Chapter 18: I’d Like To Use a Lifeline

My blog should actually be called, “I Shouldn’t Be Alive.” But that’s already a show, so I guess I’ll stick to what I got. Do I even remember the name of the guy who drove me home that night? Hell no. But this was 2002. Word wasn’t out that stand up comedy was a breeding zone for creeps yet. (If you want a visual, he wore David Koresh glasses.)

It would have been nice to get back to Huntington Beach and have some sort of support system waiting to hear how it went, but obvi that wasn’t the case. Has anyone ever crawled into bed with a sleeping human you’re pretty sure hates you? There’s no specific adjective for that feeling, eh? What an anti-climatic ending to my motivating night at the Laugh Factory. I just left a boyfriend in Canada who had no interest in comedy and now here I am with another. (I like to travel thousands of miles to determine what my “type” is.) Could it be attributed to the fact nobody thought women were funny at the time? So why would a man support a woman chasing a dream that was seemingly impossible?

I minored in psychology in university. I don’t know why I feel the need to announce that seeing as how we live in a Tik Tok world where education is just an overpriced sidekick. Learning the words to “Hangin’ Tough” is probably more profitable these days. I’m only bringing it up because I remember taking this personality test (not Buzz Feed) in my second year that sticks out. The inner/outer locus of control. The test basically measures whether you blame yourself or external forces for your problems/present/future. Is it fate, or your actions? When I took the test, I placed right in the middle. I could blame this man for persuading me to ditch my life and join him in his, but I’m also responsible for taking the action to jump.

The worse it got between me and “him” (don’t want to capitalize the H and make him seem like God,) the closer I got with his roommate. It’s not clear if he was being helpful because he felt sorry for me, or because he knew more about the man I was sleeping with than I did. But he really did get me through that last stretch of living there. And true to my 23 year old brain, I don’t remember his name either. (It was probably Dave. Most guys my age are Steve’s, Mike’s, Bryan’s and Dave’s.)

I knew I had to get out of their house before Natasha arrived, but I didn’t have a lot of options. I was down to $900 in the bank (with a huge student loan debt, but when you’re in your early twenties those payments seem optional)  so I had to rack my brain hard to think of who I knew in California…

If you’re a comedian, you know a ton of Canadian comics live in L.A. today. But back in those days, not everyone B-lined it for Hollywood after their “Comedy at Club 54.” I didn’t even have that. To this day I’m not sure Ben Guyatt knows who I am. 

I knew Shaun Majumder and Harland Williams were living in L.A, but I had only met them once, so it might be a little pre-mature to ask if I could move in.

But who else…

Oh ya…

In a strange turn of events, Marcus, my first comedian ex-boyfriend was living there. WHAT ARE THE CHANCES I’D NEED TO ASK HIM FOR A FAVOUR? (Murphy’s Law of dating: The second you break up with someone, you need something from them.) He was more like me than I thought, though. He didn’t move to L.A. for comedy either. He was doing yoga teacher training at Bikram School of Yoga on La Cienega. (I know, I know… What are the chances a male comic would be attracted to learning from Bikram Choudhury?)

I straight up phoned him and told him I moved to O.C. for a guy who eats more cheddar flavored Goldfish crackers than a toddler and now I need a place to crash- for me and Natasha.  Luckily Tash and Marcus got along, so he said yes. BUT he needed to let me know he was now dating/living with his old roommate’s girlfriend Tanya. (I know a lot of Tania/Tanya’s too.) I liked her, and didn’t give a shit who he was fucking as long as I could crash on his couch. (At the risk of hearing my ex-boyfriend fucking another girl. These are the chances Canadians take when they move to L.A.)

So now that I had the destination plotted out, I would have to make my dramatic exit. Obvi I would NOT do it face to face. I’m not made of balls. I would wait until one of his busy Friday shifts at B.J.’s Pizza and WRITE A LETTER! In hindsight, the tragic part of writing letters is that we don’t have copies, like we would an email, or text. I don’t know what I wrote in that letter, no more than I do in the letter I wrote to Agnes Nixon trying to convince her I should be a writer for All My Children. (The irony, I was 11. I was a child.)

