Chapter 14: What Happens In Vegas…

What year did the phrase, “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” come out? Surely it was after May of 2002, right? Otherwise how do you explain a Canadian girl coming home from Sin City just to dump her boyfriend, quit her job, sell her car, sublet her apartment, and move to Huntington Beach for a guy she met on the dance floor who convinced her she was his soulmate? 

OR could it be that at the ripe age of 23, she thought the phrase was just in reference to the yard stick cup you spend $42 on to drink a watered down margarita out of? No point in dragging that through customs. 

(On a side note, I had a boyfriend once who was very inexperienced at filling out declaration forms, and thought he had to put down the amount of money he SPENT in the States, and not the value of items he was actually bringing back in to Canada. When the border agent asked him what he spent $2000 on, he casually said, “Mostly booze.” Took a few minutes to sort out.)

Upon returning to my cozy Glebe apartment, nestled behind Kettleman’s Bagels (24 hrs, FYI) I was very entertained by the messages Mr. Huntington Beach had left. He had NO voice after getting home from Vegas, so it was hard to make out anything he was saying. I’m probably to blame cuz we chose to get to know each other beside a blaring DJ.

I suppose I could have given him my cell, but considering the phone plans of 2002, he’d have to go on the land line list, just like Daddy Walkinshaw. WHO COULD AFFORD ALL THESE PHONE CALLS? 

(Plus I still had a boyfriend for a week or two.)

Our phone calls went long and late- super late for me since he was on the west coast. He had just quit his day job, convinced corporate America wasn’t for him. He took a job at BJ’s Pizza and Grill, which only made us feel more like soulmates because we were both servers at PIZZA restaurants! (Me, Boston Pizza, respectfully.) Both chains, so he didn’t really escape “corporate,” but how would I know that in Ottawa? (And no, I’m not going to insert blow job jokes into dating a guy who works at BJ’s. I had enough of those in my act already.)

I spent many nights driving down Bank St. to an internet cafe so I could instant message him on ICQ. (In hindsight, didn’t the sound this site made when you had a message sound like “UH-OH!”?) We’d spend hours online, then I’d return home so we could talk on the phone. He’d pay for the calls because we both knew Americans tipped better. 

One day, he finally broke down and declared.

“That’s it! I’m moving to Ottawa!”

This startled me for several reasons. 

First of all, it was WAY too soon after breaking up with my boyfriend. I might have been a dirt bag, but I did feel bad. I couldn’t just have a new boyfriend landing in Ottawa, immediately living with me. (Especially when I met him on a trip with my ex. BAD GIRL!)

Second of all…

If anyone is moving, shouldn’t it be me?

I’ve dreamt of living in California all my life. So many road trips to Disneyland as a kid, cruising up and down the I-5. It always felt so right to me, even if my dad was writing off family vacations by going to car auctions and buying used cars while we were at the pool. The most embarrassing year being the one my dad bought ex-cop cars to sell to cab companies in Vancouver. My parents drove separately with my sister and I each in black and white Chevy Caprices all the way from L.A. to Vancouver. The good news? Nobody ever cut us off. (I KNOW I have pictures of this in the motherland and I WILL publish them when I turn this blog into a book.)

So Mr. Huntington Beach put the pressure on.

“Okay, then you’re moving here!”

He did live mere blocks from the beach. Paled in comparison to my proximity to the canal… 

And we did have such a good connection…

Both Sagittarius’s…

It just made so much sense!

So I walked over to the travel agent on Bank Street.

“Hi, I’m looking for a one way ticket to L.A, maybe in like two weeks?”

(That’s how long a 23 year old thinks is takes to move across a continent.)

The travel agent was nice, but concerned. 

“Oh… can I ask why you need a one way ticket?”

“I’m moving there.”

“Do you have a Green Card?”

“No, I’ll get that once I’m there.”

“Oh… well it’s really not advisable to get a one way ticket into America right now. Since 9/11…”

That day was still haunting us.

“I’d recommend getting a return ticket. We’ll make it exchangeable so you can come back whenever you’re ready.”

Ummmm, I’m moving for my soulmate. I’ll never need the other half of that ticket. But I get it.

“Sure, let’s do that.”

I handed over my credit card with a $500 limit, and she handed me a ticket to LAX.

I had two weeks to binge work before my departure. I took every shift I could, and had one last weekend on the road, going back to Kingston. This time with a comic who coincidently lived in L.A, so I figured it was a sign! The hilarious Lisa Gay Tremblay was headlining. I told her the big news. She was VERY concerned.

