Category Archives: Comedy

JOIN NOW TO VOTE FOR THIS YEAR’S NOMINEES INTO THE CANADIAN COMEDY HALL OF FAME

Starting April 1st, YOU can vote your favourite Canadian comedian into the CANADIAN COMEDY HALL OF FAME...but you must become a Member first. Visit www.canadiancomedyhall.com and for a special lifetime membership fee of $25, you will have voting rights to ensure your favourite “Performers” are added to the Hall’s list of great comedic artists. “Voting is set to open as of April 1st for this year’s group of inductees into the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame,” says Founder and Exec. Director Tim Progosh, “and we hope everyone across the country will become members so they can cast their votes for their favourite performers named on the impressive list of nominees.”  Voting runs until May 24th.  “After 2 years of Covid lockdowns, restrictions and lack of live entertainment, Canada needs a damn good laugh”, continued Progosh, “so we’re proud that the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame celebrates the country’s funniest comedians, creative professionals as well as great artists from the past whose legacies paved the way for today’s comedy stars.”   Those stars voted into the Hall this year will be announced July 1st, followed by a formal presentation event later in the year.
Here are just a few of this year’s nominees…Learn more about the previous inductees and plans for the future of the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame by following social media (all linked on the website) and visiting www.canadiancomedyhall.com

AND THE NOMINEES ARE….CANADIAN COMEDY HALL OF FAME ANNOUNCES 2022 NOMINEES FOR INDUCTION

On behalf of the Board and Nominating Committee for the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame, I’m pleased to announce this year’s inductees featuring legends of Canadian comedy in three categories: Legacy, Creator and Performer.

First off, nominated as performers (10 to be voted in):  Norm MacDonald (pictured), Mike MacDonald, the cast of SCTV, the cast of CODCO (pictured), Steve Smith, Rose Oulette, Catherine O’Hara (pictured), Mort Sahl, Elvira Kurt, Michael J. Fox (pictured), Al Waxman (pictured), Phil Hartman, Leslie Nielsen, David Steinberg and Dan Aykroyd. The Creators nominees include (5 to be voted in):  Mark Breslin/Yuk Yuks (pictured), Sandra Faire, Keith Johnstone/Loose Moose Theatre, Robert Gravel and Yvon Leduc/La Ligue Nationale d’Improvisation (pictured), Ivan Reitman (pictured), Andy Nulman/Bruce Hills of Just For Laughs Festival, Jo-Anna Downey – Comedian/Open Mic impresario, Andrew Alexander/The Second City and Lorne Michaelsand as Legacy inductees (2 to be acclaimed): Oliver Guimond, Mordecai Richler, The Happy Gang, the cast of Wayne & Shuster (pictured), Beatrice Lillie and silent film director and founder of the Keystone Cops Mack Sennett (pictured).The inductees will be announced on July 1st with a formal live ceremony to be announced later.

The Board and Nominating Committee has also voted to acclaim writer and humourist Stephen Leacock (pictured below)…and the legendary TV comedy producers Frank Peppiatt & John Aylesworth (pictured below) into the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame. The vote was unanimous for Canada’s greatest humourist and the writing duo that dominated and changed television comedy in Canada. Every year the Board and the Nomination Committee has the ability to acclaim two Legacy acts into the Hall.In the words of Exec. Director and Founder of the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame, Tim Progosh: From the very first political cartoons in the 1860’s through the two world wars, the advent of silent movies and the rise of television, Canadians have always been leaders in making people laugh and recognized for those achievements around the world.  And from Board Member and comedian, now Director of Pembroke’s Festival Theatre, Rick WhartonThe wealth of comedy talent in Canada is just mind-blowing. As well, there are so many people behind the scenes who need to be recognized, too. 

I encourage you all to join up for membership and learn more about the current and future plans for the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame:  www.canadiancomedyhall.com   and follow them on Fcbk, Twtr and Instagram for weekly updates and news.

CANADIAN COMEDY HALL OF FAME LAUNCHES VIRTUALLY – MEET THE BOARD & CHECK OUT PLANS FOR FUTURE

Having spent the late 70s performing with the comedy sketch group, The Flamingo Cabaret, then throughout the early-mid 80s running Yuk Yuk’s Komedy Kabaret as both business administration and as the agent for all the comedians (Funny Business), followed by several years running my own agency, Class Acts, where I was media rep. for comedy icons Billy Crystal, Jay Leno, Jimmy JJ Walker, Gilbert Gottfried and Dennis Miller, I definitely have an emotional connection to the CANADIAN COMEDY HALL OF FAME.  The Hall of Fame has been launched virtually by a group of showbiz and media veterans who, like me, know where all the bodies are buried…LOL…as well as understanding the need to recognize the great comedy artists who have paved the way for those now standing up and making us laugh throughout these dark Covid days.

