Chapter 15: The Shitteth Has Hit The Fanneth

I’ve never been good at telling people I’m a comedian. It took me years- almost decades. And once I did start blasting the fact, I was annoyed cuz then someone always says,

“You’re a comedian? Tell me a joke.”

But in my younger years, I always felt like I had to say, 

“I’m a comedian/bartender.”

Cuz that was the honest truth. Humble? Maybe…

But that second job always helped me cross the border.

(Canadians know what I’m talking about.)

When the customs agent asked what I do for a living I was swift to pick the better of the two careers. 

“I work at Boston Pizza!”

Sure, “worked” would have been more accurate, since technically I was moving to Huntington Beach for a guy who convinced me I was his soulmate in a nightclub in Las Vegas, but why mention THAT? I still have a warm pay stub in my purse with OVER TIME on it because I’ll need to buy Billabong shirts once I land.

Even if they call my boss to verify I work there he probably won’t hear the phone ring. He’s still using his keys as Q-Tips to clean his ears. Every other word is always,

“WHAT?”

But luckily it didn’t come to that, so I continued into Little America, aka that part of every major Canadian airport where your passport says you’re officially in the States, even though you’re still on Canadian soil eating Tim Bits. (Donut testicles.)  

As I get on the plane, I hope I have a seat close to the TV screen. I lost my glasses sometime after I “finished” university but never replaced them because who cares? I don’t have to read chalkboards anymore. Why waste the money? But in this moment, I was really worried about how I was going to watch Cameron Diaz in The Sweetest Thing.

When I land at LAX, my first fear is,

“What if I don’t recognize him…”

Maybe I DID need new glasses.

But I got a new passport and that seemed responsible enough. I was quite confused by the fact this was the first year they DIDN’T let you smile in your photo. Weird… Isn’t dental work how they identify dead bodies? Why would they want you to hide teeth in an essential picture? They should MAKE you smile. Added security, cuz every one notices an over bite or snaggletooth. Anyway, this is just a round about way of saying I’ve looked like shit in all my passport photos every since.

As I walk into the arrivals area to look for my suitcase and now boyfriend, I’m approached by an older man.

“Hi, how are you? I’m so sorry to do this, but my bag got lost by the airline and all my travelers cheques were in there. I just need $20 to get a cab. Could you please help me?”

Seems legit. I hand over $20, even though the Canadian dollar was so tragic it cost me $1.46 to buy one American dollar, so my life savings turned into $1600 USD. Whatever. That should last for a while.

I see a guy I think could be Mr. Huntington Beach, wearing checkered Vans and a Hurley baseball cap, looking bored sitting on a bench. It’s 2002, pre-smart phones. If you didn’t bring a book to pick someone up at the airport you were staring at baggage carrousels and counting fanny packs. He looks up and gives me a nervous wave. I walk over.

“Is it you?”

(Facetime really would have helped. All these phone calls and AOL chats didn’t do anything for remembering what he looked like.)

“Yes!”

He seems a little upset I forgot what he looked like. Or he’s pissed I missed my first flight. But I sit down beside him and hug him. He warms up immediately.

“You’re just as hot as I remember.”

“You are!”

Phew. I was so scared I looked gross after traveling across the continent. Plus I’m so much paler than him. I tried going to the tanning bed a couple of times in Ottawa, but I always got scared it would break and I’d land on all the burning hot bulbs. (I think that eventually made it into a plot point of one of the Final Destination deaths.)

We cruise south on the 405 in his Ford F150, the preferred ride of surfer dudes in SoCal. He blasts punk music, appeasing me only slightly with a version “A Thousand Miles” I had never heard before. Due to my lack of knowledge in this genre of music, I assumed all songs were by Blink 182.

The exit for Beach Blvd approaches. I can’t believe I’m going to LIVE on BEACH BLVD… it all seems so surreal… (A phrase we all use at 23, eh?) We ditch the two suitcases I narrowed my life down to in his townhouse and head to Fred’s Mexican Cantina to meet his friends. 

The Huntington Beach pier looks so cool. As I hear the waves of the Pacific Ocean crash, I feel so far away from Ottawa. I can’t help but think,

How crazy is it that you can just LIVE somewhere else in the world when fate takes over…

 (By spontaneously purging your job, car, boyfriend and apartment.)

I’m a little spaced out and tired at Fred’s. I didn’t worry too much about my lack of personality since I was fighting a three hour time difference. Plus I had already met his roommate in Vegas (who I liked) and my “bf” had trash talked the other girl at the table so hard I didn’t worry too much about impressing her. (Classic 2000’s! Trash talking people you hang out with on the reg. lololol.) On the way home, he took me to the Del Taco drive-thru, because I had never had it before, and he said it was a California delicacy. 