“Wait?! What?! No! You can’t just move for some guy you just met! No, no, no!”

Should I tell her I already bought the ticket?

“Well, when it doesn’t work out, and you’re broke, can’t afford tampons, you call me! I’ll come pick you up, AND bring tampons.”

Jokes on her. I was still wearing pads.

The rest of my time on Planet Canada consisted of going away parties. And if I can recommend one thing to people in their early twenties, it would be DO NOT HAVE GOING AWAY PARTIES THE NIGHT BEFORE YOU MOVE!

Cuz guess what? Multiple people crashed in my living room that night, none of whom had the power to wake me up in time for my flight. I woke up 45 minutes before it took off.

Ooooops.

There was that hippy part of me thinking,

“Is this a sign?”

But I refused to believe this wasn’t meant to be. Plus nothing is more embarrassing than having multiple going away parties then still lurking in town.

I’m going.

So I marched back up Bank Street to Travel Cuts.

Same girl working.

“Hey… remember when you said I had to buy a return ticket… well I should have bought TWO one-ways. I missed my flight. Can you fix it?”

That miracle worker had me on a new flight by 6pm. Just enough time for me to squish in one last round at Mexicali Rosa’s, to prep for real Mexican food in my near future. 

And just like that, I left Canada even faster than a young comic today.

(The pic of me at the top of this blog is from Vegas in 2016 but this one is from 2002. You can tell by the weight difference and the Sens hat. Thanks again to Andrea for these pics of me, her and Tania:)

Chapter 13: The Real Foosball Wives of Las Vegas

I’m going to Vegas, baby! First time since turning 21. (I was so young I told people I was going to Atlanta too, just cuz I had a connecting flight there.) Sure I’m going with my boyfriend and I don’t think you’re supposed to do that, but I’m pumped. 

I figured the trip would be good for material too. I was currently trying to write a bit about how I’m always the girl in the back seat of an over packed car who had to sit horizontally across the three people actually wearing seat belts. You had to be very cautious of hiding your head from potential cops driving by. Apparently the designated driver to drunk person ratio in Ottawa that year was 7-1. 

But I was very stoked to accompany my boyfriend to his foosball tournament at the very glamorous Riviera on the Las Vegas Strip. Don’t forget it’s 2002, so a lot of these hotels hadn’t been demolished or blown up as a New Years Eve stunt yet. The boys were going to be busy training for the big games, so all the girlfriends joint forces so we could hit the club scene. 

As it turns out, we were in luck. It would be much easier to get into the hottest dance clubs without our boyfriends. Thank god for foosball! (And in my case, some poker tables which I know my bf ducked into after hours.)

My boyfriend’s foos (pronounced fooze) partner was Hussein, and his girlfriend Tanya became my bff instantly. I lucked out cuz she was super hot- a more showered, booby version of me. Made scoring a free Vodka Red Bull here and there way easier. (My boobs didn’t grow till my late 30’s, after decades of nachos.) Also, I think Red Bull was still banned in Canada at this point, so after I had three I thought I was gonna have a heart attack.

Despite the fact I desperately wanted to get into night clubs, I was a terrible dancer. At best I had the Britney hair flip down, but all my other moves just spilt other people’s drinks. But me and the foosball wives were lucky enough to get in to the esteemed Studio 54 in the MGM Grand. (These bars seem to change names every five years to keep up with the times but I believe it’s called Hakkasan now.) Tanya and I were busting a move to Sonique’s “It Feels So Good,” but I was in my head about my bad dancing and my possible heart attack. I could see some surfer looking dudes (DUDES- that’s what we called them before the word “bro” took off) laughing pretty hard on the dance floor. I had to assume they were laughing at me. Being a few years into comedy, I was getting really good at calling out my short comings, so I confronted them.

“Are you laughing at my dancing?”

This seemed to make them laugh even harder. One guy moves closer and responds.

“What?”

(Dance floor conversations. There’s a lot of “What?”’s.)

“ARE YOU LAUGHING AT MY DANCING?’

“NO!”

“YOU CAN TELL ME IF YOU ARE. I KNOW I’M A BAD DANCER.”

I’m good at breaking the ice, eh?

‘WHERE ARE YOU FROM?”

“OTTAWA!” 

“IOWA?”

“NO! OTTAWA!

Blank stare.

CANADA!”

Canadian cities don’t always register with Americans. 

We keep chatting on the dance floor until we realize it’s a bad spot to talk. We find a bench that’s not reserved for bottle service and some how end up talking for hours. 