I recently spoke with four of the Founders and asked about their inspiration for sharing their passion with Canadian comedy fans as well as audiences around the world. I started with the Acting Exec. Director of the Hall, TIM PROGOSH:TIM: Congrats on the launch of the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame. You have been a steady presence in the comedy world on tv, stage and theatre, and produced the Canadian Comedy Awards for many years. What inspired you to undertake such an initiative to formally celebrate Canada’s funniest people?   The short answer is simple – watching Ed Sullivan with my family and my Dad pointing out that Wayne and Shuster were Canadian.  I felt proud that these funny guys were almost regulars on such a prestigious show that presented The Beatles – WTF eh!? They were so funny doing sketch comedy and I fell in love with the genre.  It is a genre at which Canada excels.  The long answer involves politics. I have an honours degree in Political Science.  I could never understand why our sense of being Canadian often morphs into just being anti-American.  Why can’t we celebrate our achievements proudly?  It just so happens that one thing we do very well is comedy.  From the very first political cartoons in the 1860’s through the two world wars, the advent of silent movies and the rise of television, Canadians have always been leaders and recognized for those achievements around the world.  But do we celebrate that accomplishment? Do we teach that story?  Do we preserve the memory?  Somebody has to start and when my dad passed last summer, I wanted to make the dream we shared become a reality.

KENNY ROBINSON:  As one of Canada’s most renowned stand-up comedians, you’ve worked clubs, theatres, opened for bands, appeared on numerous tv shows and specials, even acted in films over the past 4 decades. How do you feel about being a part of this long-time-coming Hall of Fame (virtual for now)?   I’m thrilled to be a part of the establishment of the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame. We often complain about the lack of a star system in Canadian showbiz…or how its necessary to flee our homeland to pursue our dreams. Every Canadian school kid can tell you about the super stars of comedy but what about those who remained or the talents behind the camera, the writers’ room and at CBC radio?Canadians don’t beat our chests enough – we lack swagger – we even sing our national anthem with soft, coo’ing voices. We are a nation of corduroy pants-wearing mo’fos who think we’re dressed up.  My reputation in the comedy business is one of being outspoken and profane, the antithesis of the polite Canadian, and that’s what I feel will be my contribution to the Canadian Comedy Hall of Fame!  We NEED to BIG UP OUR OWN – STRUT IN OUR MUCLUKS. Because if we don’t sing our own praises, who will? Not our gun loving, no healthcare having neighbors to south.

JIM SLOTEK: As a journalist, you’ve covered the Just for Laughs Festival for the past 20 years as well as writing reviews and criticism for major comedy concerts. How has comedy itself changed since “the golden age” of Canadian comedy back in the 80s?  If you mean for comedians, there are far fewer big paydays now (a longshot even then). If you got seen by the right person at Just For Laughs, on the basis of one lucky set, you could end up with a holding deal or even a development deal from a U.S. network. A Canadian, Ivan Fecan, was an NBC VP with a keen interest in comedy. Lorne Michaels practically had a direct pipeline for Canadian comics. People like Mark McKinney and Bruce McCulloch got to sharpen their skills as SNL writers before Kids in the Hall hit its stride.Canadian comedy is way more diverse now. Russell Peters cracked the code of the huge unaddressed market of young first-and-second generation New Canadians. Kenny Robinson’s Nubian Disciples was a breakthrough in giving comics of colour a stage to share real life experiences. People like Jean Paul and Gavin Stephens and Sabrina Jaleese did so. And LGBTQ is represented like never before (Trevor Boris, Richard Ryder, Martha Chaves, Lara Rae).

