Archive for October, 2014


There’s an 85% chance I’m too old to still be chasing my dreams. I’m 35, I’m still a server, and my pay in comedy varies from $500 to a drink ticket. It’s cool to be a loser in your 20’s, but in your 30’s? I’m not so sure…

In the grand scheme of things, being a bartender has proven to be far more lucrative than anything creative. But how can you express the wonders of a vibrator to a man reading the paper, trying to enjoy his Kilkenny and a French Onion Soup?

You just can’t.

I’ve recently started wondering why some people quit comedy. I’m sure we’ve all had our moments. There’s no occupation immune from the idea of an employee saying, “Fuck it. I’m out.” Not even your dream job. I feel like doing comedy is like going to the gym. Sometimes you dread going, but after you go, you feel sooooooooooooo good.

So why do people quit comedy? Some do, you know. The highs of being a comedian are incredible. Amazing. But the lows of being a comedian can be painfully tragic. I’m sure you’ve figured that out by now.

I started doing comedy a week before my 19th birthday. I was young, optimistic, and fearless. Pretty much the opposite of what I am now. I went on stage in heels, (well, they were platforms-it was the late 90’s) and wore see-through shirts. (But those shirts were only see through from the ribs down, cuz again, it was the late 90’s.) I had three minutes of solid comedy. (I thought I had five, but really, I had three.)

Back then, I honestly believe my comedy had everything to do with writing. I had no concept of all the other variables. I had stage presence, probably from acing so many oral book reports as a kid. But I never took into account other things. Like how long the nachos take… Is the server nice? Who do I have to follow? Why is the last Wednesday of every month smoke-free? (K, now you know I’m old.) In fact, back then, when I was a comedy virgin, I always thought it was the best to follow someone who killed. After all, didn’t he/she just warm up the crowd for you? Now for whatever reason, some comedians prefer to follow a stinker. Revive the crowd. (Hopefully.)

Back then, I admired so many comedians. Comics who don’t do comedy anymore. That’s crazy to me. I have heros who sort of gave up. Obviously my blog last week was emotional. Why am I in a business full of people I can’t trust? I know it’s not the money. And it’s not the fame, cuz I still work at Fionn MacCools. But young or old, I still have this fantasy of being a modern day Lucille Ball- Cute… imperfect… but it just works.

So I started creeping my retired comedian friends. A “Where Are They Now” show, but the Canadian Comedy Edition. The first person who came to mind, was the first comic I ever dated. (Ya, I’ve dated comics. They tell you not to, but you just can’t help it.)

His name is Marcus Rummery. He was hilarious. When I first met him, I didn’t even know he was a comedian. There were ZERO open mics in Ottawa back then, so every amateur comic got two Wednesdays a month at the comedy club. He was always hanging out at the comedy club, even when he wasn’t on the show, so I just thought he was a groupy. Then one Wednesday, we were BOTH on the show. I discovered he was hilarious. I will still quote his jokes today, cuz they’re just that good. (The foreigners not grasping the enormity of Canada bit still kills. I’m laughing right now, and I’m typing at a Firkin by myself. They probably think I’m crazy.)

So I wrote him. What’s going on these days?!! And guess what? He teaches YOGA now. (Yeah, way to get flexible AFTER we break up.) I can definitely understand how yoga would be the most therapeutic comedy after life. I asked him why he doesn’t do comedy anymore. He said,

“I still do one show a year…”

Haha. That’s a show I’d go to.

Then I wrote one of my other fave comics from my first years doing comedy. Rob Cowley. Ya know him? Doubt it. We grew up in a pre-YouTube world. But I remember my mentality when I first did comedy. When I called the comedy club, I was advised to come watch a show, before I tried it. So I went down on a Wednesday. I made an agreement with myself that I didn’t expect to be funnier than everyone on the show. But if I thought I could be funnier than one person on the show, I’d try stand-up comedy.

Rob Cowley was not that person. He was my favourite. He had a joke about the giant check even my friends today still talk about. And now… he doesn’t do comedy. Why? He was great! So I found him on Facebook, as we do these days. I asked him why he doesn’t do comedy anymore. His response:

“I stopped mainly because of the community. I moved to Toronto early on. I really loved the Ottawa scene (where we started.) I was one of the first of our community to move to Toronto, and it was pretty lonely and soul destroying. I did the amateur nights at Yuks and did Spirits a few times (which was fun. I enjoyed it) But I just stopped… enjoying it. I also felt like the level of ego that came with the lower density of actual talent (compared to Ottawa) was hard to handle and just tiring.”

