dying to see after the brilliance that was The Power of Ignorance, which I saw at the Big Comedy Go-To in London two years ago.

Dale Beaner and the Turtle Boy - missed this Best in Venue winner in Ottawa and again in Toronto.  I was thrilled when I looked at the program and saw it was here.  Caught the two guys in this show at the Midnight Cabaret in Ottawa and vowed that I would see this show if it was the last thing I do!

Phone Whore - Cameryn Moore has pretty much been doing the entire Fringe circuit and I promised myself I would see her show in Calgary.  Everyone I've talked to who has seen this show has been affected by it and I can't wait!

SEEKING - The cast has changed and now includes Ottawa locals Zach Counsil (who is my stage manager for The Last Goddamned Performance Piece) and my former doppleganger Celine Filion (which Ottawa audiences will remember for her turn in TLGPP).  You can be sure I'll be there to support them with this new incarnation of the show.

The Honeymoon Period is Officially Over - I saw the amazing Gemma Wilcox last year in Ottawa when she did Shadows in Bloom and regretted never having seen this one when it was in town a few years prior.  You have no idea how happy I was when I realized that it was being put on at this festival.  The woman is a veritable chameleon.  She will quite simply blow your mind.

The Peter n' Chris Show! with Peter n' Chris!! - won best duo at the Ottawa Fringe Festival.  I have a soft spot for people who are vain enough to repeat their own name twice in their show title.  Oh and EXCLAMATION MARKS!  I honestly don't know what this show is about, but I do know they bring on the funny.  I like the funny.

And last, but not least, one of my most favourite Fringe performers of all time, my dirrty muppet and yours! Mr. Paul Hutcheson and Third Time Lucky - This show is Rated "R" for "Rock Your World" - This is the one show that I absolutely, 110% DO NOT WANT TO MISS!! (you know, except for mine...)

If there's anything at this festival you feel I should have mentioned, please feel free to bring it up in the comments section.

I'll be seeing you at the theatre! (or the bar...)

Nancy's MUST SEE List at the 2010 Toronto Fringe

I'm currently in between shows in Morrisburg.  With two performances left, I'm fighting the blues by focusing on the trip I'm going on tomorrow to the Toronto Fringe Festival.  I'm itching to get my hands on a program, but until I do, here's a list of shows I would like to catch while I'm down there. In the spirit of my past Must-See lists, I probably have not seen these shows already and can't comment on them directly, but each one comes with it's own pedigree as to why I want to catch them.  I've seen enough Fringe now in the past 8 years that you can probably count on what I'm putting down here, but if that's not enough, fellow performer Alex Eddington's list has a lot of overlap with mine.

I won't be linking to each individual show description, but the whole list can be found here.

First up: The Ones I Missed in Ottawa!

Although I was able to see 15 shows at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, there wasn't enough time to see everything I wanted.  Here are some of the shows with great buzz that I'm planning to catch in Toronto.  We had two Best of Venue winners in the Duck Wife and Dale Beaner and the Turtle Boy.  There was also the absolutely stunning Lindsay Sutherland Boal's Purely Cabaret and Jonno Katz's Cactus: The Seduction.  I also heard really great things about Phone Whore, but I plan to catch her in Calgary.  If you're not going to be in any other Fringe cities, then I highly suggest you see her now.  I really want to see MAL.  Rachelle Elie's concept really interests me.  Oh and although it's not the same show, I really think it's about time I saw something by Barry Smith.  This time he's got Me, My Stuff, and I: a Multimedia Comedy.

The Ones I've Already Seen

Having been a fringe patron for so long, there's bound to be stuff that I've already seen at various other festivals.  Here's what I know is bound to be good.  Rob Gee's Fruitcake is a hit wherever he goes and I remember enjoying Raven for a Lark (though be warned it's not exactly a comedy) when I saw it in Ottawa last year.