When the foosball wives were ready to head back to the Riv, I tried to figure out a way to say goodbye to my new Huntington Beach dance partner. My cell phone didn’t work in America, or maybe it did but my bill would be a million dollars so that wasn’t an option. He suggests me and my friends come by the pool tomorrow at New York, New York. Too bad the only thing I’m more insecure about than my dancing is my body in a bathing suit. 

That ain’t happening, but I say “maybe” anyway. We hug goodbye. 

I thought that was it, but…

My last day in Vegas I was walking along the strip when I hear, 

“YOU!”

I turn and it’s Huntington Beach guy. And I know it’s inappropriate, but I was excited to see him.

“You didn’t come by the pool!”

“Oh ya I know. I don’t like my bathing suit. Sorry!”

“Well, I’m not letting you go this time.”

And from that moment on, he was by my side. We walked the strip until the sun went down and back up again. Imagine Before Sunrise, but all the European cities are fake and made in the late 90’s. If it wasn’t Vegas and 2002, I’d have more people to text and check in with. But some how that night went completely unnoticed by anyone except me and him. That’s what happens when you meet a fellow Sagittarius who’s as incapable of being practical as you. 

The last spot of the night was an after hours bar at the Venetian. Our desire to drink was fading, as it always does around your last day in Vegas. (Back then I thought three nights should be the MAX anyone stays in Vegas, but now I’m a rebel and can last two weeks. Mostly thanks to edibles.) Our conversation takes a turn for the hopeless romantic…

“Do you believe in soulmates?”

“Fuck ya, I do.”

“I think we might be soulmates…”

(I’ll leave it up to you, the reader, to decide who said what.)

I couldn’t even write this in my diary, because I was so ashamed (and worried someone might read it) but we did kiss. And it was powerful. The kind where you feel like you have a strong argument in favor of “love at first sight.” Was this cheating? Nothing else happened. It was just the peak of our bonding. A classic Vegas tale, really. 

But the kiss is always the moment when the person in a relationship knows they have to go. We walk to the cab stand and he holds my hand.

“Don’t go back to Canada. Come to Orange County with me. We have room for you in the car.”

I couldn’t help but think back to that bit I’m working on. I was tempted to ask, 

“Will I be sitting horizontal?”

But instead I just say,

“I wish.”

“Come on! I’ll take care of you!”

(We’re both 23 lolololol)

“You have my number.  You can call me.”

“Okay, but if you don’t come to me, I’m coming to Ottawa.”

I duck in my cab and wave goodbye.

At least he’s not calling it Iowa anymore. 

I get back to my hotel room and shockingly my bf is still playing poker somewhere. (Tragically, he did NOT win a foosball trophy.)

We head back to Atlanta, and then up to the mother land.

When I walk back into my sweet Glebe apartment, my answering machine is blinking. 

Mr. Huntington Beach is not letting this thing go.

Note: These pics are actually from a trip to Vegas later in 2002, featuring my Vancouver friends Andrea and Tania with an i. (I know a lot of Tanya/Tania’s.) These are not actual women who date foosball players. But they did witness me trying to learn the robot.

Chapter 12: A Relationship, Marijuana and 23-Year Old Female Comedian Walk Into a Bar…

I caved. I got a cell phone. It’s 2002- who knows? These things might actually become the norm. My plan includes 200 minutes Mon-Fri, and unlimited calls after 6pm and on weekends. Since I want to keep the bill down, I’m not giving my number to my boss and family. They can still believe I only have a land line. 

I’m also starting to have solid turn over in my love life- a sign you’re a true comedian! I have no patterns with dating, I just like who I like. My latest boyfriend is pretty much the opposite of the last one. He’s a bartender (so he has money) and also grows pot. His roommate didn’t want me to know, but I figured it out. I had questions, like,

“Who lives in your third bedroom and why are his lights always on?”

I was smoking a lot of pot myself, leading to many late nights of Bronson Pizza combos. Ottawa has a serious deep fried zucchini scene. To this day I don’t think I’ve ever been to a city with this as a staple on every menu in town. 

I started writing bits about my new vice. 

“I moved to Ottawa cuz I heard Parliament Hill was having a joint session.”

“I have a friend who doesn’t smoke pot, so I asked why and he said, “Cuz one time, I was smoking THE marijuana, and I was high for five days….” I’m thinking “Fuck… my dealer sucks. I have the stuff where you pass out with chicken tenders in your lap watching Ally McBeal .”

I was trying to figure out if I should call them chicken strips, tenders or fingers. Even without reading Judy Carter’s book, I was gravitating towards funny words.

