Chapter 8: Comedy Before The “Women Support Women” Movement

I recently saw a friend promoting a fellow woman’s new comedy album. I slid into her DM’s right away.

“I’m excited to check it out! How is it?”

Then she confessed she hadn’t actually listened to it. This is a pretty amazing development. Women just support each other now? You don’t ask 82 people to make sure it’s okay to ally yourself with this person? Do you mean to tell me you’ve never had a drink thrown on your back by another woman before? Things have changed.

So let’s go back in time. I started comedy in the late 90’s. The Spice Girls roared girl power! Then broke up. There were a ton of prominent women fighting with each other: Linda Tripp & Monica Lewinsky, Nancy Kerrigan & Tonya Harding, meanwhile I’m walking around town reading Amy Fisher’s “My Story.” (It was in paperback by this point, so it was cheaper. Don’t forget books are more expensive in Canada.) It seemed as though all the Blossom and Six friendships had disappeared. 

For the most part, I was lucky. A year into doing comedy, Jen Grant entered the Ottawa comedy scene. She not only looked like my sister, but to this day is still like one. Wendi Reed, Andrea Jenson- both so kind and funny as well. There were so few female comedians, we just naturally came together. Andrea had a great joke about how cigarette wrappers could also be used as Barbie police tape. The joke always worked, cuz back then only losers didn’t smoke. Wendi had a joke about how great Jaws is, cuz he eats hot skinny chicks. I always loved watching them.

But then there were other women…

Ones that seemed to have no patience for other female comics. 

Howard was always progressive, putting on all women comedy line ups. I didn’t really understand how special they were at the time, but I do now.  The shows would get promoted in local papers with a headline like:

“Chicks Ahoy!”

(True story. I have the paper somewhere.)

And most of these shows were a positive thing but there were a few…

That made me feel like a piece of shit.

I was officially “split middling” as we called it in the motherland. Me and another comic splitting the time of the middle, or “feature” as Americans call it. The headliner was amazing, having worked on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, and the host was a woman from Toronto. She was confident, did well with the audiences, but made the green room an uncomfortable nightmare. My fellow split middler was new at the time, just like me, but I assure you she’s a monster in Canadian comedy today. Our host was determined to make us uncomfortable before we got on stage.

“Do you have a GUY who loves you?”

Split middle girl:

“Uhhh, my dad.”

It was a good answer, considering the host’s day job was stripping.

She introduced Margaret Smith as “Maggy Smith,” who is actually a different actress altogether, so that didn’t go over well.

I was still pretty new to getting weekend spots, but I was doing well and was feeling good about myself. But this particular weekend threw my confidence in reverse. I got intros like:

(The host on stage, with a worried face.)

“Your next comic coming to the stage…. (sucking in spit) she’s REALLY new to doing stand up, but she tries hard, and she keeps getting better and better every time she gets up here, so I think we should really make her feel like she belongs on the stage. Let’s make some noise for… Christina… Walk….in….shaw?!”

Taking the stage felt like walking through Planned Parenthood. Everybody in the room clearly thought the worst of me. I had friends in the crowd, and after the show they were pissed.

“I did NOT like the way that host brought you on to the stage. It made you sound like a Make A Wish kid.”

It did have that kind of vibe. And that’s not even the worst intro I got back then. Another female comic intro’d me with: 

“This next comic coming to the stage could teach me how to lose a pound or two… and I could teach her how to tell a joke. Please welcome to the stage, Christina Walkinshaw.”

You know, “Women Supporting Women” stuff.

At the time you just tell yourself,

“This must just be how comedians treat each other…” 

But a dirty part of you thinks,

“The male comics are so much nicer…”

(We’ll find out why later!)

I asked a few friends my age if they had any experiences like this and all two of them did.  

“I showcased for a female comic’s talk show and SHE heckled me.”

“I opened for a female comic and had an amazing set. When I came off stage she said, “This crowd must be really dumb.” A few days later I saw her again, and she said, “I broke up with that guy I was dating at the show. He kept saying how funny you were.”