The Ones from my Favourite Non-Fringe Festival

I met them at the Big Comedy Go-To in London (ON) last year and so I'm looking forward to Jimmy Hogg and Christel Bartelse's Wisdom: Part One & ONEymoon.  Same goes for Rob Salerno with Big in Germany (who's got the very awesome Mikeala Dyke working behind the scenes).  Morro was flying solo at the time in what I had dubbed "the bravest and funniest piece of theatre I'd seen in a long time" so I'm excited to see her again with her partner in Morro and Jasp GONE WILD.  Oh and the Go-To also first introduced me to the amazing work of the Cody Rivers duo (gosh, the Go-To is quite the festival now, isn't it?) and one of it's members wrote Poison the Well, which stars the fantastic Elison Zasko (who was one of my Fringe Crushes in Ottawa this year.  That talent! That style! That accent!)

Everything Else that Is Probably Going to Rock my World

Speaking of rocking my world, Die Roten Punke is back with Die Roten Punkte: KUNST ROCK (ART ROCK). I don't know what it's about, but I want more of this:


Monster Theatre has a soft spot in my heart for the Canada Show from many moons ago and I think they win the prize for longest Fringe play title ever with The Shakespeare Show: Or, how an illiterate son of a Glover became the Greatest Playwright in the World.

Can you believe with all my years doing Fringe, I have yet to see something by the "undisputed" Gods of Fringe like TJ Dawe and Keir Cutler?  It might be time for me to correct that with Lucky 9 and Teaching Shakespeare respectively.

Some of the guys from Uncalled For are involved with Dance Animal & You & Me and Me & You (this last one includes Kirsten Rasmussen who is one of the funniest improvisers I have ever seen).

Oh and remember BASH'd? Well the guy who created that, Chris Craddock, has got a new show called PUBLIC SPEAKING.  It's been getting A LOT of advance buzz in every article about the Fringe I read and I just hope it isn't sold out before I get a chance to see it.

So that's abou 20 shows in one week and doesn't include everything else I will hear about once I'm on location.  I can't guarantee I'll get to see it all - Toronto Fringe has yet to consider me a VIP like it's Ottawa counterpart has and money is tight now that my contracts are ending - but I will try my best.

What are you going to see?

Still Think You're Funny?

It seems like ages now that I was at the Big Comedy Go-To in London (ON). I've been wanting to write a wrap up of the event but I dove right into a school tour with A Company of Fools (which just ended today and is the topic of another blog post) and simply did not have the time. If you want to catch up, you can read all about my first day at the festival here.

That Saturday I slept in for the first time in what felt like ages (even more so now that I've been getting up at 5:30-6 am because of the school shows). Something like 10 or 11. It was bliss. The friend I was staying with had left to go teach an improv class, so I went through my morning routine, grabbed some coffee he was kind enough to have made before heading out, wrote my blog post, and went out for some food.

At 4 pm, I was the first one in line for a panel discussion with many of the performers on what it's like to do what they do. I was so ahead of the pack that I actually helped with the chair set up.

I really enjoyed the panel and I'm glad it's become a regular occurrence at the festival. I don't know how non-artistic people find it, but for me, it makes me feel like I'm not alone. It makes me realize that even the amazing, wonderful, talented people out there who do all this super cool and funny stuff have the same doubts and fears and small bank accounts I do. I had taken some really great notes of this discussion, but unfortunately since my phone was stolen (I've now had it returned, minus the SIM card and everything saved on it), I've lost everything I had jotted down.


Just know that I found it all very inspiring. And I still adore Paul Hutcheson.

I then had dinner with Uncalled For and friends before attending their production of This Is All Your Birthdays. As I said in my last Go-To blog post, I had seen this show previously at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, where it had (justifiably so) won the award for Best Ensemble. When I saw it, there were four guys performing it. This time there were three. And some scenes had changed. It was well worth seeing again. These guys can do no wrong.

That was followed up by some cool sketch comedy from many people I had never met before and then some Improv with Sex T-Rex, Fully Insured, and more Uncalled For.

And then, the big one: The Improv Cage Match hosted by Mikaela Dyke (who I only realized later was in Reflections on Giving Birth to a Squid, which I saw in Winnipeg at the Fringe and is the one who I reviewed with "very strong acting from the lead actress whose name I have unfortunately forgotten" - Glad to know I've now corrected that oversight). The Cage Match (which unfortunately was falsely advertised as I never saw a cage) took almost every performer from the evening, threw them into groups that had never worked together before, and had them compete improv style for the publics affection or elimination. The winning team would walk away with 2 pounds of gummy bears. Oh and honour or something, but really we just all wanted the gummy bears. Yes, I did say "we". Mikeala asked me earlier in the day if I would participate. Since I am crazy, I said yes.