But I left that letter on his nightstand table like a cursed stone. I hugged his roommate goodbye, and then…

Oh ya, you’re probably wondering how I’m getting from Huntington Beach to L.A,

Well…

I called a Lifeline obvi.

She might have said it as a joke, BUT…

I made the phone call that she never expected to actually get.

“Lisa? Remember in Kingston, when you were like “This is a huge mistake! When it doesn’t work out, you’re broke, can’t afford tampons, you call me and I’ll come pick you up!” Well… I’m ready.”

She’s in shock, even though she predicted it.

“Christina… You do understand it’s Friday…. Of Memorial Day weekend… it’s gonna take three hours to get to you… then three hours back… I’m on my way. 

Canadians in L.A. take care of each other better than anybody in David Koresh’s compound ever did. 

When she showed up, there was a box of tampons on the passenger seat.

Still didn’t have the heart to tell her I use pads.

This is Lisa-Gay Tremblay. You should def check out her comedy. She crushes! But please don’t ask her to transfer you between counties. That’s not what I was trying to solicit here.

P.S. I took one picture of me and the guy I moved to Huntington Beach for on a Kodak Funsaver. Funny enough, that didn’t turn out either. 

Chapter 17: I’M GOING TO HOLLYWOOD

I didn’t have a lot of intel on the Hollywood scene, but there was an Irish pub in Huntington Beach that had a comedy night. Seemed like a good spot to start.  And lucky for me, the guy who ran the room knew EVERYTHING. I hit the jackpot. He shared his knowledge, opinions and grudges of the whole town. (I don’t think he watched his own show.) His name was Doug* and if you know him, you know him. Still a bit of a legend among comics who got this gig.

I got the scoop on the Laugh Factory. Open mic night was Tuesday. The show starts at 7, sign up is at 5, but “YOU BETTER GET THERE EARLY CUZ THEY ONLY TAKE THE FIRST 15 PEOPLE IN LINE!” And yes, he yelled this through the show he was producing, as the comics were on stage. (Cut to me begging for a spot here years later.) When I get to the Laugh Factory, I’ll make sure to name drop Doug. That should help.

I had only navigated Southern California from the back seat of my dad’s mini-van, so this was gonna be different. Since a total stranger I met in a bar was giving me a ride to Long Beach, I had to be ready to go at 6:30am. (Do you think this worried me after I moved across the continent for a guy in Vegas?)

My “boyfriend” seemed un-phased by my early departure. Most people move to Hollywood to get back at someone who treated them like shit in high school. I moved to California and then found that special someone to prove wrong. We didn’t have revenge porn back. It was success or nothing.

The ride to Long Beach was a little further than I thought. Every mile that went by was a mile I’d have to get back, but I’d worry about that later. He dropped me off at a Metro line stop that was above ground which I thought would make me feel safer, but it took about thirty seconds to witness a man selling crack. Or maybe he was ordering it? All I know is he was shouting,

“CRACK!!!!!” 

I got on the train and started working on my set list. Sure I look a little lost, but I’ll just act like I’m going to work or whatever. As the train stopped in Compton, my naive 23 year-old Canadian tourist worries were some how calmed by the sight of a Home Depot.

After changing trains in DTLA and heading north up the red line, I finally see an exit that says Hollywood Blvd and spontaneously hop off. I’ve at least heard of that street. I can walk the rest of the way. Again, let me remind you it’s 2002 and I’m doing this without a cell phone or map. I just kept asking people which way I should go.

(I do that with my career in general, but we’ll learn more on that later.)

It takes me about an hour to walk to the Laugh Factory. I get there a little after 9:30am and there’s ALREADY PEOPLE IN LINE for the open mic! Holy shit. I thought I was early, but these guys had me beat. Or they were homeless people slumped up against the wall? Comedians often profile as bums. 

“Are you guys in line for the open mic?”

They look up at me proud.

“Yup!”

I don’t really want to sit down on the dirty Sunset Blvd pavement so I just smile and say, 

“Cool!”

While continuing to stand. But I can’t stand for seven hours straight. Not even at 23. 

I crouch down on the pavement. I only had my joke notebook on me. As the day progressed, more people joined the line. Everyone was so outgoing and funny. I found myself uncharacteristically shy and quiet. It was one thing for me to be the life of the party in front of all my friends in Canada, but around a bunch of L.A. comics? No way. I can’t compete. 