But as I woke up the next morning, I realized there were a few loose ends I forgot to tie up before I left Canada…

Like for instance…

I forgot to tell my parents I was moving.

Oopsies. It must have slipped my mind. They live in Vancouver. I couldn’t even use them for a ride to the airport, so how were they to know?

And remember how I refused to give my family my cell phone number?

Well, Daddy Walkinshaw sure did call my sweet Glebe apartment in Ottawa. And my roommate sure was home and picked up.

“Hi, is Christina around?”

“No, she JUST moved to California, but if you talk to her can you tell her Kïrsten says HI!”

A few days later, I get an email from my cousin Debbie in Surrey. (Ya, Kristeen. I said SURREY! I know you’re excited.) The subject line reads:

THE SHITTETH HAS HIT THE FANNETH!

To be fair, the part of this conversation I was avoiding was less about moving to Orange Country and more about my issues with discussing boyfriends with my parents. A girl with my level of turnover can’t mention EVERY guy to mummy and daddy. (Using those words makes me sound posh but I assure you I was upper white trash at best.) I had to be sure a guy was lasting at least four months first before my introducing them to family.

Soooooo….

Should I wait another two months to respond to the email?

(This is me and my cousin Debbie and she will LOVE I used this pic.)

Chapter 10- Let Me See You Twirl

It was hard to believe my Ford Festiva was surviving Ontario winters, but it was. As a broke 21 year old girl, I believed oil changes were a luxury, possibly even a myth. I was more focused on the price of gas. My dad used to tell me to go to Chevron, but considering he was on the other side of the country and I didn’t have his gas card anymore (Reality Bites style*) he’d never know. He also approved of Petro-Canada but I still filled up at Mr. Gas.

As a young comic, having a car made you very workable. You’d be surprised how many comedians in Ontario don’t have cars. Sure mine probably classified as a golf cart, but the lightening bolt on the door and the saggy muffler made it quite recognizable if you were waiting for me to pick you up. 

And speaking of my dad, I had a new opener that was going quite well.

“My dad just confessed to going to the strip club… he was very honest about it, “Christina, just so you know, I didn’t like it, I’d rather use my imagination and I’m not going back. I just went there to sell a car.” I was like, “Wow…. Thank god I wasn’t working that night. Mom must have been in the champagne room.”

I soon came to hate that joke, cuz obvi the punchline wasn’t true. The premise was though. I wanted my material to be honest.  But it kept working, so I kept doing it.

Especially since I needed the time for all the road work I was getting. Me and my comedian bff Jen Grant were booked to play Barrie, Ontario. Our careers were finally starting to take off. 

We had a strong young road comic game plan. We’d drive four and a half hours to Toronto, stay on Jen’s friend’s pull out couch in High Park, then drive an hour to Barrie every night. (We had no friends north of Bloor Street at the time.) Since the Barrie club was just Thursday-Saturday, we got spots on the Wednesday night show at Yuk Yuk’s at Yonge and Eglinton. There was an all women’s show sponsored by a fruity lube, something that actually would have been more practical for an all-male show in hindsight.

The Toronto comedy scene was stacked with strong female comics. They had four… maybe five. Very progressive. Kristeen Von Hagen, Laurie Elliot, Martha Chaves, and headlining was Jessica Holmes. Being in Toronto felt kind of big time. My stomach starts to get in knots as Blitzkrieg Bop plays.

There was one table in the corner you couldn’t sit at, cuz that was reserved for the owner. But there was one beside it, where comics would sit. Since it was an all female line up, I guess the male comics who showed up were just browsing. A guy who I’d seen on CBC’s “Comics” sat next to me. He smelled quite “earthy” but was very cool and friendly. I told him my favourite joke of his to confirm it was him.

“You have that joke that goes, “I’m a depressed narcissist… Basically what that means is I wake up every morning and think  “What’s the point?” Then I look in the mirror and go “Oh yahhhh….”

Hahaha! Still makes me laugh as I write it. That comic is obviously the amazing Alan Park. Being in Toronto was exciting. It’s one of those cities that everyone else in the country hates. And thus, I’m attracted to it. 

The show was amazing. I met the owner who I got invited into the office with. He told me I should move to Toronto. I said “Totally!” This seemed like the place to be. Then I asked him where exactly Barrie was.

The next night, we drove up the 400 to our glamorous franchise Yuk Yuks. Downtown Barrie is actually quite cute. Looks fun, has energy. But that’s not where the comedy club is. It’s in a more industrial part of town beside a 24 hour gym. Because if there’s two things that belong side by side, it’s a comedy club and a gym.