The Ottawa comedy scene was really becoming a tight knit group. Rick Kaulbars wrote a movie called Hell Gig that we were all gonna be in. The whole gang- me, Ben Miner, Jon Steinberg, Jon Dore, Jen Grant, Oliver Gross, Mike Beatty, Don Kelly, Wendi Reed, Jason Laurans. Rick would direct it, and somehow the whole thing would be made in days, AND in Ottawa. I didn’t even know you could make movies in Ottawa. I tried in my last year at Carleton, but my tech skills were so bad I ended up with a cassette for my audio, and VHS for the actual movie. I had to hit play on both machines at the same time to present my project to my class.

(Me, Jen Grant and Rick Kaulbars. And I’m guessing Alexander Keith’s cuz that’s all anybody drank back then.)

Things were going pretty well. My boyfriend had finally come to one of my shows. It took a while. He had zero interest in stand up. If he wasn’t staying home to play online poker (which he told his parents was not real money,) he was busy with this foosball league. Our relationship was actually quite good, even if I did fake being Catholic in front of his family. (I took communion in their church lololol.*)

I was smoking a lot of pot. Sometimes I did my dishes so high, I’d hide all the knives afterward just in case someone broke into my apartment and didn’t bring their own. (CANADA, baby! Even high, I never worried about guns.) Meanwhile I’d pass out with my lava lamp still on and who knows what days of the week I was actually taking my Tri-Cyclen. 

I was also over thinking my relationship- BIG TIME. 

I was dating someone who had NO interest in comedy.

Was it my comedy, or comedy in general?

(Cut to me in 2021 not wanting any guy I’m interested in watching my comedy cuz I’m scared he won’t want to fuck me anymore.)

I had big dreams. But what were his dreams? Was foosball a good prospect for the future? Or growing weed? (In hindsight, it actually probably was.) It sounds cheesy to write now, but these diaries from 20 years ago pour it out. After returning from the Canada Loves New York rally at the end of 2001, I wrote this:

Here’s my little trick that will help determine whether or not you’ve found your ultimate goal in life and how I know what mine is: When you think about your passion for something and cannot fathom how anyone else in the world wouldn’t want to do the exact same thing, you have your dream.

(Remember I’m high, it’s post 9/11 and I’m 23. Don’t judge me.)

I didn’t feel like I was dating a guy with a dream. 

And it bothered me.

As much as I loved him, I decided we needed to break up. I was barely out of my old technique where I just avoided a guy until they broke up with me. This one would have to be done properly. I was really growing up.

I played Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” on repeat every night for weeks. It didn’t really help me figure out how to do it, but I did learn all the words.

I managed to get it done, but it didn’t take.

I make it sound like I was this straight forward about my reasons for breaking up to him, but in reality I probably said:

“So ya ummmm I think we should break up, but I’ll see you at work! Let’s see if we can get different shifts!”

A week later, we met at Irene’s, a classic dive pub on Bank Street in the Glebe. (Is it still there? Tell me it is!) It was such a weird location for an emotional conversation. The only goal I ever had at this bar was getting the cranky old waitress to like me. But now my barely ex was asking for clarification on our break up.

“Why…? We get along great.”

He was right. We really did. Sagittarius/Aquarius combo. Things that really meant something back then. I took a big gulp of my Keith’s and decided to spit out the corny truth.

“I have dreams… BIG ones… I don’t want to live in Ottawa forever. Don’t you have dreams…?”

And he responded with something so powerful I don’t even need my diary to remember:

“Maybe my dream is just to be in love with a great girl.”

Fuck. 

That’s a good one. 

I’m a dick. 

Instantly that line won me back.

And he added in another fun invite.

“Why don’t you come with me to my foosball tournament in Vegas? It’ll be fun.”

Oh that does sound like fun! We haven’t been anywhere other than Pembroke together. I’m IN!

Besides, what could possibly happen with a rocky relationship in Vegas…

To Be Continued…

(Because blogs don’t get red lights.)

*I finally came clean about not being Catholic. I tried to make it better by explaining my that family did go to church, we just went to a United one. (I left out the “once a year” part.) His uncle responded, “Ohhh, UNITED… just in case there’s a God…” I’ve never forgotten that. 

(Also, I fear this blog drifted between past and present tense. As a writer, I need you to know this bothers me. How did they do it in The Wonder Years?)

I’m bummed I don’t have more old shots of the Ottawa Yuk Yuk’s scene, but we didn’t live life on phones back then. Here’s one though: Jon Steinberg, Howard Wagman, Wafik Nasralla, me, Allison Dore, Tracey MacDonald, Jen Grant, Don Kelly and Pete Zedlacher even though he was from Toronto.