RICK WHARTON: You’ve spent decades in the comedy biz – as an actor, improv comedian, radio and TV personality, director, producer and now run the fabulous Festival Theatre up near Ottawa. Why do you think it’s important that Canada recognizes its comedy stars, past and present in a Hall of Fame?  Well, it’s time. No one had done it and you would think it would be an automatic. The wealth of talent is just mind-blowing. As well, there are so many people in the business that need to be recognized. Everyone knows the front runners like Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, John Candy…there are so many more people who are deserving for recognition of their work.RICK:  Running such a prestigious venue as Festival Hall, you must have hosted many comedy shows there? Can you share some of the names and backstage antics…and do you anticipate hosting Hall of Fame special concerts?   Good question. Sometimes the show is backstage and the audience does not even know. Tim and I have talked about the Hall of Fame coming to the theatre. We ran a “Funniest Person in the Valley” contest for the Comedy Awards for a few years which was very successful. We had the finals at Festival Hall with Mike McDonald as the headliner. It was his first show back after his illness. It was hilarious and special. We have had a great amount of Canadian Comedy talent come to the theatre. Women Fully Clothed (Jayne Eastwood, Teresa Pavlineck, Robin Duke, Kathy Greenwood), Derek Edwards, Ron James, Glen Foster, Derek Seguin, Gerry Dee, Mary Walsh, Carla Collins, The Yes Men (Neill Crone and Kevin Frank), and Terry Hart guested with me on my Canadian Comic Witness Program. Always fun and craziness back stage – I would get in trouble if I shared, maybe sued! But I must admit, my own favourite comedy moment was opening for Gerry Dee doing one man improv and having that rush, hearing all the laughter and doing a killer set.

KENNY: How have these past (nearly)2 years of Covid restrictions affected comedians who have been prevented from performing to live, in-person audiences? Have you or others been performing online?  I guess I’ve been luckier than many the past two years – I had a western tour while my friends in Ontario were already in lockdown. Like many comics, I’ve done a hand full of Zoom shows which were a life save; it allowed me to socialize with fellow comics and show off my new material which I had to keep writing. What really has been my saving grace are the comedy workshops thru the “Windows to Opportunities” program that I’ve been running. Originally, the program was designed to expose black youth to the arts, but with the schools being closed, we have reached out to adults wanting to get into the business. At the end of May, we will present our second Zoom class performance. And it’s free.

JIM: Do you anticipate the Hall of Fame sharing news clippings and videos of our comedy heroes, past and present, as part of the attraction? If so, do you anticipate any difficulties with rights from broadcasters or are they on-board and understand the benefits of collaborating with the Hall?  Honestly, this is such a maple syrup level Canadian endeavor, I can’t envision rights owners being difficult. The good karma and good publicity are worth more than the few dollars they might be protecting.

TIM: Moving fwd, your current project is raising funds for development. Last year saw the launch of the virtual Hall of Fame and securing charitable status. For this year, 2022, what are your plans to fully develop the concept and planning of a bricks-and-mortar location? The plans were developed over the past 10 years to create something special.  Not just glass cases but an immersive experience, but I am getting ahead of myself.

Stage One is to create a yearly induction.  Make it real, so to speak.  Our nomination committee has created a great blueprint for integrity which is the backbone of any hall of fame. Now that we have the process defined, we are about to present the slate of nominees for voting.

Stage Two is the actual festival that will surround the inductions.  Something worthy of the inductees.  Shows, exhibits, galas, and parties.  If there is one thing that brings the comedy community together it’s the parties. Fortunately, I Executive Produced the Canadian Comedy Awards for 16 years as well as the television shows that were nominated for Best Variety Special at the old Gemini awards.  I have produced festivals in three provinces and 6 different cities. I sit on the board of Festivals and Events Ontario and have learned what works and what doesn’t and most important how to listen and be flexible.

As for bricks and mortar, we had a few attempts with commercially motivated developers that did not come to fruition.  The CCHoF was going to be a great addition to several developments: one in Toronto and one in Niagara Falls that did not get off the ground.  That is why I am so focused to just start the process to celebrate. To celebrate before we lose more great talent. Mike MacDonald was a good friend as was Roger Abbott.  They were a big part of the Comedy Awards, and they were fantastic advisors to me.  We are not getting any younger and the world is a crazy place.  It became a mission for me to get this going and set it up so it would continue.  When it comes to an actual location, we have a solid business plan and exciting creative developed over 10 years of research involving some of the best minds in museum build and touring shows.  We will start with a tour and a few exhibits while we secure funding to acquire the proper space in the proper location

For now – we have a virtual home.  The nominees will be announced this spring then voting. The induction festival is in development for later in the year.   We can all be proud and celebrate these fantastic Canadians, what they have done for our industry, paving the way for all who followed and perhaps more important, making us laugh.  The tricky part is allowing ourselves to be proud.  As Kenny Robinson said “Sometimes you just have to blow your horn when no one listens.”

