Paul Hutcheson

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!


Roller Derby Saved My Soul has opened and all I've been feeling has been immense relief and gratitude. Feedback has been very good and the reviews have been even better. Ok, so we don't care about reviews right? Right. Except we totally do. I can't help but also feel, after my abysmal previous experience with my own work, slightly vindicated. Here's a sampling:

"(Kenny) celebrates the hero in all of us, and makes us want to go out, lace up pair of skates, and like this play, kick some ass." - Hannah Christie, Fully Fringed -

"This is a feel good funny show with serious undertones. Go see it." - Alvina Ruprecht, CBC Radio

Listen to it here at the 5 minute mark:

Or read it here:

"Nancy Kenny is funny and charming." - Noreen Fagan, Capital Xtra

"...tons of laughs mixed with genuine warmth, and a transformation-to-derby sequence that must be seen to be believed... Nancy K is one of the premiere comedic actresses in town... and it sure as shit won’t be a secret much longer." - Kevin Reid, The Visitorium

"Roller Derby Saved My Soul is the kind of light-hearted, honestly funny story you want to find at Fringe – and Kenny has it for you, geared up in elbow pads and a mouth guard." - Holly Gordon, The Wig

"I can’t stress the fact that this show is pure gold." - Matthew Champ, -

"This is Kenny's strongest performance to date." - Wayne Current, (Cult)ure Magazine You can also check out a cool little interview I did with Ottawa Tonite here:

[ width="425" height="270"]

The buzz online and at the Beer Tent has been incredible, so you may want to buy your tickets in advance for one of the three performances I have left. Click the link to get them now!


Now I have a break until my next performance on Thursday night, but fear not! You will not only see me around the Fringe checking out as many shows as I possible can, I will also be taking part in two Playtime with HM events on Wednesday and Friday. The first is for Social Media Day and the second is called Beyond the Fringe. So far these events have been very interesting and well attended, so I look forward to seeing you there!

In addition, on Wednesday night I'll be involved with Chats with Cat, a special guest performer during the 11 p.m. Canuck Cabaret and quite possibly seen in a super secret event later on that night.

And if that wasn't enough, wake up early on Thursday morning to catch me on the A Channel Morning Show with a bit from my show.

Gotta love Fringe!

Nancy's MUST SEE List at the 2011 Ottawa Fringe

Every year, I put out a list of shows that I really want to see at various Fringes across Canada and every year it always becomes my most popular blog post of the year. So, without further ado, back by popular demand (I think), here's Nancy's MUST SEE List at the 2011 Ottawa Fringe.

Well, first up, hands down, you need to see my show: Roller Derby Saved My Soul. Once you've done that, you may then come back to this post and find out what else I'll be checking out.


Did you go see my show yet? Ok. You may now read on.

STUFF I'VE SEEN Being the theatre traveller that I am, there are many things coming to town that I may have already caught at another festival. The following shows are a guaranteed good-time:

Fruitcake This is Rob Gee's first time at the Ottawa Fringe, but I've seen this show twice already. Yes, twice. Once in Winnipeg and once in Toronto. It's sold out every time. And since he's in the small space that is the Arts Court Library, you can expect more of the same here too.

Canuck Cabaret Ottawa audiences will remember Paul Hutcheson from On Second Thought and Sharon Nowlan from Burlesque Unzipped. They've pooled their considerable talents together for one of the best variety shows I've ever seen. I caught a version at London's Big Comedy Go-To that only included the two of them. This time around, expect a few Fringe favorites (including yours truly!) to pop by and showcase some additional mad skillz.

Fucking Stephen Harper: How I Sexually Assaulted the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada and Saved Democracy I wonder if Rob Salerno would still be presenting this show if the Conservative Government hadn't won the election? I saw one of the very first workshop performances of this piece back when it was just called Fucking Stephen Harper at the, once again, Big Comedy Go-To (where all funny things are born). It was a great little story then and I can't wait to see how it's changed in the past three years. Ottawa audiences will remember Rob from the Best in Venue winning Balls, a funny and touching story about two friends coping with testicular cancer.

Peter n Chris Save the World Since they are two of the funniest guys in the world, it makes sense that they should be the ones to save it. Caught this one at the Toronto Sketch Fest last November. If you saw the Peter N Chris Show at last year's Fringe, you will be pleased to know that the satin jackets once again make an appearance.

PEOPLE I KNOW WHO DO COOL SHIT The following shows I have not seen, but they involve really incredible and talented people I know so I really want to check them out!

Live from the Belly of a Whale Countries Shaped Like Stars broke my fucking heart and then put it back together with glitter and cookie dough. There's no way in hell I'm missing this show.

Complex Numbers I love all things adorkable and Nadine Thornhill. Now I hear she's forgone pants for the duration of the festival. Icky icky pants. If you do not see this show SHE WILL PUT THEM BACK ON! I am pretty sure none of you want that. However, if that's not enough for you, she's the plywright behind past Ottawa Fringe hits Oreo and The Wedding Night. I once called her Norm Foster meets Gilmore Girls. Directed by the wonderful Ken Godmere, good times are pretty much guaranteed.