How it all worked: 4 teams all do some short form. At the end, the public votes for the best teams. Top 1 & 2 move ahead. Teams 3 and 4 then compete and the audience decides who stays. I got put into a great group, but our improvs definitely weren't the strongest. We'd always end up in an elimination round, but somehow, thanks to some strong people, we'd end up on top.

We got second place! And gummy bears were shared all around.

I had to leave super early the next day (or more accurately, later that morning) since I had rehearsal in Ottawa in the afternoon. That said, the opportunity to reconnect with old friends, the new friends I've made (including a performer I will be potentially billeting throughout the Ottawa Fringe), the new skills I've discovered I have as a performer, and, of course, the great shows and the passion that goes into creating this festival makes it something that I will probably be supporting for the years to come. You should too.

Oh and if the festival organizer is reading this: next year, more Elvis please!

Can You Help?

This was going to be a post about the last day of the Big Comedy Go-To, but since it's now over that can wait a bit. This is a post about my first day performing with A Company of Fools in Shakespeare's Interactive Circus. The show is very fun but also probably the most physically demanding piece I've ever had teh pleasure of working on. And, as with most Theatre for Young Audiences (or TYA), we do the show twice at day with probably about three hours to spare between performances. In those three hours, we must tear down the set, change out of costumes, pack everything up, eat, travel to our next destination and set everything up again. I'm exhausted but exhilarated at the same time.

Performance wise, though I had a few blocking (and by blocking I mean choreographed dance routine) issues, everything went really well.

On the personal side though, things were not as good. We performed our first show in a school cafeteria and we were told we could leave our things in the teachers lounge right next door. During the last bits of the show, I saw a group go into our room. Apparently, it's also used a class. Since, I was on stage, I couldn't exactly go over there. I had left my bag open because I assumed the room was secure for us.

When the show finished, one of the actors and I walked over. We were met by a teacher who was just leaving. We asked about our stuff, she said she moved it all to another table. I went to my bag. Some of my stuff had "fallen" out (lipstick, keys, deodorant, and some of my clean clothes). I looked for my iPhone. I couldn't find it. My fellow actor offered to call it. It went straight to voicemail. I started to panic. I never turn my phone off. It's always on silent or vibrate, it should not go to voicemail. I emptied out my bag and everyone looked around our things.

My iPhone was gone.

Also gone from my bag: an apple I was going to eat as a snack. Would this be considered irony that my apple products are what have disappeared?

I know it's just a possession and it's kind of silly for how upset it makes me, but I feel so gross right now. My entire life is in that phone and this is such a violation of my privacy. If someone wanted to, they could have access to my email, facebook and other accounts. They have phone numbers, private text messages, work videos, notes I've jotted down about ideas and shows, and all of my photos & music. It's also an expensive loss. Not just the phone, but also the apps and music I've downloaded on to it.

I don't really know anyone's number by heart and almost everything on there isn't backed up since my desktop exploded back in December. My hardrive was synched to that phone.

I've tried calling it and friends have left texts with requests to call if found. One friend even put in that a reward would be offered. A part of me keeps hoping that it's all just an innocent misunderstanding and so I've been holding off on getting it deactivated, just in case. At this point, I just want it back. But the phone is still off. Rogers can't track it if it's off or if they threw away the sim card, which is a very distinct possibility. I've spent my afternoon at the police station waiting to file a police report and the school tells me they are "looking into it," whatever that means. The officer at the police station was very kind, but I'm not sure if anything can really be done.

So, instead, I'm putting it out there on the interwebs in the rare instance that someone might know something. My phone is a white iPhone 3GS with no case. It was "lost" this morning, April 26, somewhere between 9:30 and 10:30 a.m. at Canterburry High School in the teacher's lounge next to the cafeteria (some people at the school also called it the teacher's cafeteria). When you turn it on, the screen-saver is a picture of my cat sleeping in a suitcase.

I honestly won't press charges or ask any questions if I can get it back in one piece. I'm even willing to discuss a reward if found. You may keep the apple (that's not the reward, but you can keep it).