Thanks Tim, Kenny, Jim and Rick – up to Feb 15th, you can become a Lifetime Member for the modest fee of $25 – that’s less than most cover charges at the club!!
Sign-up now and get in on the ground floor of the CANADIAN COMEDY HALL OF FAMEhttps://canadiancomedyhall.com/ 

JOHN CANDY

DAVE BROADFOOT

RICH LITTLE

PHIL HARTMAN

BRILIANT STAND-UP COMEDIAN AL VAL CAME IN LIKE A WRECKING BALL TO BREAK DOWN COMEDY GENDER BARRIERS

Over the past few years, mainstream media and audiences have been introduced to many talented and exciting transgender performers, actors, artists, musicians….all the while learning about their challenges and life experiences. I have a number of friends who have transitioned but I’ve never sat down to ask questions or even just listen to their stories, there’s so much to learn and understand, and to celebrate their achievements in life, career and day-to-day living whilst experiencing bullying and a lack of compassion.

I was recently introduced to a very funny comedian – Al Val – who not only talks about her path taken from male to female, but she also pokes fun at the journey and those she’s encountered along the way. The award-winning funny lady believes if you can laugh at something that scares or mystifies you, then you’ll realize there is nothing to be shocked or afraid of. There are too many misconceptions and judgements about people’s sexualities; I personally believe it’s none of anyone’s damned business. And I must admit, I learnt a lot when Al Val recently shared her thoughts with me in an online interview.

Over the past couple of years, you’ve taken very brave steps by becoming the real you – what prompted you to evolve into Al Val?  So my gender identity was something I’d been struggling with since I was a teen, and over the years I’d developed an admittedly pretty sophisticated compartmentalizing pattern; any form of ‘feminine’ expression was kept completely secret to the outside world, while on the outside I presented as this dreadlock-wearing ladies’ man frat boy, mostly as a projection, a form of self-protection… But eventually the weight of performing a lie became more and more unbearable, especially when it was rotting my intimate relationships from the inside – this ‘terrible secret’ I thought I’d take to the grave with me. My personal life and my mental health had reached somewhat of a breaking point, and I decided I didn’t want to look back at the end of my life ashamed at how effectively I’d hidden from everyone. However, I’ve gone by ‘Al Val’ since the start of my comedy career and well before (it’s an abbreviated form of my full name, Algis Valiulis, which is obviously a branding/marketing nightmare). I like to think that there are elements of my delivery and an essence to my personality that have always remained constant – an ‘Al Val’ that hasn’t and won’t change no matter what – but the ‘new me’ is much more vulnerable, honest, and liberated… And that’s pretty special.

2 years ago, you won Male Break-out Comic of the Year and now you’re aiming to challenge for the Best Female – has the comedy community embraced you in your new identity or have you experienced painful push-backs or prejudices when moving forward as a trans-female artist?  I’m extremely proud of the comedy community in Toronto where I live (and Canada in general!) and how generously and open-heartedly they have supported me! I count myself fortunate. Surely there are subcultures, as there would be in any community, that are perplexed and offended by who I am and what I stand for. I’ve even heard whispers of some comics spitefully convinced that I’ve “doing all of this for the clout” which is… baffling. Sure bud, I’ve subscribed to a lifetime of having puffy little marshmallow nipples and getting weird looks in the women’s washroom, but it’s all worth it when 4 people comment that they like my wig on TikTok!

However, those people tend to make up a small population of background noise compared to the outpouring of support I’ve received from the broader comedy community. Honestly, the ‘male’ part of that breakout award was never out of malice; at that point I was still dancing all over the line between male and female, and a lot of people thought that what I was doing was a kind of drag act. I hadn’t openly been identifying as a female at that point. I’m sure moving forward that any awards I get nominated for will be for a ‘female’ category; otherwise I’m going to get those four TikTok fans of mine to ‘cancel’ whoever organizes them.

Your act includes many references to the challenges you’ve experienced as a trans woman, both in showbiz and your life in general. Do you find that by sharing these situations, you not only make people laugh, but also make them think?  I believe that I do! I’ve always subscribed to the idea that prejudice is really a side effect of ignorance, and ignorance can easily be overcome by exposure. On several occasions I’ve been approached by audience members after a show who will tell me that they’ve never met a trans person before, and that my act not only made them laugh but had given them something to relate to. My act is deliberately relatable – I illustrate my faults and insecurities with (sometimes painful) honesty. As a result, people essentially get to ‘meet’ a trans woman and get to connect on that human level: to learn that human universals like insecurity, shame, pride, embarrassment, triumph and failure – we all feel them. This is the human experience. It certainly helps that comedy is one hell of a bonding force between folks, and is also a warm and fuzzy way to process some terrifying and painful feelings and experiences. I do also think that my act explores traditional gender and sexual dynamics that maybe people don’t notice! Moving from one ‘polar end of the gender spectrum’ to the other has granted some interesting insights into how people are expected to behave, how they’re treated, and how they process the world depending on their sexuality and gender.In addition, the fact that I’m ‘new to womanhood’ from my bro-ey, masculine origins allows me to almost speak a sort of common universal language to both men and women, from the perspective of an underdog who’s struggling to fit in, get her shit together and to figure it all out. How can you not cheer for me and maybe take something from the experience? I’m a goddamn pioneer!