For what Canada might lack with a low glass ceiling, the Barrie Yuk Yuk’s made up for it’s very high actual ceilings. It felt like performing in a dimly lit school gymnasium.

But what happens on stage almost doesn’t really count sometimes. Comics, when given proper green rooms, will barely even check out the show until they’re about to go on stage. So that creepy room with jizzy couches in the back of the club is where most of my weekend is actually happening.

I feel bad saying I forget the host. That seems like something that still holds up. I remember the headliner though. Big guy who wore a wrestling belt. Very elegant, as you can imagine. He might have been seasoned on staged, dealing with audiences, but he definitely seemed new to working with female comedians. 

When you walk into a green room, there can often be this aura of arrogance to one comic sitting on the couch. I truly don’t think there are that many headliners of this nature in Canada, because we each typically have two very barely scene tv credits, so the ego never gets that big. But once in a while…

You encounter a man who’s confidence is something you wish you had in high school. Only less creepy. 

He sat on the couch in a green room like he was Santa Claus. It looked like he expected us to sit on his leg every time we walked in the room. I’m acting like I saw through this at the time, but the truth is…

I didn’t.

It was always responsible to get to the club early, (this club was known to doc your pay if you didn’t) you end up having quite the pre-show hang. Me and Jen sit on one couch as the headliner sprawls on the other (in modern day we’d say “manspread.”)

Then he says, 

“Why don’t you two girls get up and twirl for me. Show me what you got…”

I awkwardly get up, do a 360, and sit back down.

But Jen has a different reaction.

“If you think I am going to twirl for you, you better think again. As if I would do that!?!? Who do you think you are?”

Oh ya, that’s what I meant to say.

FUUUUUUUCK!

Why did I do that?

Is it too late to change my mind? I didn’t know we were allowed to be assertive. Part of me calmed myself down thinking “I’m wearing my Silver jeans. They’re baggy. He didn’t really see much.” 

This moment haunts me to this day. Why was I so complacent? How can one woman say,

“Go fuck yourself!”

And I go,

“Okey dokey! No problem!” 

It didn’t help that this man seemed to kill on stage. For what comics lack in their off stage etiquette, they sure do make up for on stage. It kind of makes you let it go. Maybe if he bombed I would never have gotten up and twirled.

The idea of boundaries is huge today, but back then when I heard the word I just thought of Boundary Road in Vancouver. 

But here’s the great part of road comedy. You can always pray you never work with that comic again.

OR… 

You can grow some balls.

Guess which one came first?

(Here’s a pic of me and Jen on a couch during happier times. Really quite bummed I don’t have a lot of photos of my early years in comedy. Obvi new comics will have 8758439784758389 of them.)

*I really did the Lelaina Pierce gas card move as a teenager, but I ONLY filled my Aunty Marion’s car. We’d put all the gas on my dad’s card, then she’d pay me cash half of the actual cost. She got half price gas, I got free money. A win-win scam for both of us. This is why I don’t add my family on social media. These stories can’t come out. My dad might sue his sister. 

Chapter 4: I’ll Be The Best Three Minutes of Your Life

My only goal was to get on that stage. To get up against that brick wall in a basement on Albert Street, mere blocks from Capital Hill. I was in the right neighborhood to do political material, but I decided to stick to what I know- having small boobs and a recent loss of virginity. (Must have been one creepy set list to find in the greenroom.)

At the time, Yuk Yuk’s was the only place to do stand up in the city. There was no where else to run a set before my first time at the major club. I couldn’t binge watch the pros because the only thing I had access to were social psychology ITV tapes at school, and I was already 33 hours behind on those. (To be fair, they WERE loaded with “the difference between men and women” material, just in a much dryer form.)

There was no where to practice but the mirror. And in the car on the way to the gig, with my high school BFF Lesley. She moved to Ottawa from Vancouver after visiting and falling for one of my best guy friends. (My wingman skills are unparalleled.) I drove out to the west end to pick her up from her job at Rogers Video so she wouldn’t miss the show. In hindsight, I realize I could have asked her to comp me a rental of Raw or Delirious. Ooops. Typical me, having a good idea 23 years too late. Instead, I would just use my experience playing Pepper in my junior high school’s production of Annie as guidance for stage presence. 

Lesley was more nervous than I was. From the second she got in my car she was freaking out.

“OH MY GOD! Tell me all your jokes now! You gotta practice!”

I was hoping we’d rock out to “Peaches” by The Presidents of the United States, like high school. But if she wanted the jokes, I’d tell her. Couldn’t hurt. 