Curriculum Vitae Oh Jimmy Hogg! The guy is so fucking charming and falls into the category of "People I would watch read the phone book." Fortunately, I'm pretty sure he's bringing a real show to town, because where the heck do you find a phone book in this day and age? Ottawa Fringe audiences will remember him from his Best Comedy Award for Like A Virgin.

Every Story Ever Told Anything Monster Theatre touches is pure genius. They have not been back to Ottawa since 2002 with THE CANADA SHOW: THE COMPLETE HISTORY OF CANADA IN ONE HOUR. It was incredible. This time, Ryan Gladstone is flying solo and tries to tell every story ever told... By jove, I think he'll do it!

Dying Hard Don't let the fact that it's a drama pull you away. Mikaela Dyke is one of the brightest and most talented women I know working in Canadian theatre today. She wowed me in Winnipeg with her dramatic performance in Reflections on Giving Birth to a Squid and then turned everything upside down with her incredible comedic chops at the Big Comedy Go-To. My bet? This is going to be the sleeper hit of the Ottawa Fringe.

Pick Your Path Matt Domville wrote my very favorite show ever at the Ottawa Fringe. It was so good I can't remember the name right now, but it basically brought in the funny when Hercules, Robin Hood and Sherlock Holmes walk into a bar... I saw it twice. This show includes Amanda Klaman, who is funny as tits, and is a choose your own adventure type show. Like the books I used to read as a kid, there better be a way for me to cheat and see the ending before I pick it...

The Search for a Reason for Murder Remember last year's Dale Beaner and the Turtle Boy? I do! That's these guys! And they're funny!

Vagabond One of my biggest surprises at the Ottawa Fringe was Tribulations of a Failed Vigilante. I think I caught it because it was short and ended up laughing more than I had in a long time. Well, Dunk a Sok is back and it's in a funky site specific place.

Ok, Ok, I really wanted to make this 10, but I got 12 not counting my own... And there's a bunch more stuff I still want to check out!

There's French stuff, like Le rire de la mer. I'm not normally a fan of Improv, but you've got the Set T-Rex guys (more gems I've discovered at the Big Comedy Go-To) with Callaghan!, Crush Improv with Spotlight On... (and man, I would pay good money to see Cari Leslie make shit up) and the gang from Insensitivity Training who kind of sold me with this trailer for Something with Virgin and Chainsaws.


And and and I've heard interesting things about When Harry Met Harry and The Walk has strong local pedigree and and and...


This list is no where near complete. Just get out there will ya? And let me know what you see!


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.

It's Midnight, Cinderella

It's midnight, Cinderella, but don't you worry none. / 'Cause I'm Peter Peter the Pumpkin Eater /And the party's just begun. - Garth Brooks

(Being in Calgary, I felt like country music would be appropriate.)

So our Opening Night in Calgary was good.  Crazy good, but still good.  Heck, we had a reviewer that night and we were anointed later on with a lovely 4 Star Review from the Calgary Herald!  If you don't want to read the whole thing, here's my favourite section:

Basically, The Last G-D Performance Piece is a comedy about an incomprehensible performance art piece where everything that possibly can go wrong, does.

And on opening night, guess what? The lights blew out!

And we (the audience) hardly noticed. I mean, I noticed a few odd lighting cues, such as the time one of them flickered, and then left both actors standing onstage in total darkness. But since the show was about a disastrous theatre performance, I didn't give it much thought at all. Meuser and Kenny both delivered such strong, confident, funny performances that I just figured it was all in the script.

So the first show was done and all the adrenaline in my body had left in one big giant rush that left me teetering between giggling uncontrollably and practically crying with relief.  I went to the Swans for a beer with the director and ran into the gang from Dale Beaner and the Turtle Boy, which I had decided I would watch that night.

It's a fun show that really isn't getting the audience it deserves.  Please come and check it out!

After the show, the Turtle Boy gang, the Peter n Chris duo and I made our way down to what I have now dubbed "The Happiest Place on Earth" (take that Disney!) - The Fringe Club!

The Calgary Fringe Festival doesn't have a beer tent or beer gardens, but on Saturday night they opened up an awesome new venue in the back of an art gallery.  In true Fringe fashion, you have to go through a sketchy alley (made less sketchy by the string of Christmas lights along the wall).  The place has WiFi and beer.  The only thing missing is some cheap food, but one thing at a time.

The place was filled with performers, volunteers, techs and friends, all there for the new late-night cabaret event called The Stroke.  We walked in just in time to catch the end of Paul Hutcheson's stand-up set/bits from his show.  There's a nice big stage set-up and the folks from The Goodtimes helped provide additional lighting, which they conveniently had stored in their awesome and thematically painted van.