Did going through the Second City improv classes & Conservatory Program help you think quickly on your feet when responding to any negative reactions from audiences or people you just run into in day-to-day life?  It’s interesting – I find that the improv training I received from Second City, while profoundly valuable in its own way, wasn’t as directly ‘translatable’ as the years’ experience I’ve had touring Canada and performing at all kinds of places, in some often uncomfortable (and maybe even vaguely dangerous) scenarios. In my opinion, Second City is excellent at training you to build funny and relatable scenes with a team of cooperative mates; however, there is a distinct ‘crowd work’ skill that you can effectively develop through trial and error: getting your teeth metaphorically kicked in by a drunk, hostile crowd at a bowling alley in Red Deer; fighting for the attention of a handful of Leafs fans at an open mic during a playoff game in Oshawa; doing an hour of squeaky-clean material during intermission at a provincial bible quoting competition in Muskoka; performing onstage between a dying Ficus plant and a massive portrait of the queen at a legion in Milton…..but I digress. (Sorry, just got caught up reliving some war stories there…) My point is that personally for me, thinking quickly on my feet is a skill I developed in part through training, but in much larger part through experience on the road. Second City did teach me some crucial skills though, like saying ‘yes, and-’ in all social interactions (onstage and off) to build rapport with people, and to mime starting a lawn mower with astounding realism.As for any hostility I might meet in day-to-day life, I’ve been lucky enough to avoid anything significantly threatening; but if I do, I know my paralyzing fear of conflict and lack of any offstage self-confidence would probably freeze me in place and make me a defenseless target. Funny how a microphone and a stage can change things so significantly…

You currently host a weekly podcast, PodGis…do you present virtual performances, tell stories or chat with guests?  My podcast has become my fun little corner of the universe that is unrestricted by any sort of parameters of the stage and any expectations to be ‘on’ all the time. Yes, it is a comedy podcast in which I tell stories and wing premises as I go, but I do get personal on a level even deeper than I do onstage, and sometimes do some deep, personal dives into how I’m coping, how I’m living, and what my transition experience is like during that given week. It’s an excellent extra insight into my disorganized, imaginative brain… Aside from the occasional special appearance of a friend as a guest, it’s a solo project for now. It’s my interesting, lively little corner of spontaneous self-expression, done my way. I suppose I’m being guarded in how much outside engagement I invite, knowing that there are plenty of people who would troll me and antagonize me for a lark. It’s a level of emotional bullet proofing that I’m working on.With these damned Covid restrictions that prevent live performances, are you creating any online or YouTube content that fans can watch?  I’m considering adding a video component to “PodGis” and posting the full videos on my YouTube channel (“Al Val”) to accompany the audio (available everywhere podcasts are broadcasted!), but in the meantime, am using this lockdown period to revitalize my Twitch channel “ALVALTheEmotionalGamer”, where I will be regularly streaming live makeup tutorials/ transformations, playing video games and basically hanging out with whoever wants to laugh and engage with me!

And how can we follow your comedy journey – do you have a website or social media? My website www.alvalcomedian.com is up and running, and as soon as these pesky restrictions lift I will have more booked shows to post on my event calendar there, as a single place you can continue to visit to stay up to date on all my live appearances!  Otherwise, I post content regularly on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok, all under the account name @alvalcomedy  Add me and check out the cute, silly things I’m out there doing.

Any advice or thoughts for young comics or fellow transgender people looking for direction with their lives?  To young comics, or comics of any age starting out: there is no standard timeline of progression, nor any standardized measure of ‘success’ in comedy; these are often illusions that we use to beat ourselves up that we’re not doing enough, or that we are somehow inadequate. Your primary focuses in my opinion should be self-exploration, self-expression, and self-improvement; the rest is just noise. In fussing about how well you’re competing with others and where you ‘should’ be in your career, you’re suffocating your art. Focus on the things you find funny and with time and practice and a collection of defeats (lots of them – be prepared to suck for at least a while!), you’ll develop an inspired, authentic voice that your audience will naturally be attracted to. Be you, take the pressure off yourself and stay in touch with the reasons you pursued comedy in the first place: it’s fun! Have fun and play; you only really truly fail when you give up completely.