I get it. Often one’s confidence, trumps his material. I remember the first time I waited in line at the Laugh Factory in LA to do my first ever open mic there. I spent hours sitting against the wall, getting an intense sunburn, and listening to a dozen comics be “on” all day. They all seemed way funnier than me. But then we got on stage… yikes.

Rob went on to fret that he might not make sense, and feel free to use all of it, or none of it, which just verifies that he’s still a true comedian. Another interesting thing he said:

“I probably would have stayed in it longer, had I come later, when more of us were in Toronto…”

It’s a great point. You need friends in comedy. You need them on the outside, and you definitely need them on the inside. Nobody quite understands a comedian like another comedian. Rob moved before any of us had the balls to. I know other comics who moved to Toronto from Ottawa, and felt desolate while here too. All proof, that Toronto is Canadian New York! (With a slightly better bed bud record.)

I was at a show last night, trying out new material. I asked some other comics if they cared to sound off on the idea of quitting comedy. Kristeen Von Hagen said,

“I can suggest a few people who I’d like to quit comedy.”

Jeff Elliot said,

“Well, I see a lot of people quit writing comedy. But they keep doing it…

Yikes. That’s a good one. Some nights, I fear that’s me. Nothing embarrasses me more than going up in front of a room full of comics and doing old jokes. You have classics, that the crowd will for sure love, but the comics in the back of the room won’t respect you unless you take some chances. My peers are probably my biggest motivators.

Which brings me to Mark Forward. He’s a friend of mine, and he publicly quit comedy a few years ago. (Don’t worry. He’s back.) In an article the Toronto Star published he said,

“Lately for whatever reason- global warming, North Korea, or maybe it’s Justin Bieber- I have lost the love of performing. People don’t seem to show up to comedy clubs just “wanting to laugh. They show up with a “make me laugh” attitude. Cellphones are left on. Texting is rampant in the front row, and done with an arrogance suggesting it is their right.”

Mark later goes on to say that he finds it hard to continue his routine with belching drunken men in the crowd, but I fear one of those belches might have been mine.

I think about quitting comedy all the time. It’s quite terrifying. If I didn’t start it so young, there’s no way I would take it up today. I’m too tender. I barely got my act together for an Aeroplan card. And as much as my boss at my restaurant job probably looks at my availability and thinks,

“Jesus Christ! Just QUIT already.”

I can’t. I’m too scared. It’s my crutch. I’d love to take the “Leap of Faith,” but I’m terrified. What if I fail? What if I have no money? Plus, I’m actually a great server. A lot of people curse the day job. I go there thinking,

“This is so much easier than comedy…”

(Except for the lady at table 22 who keeps complaining her steak isn’t well done enough. Who likes a well-done steak? And why do you constantly threaten to NEVER come back, but then ALWAYS come back?)

Plus, I really like everyone I work with. As much as they steal my pens, I do consider them family. (To be fair, I stay in a lot of hotels. I get more free pens than them.)

So while I always consider quitting comedy, I just can’t. I love it, even though it scares the shit out of me. Jen Grant always makes fun of me when I freak out before a TV taping. This is my dream. I should be enjoying the successes. Not fearing them. I guess if I wanted to have babies that would be an easy reason to quit, but I don’t want to have facking babies! Comedy is my baby. (It cries a lot.)

K, I could babble on about comedy all day, so lemme wrap this up. (It’s garbage day, and you know how excited I get for garbage day.)

My boss at the pub told me this when I turned 30:

“In your 20’s you’re trying to figure out what you want to do in life.

By 30, you know.

By 40, you’re doing it.”

Guys. I still have time.

I think the key to this business might just be,

Keep going…

Walkinsauce

P.S. Do I need a bibliography for quoting Mark in the Star? Cuz I actually did go to university, and I facking hated bibliographies.

I recently discovered my “other” message box on Facebook. Did you know you have an “other” box? I always assumed I only had one box. I was wrong. And what I found in there is now consuming me.

As some of you remember, a year ago I got fired from Casino Niagara, after some very sexual heckling. After enduring a night of men chanting,

“Show Us Your Tits!”

and

“Show Us Your Bush!”