“People said university would open so many doors for me… They just didn’t tell me they’d be bedroom doors.”

Lesley bursts out laughing.  

“I think soap opera characters are doing way too much acid… Nobody has that many flashbacks on their own.”

(A little something I wrote in honour of The Young & The Restless, re: last blog.) 

She laughs even harder, choking on her cigarette. (Don’t worry, she rolled down the window, like a classy 90’s smoker.) I was killing in the car, but this is my friend laughing. Of course she’s supportive. Who knows what will happen on stage. 

This was pre-social media, but the news I was doing stand up traveled rather virally anyway. I don’t think as many people showed up to my Zoom show last night, and they didn’t even have to leave the house. I had a ton of friends and frosh from Carleton that wrangled a cab in a foot of snow to be there. When I walked in the show room, I felt more like I was hosting a party than a performer. I recognized half the room. This was Ottawa in 1997. Getting into stand up comedy wasn’t exactly your average life choice.

Everyone was excited. 

I was shitting my pants.

(Don’t worry, I didn’t actually. This was before I liked blue cheese.)

I noticed the club was a little different than last time.

Oh yeah, that’s cuz the last Wednesday of every month is “smoke-free.”

I remembered.

I hope these losers who don’t smoke are at least good laughers.

I didn’t know where to sit. Of course my friends were like, 

“Sit with me!”

It seemed a little weird to go from a table in the audience to the stage though. The girl at the door, Stacey, had pointed out the table where all the comics hung out, but I also didn’t feel like I belonged there. I’m not a comedian yet

I ended up standing in a spot against the bar that was the worst possible place for anybody trying to sling drinks that night. This was before I had any experience working in a bar, and I would officially like to say sorry for camping there. 

I was doing five minutes and on seventh. I had no idea back then if going early or late was good, but I did like that I was following Don Kelly. He was one of the comics I saw the night I came to just watch the show, and he was hilarious. I figured I could ride his wave if nothing else. (Cut to me in LA, years later, where people oddly feel secure following somebody who bombs.)

The host was killing, but also leaking beer from his pint glass. As I nervously waited to go on, he intros me with a classic: 

“Ohhh it’s her FIRST TIME!!! She’s POPPING HER CHERRY! WOWOWOWOOW!” 

He fucks up my name, but that’s happened so many times in my life they’ve all blurred together. I think Air Canada takes the cake for printing Christina Wankinshaw on a boarding pass. 

I know it’s a hack line now, but at the time I was very proud of what I did when I grabbed the mic. Looking over at the host as he stumbled off the stage, I said:

“I remember my first beer too…

(That was my inner Pepper for sure.)

The cheers of so many friends relaxed me. What that meant for the future was unclear. I couldn’t stack the crowd every night. Would actual strangers like me too? (I could see Lesley laughing VERY loudly, just in case.) 

I have no pictures of my first time on stage. It’s strange cuz I distinctively remember the blare of flashes while I was up there. Cameras weren’t exactly inconspicuous back then. Plus a lot of my friends had those Fun Savers where you could literally hear them wind the film after every shot. 

The jokes went well. Since I knew there were so many Carleton students in the crowd, I knew it would be easy to take some shots at my own school.

“I go to Carleton…. (applause.) It’s the 42nd best school in Canada. Let’s give it up for the U of K.” 

Even though I was instructed to look for the red light when my time was up, I couldn’t seem to find it. When I got off stage, the manager greeted me in the greenroom.

“Oh I’m so sorry, I didn’t see the red light.”

“That’s cuz it never went on.”

I break out into one of my big cheesy smiles that you might recognize if you know me. I couldn’t help it. What a compliment! They didn’t want me to get off stage!

“You only did three minutes.”

Oops. To be fair, my style in the beginning was more “set up, punch line, tag.* Was I in trouble? I start to panic. The manager interjects.

“It’s fine. It’s better to leave them wanting more. In general, you want to start strong, and end strong. If you can evenly distribute good jokes in the middle, hopefully you can connect the dots until the whole set is a straight line of solid material. You did good. You should definitely call in for more spots next month.”

Shit. Now I have to write another three minutes of material.

I mean FIVE. 

You can’t tell the same jokes a second time, can you?

I had sooooooo much to learn as a comedian.

And at this point, I had barely even interacted with any…

Get ready.

(I’m from the generation of comedians whose first head shots are black and white)

*My earlier material didn’t actually have tags.