And that June Gloom had definitely faded. Or was just a beach thing? It was so cloudy when I left Orange County I didn’t even think about sunscreen. Now I could feel my skin morphing into the colour of Clifford the Dog. There’s no way Crunch gym could protect me from the UVB rays. 

One of the guys in line starts chatting me up. Let’s call him “Pistachio.” (I change names to protect the delusional.) Pistachio was an actor, comedian and model. The model part was unexpected, mostly because of his brown, socially distanced teeth. Maybe he does some “Before Picture” work. He asked if I could hold his spot in line while ran across the street to McDonald’s for a 49 cent cheeseburger. (HUGE special that year. Sorry if you missed it.) I thought maybe he would bring me back one, but when he returned he just offered to hold my spot while I went. 

After seven hours in this line, I was convinced I must be the least funny person. I was ready for a nap. (And some aloe vera.) There were two girls in line, Christian and Barb. Obviously we bonded. Three out of fifteen was above average for 2002.

At 5pm, the big wooden front door of the Laugh Factory opened. Someone wrote down all our names, while saying that would NOT be the order. The line up would be posted at 6:45 and we each would have 3 minutes.

(Not to brag, but I had fifteen minutes of material. Wow. Finally an opportunity where I needed less time. I’m gonna LOVE L.A!)

After the sign up, I went for a walk along the legendary Sunset Strip. I walked by Dublin’s, Miyagi’s and a bunch of other bars that have changed names a million times since then. I turn back to the Laugh Factory fast though. I’m nervous, might bomb, or spontaneously start peeling on stage, but at the very least I’ll be punctual.

There’s an older man named Harvey hosting the open mic from the side of the stage. I’m going on 12th which is mild torture cuz now I have to watch all the funny people kill while I do whatever the fuck I can. And when they say you only have three minutes they mean it. Harvey said, “THANK YOU! NEXT” enough times I don’t even think of Ariana Grande when I hear those three words.

The show didn’t exactly go the way I thought it would…

All those confident people in line that I was so intimidated by…

Had no material.

I was so spooked by them talking about all their “credits” all day. I had no idea starting comedy in Canada was mine. It’s like an secret industry undergrad.

Barb and Christian were great though. I could quote a Barb joke right now, which is a good sign if I can remember one of your bits from 19 years ago.

My set went by so fast. I used only the BEST jokes of my illustrious three year career in comedy. Jamie Masada was gonna sit with us at a creepy set of chairs upstairs and let us all know if we have any future in this town, so I needed to go with tried and true. 

I watched most of the comics storm away from Jamie after their chat. When it was my turn to sit down, I plastered a giant, optimistic smile across my face. He leaned back in his chair and took his time.

“Where are you from?”

“Canada. I just moved here- well, Huntington Beach- for a guy I met in a nightclub who convinced me I was his soulmate but it’s not working out. I wanna move up here STAT.”

“Canada? You work for Yuk Yuk’s?”

“YES! You know Yuk Yuk’s!”

It’s the only comedy club in Canada. Of course he knows it.

“You’re funny… very likable… You come back… do a few more open mics… and maybe you’ll get a showcase.”

Holy fuck. SHOWCASE! The magical word as a comedian or contestant on the Price is Right. I want to hug him. I actually might have. A Canadian with hope (pre- Me Too movement) can be very physical when showing enthusiasm. 

I fear this blog is already too long for one week’s adventure, so let me wrap this up right here at Jamie Masada’s upstair’s chair:

“Also, how the fuck do I get back to Huntington Beach?”

P.S. This was the year I got a new camera with a panoramic setting. It seemed neat at the time, but I accidentally left it on that mode so all my pictures got developed in the shape of a CVS receipt and out of frame. 

P.P.S To all the Dougs out there: It’s hard for me to drop the name “Doug” without me remembering my friend Laura in Toronto coming across a guy on Tinder who’s profile read, “The name’s Doug. The “o” is silent.” She didn’t swipe right, but I would have. That’s gold.

Chapter 16: June Gloom

I had never heard of June Gloom until I moved to California. It never made the brochures. But within days, I was living in it. Both physically and emotionally.