Also, here’s a clip from Hell Gig. I’m not even in this one, but it made me laugh my ass off.

https://www.facebook.com/kaulbars/videos/10150091150045525

*

Chapter 11: Too Soon

I’m 22 years old and three years into comedy. Cell phones are becoming more popular, and not just something only dads and cab drivers have. I am vehemently against getting one.

Hell no. The thought of people being able to get ahold of me 24/7 scares the shit out of me.

Straight from my diary, May 15th, 2001. (That’s right! I have all my diaries from this date forward here in my apartment, so I’ll be able to plagiarize my old self, and you can mock my EXACT dated thoughts!)

My supplementary job and boyfriend had changed. I quit my job at CD Warehouse shortly after the Spice Girls broke up. What was the point? Sure I bought Geri’s solo album, but “Look At Me” was the only good song. I got a job serving at Canada’s finest restaurant, Boston Pizza. (An Edmonton based chain, obvi.) After winning employee of the year at the end of 2000, I was feeling on top of the world. I took the DVD player I won and exclusively fed it Sex & the City season one DVDs.

I broke up with Marcus, but only after we did acid together. He tried to video tape the trip, but the second I started to feel it, I made him turn the camera off. To be honest, I REALLY wish I let it roll. I’d love to watch that now. That wasn’t the tipping point by any means. My break up was a solid reason:

“I just really need to focus on the sorority right now.”

My focus on comedy was building too, which was awkward having a restaurant job. Both these industries have the same busy nights of the week. But I thrived off slow days like Monday and Tuesday, cuz I could rock my friendly Canadian personality and sometimes get the full 15% tip I deserved out of the cheaper side of Ottawa. (WINNING!)

My material was coming along too. I replaced my first closer:

“Guys, if you go out later tonight, just remember, NO means NO… NO also means I’m not drunk enough, you’re not rich enough and your dick is way too small.”

(OOOOOF I am cringing writing that. I would NEVER make fun of penis size today. Those guys are great at oral. And I always date broke guys. And… well, I have a solid tolerance. I’m never drunk enough. That holds up.)

But my new and improved closer is way better:

“My best friend has a tongue ring…”

(HI, MEGHAN!)

“I think we know what they’re good for… I’m too scared to get one. I think it might hurt and make me talk funny, so I’ve just decided if a guy wants that texture in my blow job, I’ll just pop a marble in my mouth… It’ll be the best game of Hungry Hungry Hippos he’s ever played.”

The joke was a quality closer. Something I could count on even if the middle of my set wasn’t going well. And I was finally trying to write more than just stand up. I wanted to write a SCREENPLAY! Something like Reality Bites, obvi. I was incredibly optimistic about the future. I was really starting to think anything was possible.

And then…

I woke up one Tuesday morning in September. (As a diary writer, I can confirm I’m never sure of the date when I pick up the pen.) I had to work at 10:00am. I hopped in the shower around 8:45. My mom was selling AVON at the time, so she had gifted me a shower radio. I’d blast Magic 100fm, cuz even at 22, I enjoyed some Phil Collins. All of a sudden, the sultry voice of the female DJ came back on after “Against All Odds.”

“We just learned news of a devastating plane crash at the World Trade Center in New York. Our hearts go out to every one effected.” 

What happened? 

I run out of the shower, and turn on the TV. That’s when I see it.

And then I see it again…

But this time it’s the other tower.

I don’t need to explain to you what happened. 

It was the most traumatic thing I had seen on TV since The Challenger. But this was something different. You could convince yourself after the first tower got hit, it must have been an accident, but the second… 

All of a sudden every dream, goal and worry you had yesterday seems to be superfluous. 

By the time I got to work, it seemed like the whole world had fallen apart. Normally we’d have sports on our big screens, but today it’s news, and everyone is glued to it. Nobody knew what to say, how to act or even work. My boss was sticking his keys in his ears like they were Q-Tips, which he only did when something was bothering him.

We kept the TVs on CNN all day with sound. Something we had never done before. All the government buildings in the city were being locked down. Planes were being diverted up to Canada. I didn’t really think we’d get attacked too, but it was a possibility. I worked with a lot of people from Lebanon and Afghanistan who were able to explain way more about terrorist groups than I ever knew. It’s embarrassing how it takes something catastrophic to happen before you choose to learn more.