If anyone knows anything, please leave me a message below or email me: nancyjkenny at yahoo dot com

So You Think You're Funny?

After a terrible drive through construction, past accidents and the Toronto rush hour parking lot, that took 8 hours instead of the usual 6 and a half, I finally made it to London late enough to miss the first evening performance of The Big Comedy Go-To by Jimmy Hogg. The second show of the evening was The Canuck Cabaret with Paul Hutcheson and Sharon Nowlan. Now, I’ve spoken of my love for Paul before. He’s an amazing storyteller and an incredibly charming performer. He’s also one of the funniest people I’ve ever seen, so I was excited for this new bit. I had never met Sharon before but chatting with her at the bar afterward we had one of those “How have we never met before since we know so many of the same people” kind of conversations.

The show really did not disappoint. It was exactly what it said it would be: a cabaret filled with musical numbers, stories, dance, and even an incredibly brilliant and moving light show by Sharon. If someone saw the show and knows what those things she was using are called, please let me know below!

My only critique is that I would like to have seen them do more bits together. They started off strong with a hilarious opening musical number; Paul told new stories similar to what he does in his one man shows; Sharon did an amazing silent piece with a doll on her shoulder and her right arm as they danced and flirted together to some Sinatra (you really have to see this to believe it, I can't describe it well enough - it was incredible!); some individual stories about Canada; light show; and Paul closed everything on a 3 minute reenactment of Dirty Dancing that made me want to go watch the movie. Though funny the movie bit felt kind of anti-climactic. Perhaps a closing number together would tie things up nicely?

After that, we headed to the Black Shire Pub for THE BIG ONE! A stand-up cabaret where most of this weekend’s performers were going to be participating. I grabbed myself a good seat near the front and I was thrilled when I realized the first person up would be ELVIS! And he threw another scarf at MEEEEEEEEE!!! OMG! OMG! OMG! SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!


I’m sorry. Where was I?

Oh yeah, the stand-up.

Throughout the evening, many of the performers asked why I wasn’t participating. To be honest, I didn’t really see myself in the same league as these people. Most of them have toured extensively with their own material and regularly do things like stand-up, improv and sketch. Me? I feel like I’m just a novice. And I’ve only recently begun to feel, after seeing the crowd at the Airport Security screening bust a gut at my on-screen antics, that I am even that funny.

But watching my friend Cristel Bartelse up there bravely testing out some hilarious new material from her upcoming Fringe show (coming to a London Fringe near you!) did a little voice inside my head go: “Hey. I can do that.”

Maybe it was the beer talking. It could very well have been the beer talking, but watching performer after performer go up there, the voice got louder. Suddenly, I started getting this nagging feeling that I HAD to go up there. If I didn’t, I would regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but someday. Soon. And for the rest of my life. I turned to Christel and spoke out loud: “I have to go up there.” Her smile was wide and encouraging. “Do it!”

I walked over to producer Jayson McDonald. I had no idea what I was doing. I had no material planned but still I asked: “Do you have room?” He sent me over to the host with an urgent “If you want to do it, do it now.”

The host, Kristian Reimer looked amused by my request. I still didn’t know what I was going to say. Then I caught the current performer talking about vampires and the Twillight phenomenon. Bingo! I had my opening bit. “I have to go up now.” Ian MacIntyre from Approximately 3 Peters was wrapping up his set. “Ok,” Kristian said, “you’re up.”

I think I threw up in my mouth a little.

I was announced, there was music, I made my way up to the stage and set my beer down on a stool like every professional comic I’d ever seen.

Taking my cue from the previous set, I started: “I think vampire slaying would be a very difficult career move.”

There’s a chuckle. I’m awkward but in a completely adorkable way.

“I mean, I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to stab someone in the chest before…”


Guffaw, really? Someone guffawed? And I was off!

I talked some more vampire slaying and Dustbusters and ideal careers and Princess Leia and my new found obsession with the King. It was surprisingly easy to flow from topic to topic. It was like writing a blog post, but out loud.

I finished on a good note. People clapped and some more funny people took to the stage, bringing down the house. It was a grand evening. I got a lot of really great comments and feedback throughout the night from people I absolutely adore and respect. For my first attempt at any kind of stand-up, it was not bad. Not bad at all.