I complained to the manager, asking why she didn’t do anything. (We get memos from Casino Niagara telling us NOT to speak back to the crowd, among a dozen other memos.) The audience is mostly people who have been comped free tickets after losing mass amounts of money, then allowed to heavily drink, so that more gambling will occur after the show. As a girl with her Smart Serve, I’m well aware of what over served patrons look like. When I complained, the female employee said,

“Sorry. I thought you liked it.”

Obviously I didn’t like it. Who would? I’m terrible at standing up for myself, but I managed to choke up something, which inevitably got me banned from the club. (The original blog about this is on this site too.) The blog ended up going viral. It was a huge lesson in how the Internet works. It was actually kind of scary. Usually I get excited to see that little @Connect button light up on Twitter. But after my xojane.com article posted, I was overwhelmed. It was terrifying how many eyes were on me- and for such a negative experience. I turned off my phone and went to sleep at 1:00pm. I never expected my big break to be a scandal.

I never mentioned it publically before, but I have emails saved from the night after that show. (Well, I use the word “saved” loosely. I’m the kind of girl that leaves thousands of emails in my inbox. I’m super disorganized like that. Also, deleting emails seems easier on your phone than on your computer, eh?) The manager was taken aback about my concerns. Apparently I didn’t seem “rattled” enough while I was on stage. But she also admitted that she’s still trying to figure out “what comedians like, and don’t like.” Well, comedians aren’t big fans of hecklers in general, but we can deal with them if you let us. One of my favourite thoughts on the subject was what Dean Blundell said when I did his show.

“Christina, that was NOT heckling. Heckling is “You suck!” or “Get off the stage!” What you endured was sexual harassment.”

He’s right. And that’s a fight I should have fought harder for.

Through that whole episode, I was never completely honest. I always said that Yuk Yuk’s was not to blame in all this. I was scared to lose my gigs in their clubs. Nothing means more to comics than stage time. And even though I only make somewhere between $250- $600 a month via the company, I still need that money. (I blame my expensive taste in cheese.) But now that I’ve stumbled upon all these old messages, and discover how many people actually cared about me, and tried to reached me through my own agency, I’m upset again. I protected the company so that I would still have a job. But now I discover they blocked me from all this support. I’m a real life idiot, you guys. The truth is…

They were never on my side.

Before I ever blogged about the incident, I made it a Facebook status update. It got 100’s of comments. I had never had anything that serious on my wall before. Usually my statuses pertain to seeing how long I can go without a shower, or asking if any tall people wanna come over and change my lightbulbs. When my boss at Yuk Yuk’s caught wind of my update, I got a phone call from him. I was scared. I knew I was in trouble.

“I’m going to incorporate a new clause in my contracts where comics aren’t allowed to post about the company on their social media.”

For those of you who don’t know, we all have to sign exclusivity contracts when we join the company. This sites that we’re not allowed to take any work outside the company. They can’t possibly give us all enough work to live, but we all sign it, because we want the stage time. And then we all keep second jobs, or live below the poverty line. (If I was smarter, I’d know if this is actually legal.)

When my blog hit the interweb, the response was powerful. It’s weird when you think the way you’re treated is normal, post about it publicly, then learn it’s NOT! People were mad. It wasn’t long til I got a call from my boss. He was furious. Not at the casino, but at me, for speaking out. He yelled at me. The casino had been getting phone calls about my blog, and was now mad at Yuk Yuk’s. I get it. Everyone in Casino Niagara commercials are having the BEST TIME! In reality, most people leave wondering if they saved enough money for parking. (Also in my “other” box: TONS of messages from ex-employees of the casino, confirming they were treated as shitty as me.) Well, I guess Yuk Yuk’s and Casinos have something in common: Profit trumps human rights.

My boss is raging. He yells into the phone:

“I can’t afford to lose that club! They pay their bills on time! I’m not on your side! I’m on the casino’s side! I don’t care about comics! I care about money!”

I was so scared. I burst out crying. I never meant to “bite the hand that feeds you” or whatever that cliche is. He went on to tell me a story I know many comics have heard over the years.

“Lemme tell you a story. Once upon a time, back in the 80’s a comic asked me for a raise. He said, “But they’re all coming to see ME!” So I taught him a lesson. I went to a graveyard, and found a dead guy’s name. I took it, put it on the marquee that night, and the club was STILL packed. People don’t come to see a specific comedian. People come for the Yuk Yuk’s brand.”