I was always a big smiler, but I couldn’t do it today. If I saw any tables laughing I’d literally get pissed off. I was on a split shift, but after watching replays of the planes crashing into the twin towers all day long, I eventually broke down. Incontrollable sobbing. I couldn’t pretend I or anything was okay. My boss sent me home. 

Yuk Yuk’s cancelled the show on Wednesday. Thank God. I couldn’t imagine trying to make people laugh at a time like this. I didn’t feel like being funny nor could I pretend I had the power to cheer people up.

But when the club did open back up, I had to go. I wasn’t on the show, but I wanted to see how professionals would deal with it. The headliner was from Toronto. Ottawa comics had an interesting take on Toronto. Some of them had tried out the city, hated it, and came back. Some found the Toronto comics arrogant.

“Let me see you Twirl” man was from Toronto, so I could understand. But surely on a week like this, they wouldn’t try to make jokes about a terrorist attack that was surely leading us to war, right?

Wrong. 

As I sat on the bar stool close to Tommy (the bartender) in case I needed another pint of Keiths for the pain, I PRAYED nobody would try to make jokes about Tuesday. It was DEFINITELY too soon. I don’t even think the phrase “Too Soon” was in my vocabulary until this particular week. The first few local comics seemed to get through their sets respectfully. The crowds were polite, but low energy, which was to be expected.

But then the Toronto guy went on stage.

And you KNOW he had to try to make a joke about it.

I was horrified. The whole crowd was uncomfortable. 

It took a certain calibre of comic to talk about 9/11. Three years in, I knew it wasn’t me. Jon Stewart did it right.

But not many people in between.

I actually really like this comic today, but that was an awkward first impression.

I had only been to New York two times at this point in my life. Most comedians dream of performing there. But after that day, I feared it might never happen.

But guess what?

Dreams do come true.

I finally moved here…

March 1st, 2020.

P.S. Pretty sure learning of 9/11 in the shower has scarred me out of proper hygiene to this day.

P.P.S. If you watched Sex & the City back then, that first season the towers weren’t in the beginning anymore was a sad reminder.

P.P.P.S. I know this is a LOT of P.S.’s, but that first pic is of me and my sorority sister/friend Natasha when we drove to NYC for a “Canada Loves New York” Rally. Didn’t want to say that in the beginning, cuz I didn’t want spoilers. Was it obvious I was writing about 9/11? You can tell me…

Chapter 7: My First Paycheck From Comedy

There’s something about making money doing what you love that means more than the actual dollar amount. I know several comedians who gave up perfectly stable and respectable jobs to have a shot at telling jokes for forty bucks. No sense torturing yourself at a 9 to 5 job when you can torture yourself in a comedy club.

I was a year in to doing comedy when the club owner, Howard, came down to assess the new talent. I had heard a few things about him- he was picky, had zero tolerance for comics who ran the light (great news for me, as I was still barely hitting it) but he knew comedy. This was the home club of people like Mike MacDonald, Norm MacDonald and Tracey MacDonald. This place was heavy on the MacDonalds. Hopefully a Walkinshaw still had a chance.

Howard booked the weekend spots and some one nighters in glamorous places I had yet to go, like Cornwall and Carleton Place. (Not to be confused with my school Carleton University.)

At the time, I was still going to school and working part-time at CD Warehouse, slinging Britney’s first album. The day her “Hit Me Baby One More Time” single came in I told my co-workers, “This girl is gonna be a star.” (I was a little off with my S Club 7 predictions.)

These were pre-Shazam years too. Do you how many people used to come in and ask,

“Do you know that song that goes “I ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh ugh…and I don’t go to sleeeee to dreeeee?”

Fiona Apple. 

I was living my own personal Empire Records, and I was good at it. (Minus being confrontational with shoplifters. I’d just pray they never did it again.) 

Like any comedian still working another job, I incorporated jokes about it.

“I work at CD Warehouse so you know I’m not HMV positive.”

(That reference might only work for Canadians and Europeans cuz I don’t think that store existed in the states.)

And since it’s tax season:

“Went to visit my H&R Block Parent…”

The jokes get better. I promise. And not that I want to fast forward my story, but in case I forget later, and agent in L.A. will one day tell me I should never tell the audience I have a day job. 

“You shouldn’t disillusion the audience into believing you’re not a full-time comedian.”

So lie to the crowd. Noted.

Reversely, when people came into my day job, I would NOT tell them I’m a comedian. Tom Green regularly came into CD Warehouse, but no matter how much my co-workers nudged me to say something to him, I never had the courage to spring my small boob material on him. (I’m sure he’s thankful I didn’t.)