I suppose my advice to transgender people would be similar in regards to failure: every step you take and every aspect of yourself that you explore is a courageous victory, and the only ‘failure’ that exists would be to give up completely on yourself. Yours is the unfortunate challenge of navigating an identity that doesn’t fall comfortably into the norm, so treat yourself with patience and love, lean on the support of the ones who love you and practice gratefulness toward the qualities of yourself that make you such a resilient, special little badass!

I guess what I’m trying to say is whether you’re embarking on a comedy career or a revelation regarding your gender identity or even both, art is an imitation of life and life is really a journey of exploration. You cannot fail if you’re exploring, learning, discovering, growing. Be patient. Be brave. And don’t take bathroom graffiti personally; I wouldn’t trust anyone who thinks that something worth saying is something said with a poop and a sharpie.

Al Val has enjoyed a meteoric rise in the Canadian comedy scene. Since 2018 when Al came out as trans, she has made appearances at Just For Laughs New Faces showcase, JFL NorthWest, Off-JFL/Zoofest, and has taped stand-up sets for CBC Gem (New Wave of Standup), Crave TV (The Stand-Up Show with Jon Dore), and JFL Originals. Host of her own weekly solo stream-of-consciousness podcast PodGis, a graduate of Second City’s Conservatory Program, and one part of improv-rock musical duo “OverDude”, there’s no wonder this multitalented whirlwind was voted by her peers as 2020’s “Breakout Comic of the Year” (in the ‘male’ category, no less – really stickin’ it to the fellas!).

I can’t wait until we get back to post-Covid live shows so I, too, can join comedy fans watching Al Val’s exciting career arc…maybe her own tv special? A Vegas residency? A movie? Anything is possible and Al Val proves that every day.

FUNNY LADY CARLA COLLINS OFFERS INFECTIOUS LAFFS WITH NEW COMEDY ALBUM “PANDEPIC!”

With three comedy albums currently available on iTunes – Mobius Stripper, The Best of the Worst of Carla Collins and Recovering Nudist, funny lady extraordinaire CARLA COLLINS has just unleashed…er, I meant released her latest album PandEPIC! available now on your favourite streaming platform. Here’s a teaser of the tracks: www.carlacollins.hearnow.comIMG_4218Recorded at the legendary El Mocambo nightclub in Toronto in between Covid lockdowns, this hilarious escape from reality delivered by our favorite emotional support cougar will have you laughing your ass off !

Carla’s reality show Carlawood is currently streaming on Amazon Prime, and she’ll soon be filming her first US comedy special produced by the legendary David Steinberg and Proven Entertainment once the industry opens back up post-pandemic. She recently launched her new podcast/web series Carla Collins Rox the Elmo where comedy, music and spirituality meet for the perfect three-way. Carla has also teamed up with bestie, entrepreneur and longtime vegan Michael Stuart Webb for a new podcast to complement their upcoming book called The Douchless Vegan: a Giddy Guide to Living a Delicious Life without Being a Dick.d veganCarla is the creator of Chuckle and Chill: Comedic Meditation, a revolutionary new concept where after delivering thirty minutes of her stand-up comedy, she leads the audience through an authentic, original, relaxing guided meditation. An instant hit, her comedic meditation has already been featured on NBC’s California Live, CP24 News, SiriusXM Radio, CBC’s Metro Morning and in The Eden Magazine and LA’s Splash Magazine.20CCEA42-71CB-46F0-B8B5-7B9781544E96Carla is the bestselling author of Angels, Vampires and Douche Bags, a comedic motivational tome which I read in one sitting – it’s so damned funny! – and is currently writing a new self-help coffee book entitled Stairs: A 30 Day Step by Step Guide to being Fab AF. Her hilarious comedy can be heard around the world on various Sirius XM stations, Spotify, iHeartRadio, TIDAL and Pandora. You can also hear her melodic voice on several commercials and cartoons. So you see…Carla is the reigning queen of all comedy media! Below, Carla shares the stage with Canadian comedy legend, Kenny Robinson.with KennyHaving known her since the early 90s (when she was a mere child!), I’ve watched Carla rise from her first comedy appearances in Toronto, through her stints as a TV reporter on the Oscar red carpet in Hollywood, to producer/host of her own network tv & webtv shows, to best-selling author, meditation guide, to headlining star in leading comedy clubs in Canada and the US. She’s so multi-talented, she out-Oprahs Oprah!!IMG_4199As we’re crossing fingers, toes, eyes for Covid restrictions to ease, why not enjoy a damn good laugh with Carla as she guides us through life, love and lust with a little squirt (yes, Carla, I told you I’d find a way to incorporate your fave word) of lascivious and licentious laughter via her brand new comedy album PandEPIC! now available via Amazon, Spotify, iTunes, Apple, Pandora, Deezer…etc.