At the time I couldn’t disagree. Who am I? Nobody. Nobody really knew who I was. In fact, one of the saddest facts of being a comedian is that a lot of people leave the comedy club, having loved the show, but never remember your name.

Then he put his 3-year old son on the phone for me to talk to. When my conversation with the toddler was over, he reminded me that he has to make money to put food on the table for his family.

“You better hope this doesn’t go to the press.”

My heart was pounding in fear.

I. WAS. BALL-LESS.

It did hit the press. Obvi. I tiptoed through the local radio and TV stations that managed to reach me. (NOBODY reached me through my agents. Nice to pay people commission to be hidden from the world, eh?) I praised Yuk Yuk’s for not being the bad guy in this. Were they ever by my side in any of these interviews? Never. They didn’t want to ruin their relations with the casino. But I never wanted to say anything bad about them, because I didn’t want to lose my gigs in Mississauga next month. (The manager there, Dom is awesome. He actually cares about comedy.)

I did everything I could to appease my boss. We both prayed the attention over this issue would go away. I have this weak habit in life of not fixing problems. I just learn how to use broken things.

I finally left Yuk Yuk’s a year later. I sent an amicable letter quitting. I wasn’t mean. I am greatful for all the growing I did on their stages. But a year after my “Show Us Your Tits, Show Us Your Bush” night, with no support from the man’s name above that logo, I felt gross. I couldn’t tell jokes under that brand for one more minute. I’m actually embarrassed I stayed that long. I had been selling my soul, for the bargain price of $125 a show.

I actually can’t believe I’m writing this. I’ve been called out for having a “fear of being hated.” It’s true. I get along with everybody, possibly even people I shouldn’t. I never read the comments on anything I do. Everything on my YouTube page was posted by others. (I’m terrified of YouTube, cuz in my opinion, that’s where Internet hate goes to soar.) I ditched this wordpress site after the incident. I was too scared to see what people were saying, so I started a new blog on Tumblr, where people can only hit little heart buttons. (Phew!) And because so many of my friends still work for Yuk Yuk’s, I feel bad speaking out against them. I know these comics really want work. Stage time to a comic is a drug. I get it. Plus, some clubs are actually ran well. Howard Wagman in Ottawa has brewed some of the best comics in the biz- Jon Dore, Jeremy Hotz, Harland Williams- (Is this a tacky time to mention this was MY first comedy club ever? How can I NOT be nostalgic of moments I had on that stage? One of my friends recently said, “I wish I could quit Yuk Yuk’s, but NOT Ottawa.”) The only reason I’m speaking out now is because I found multiple messages in my “other” box, asking me to be on Joy Behar’s show. Joy Behar!! She’s my facking hero! I love her. When I finally wrote the dude back, he wrote,

“We tried sooo hard to get you.”

Due to the exclusivity contract I had with Yuk Yuk’s, everyone should contact them to connect with me. It’s the way business is done as an entertainer. In fact, I would get in trouble if I booked a gig without going through them. But they didn’t want the press. And I never knew Joy Behar cared until now. (Though in my heart, I knew she cared! I willed her to find my story, and I apparently she did.) These days the most attention I get from a celebrity is when Patti Stanger responds to my tweets. There’s something I learned about myself this week. You can underpay me, you can send me shitty places, you can even control me… but if I find out you blocked me from meeting Joy Behar? Well…

Now I’m pissed.

When I find myself having regrets in life, I like to picture myself as Gwyneth Paltrow in Sliding Doors. Sure, maybe if I had been less of a coward last year, I’d be cooler right now… Maybe more successful… Maybe not still the owner of a three-legged couch. (I didn’t even get compensated for the $500 I lost that weekend.) But I have to convince myself that making any other moves back then would have lead me to being short haired Gwyneth. (And you DON’T want to end up short-haired Gwyneth. Trust me. I won’t mention any spoiler alert thingys, but come on people. The movie’s from 1998. You should have seen it by now.)

I often think back to that evening on the phone with my boss.

“I need to put food on the table to feed my family!”

I may be single, no kids, no fancy house… but guess what?

I have a table too.

Good riddance, Yuk Yuk’s,

Christina Walkinshaw

christinawalkinshaw.com

(I know it’s 2014, but I just got a website. I love comedy. I suck as a businesswoman. But at least now, there’s no confusion how to reach me.)