This was also the job I got the nick name “Bubbles,” either from being bubbly, or from accidentally putting hand dish soap in the dishwasher, which flooded the staff room with bubbles. My co-worker Robin gave me the name, while I called him Fart Knocker. (FK for short, respectfully, cuz he was a manager.)

This was also the job I received my favorite compliment of my entire life. Was it technically a compliment? I’m not actually sure.

It was Christmas time, so we were busy. My co-worker Dave and I were ringing up CD’s side by side. The exact same job, only I’m enthusiast about it, he is not. Finally, he stops de-magnetizing Andrea Bocelli and says:

Christina… things seem real fun in your world…

He’s right. I can make a lot of seemingly shit days feel okay.

Why am I babbling about my part-time job in a blog that’s supposed to be about my life as a stand up comic?

Well….

  1. You should expect to have one for a while.

AND

2. I didn’t get into stand up for money. 

(You might actually enjoy it more when you’re not throttling it for rent money.)

I’ve always appreciated my part time jobs for supporting this crazy dream. 

So when Howard officially introduced himself to me, and offered me my first weekend spots, it wasn’t the forty dollars I was excited about. It was the fact I had made it past my first gate keeper. 

Plus I’ll never forget him saying this: 

“I need more women.”

Don’t worry, he said it in a professional, business manner. I’m sure out of context that could sound pervy. I know a lot club owners are notorious for booking mostly male comics, but this little Ottawa club was special. Back then Howard brought in headliners like Heidi Foss, Tracy Smith, Margaret Smith, Lisa Gay Tremblay- women who inspired me early on. 

I’ll never forget driving Margaret Smith to the airport one Sunday morning. She checked out all the bumper stickers on my Ford Festiva, noting one in particular.

“Don’t hate me cuz I’m beautiful, hate me cuz I’m sleeping with your boyfriend…. Well, thank god I’m not driving.”

It’s a good thing Howard never saw all the tacky bumper stickers on my car. He might have worried about my taste in comedy and slowed down my promotions.

But I got lucky. After my two paid guest spots I was gifted a cheque for $40. Maybe he purposely didn’t pay cash on the chance we’d get sentimental, and just frame it. (Casey Corbin’s is in a photo album at his mom’s house.)

But it’s an exciting moment. 

Because the first time you get paid to do stand up is when you start to think,

“I can do this.”

(And I was right. I still sometimes make $40.)

I don’t have a catchy phrase for ending these blogs yet, like I did with my Tinder dates. (Keep Calm and Tinder On…) But I’m open to suggestions.

That being said, that’s it, folks. I like to limit these blogs to 1200 words cuz I know people don’t like to read. I was also scared this week’s entry wasn’t going to be as juicy as the upcoming ones I have plotted, but just like season 2 of The Crown, we gotta get through it.

I’ll be back next week to discuss shitty intros and the women who gave them to me.

(That’s not a typo.)

I’ve been Christina Walkinshaw,

Thank you and goodnight. 

P.S. The one shoplifter I naively believed might have coincidentally walked in the store with a purse full of CDS did return, and that time we caught her. 

(Such a bummer I don’t have old pics of me working at CD Warehouse, but back in those days we didn’t take pictures 62 times a day. But thank you FK for whipping this up!)

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.”

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 3: I’m Telling You For the First Time

Some time between my last day of university and my first time smoking pot, Jerry Seinfeld came out with a special called “I’m Telling You For the Last Time.” It was his way of putting to bed a bunch of material he didn’t want to do anymore. (Garry Shandling stealing jokes out of the coffin in the opening sequence is still my fave.) I owned it on VHS, and it was my go to after raves when I was coming down off ecstasy. It was the only thing I could think of to stabilize my serotonin before discovering the 5-HTP trick. 

I wouldn’t say I’ve “retired” any jokes, but I have dropped the flushing babies down the toilet bit. (For now.) Don’t want to get cancelled before I get accepted. 

But the one thing I am tired of reciting is the answer to the ever asked question,

“So, what made you want to get into stand up?”

It’s a fair question, I’ve just answered it a LOT. So here we go: 

I’m telling you for the last time, about my first time.

I didn’t always want to be a comedian. My original dream was to write for The Young & the Restless. I’m not sure how old I was when I started watching soap operas, but I do know I was young enough to still be forced to drink milk. My passion for the genre grew. I started passing on YM and Tiger Beat and buying Soap Opera Digest instead. Eventually I saw a trend- there were no story lines with characters my age, and that’s what these shows needed. At the wise age of 13, I didn’t think it was realistic to get my dream job right out of the gate, so I figured it would be easier to get hired at All My Children first. I hand wrote a letter and pitched myself to the legendary soap producer Agnes Nixon. I figured I could get the experience on her show to then get hired on Y&R. I never heard back.