If you wanna keep up with news of future  shows, books and live appearances, visit her website www.carlacollins.com and if you’d like to explore her wellness thru laughter program, visit: www.comedicmeditation.com   You go, girl!ECC32362-64EA-4F9F-BA47-EA1611C7EC47

CANADIAN COMEDY ICON GLEN FOSTER TO RELEASE COMEDY ALBUM “UNCHECKED” MAY 25TH!

I’ve known GLEN FOSTER for nearly four decades, representing him during the 80s as part of the Yuk Yuk’s Komedy Klub agency Funny Business, then working with him again several years ago when he launched a series of independent comedy showcases featuring the best of the best of Canadian comedy talent.  Known as That Canadian Guy, Glen has become a mainstay on the Canadian comedy circuit – he didn’t just work the road, he’s one of the comics who built it! His comedy is clever and intelligent, combining reflections on his own personal experiences with razor sharp commentary on current events and popular culture.World_on_shoulders_0253 (2)He has appeared many times at the world-renowned Just For Laughs festival, had his own TV specials on the Comedy Network, can be heard frequently on CBC Radio’s “The Debaters” and he’s a club and corporate event favourite across the country.  That Canadian Guy is a reference to Glen’s first network comedy special during which he joked about the fact people could call him “that Canadian guy” if they couldn’t remember his name.  Sure enough, after the show aired, Glen received a flood of e-mails from viewers who said, “I couldn’t remember your name but I remembered “that Canadian guy.” This became a part of his act….

Glen contacted me recently with great news…he’s releasing a brand new comedy CD on a real-life record label, so I asked him a few questions about how the album, UnChecked, came to be during the pandemic lockdown as well as how the comedy industry has dealt with the lack of live audiences….

After being locked down and locked out of live performing for 14 months, you’re releasing your new comedy album “UnChecked” May 25th – is producing this album how you spent your time during Covid quarantine?  I’m a procrastinating perfectionist which is a terrible combination.  It means that a lot of things never get done.  And if by some miracle, they do get done, they’re never right.  Oddly, I was wildly productive at the beginning of the pandemic; I created a “Covid Comedy” website to showcase comedians who were doing online projects during lockdown.  I co-wrote a Covid parody song and I was one of the first Canadian comedians to attempt a Zoom show.  In fact, just hours before the lockdown, I borrowed a van and raced to Home Depot to get a piece of fake brick wall so I could build a virtual stage in my basement which I called “The Covid Club”.  But did I work on the album?  No, well, not right away.  The bulk of this album was recorded in January 2020 which is very lucky, because a month later, we were going lock down for three weeks to “flatten the curve”.  After it was done, I decided to set the recordings aside for a while so that I could come back and listen with “fresh ears”.  For me, “a little while” means “forget about altogether”, so it wasn’t until we were in full blown pandemic that I actually started listening.  And then I listened repeatedly, over and over.  I made detailed notes as I prepared a paper edit.  Being a bit of a purist, I was hoping to record the entire album from a single show.  (Personally, I think it’s cheating to record six shows and take the best bits of each), however, it turned out that the best recording was the Saturday early show, which is a shorter show because they have to bring in a second crowd. This meant that I couldn’t do a full headline set.  So, full disclosure, I had to edit in material from other shows. 18739257_612638128931218_5476678764500736413_o (2)As the pandemic dragged on, so did the editing process as I sent notes and audio files back and forth with the producer, who was a friend with a newborn who was also time-challenged in his own way.  I vacillated between completely ignoring the album and sudden urgency for completion.  First it was to release the album in time to qualify for the Junos. When that deadline passed, I thought Canada Day might be a good time to release.  Of course, I couldn’t get my shit together in time, so by late summer ‘20, I had decided to hold the release till Christmas.  Then I got a call that changed everything.  A comedian friend I have known for many years, put me in touch with 800Pound Gorilla Records, which is the largest producer of comedy albums in the world!  They wanted to hear my album but they couldn’t get to it until after Christmas so I made the decision to postpone yet again!  Finally, almost a full year after I had recorded it, I got word that they wanted to sign me to a distribution deal.  I am very excited because UnChecked will the first album that I have ever released on an actual record label.  It’s only taken forty years to get some US audience and media attention.Head_hands_out_0093 (2)How did you choose the material included on the album?  Well, first of all, I had to eliminate material that I had already done on previous albums, which I managed to do – mostly.  There were a couple of bits from earlier albums that I HAD to include because they were working well with some of the newer bits I had been working out, so they had become part of my regular set.  I would say though that there are only a couple of exact repeats.  Most of them are bits that were in an early development stage when I first recorded them.  Now, of course they’re much more polished, or I’ve spun them differently or changed the delivery.  Besides, I wouldn’t be the first comedian to get away with doing an “old” bit on a new album.  Unchecked has been growing as a concept in my mind (and in my act) for a few years now.  Partially it’s a reference to my scatterbrain existence. I have a To Do list with NO checkmarks, which is not entirely true, I suppose, because I did manage to get this album out…finally.   However, it also refers to the fact that as a “cis gendered white male” I don’t check any boxes.  If you look closely at the cover, you will see that it is made up of actual check boxes, some of which refer to things that are still on my “to do” list like “Screenplay” and “Taxes” (the deadline is looming as we speak), while others are boxes that I can’t check like “Female” or “LGBTQ”.  I’ve thrown in some more whimsical ones as well, like “Rich”, “Sexy”, “Astronaut” plus a few more contentious ones like “woke”, “safe”, “politically correct”. – things I am most definitely NOT.  So in that sense, the third meaning of UnChecked is not holding back, no holds barred, which is an approach I certainly take on this album.  I seem to have a penchant for ambiguity; I love it when things have two meanings, so UnChecked having three gives me a kind of nerdy thrill.