I cut off my exorbitant Canadian cell phone STAT. (On a side note, I just Googled old cell phones and couldn’t even find the one I had. That’s how tacky it was. No one ever took a photo of it.) So when it came time to bite the bullet, and call my parents, there was no denying it. I was in the 714.

My parents were shockingly supportive, probably cuz it would give them a reason for an impromptu trip to visit. (Which by the way, nobody does when you live in Ottawa.) My mom was quick to say, 

“AWWWWWWWW, YOU’VE GOT A CALIFORNIA BEAU!”

Ya mom. I’ve got beaus… in different area codes.

(You know that went in my act.)

I’ve never been a fan of discussing my love life with my parents. Too awkward. If you tell family about your relationship, you’ll also have to tell them about the break-up. And what if it jinxes things? A fear of commitment was already starting to lace my personality and it was only 2002. (I still refuse to get a tattoo to this day. I know a week later I’ll want it off.)

We had lunch with his dad, who was in town from Utah. He seemed pretty conservative. My bf had mentioned something about Mormons but I literally knew nothing about that. We only got a few American channels in the city I grew up in, and every time a commercial came on that mentioned “The Church of Latter Day Saints” I got up and went to the bathroom. Pre-Google, you could pretty much roam the whole planet knowing jack shit. 

But we had gunned it for parental approval when we hadn’t even figured each other out.

I thought it would be a funny gag to pull the toupee out of my hair brush and put it in my underwear the first time we slept together, but I refrained. I’ve never been one for physical comedy, but for him to believe I had a huge bush even for just ten seconds would have been hilarious. It’s probably for the best I didn’t pull the stunt because our sex life…

Never really got off the ground. 

I blamed myself for not being hot enough. 

And he turned into a total asshole. 

As it turned out, we were only “the perfect couple” over the phone. 

To make things scarier, my money wasn’t going to keep me afloat very long. I didn’t even have a bank account yet. I was still stashing cash in a bag like some psycho in Gone Girl. And you know I already bought a Hurley hoody. The stack was diminishing. 

He started pressuring me to get a job. He fully knew that would be nearly impossible before I got my papers. I told him that before I even bought the ticket. But I was dealing with someone totally different now. He directed me to some shit hole bar in Huntington Beach.

“Go there. They’ll hire anybody.”

(This moment is reminiscent of Swoosie Kurtz telling Winona Ryder she could get a job at Burger-rama in Reality Bites, pointing out they hire handicapped people.)

This wasn’t my only problem.

My friend Natasha had a ticket booked to come visit me in a few weeks. Not only was I pretty sure I was about to be homeless, but I was gonna be homeless with a house guest. 

I went to the dirty bar to apply for a job. The manager must have thought I was a mole from ICE, particularly cuz I started the conversation with, 

“Hey, do you hire illegals here?”

When it was clear I wasn’t gonna be cracking open bottles of Bud for pool players, I hit the pay phone in the back. My dad had given me his calling card number to use whenever I needed. I  called Natasha and burst out crying.

“It’s not working out. I think you should cancel your trip. I have to come home.”

“No… who cares about the guy? You don’t have to stay with him, but you’re not coming back here.”

“What? Why?”

“Because… You belong there.”

I couldn’t decide whether to stop crying or cry harder. This was the most powerful thing I could hear right now. 

“But where will we stay when you get here? I have to move out. I can’t stay there much longer.” 

“We’ll figure it out.”

My boyfriend wasn’t using the word “we” anymore. But hearing the word from an actual friend felt a thousand times better anyway. 

I hung up the phone and ponied up to the bar. I asked if they had any Canadian beer, just to be an asshole. The bartender was pretty proud to crack open a Moosehead for me. 

I sat there, teary-eyed, looking down at my green bottle. Maybe Natasha was right… I do belong here… I’m a stand up comedian. Peter Bobak even nicknamed me 90210 during Frosh Week. Maybe this tragic romance was just the universe’s plot to get me down here. I didn’t have too much Intel into the comedy scene in L.A. (We didn’t even have MySpace yet!) But I knew there was an open mic at the Laugh Factory on Tuesdays. That’s where I needed to go. 

There’s a not so creepy man sitting beside me. Time to get some answers.

“Hey, is there a bus that goes to Hollywood?”

He laughs.

“Public transportation isn’t really our thing.”

Hmmmm….