But I wasn’t letting my new Judy Jetson diary with a lock on it go to waste. Just because I wasn’t ready to write about people coming back from the dead, didn’t mean my career was over. In fact, my first joke I ever wrote was at age 11:

When cows laugh, does the milk come out their nose?

It seemed to be something a lot of kids could relate to. As I got old enough to stay up past midnight, I started to randomly catch the occasional stand up set on TV. It was so rare to see it back then. There was no Netflix, YouTube or Internet rabbit holes to seek out this form of comedy. It wasn’t until one fateful night babysitting, when a single dad didn’t make it home until 3:00am that I finally saw the woman who made me think,

“I wanna do that.”

That comedian was Wendy Liebman. If you don’t know her, look her up. She’s incredibly funny, and you can clearly see her style has inspired a ton of comics. 

CUT TO: 1997

Believe it or not, I was a good student in high school. Excellent at math and English. I never skipped class, was on student council, counter attack driving and driving squad, had parts in all the plays and musicals (but only roles I could scream songs, not actually sing.) I don’t know when my academics slid away from me, but I’m pretty sure it coincided with my first sip of peach schnapps and the loss of my virginity. 

(Did I quote both Sheryl Crow and Heathers in my yearbook? Yup.)

I was 17 when I moved across the country to attend Carleton University in Ottawa. It was frosh week of my second year when got the calling to do stand up. I was a facilitator for new students. This was a week best known for the day we all go to Quebec for drunk waterslide day. (Can you believe they don’t do that anymore?)

I was in Olivers on a Wednesday night. That was the night, on campus. I think every college has one. I remember exactly where I was standing when the seed for my current career was planted. I was talking to fellow facilitator, Spicoli. We all had nick names. Mine was 90210 (Thank you Peter Bobak. I think you manifested my future.) 

There was enough distance from the dance floor that Mark Morrison’s “Return of the Mack” didn’t drown out the most powerful advice of my life. I guess I was killing it in the conversation, cuz Spicoli said, 

“You’re funny. You should go down to Yuk Yuk’s and do stand up. They have new talent night on Wednesdays.”  

My grades were starting to plummet. I thought it might be time to start looking into a back up plan. Stand up comedy sounded perfect. 

I called the club the next day. They had a clever phone number where the last four digits spelled “LAFF.” A nice girl named Stacey answered.

“Oh hi. Ummm… I was just curious… how do you get on your Wednesday new talent night?”

That’s right, they didn’t call it “AMATEUR NIGHT.” It was “New Talent” night. So Canadian, eh? 

“Well, we invite you down to watch a Wednesday night show, and after you see it, if you feel like you want to try it, you’ll call here on the first Tuesday of the month with avails. Then each comic usually gets two Wednesdays.”

Back then, not only were there very few comedians in Ottawa, but Yuk Yuk’s was basically the only place to do comedy. There weren’t all the bar and open mic nights you see today.

She put me on the guest list for the upcoming show. I decided to make it a date night with the guy I was seeing. My friends called him “The Polkaroo” cuz they never met him. 

I picked up the Polkaroo in my 1988 Nissan Micra I named “The Giant Tiger.” I was still 18, and though I had fake ID, I didn’t want to use it at the comedy club. I wanted to stay consistent and have the same name that night as I would on stage. I decided going in, I would assess my decision to try stand up like this:

I don’t expect to be the BEST starting out… I also don’t want to be the WORST… But if I think I could be the SECOND TO WORSE, I’ll do it. 

One above dead last. Shoot for the stars, kids. 

The show was amazing. So many great comics that are still doing it today, like my comedic hero Don Kelly, plus some I can’t believe aren’t doing it anymore, like Rob Cowley. His giant cheque bit was my fave. 

So the first Tuesday of November, 1997, I called the LAFF number. I put my name down for the last Wednesday of the month. 

And a week before my 19th birthday, I tried stand up for the first time.

That’s how I got into stand up.

Next week, I’ll let you know how it went. 

(Classic cliffhanger. Something I learned from watching soaps.)

Sadly, I don’t remember Spicoli’s real name. But if you know who I’m talking about, tell him I found some tasty waves, a cool buzz and I’m fine. 

(And thank you.)

(Me, Lesley Brown and Peter Bergman who played Jack Abbott on The Young & the Restless when he came to sign autographs at Landsdowne mall in Richmond. Maybe 1993?)