It was just pure fun and magic.  And it was so nice to know that there was now a place for all of us to get together and relax and be silly.  Other bits included a chat with Cameryn Moore, The Phone Whore, the house music by The Ben Rose Wedding Band (which is apparently one guy who I'm going to assume is named Ben Rose), some brilliantly fun accordion music from Bob Wiseman, and even more awesomely hilarious music from The Goodtimes, with special additional accompaniment from Bob Wiseman.

A huge round of applause goes out to Nicole Zylstra & Peter Strand Rumpel for putting all of this together and hosting every night.  This little hotspot was probably the only thing missing from an already pretty great festival.

Friends, if you're in Calgary, you should stop on by 1222 9th Ave SE (after you've seen The Last Goddamned Performance Piece at 922 9th Ave SE, of course!) around 11 pm as I am signed up to do something at The Stroke...

I better start figuring out what that something is going to be.

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 Ottawa Fringe

The Ottawa Fringe Festival is less than a week away and the excitement on the interwebs is absolutely palpable! But with 60 shows in 16 different venues, what in the world should you see? Well, my typical response would be "everything" but I know that's just not possible for everyone. So, as a courtesy to anyone looking for insight on what they should check out, I bring you, once again (my most popular blog post of the past year), Nancy's MUST SEE List at the Ottawa Fringe.

I won't be able to see as much as I'd like to this year, but here's some stuff I definitely don't want to miss:

First up, of course, my ONE NIGHT ONLY appearance in The Last Goddamned Performance Piece. Tickets are on sale NOW The show takes place in what is probably the smallest venues at the Fringe. I really don't know what my draw factor is, but you may want to buy your ticket in advance by clicking the big bold NOW in order to avoid disappointment. That said, if you miss my performance, you can still catch the show, with a great script by Jayson McDonald, with a different actress, the lovely Celine Fillion.

Also, the same company that is producing TLGDPP is also remounting Daniel MacIvor's Wild Abandon with Zach Counsil giving an awesome solo performance. If you missed it last year, be sure to check it out this time around.

Throughout the festival, I will be hosting Fringe performer Sharon Nowlan of Burlesque Unzipped. I met Sharon this year when I was in London for The Big Comedy Go-To. She is an incredibly talented lady and the show was directed by Paul Hutcheson, so you know this is going to be good!

Now, in no particular order, on with the rest of my list:

Shadows Written by the award-winning Margo MacDonald and featuring MacDonald and the always delightful Sarah Finn, this is one of those who's who pieces of Ottawa theatre that has the potential to be another Blood on the Moon. Plus the publicity photos from Andrew Alexander are just so smoking hot that I can't help but put one up here. A really great example on how an image can sell a show.

The Sterling Lynch Triple Bill And I thought I was busy... Sterling Lynch will be a hard guy to miss at the Ottawa Fringe. He's performing in G-Men Defective & Deliver'd from Nowhere and wrote Prisoner's Dilemna. I think you kind of HAVE to see at least one of them, if not all three (which also include the talents of some awesome people like Ray Besherah, Tim Ginley, Wayne Current, and my not-so-secret Fringe crush Nadine Thornhill.)

The Beer Tent: Reflux Obviously, the title of this piece is a play on my own blog title. Therefore, I'm just going to go ahead and think this show is about me, which makes it a good enough reason for anyone to see it. Oh! And because they are tricky (or possibly drunk), though called "The Beer Tent" the show is actually taking place in the basement of the Royal Oak on Laurier and not the actual Fringe Beer Tent.

Here's a promo for the show that talks about me some more:


Six: at Home I absolutely love site-specific theatre and this one takes place in Laurier House. It was also created by many of the fine folks in the Ottawa Stilt Union. There will be no stilts in this piece, though I'm still very much looking forward to it.

Mixing Boal: Kitchen of the Oppressed The theatre nerd in me actually quite enjoyed Pirate Jenny's Interactive Circus from last year and so I'm willing to give this one a shot as well. I'm curious to know if food will be served during the performance...

Though I don't know as much about the touring performances coming to town, here's a few pieces that I would like to put in the "pretty much a sure thing" category:

Archy and Mehitabel Saw this one in Winnipeg last year. Jeff Culbert is an amazing performer. I'd also like to point out that the show was directed by Jayson McDonald who wrote the TLGDPP that I am appearing in. Fair warning though: this is a very intelligent show. I don't recommend seeing it if you've already had a few beers because you will need to focus. Cactus: The Seduction... Jonno Katz is back again and never disappoints. The Sputniks I've never seen this show but I've heard absolutely amazing things about it and Elison Zasko from people on the Fringe Festival Circuit. I really really really want to see it.

Well, there you have it. Without counting my own show (and by combining Sterling into one entity), you've got 10 shows that you should check out at the Ottawa Fringe Festival this year. Now go get your Frequent Fringer Card, make your schedule and get ready to go!

Countdown to Fringe: 6 days

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!

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.

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.