In retrospect, I wonder if the surge of more women in comedy effected some female comics. Maybe it was fun to be the only chick in a boys club. But with more women on the scene, that attention you were used to being solely yours started getting divided. Maybe that annoyed you, or jilted your ego, as it might a male comic. I can admit I loved being the only girl watching Monday night RAW with a bunch of Ottawa stoners. (And just like comedy, more women got into wrestling.)

I’ve never been good at standing up to bullies, or anyone who makes me feel uncomfortable. But once in a while, somebody else stands up to that shitty person, and a smile beams across your face like an old school episode of Desperate Housewives. Like this anecdote:

I wasn’t at this particular show, but I heard about it. That host who rubbed the entire lineup the wrong way was performing back in the Toronto area. She had a bit where she threw a line to the crowd as she played guitar:

“Quick! I need a word that rhymes with fellatio!”

From the back of the room, another comic yells,

“Get off the stage-eeoo!”

That comic was Ian Sirota. Apparently she was a dick to him too. At least she didn’t discriminate. She was mean to all genders. And while I’m sure bullying a bully is not today’s #1 form of problem solving, I can tell you this story still puts a smile on my face. Sorry, but that’s just how we did things in the 90’s.

I’ve always done my best to be supportive of new comics. I never want to make them feel as uncomfortable as some people made me feel. Plus there’s a good chance most of them are gonna pass me success wise anyway. Can’t wait to ask them all for jobs.

I hope all this “women supporting women” culture is real. It could just be a trend some people post in support of, but don’t truly feel. On a dark day, I can’t help but wonder which female comics mock or even hate me… I know that’s blatant insecurity, but guess what?

I keep putting myself out there anyway. 

(I shouldn’t write a whole blog about women who were dicks to me then tag it with, “And now here’s a pic of me and Jen Grant!” She’s the best and we’ve been family since the beginning.)

Chapter 6: The First Comedian I Ever Dated

When you first start comedy a woman who’s either another comic or a form of God will come up to you and say, 

“Don’t date the comics.”

But just like that paperwork you signed when you got hired at McDonalds that says you are not to engage in personal relationships with fellow staff, you immediately ignore it and blow the Crew Chief. 

To be honest, when comedians first started flirting with me, I thought they were just kidding. I laughed everything off. I was still processing how comics interact with each other. There were only a few flirty ones, but I usually showed up in my clothes all ready for Olivers, my on campus bar that was very popular on Wednesday nights. I had to make my outfit both appropriate for the comedy stage and for dancing on a speaker later. 

There was this one comic… well, I didn’t actually know he was a comedian at first. Like I’ve already mentioned before, stage time in Ottawa in the late 90’s wasn’t exactly ample. Neither was finding it on TV. Internet was still dial up, no Netflix or YouTube. Even Bob Hope was starting to to slow with his specials, and my dad calling me with his Jack Benny jokes wasn’t exactly cutting it. So if you wanted to immerse yourself in stand up, you really had to come to Yuk Yuk’s.

He was always casually sitting in the area where the comics sat, seemed to know everyone, yet I had never seen him perform. I thought maybe he was a groupy. He’d come sit next to me, be friendly, strike up a chat. Our conversations were always great but I found it quite distracting the way he would eat every ice cube at the bottom of his glass once his drink was done. It was a lot of crunching sounds, and I was worried about his teeth. 

Then one Wednesday I came down for my spot and he was on the show. Ohhhhhh so he is a comedian! I didn’t let him in on my assumption he was a groupy. That wouldn’t have gone over so well since I already knew he was a Leo. (Hey, I get the information I want. Don’t judge me.)

I was nervous watching him that first time. I liked him, and wanted him to do well. Is this how Lesley felt, but in a less sexual way? (Or same sexual way. You can tell me, Lesley.)

I’m not one of these people who tells the younger generation not to date the comics. There are lots of comedian couples who are going strong. Julia Hladkowicz and Matt O’Brien, Jen Grant and Julien Dionne, Bonnie McFarlane and Rich Vos. What I would say though, is don’t fuck a comic before you see his act. That’s a level of shame much higher than your average one night stand, cuz now your creative integrity has been compromised. 