Today’s the last day of the festival (already?) and I’m now off to enjoy as much as I can. There’s still time for you to check out a free panel discussion with some of the performers, a show by Uncalled For (my former billets who won Best Ensemble with this one at the Ottawa Fringe), a sketch comedy triple bill, an improve triple bill and finally an IMPROV CAGE MATCH!

For all the details, check out The Big Comedy Go-To website.

Something Wicked This Way Come

And by wicked, I mean wicked cool! ...

Sorry. I'm writing this right after a performing a preview performance with the Fools and I've got a bit of Mackers on the brain. But you know what else is on my brain and one of the many sources of my current delight? The Big Comedy Go-To!

You may remember from last year (and if you don't, just clock on both those links for a refresher) that I attended this most awesome of festivals. In fact, my picture, to my delight, has actually made it on to the official festival website.

I'm thrilled that the festival survived it's inaugural installment and is now back for it's sophomore year, though not bigger, definitely better than ever. Last year was amazing, but I'm really glad some improvements have been made. For instance, no shows overlap this year (which unfortunately spreads out your audience), it's been trimmed down by a day to end on Saturday (better for those folks who work on Monday mornings), and it finally has its very own website.

But what exactly is the Big Comedy Go-To? Let me put it this way: take all the best, funniest, most jaw-droppingly cool shows you've ever seen at any Fringe Festival and throw them together to form a megawesomesuperfunhappytime festival. And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the Big Comedy Go-To.

And how good is it? Well, I am going to be driving from Ottawa to London (ON) FOR THE WEEKEND just to be able to indulge in some of the awesome.

Checking out the lineup (producer Jayson McDonald has an eye for the funny), it's definitely not going to disappoint. It all starts tonight, which I will unfortunately miss, but at least I've already seen The Boneyard Man and Boatload in the past (in fact you may remember that Boatload constantly makes my many Must See at Fringe lists). So, if you are anywhere near London (and even if you're not, trust me, it's worth the trip), you should definitely head on down to check those out this evening.

I'll be arriving tomorrow and you can be sure I'll be keeping you posted on all the happenings right here and on Twitter (which I only now realize I didn't have at this time last year... wow).

In the meantime, you might be wondering what I'm so far excited to see the most. Well, as much as I love Jimmy Hogg, Paul Hutcheson, and those boys from Uncalled For and Sex T-Rex (is there a movie they can't dismantle?), my heart is currently going pitter-patter for The King himself.

Sigh. I think I still have the scarf he sweated on and threw at me last year.

Nancy's MUST SEE List at the Winnipeg Fringe

Many of you probably remember my MUST SEE List for the Ottawa Fringe Festival. It was, after all, one of my top posts in June. I figured it would be nice to do the same thing for the Winnipeg Fringe. Now, this list won't be as extensive as the Ottawa one for the following reasons: 1) I don't have a VIP pass in Winnipeg which means seeing lots of shows could potentially become an expensive endeavor; 2) If I saw your show at this year's Ottawa Fringe, I probably won't see it again in Winnipeg; 3) I don't know as many companies and their work in Winnipeg - new shows will probably be added to my list, but I might not blog about them all; 4) I'm in a new city and will need to spend a lot of my time promoting my own show.

Speaking of which, if you happen to be in Winnipeg (or know people who will be) between July 16 to 26, 2009, you should definitely come out and see No Exit Upstage. Buy your tickets in advance by clicking the link in order to guarantee a spot!

Why should you see my show? Well, here are some amazing reviews from the Ottawa Fringe to wet your whistle.

Alright, now on to my list, in alphabetical order:

52 Pick Up I saw this show quite a few years ago in Ottawa when it was done by super couple Natalie Joy Quesnel and Stewart Matthews. This time it is performed by the amazing Gemma Wilcox, whose one-woman shows have always been ahit. It is written by Fringe God, TJ Dawe, and the description really says it all - "52 cards. 52 scenes about a relationship. Two actors shuffle, throw, pick up and play all 52 scenes. NO TWO SHOWS THE SAME!" If it's in all caps, you know they are serious. It's a very fun show and I can't wait to see it again... sort of. CRUMBS again for the first time I saw these guys when I was in Toronto for the COMBUSTION festival. They were impressive to watch. A very tight and dynamic improv experience. Plus, like most good improv, it takes place in a bar.