Chapter 1: Diary “A-ha” Moment

Chapter One: Diary Aha Moment

I’ve been doing stand up comedy for 24 years and still feel like a total loser. Not sure if it’s admirable or embarrassing I’m still chasing my dreams, but the 90’s seem to be trending again, so I might as well attempt to throw my amateur comedy career in the nostalgia mix. It hurts a little knowing you could fit six Midge Maisel careers in the span of mine. Does this blog already feel depressing? Stay with me. I’m actually a positive person. Watch me turn this around.

When I still had a day job, I felt guilty calling myself a comedian- I’d say comedian/bartender. (You don’t have to do that, btw.) Now I’m back to feeling uncomfortable declaring I’m a comic, cuz like most of us, I’m barely even doing it right now. The future is a wild card, the present feels numb, but the past is sitting all pretty, waiting to be graded.

I’m sure the last year has been both introspective and retrospective for us all. Having created an act bragging about being single, you know I spent a LOT of time alone in 2020. (I moved to New York on March 1st, so you know I have impeccable timing.) But I wasn’t totally alone. I had myself, in different versions. An entire book shelf of me. I’ve written in diaries since I was eleven. I’ve dragged them all back and forth across the continent multiple times as I try figure out what fucking city I’m meant to live in. I tell myself I’m lugging them through life because obviously I’m going to write a book one day, but it could be that I just don’t want anyone to find/read them. I don’t even trust USPS with them. I FedEx’d them here. And if you’ve ever shipped a box of books, you know it ain’t cheap. (It’s also a workout carrying them up your five story walk up.) But sentimentality can’t be replaced. Plus there’s no way I would remember half my life without these diaries. I’m simply prepping for Alzheimer’s. I can’t wait to re-read the story of my life when I’m in the old folks home spreading STD’s, as I hear they do. (It’s socially acceptable after 85.)

I have a tradition I do by myself every New Year’s Day: I pull a diary off the shelf and read the entire thing. I think it’s smart to start your year reflecting- figure out how not to fuck things up this year. Having no job currently, I had time to real them all. (Sadly there was no option for me to put this on my Goodreads page.) That’s when I had my inciting incident for this blog:

Sure I can’t DO comedy right now… 

But I can tell the STORY of my comedy…

It’s something. And it’s Covid compliant. Plus, the Internet lets you put anything on here. Have you seen it’s work?

This blog is gonna be quite the ride. If stand up comedy is a game I’d say I’ve played all the levels:

Open mic-er

Feature/Middle

Hide all signs of being a comedian from family 

Host 

Move to Hollywood too early

The road 

The shows you called “The road” but really you just drove five hours for fifty bucks

Comedy competitions

“Sent” back to Canada

Headliner

Comedy festivals

TV Tapings

Blog

Optioned my own TV show

Dated comics (could be a full other book)

Gone viral

Podcast

Another podcast

Two more podcasts

Move to Hollywood too late

Vegas

Performed for the troops overseas

Cruise ship act (THE FINAL LEVEL!)

I’ve done everything except save the princess. (You know, become famous.)

Having my own personal George Bailey moment re-reading all these diaries really put things in perspective. They almost made me mad at myself. (Again, positive person, I will pull it together in the end.) 

I feel like I said “no” to all the things I should have “yes” to…

I feel like I said “yes” to all the things I should have said “no” to…

So here I am, re-reading my life from the point I was literate. How did I become a comedian? Why am I still doing it? Am I trapped in the dream of my 18-year-old self?

These blogs I’m going to release are chapters I’ve been compiling for years now. If you know me, you’ve heard me say I’m “writing a book” for at least the past five years. (Sometimes I bail on comedy shows saying I have a “deadline.” LOLOLOLOLOL.)

Somehow my work ethic for the long term has been interrupted by the instant gratification of social media. A cute pic. A funny Tik Tok. A clever tweet. You convince yourself these sort of posts are a pretty good work day, then go back to doing nothing. But then you wake up the next morning and waste hours looking at other people’s posts until you feel like that avocado you bought when it wasn’t ripe yet, waited too long to actually use, finally cut it open and now it’s rotten. I hope this blog doesn’t make anyone feel like that. If it makes you feel any better, I’m 42. It’s taken me this long to figure shit out and I’m only half way through the pile.

There was part of me that was thinking,

“Don’t do another blog…. You’ve exposed your personal life online enough…” 

But then I thought:

“I also don’t want to forget anything when I finally publish a book. Might be good for all the people from my past to add their memories and/or fix mine. I’d like to save myself from a few law suits if possible, so feel free to tell me what you think I’ll get sued for.”

So in the spirit of my Tinder Tuesdays, I’m going to post blogs every Tuesday. Even though these stories are more about comedy than sex, I promise…

There’s a LOT of over lap. 

Move over Bridget Jones. I know more Hugh Grants than you do.