“How much do you think a cab would be?”

Harder laughs. He see’s I’m quite serious.

“You don’t have a car?”

“Nope. I’m Canadian.”

Why did I say that? As if Canadians don’t have cars. This is why people think we live in Igloos. I fucked it up. 

He buys me a beer, and I tell him how I moved here for a guy I met in a nightclub in Las Vegas who convinced me I was his soulmate. 

He laughed harder at the cab thing. This seemed to actually worry him. 

“Listen, I work in Long Beach. I can’t drive you to Hollywood, but if you want I can drop you off at the Long Beach train station. From there you can get to Union Station and hop on the train or bus to Hollywood. But you’d have to be willing to leave early.”

YAS! I knew there had to be a way! Back then I watched more Amazing Race than true crime so I wasn’t concerned with getting murdered. (Kristeen, I know you were busy watching Reba.)

I made it all the way to California…

Sure because of a guy… 

BUT-

That doesn’t mean there’s not another reason why I’m here.

And I ain’t turning back until I take a shot at the big leagues. 

And just like that…

The June Gloom cleared. 

(Natasha, me, Bobak, an old school camera and everyone in Ottawa’s fave cigarettes back then, Belmont Milds. This pic is a wee more recent than blog story but captures us all perfectly. I messaged Tash five seconds ago asking her for pics from 2002 cuz I’m Last Minute Magoo. Next week maybe lololol)

(Pic at top of blog- me, Tash, Erin Binks and Mo, who I nicknamed Cookie after watching Mickey Blue Eyes together.)

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 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 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 9: What Are You Wearing?

I was starting to get more comfortable hanging out at Yuk Yuk’s. The wait staff finally knew my name (they probably warmed up to me after I stopped standing in their way,) and I was enjoying singing my newly written Britney parody song in the greenroom.

(To the tune of “I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet a Woman.”)

I’m not an amateur…

Not yet a headliner…

All I neeeeeeed is time,

Twenty minutes that is mine,

While I’m in between…

I was also figuring out some idiosyncrasies of the people in the crowd. Like why was I doing so well on some nights, but falling flat on others? I was starting to really look at the crowd, as opposed to staring into the abyss of the glaring lights.

I’d see a lot of people on dates. As mentioned last week, I started comedy before the “women support women” movement, and some nights you could also feel that from the audience.

Comedy clubs are a great date night spot. The more I got on stage, the more I made eye contact with my fellow gender from the wooden pedestal people who tell dick jokes get to stand on. Jawbreaker was currently in theatre, and while seeing a bunch of women in a movie was palatable, comedy clubs were a different game. There’s an accessibility with stand up comics that’s more intimate than other forms of entertainment. We’re actual human beings. We’re so close. We might even talk to you.

I noticed women gripping the legs of their boyfriends under the table, seemingly not happy their man was staring up at another woman. It was a weird energy since most of my jokes were for women, by a woman. Even though I heard crap like,

“All female comics do is talk about their periods.”

I was unscathed. I was quite sure my period jokes were funny. Classic hits like:

“My sister actually refers to her period as “blow job season…” NOBODY lends her chapstick.”

(Honestly that was about me, I just said it was my sister.)  

But still, it seemed like some chicks in the crowd just hated me. While having drinks after a show at D’Arcy McGee’s (a local haunt for comics around the corner from the club,) I vented about how I felt. Tracey MacDonald straight up gave me a clue.

“That’s cuz you wear see-thru tops on stage.”

What? No I don’t. I was so confused. I wasn’t tonight… but then I re-thought some of my wardrobe…

Yes, I would often dress for the bar. Sometimes I’d have to go straight from Yuk Yuk’s to On Tap. (I was out-growing Olivers.) Maybe this is why I have a collection of big purses. I’m always packing a wardrobe that will appease everyone I see in a day. 

But then I figured out what she mean by “see-thru” tops. There was a particular style of shirt that was popular back then. It was a full collared blouse, buttons down the front, (that I kept done up!) but it was mesh from the ribs down. Does anyone remember this? I swear I scoured the internet looking for a pic, but couldn’t find one. I hopped into a few vintage shops in my hood this week- they knew what I was talking about, but they are not left to be found on the racks. It seems as though my late 90’s/early 2000’s styles are NOT making a comeback.