But his jokes were goooooooood. 

My parents have friends staying with us right now from the U.K. and they don’t seem to be grasping the enormity of our country. I asked them what they were planning on doing today and they said, “Well, Marcus, we’ve renting bicycles and we’re going to Calgary.” (Beat.) Might want to pack a lunch.

And his bit impersonating the fifth Beatle.

I left the Beatles in 1962 to form a a samba band. I regret nothing. You gonna finish those chips?

Oh and this one that I think was ahead of it’s time:

I recently saw Ice-T in concert… He was talking to the crowd between songs, “You know when you’re driving in your car, listening to your music loud, so the cops pull you over for no reason and you wanna shoot him in his mother fucking face?!” (Making a stunned face.) It’s just a bunch of Ottawa teenagers trying to get drunk looking at each other worried…. “No! You should move!”

He also did a Sean Connery impression but I’m gonna glaze over that. As it turns out, he placed third in the search for Canada’s Funniest Person competition. Def not a groupy. And obviously….

Now that I knew he was funny, I was intrigued.

But what should two comedians do on their first date? I didn’t want to come in with a weak idea, so I suggested Cosmic, the annual rave the architecture students at my school put on. They’d turn four full levels of our student union building into something that resembled a Montreal nightclub. (I really did go to university in a different time, eh?) I mean what could go wrong, doing your first hit of ecstasy on your first date with a comedian? 

We didn’t actually go together. We got tickets separately and met up in line with mutual friends. I wore a Le Chateau shimmery blue tank top with a black stripe across the front, with what can only be described today as yoga pants. (Back then me and my other BFF Stinder called them hoochy mama pants.) My BFF, Meghan rocked a visor similar to the one I wear currently when I play tennis.

I was very nervous about trying this drug- ANY drug, really. I hadn’t even tried marijuana yet. At the time, I was so young I didn’t even know if you put a case of Corona in the freezer to make it colder faster, you’d come home to an exploded case of Corona in the freezer. (I dedicate that memory to Meghan as well.) I knew if I did this pill, I wasn’t touching alcohol though. One thing at a time. 

Each room at Cosmic had different DJ’s and themes. To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever been to a better event. Paul Shaffer even once ranked it as one of the best parties in Canada. 

I had my one hit of E and a glow stick ready to go. To be honest, I didn’t think the drug was gonna work on me. I thought maybe they were just placebos people had to fit in on a dance floor. (Psych minor.) I was already shocked by how good the Ottawa comedy scene was, but my faith in our nation’s capital drug scene was non-existent. But an hour and a half in to swallowing that little pill….

I started to feel it. 

Most people were dancing, but I found a spongey room where you could just sit on a bouncy neon floor and listen to music. Being told the hit was “pure MDMA” I was apparently having more of a “mashy” time. I just wanted to bond with people.

Marcus made me feel very comfortable. It was weird seeing my worlds collide. This guy from my dream world of becoming a stand up comic, and the reality of being in school doing what I was supposed to do in life. Get a degree. Get a job. Get married. Have kids… all futures I had zero visions of. I was really opening up to him. I’ve always been a naturally positive person, but there’s a ton of depression lurking in this industry, not that I knew it at the time.

Full disclosure, I’m no role model in this chapter. I loved my first time on this drug. I felt a blissful feeling of just being alive. A feeling I literally used to have as a kid, where I could just space out and feel how magical it is to just exist. Marcus had an interest in LSD psychotherapy, and was more knowledgable about drugs than me. I was peaking. 

Our first date wasn’t a night of two comics roasting each other.

We were just two comics trying to feel happy together. 

Was Marcus the only comedian I would date in my life time?

Oh, no baby. I was just opening Pandora’s Box.

Marcus is a yoga instructor now. Here’s us in 2015 after he tried to murder me with his “class.” Check out his book “Shamanic Graffiti: 100,000 Years of Drugs, 100 Years of Prohibition.”