Fall Fair Boat Load was hands down my favorite show at the Ottawa Fringe Festival last year. Jayson McDonald (creator of the Big Comedy Go-To) wasn't in Ottawa this year since it overlapped with the London Fringe Festival, so I'm looking forward to seeing his new offering in Winnipeg.

Jake's Gift Ok, I'm cheating a bit because I did recently see this in Ottawa during the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. However, Jake's Gift represents everything I adore about performance: a compelling story created with love and passion, told through very simple and truthful means. Frankly, it was the only show during the MNTF that I absolutely adored and I would see it again. Scratch that. I will see it again and I'm bringing friends. Spiral Dive: Episode Two Spiral Dive: Episode One was a beautiful show I had the privilege of seeing in Ottawa. It even won an award for Outstanding Drama. I look forward to checking out the second installment of the trilogy in Winnipeg. It may be difficult however, since rumour has it they have already sold out all their advance tickets for the production.

So there are my top 5 picks for the Winnipeg Fringe Festival. Feel free to check out the full show list and let me know what you would see.

Nancy's MUST SEE List at the Ottawa Fringe

Lots of lists are popping up all over the place on what you absolutely should see at the Ottawa Fringe Festival. Having been around the Fringe for a while now, I also know what I absolutely cannot miss. Since I expect to see approximately 40 shows this year (a new personal best, beating my lousy 21, albeit while performing in 12 shows, from last year), please don't be offended if you are not on my "Must See" list. Chances are I will probably be seeing your show, but I just don't have enough time to talk about them all. Well, first up, the cheap plug. You should definitely see No Exit Upstage. In fact, I suggest you see it twice. It's very layered so you're sure to discover something new each time ;)

Ok, on to the list. First up, the LOCALS. I always make it a habit each year to see as many local productions as I can. These are, after all, the people I will most likely be working with in the future (if I haven't already) and so it's good to know what they are doing.

OREO Nadine Thornhill is one of the smartest and funniest writers I know. Some kind of Norm Foster meets Gilmore Girls. She also won last year's Best in Venue award for her play The Wedding Night, so you know she can bring the goods.

...Comes Around An all-star team of Ottawa's best and brightest artists with more award wins and nominations among them than there are people in the cast. Plus, explicit sexuality! They have two 11 p.m. time slots for all us skeevy pervs in the audience. Guess when I'll be in attendance?

Une nuit arabe The only French play at the festival and one that Evolution Theatre will be mounting in October (in English). I am very curious to see how they will be doing it in the tiny and workout inducing Studio 311.

Inclement Weather and Country Shaped Like Stars At the very least see one of them, but preferably see both. Emily Pearlman and Nick Di Gaetano are hands-down the most interesting and creative artists working in Ottawa today. I am in absolute awe when in their presence and still find it incredible they let me hang around. Both these shows fall under their new !MI CASA! banner. I expect lots of amazing things in the future from them both so I figure it best to get in on the ground floor now. Oh and in my book, Miss Pearlman gets 5 stars for every show.

The Squatter Heart By Annie Lefebvre / Directed by Andy Massingham Her preview performance at the Festival Tent last night sold this one for me. A beautiful poetic movement piece. Annie was simply stunning. I can't wait to see more!

The Beer Tent It doesn't take place at the tent, but in the Royal Oak basement on Laurier. I think I get a shout-out in the show. I want to go check. I'm vain like that. We Never Clothed Boobies. Kate Smith. I think there's a musical number too. But mostly I'm going for the boobies.

Now, for the OUT OF TOWNERS!

Like a Virgin I saw Jimmy Hogg's show in London a few months ago and you can read the review here. It was great and I will be going back to see how it's come along since then.

On Second Thought Another performer I saw a few months ago and you can read my thoughts on him here. His festival preview last night included a strip tease to MmmmBop, just to give you an idea what you're in for.

Is Shakespeare's Dead? I am not proud to say that in the seven years I've been at the Ottawa Fringe Festival, and in the seven years he's been there, I have never seen a Keir Cutler show. I plan on fixing that this year. Grandpa Sol and Grandma Rosie Watch this video and tell me it does not make you want to see this show?