But she was on to something. These women in the crowd were not appreciating my Le Chateau stylings. Even worse, the shirts from Stitches and Dynamite. I swear from the waist down I was all Silver jeans and chunky Steve Madden heels. I needed the Silver jeans specifically for my denim dick bit.

“Ladies, do you ever sit down in a pair of jeans and get one of these… the Denim Dick?”

(Me sitting on the stool, while my jeans gave me a boner. I had the opposite of camel toe.)

“Pops up every time like a foreplay airbag… So you start trying to push it back in, but that just makes you look weirder. And what’s worse, I’m looking around the room right now thinking, “OH NO… Mine’s bigger than his…”

(Nikki Payne still calls me Denim Dick to this day. I love it.)

Between Tracey calling out my partially mesh tops, and suffering intense insomnia over the way women in the crowd were perceiving me, I knew the wardrobe needed a re-vamp. It was about this time my style as a comedian drastically changed. I started dressing down- wearing sneakers, hoodies and always put my hair in a ponytail. To this day, I still feel more comfortable performing this way.

I don’t want people to just look at me…

I want them to listen to me. 

I wish I had that epiphany before this one particular weekend.

I was finally getting road work. It always felt weird saying “the road” as a Canadian comic, because all I ever really did was drive a few hours to do a weekend of shows then drove back. I maybe went three days without seeing my apartment. It was swift, and sometimes we didn’t even get hotels, we just drove back and forth every night. (Maybe we were actually more “road comics” than Americans and their fancy Southwest flights.)

I was doing an all women’s weekend in Kingston, Ontario. Kingston is a cute, super fun university town. I even had a friend living there who I had a huge crush on. Luckily he came to the smokin’ good Thursday show, cuz something weird happened on the Friday night. 

What I didn’t know at the time, is the late show Friday can suck.

(Like the blouse, I just scoured the internet looking for a quote I’m pretty sure is from Steve Martin’s “Born Standing Up.” It came out much later in my comedy career, but in the book he says something like, “I’ll do comedy anytime, any place, any city- but I hate the late show Friday.” Please fix this quote if you know it.)

Being new to road gigs, I was enjoying the little things. I loved staying in hotels. I’d take the pen from each room as a souvenir. This particular hotel was attached to a Lone Star Cafe. I was so excited, cuz they had the best fajitas. Something about their flour tortillas that were better than everywhere else. Since I didn’t have the chance to eat there Thursday, Friday I was definitely feasting. 

Probably not the best idea. I’m sure the whole front row thought I smelt like mesquite. 

There was four of us on the show. The host did an unusually long amount of time off the top. (My recollection is 45 minutes, but honestly, I don’t have diaries pre- 2001 here in NYC, so I could be wrong.) Then me, my fellow split middle Wendi, and the headliner. 

Compared to the Thursday show that was fire, this one was a bit of a dud. I figured Saturday would bounce back. 

But…

The next day we got a call from the club owner. I was sharing a room with Wendi, and we were informed together that they got SO many people phoning and complaining over last night’s show that tonight they were bringing in Jim McNally. We would all still perform, just with less time, then Jim would headline.

They were bringing in a man to headline the last night of an all women’s weekend.

And guess what else?

He would be staying in OUR hotel room, so me and Wendi would have to share a bed.

(I’m laughing my ass off as I write this cuz my iTunes is on shuffle and a Natalie Norman track just popped up. The newer generation of female comics would not stand for this.)

Me and Wendi weren’t exactly the fighting type. I think we gave the situation a full blown…

“Oh well…”

The Saturday night show was a blast from start to finish. Since the “male comic” went last, I know the show as it was supposed to be, would have been a success if given the chance.

For the record, Jim was a gentleman. He felt just as uncomfortable being in our room as we did. I think part of me felt guilty he even got the call. As we all tried to fall asleep, Jim made jokes from his bed, and me and Wendi laughed from ours. A classic comedian slumber party, incited by a weak comedy club owner. 

There was no social media to start a riot when something didn’t go your way. Not that I would have posted about it back then anyway. It was embarrassing. It was better no one had to know. You could just go back to the city you live in, and pretend like everything went great.

Complaining probably wouldn’t have got you anywhere anyway.

All you could do was keep going.