Ok, so I was trying to keep this list at 10, but Annie Lefebvre made it impossible to do so.

Happy Fringing!

Nancy Kenny's No Exit Upstage, opens with a 2-for-1 admission price Thursday, June 18 at 9:30 pm and plays in Venue #3 - Studio Leonard-Beaulne.

Big Comedy Go-To - Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was in London (ON) during the Big Comedy Go-To. When I mentioned Chris Gibbs' show, The Power of Ignorance, I forgot to say that I didn't know what I had just watched... if you've seen this production, you know that this is a very funny compliment. Although it's not that funny now that I have to explain it...

Saturday started out with a decent production of Morris Panych's 7 Stories by London's Passionfool Theatre. Many of the festival shows were taking place in front of the 7 Stories set at The ARTS Project. It was nice to finally see how it was being used.

Highlight number one on Saturday was a panel discussion with 7 or 8 of the festival performers, which was moderated by producer Jayson McDonald (who deserves a big pat on the back and maybe a beer for putting this whole thing together). The panel was great because it revealed to me that people whom I consider to be incredibly amazing and talented performers are still scared shitless and think all their work is going to suck. So I guess you never get over that, huh? Damn.

Highlight number two occurred when The Circus came to town. Yes, a real circus with a clown (only Morro, rhymes with sorrow, made it out in one of the bravest and most endearing pieces of theatre I've seen in years) and juggler and the magic of Siegfried and Roy in their comeback special. Seriously, I can't believe someone would want to miss this!

Even Elvis made it out to the festival and he's dead. What's your excuse? Elvis was my highlight number three. And I'm not just saying that because I got a scarf with his sweat on it either.

I followed that up with some more improv (and my previous comment still stands) and a solid night of stand-up comedy from many of the performers. Basically, if I liked your show, I also liked your stand-up routine.

Wow, and the festivities weren't even over yet.

On Sunday, I was exhausted but saw my friend's show, He Ain't Heavy in the afternoon. This was a great new work that had one of the biggest houses at the festival. For those of you who missed it, I believe they are remounting it for the London Fringe Festival in June, which I am annoyed to say overlaps with the Ottawa Fringe Festival.

Then I stuck around for Paul Hutcheson's, Third Time Lucky. Apparently, Paul (or M. Hutcheson if you're nasty), who's shows tend to be quite explicit had promised his parents he wouldn't perform in London again in order to avoid "embarrassing" them with his material. However, he couldn't pass up the chance to participate in the festival so they came up with a compromise: a nice clean show. Paul is a giant manic ball of energy who does not fail to entertain. He reminds me of a dirrty muppet (yes, two Rs). I could watch him read the phone book (note to Paul if you're reading this, maybe I found the concept for your next show - I'm sure it would please your folks). Fortunately, I won't have to though as he is bringing his piece On Second Thought to the Ottawa Fringe.

Ah but it wasn't all good. I saw some absolutely terrible sketch comedy too. Feel blessed you will never have to know the meaning of Cake Farts.

Everything did end on a high note, however, with some really good sketch comedy thanks to Fully Insured (who really should update their website) and The Cody Rivers Show. I had seen Fully before in late December, but this time was even better than before. Perhaps it has something to do with their opening act. I can't even begin to describe Cody Rivers. It was like nothing I had ever seen before, but I know that if I get the chance, I will see it again.

So there you have it folks: my recap of the first annual Big Comedy Go-To. It was impossible to see absolutely everything, but I sure tried. This whole thing was an amazing, quality experience and I look forward to seeing it around for many years to come.

A Pre-Fringe Experience

I'm currently in London (ON) smack dab in the middle of the Big Comedy Go-To, a brand spanking new festival that includes sketch, stand-up, improv, theatre and musical comedy on the menu at three different venues over the weekend. Though I'm primarily here to support a friend, it's an awesome opportunity for me to mix and mingle with plenty of talented artists who often make the rounds of the Fringe Festival Circuit. A full-festival pass is ridiculously cheap ($50) and allows me to see everything... and so far I pretty much have. The festivities began on Thursday night with Jimmy Hogg's Like A Virgin, a new piece which he plans to tour this summer... so new that this was in fact his first public performance. I drove into town about 15 minutes prior to curtain. I didn't think I would make it, but I am definitely glad I did. Jimmy is an incredibly hilarious and charismatic performer. He had a small but very appreciative crowd, as you can see from this review. For those of you in Southern Ontario, I highly recommend you make the trek down to the newly renovated Arts Project on Sunday at 6 p.m. To all my Ottawa friends, have no fear! You will get your chance to see Jimmy at the Ottawa Fringe Festival this June. I know I'm really looking forward to seeing it again once it's had some time to develop.

A real stand-out performance for me came shortly after with Nile Seguin's Fear of a Brown Planet at the Black Shire Pub. This guy was amazing (and he's from Ottawa). His show is a bit of a long form stand-up routine, which can often be hit or miss. However, Nile delivers a smart and witty performance that made the hour just fly by. Every joke was solid and when he was done, I still wanted more. If you ever hear that this guy is doing a show in your area, drop whatever you are doing and go see it. You will not regret it. He is also doing a show on Sunday at 6 p.m.

That said, not everything is amazing. I saw some improv which was just alright. Improv is such a tricky art form. It is really difficult to do well and I have the utmost respect for those who attempt it. I found the main problem with what I saw was that people often didn't know when to just end the scene and so they'd just keep going once the joke had peaked or they'd just go for the tried and true guy on guy action, because gay-ness is funny. Then again, if I see it done again tonight, who knows, it will be completely different and may be the best thing I see all weekend... That's the beauty of improv and theatre festivals in general: you never know what you're going to get.

So that was Thursday. On Friday, I caught The Power of Ignorance by Chris Gibbs and TJ Dawe. The show was great but I was completely distracted in the venue by people coming in and out, chairs being moved around in the room above us, and staff coming by our table to take food and drink orders (um, no I'm not hungry I'm watching a play!). The turn out for this show was also incredibly low (in fact, I heard the show that came before, Who's Afraid of Tippi Seagram? had to be canceled due to nobody showing up) which was unfortunate. Really low numbers, meaning four, for Rob Salerno's Fucking Stephen Harper too. I don't know if this had something to do with the hockey playoffs or perhaps a general lack of awareness of the Big Comedy Go-To (unless you're on Facebook, it's hard to find an online schedule). Things picked up for the London favorite, The Boneyard Man though.

I've got to head out and see more shows today, but I will leave you with the schedule in case you're in the area. Come and support your local artists. They're doing some really good stuff! I'll post more later on if I manage to find another internet connection.


ARTS PROJECT 2PM Passionfool: 7 Stories 90m $18 4PM Panel Discussion FREE 6PM The Circus Show (Siegfried & Roy - The Comeback/Morro's Sorrow/Steve Seguin) 75m $15 8PM Passionfool: 7 Stories 90m $18

LONDON MUSIC CLUB 6PM Rob Salerno: Fucking Harper 35m $8 6PM Chris Gibbs: Power Ignorance 75m $10 7PM Theatre Nemesis: Which is Better? 45m $8 7.30PM Who’s Afraid of Tippi Seagram? 60m $10 8.30PM Prop Knucks/Project G-Force/ Approximately 3 Peters 90m $15 8.30PM Matt Martin: King Alive/Sexual Tyrannosaurus/You Are Awesome 90m $10

BLACK SHIRE 7.30PM STAND-UP: Your Tax Dollars at Play 90m $10 10PM STAND-UP: The Big One 120m $15

SUNDAY, APRIL 19, 2009


2PM Josh Cottrell and Aaron Youell: He Ain’t Heavy 60m $10 4PM Paul Hutcheson: Third Time Lucky 60m $10 6PM Jimmy Hogg: Like A Virgin 60m $10 8PM Alex Eddington: Tired Cliches 60m $10

LONDON MUSIC CLUB 6PM Four Lb. Beauty Pucks/Good Game 60m $10 7.30PM Cody Rivers/Fully Insured 90m $15

BLACK SHIRE 6PM Nile Seguin: Fear of a Brown Planet 60m $10 7.30PM STAND-UP: Open Mic 60m PWYC 10.30PM CLOSING NIGHT PARTY!