You pride yourself in working “clean”, but with all the frustrations of isolating with the family, were you tempted to go from That Canadian Guy to That Pissed Off & Angry Canadian GuyI used to be more of a stickler on the clean thing, but now I like to play both sides of the fence.  I can do a completely clean show if that is what’s required, but shows where you can cut loose are a lot more fun.  I don’t mind dropping the odd F bomb, but I would never swear for the sake of swearing.  If you’re going to do it, it should help the joke. There is only ONE F bomb on the entire new album, but there is no way to do the joke without it.  I’ve tried, but F*ck is the only word that really works.  I could have cut the joke, but I really wanted to include it because, apart from getting a great laugh, it makes an important point about the state of comedy and what should be considered “funny”.  In fact, there are a few observations about the state of comedy, particularly with regards to political correctness, cancel culture and what you can and can’t say.  Or more specifically what I, as a cis gendered white male, can’t say.  Or certain taboo topics that comedians are not allowed to joke about.  The only rule I have in comedy is that there should be no rules.  In fact, when someone tells me that I can’t do a joke about such and such, I see it as a challenge to find a way to do it.  For me, the jokes that create the most tension are the ones that bring the biggest laughs and the best of those are the ones that leave you wondering “Was that offensive?”  I would say that about 70% of this album is pretty close to “Disney clean”, and another 20% could be considered questionable, but that last 10% is going to make some people’s heads explode!!  So I look forward to the release of UnChecked and my subsequent cancellation…LOLliveWith the possibility of live performances starting up by end of summer, are you already planning shows in Toronto and across the country in support of the album?  If I do any touring, I don’t think it will be in Canada, not for a while at least.  We are way behind on vaccinations, so I don’t see things opening up again until fall.  Even then, I think older crowds, which I appeal most to, are going to be pretty skittish about going into crowded spaces for some time. Or maybe, if they ever perfect Zoom, we’ll be doing more virtual shows.  I’ve done a few of them during the pandemic, and some of them were awful.  Even the good ones don’t compare to LIVE though.  Of course, if the album is a big hit, who knows?  This is the first time that my comedy will be heard all over the world and that may bring some new and interesting opportunities.

Several years ago, you presented a series of live stand-up shows (The Canadian Aces) featuring comedy greats like the late Mike MacDonald, Evan Carter, Ron Vaudry, Ronnie Edwards and Simon Rakoff, as well as your then Hump Dump Live radio show co-host Lawrence Morgenstern. The rooms were packed with fans who appreciated the sharp and timely material. Could such a series of shows happen again, either with the Aces or the young’ens once we’re allowed to go back in to the clubs?  Again, it remains to be seen. And again, the primary market for that sort of thing would be an older crowd who, as I say, might be a little skittish about crowded spaces for a while.  The good news is more and more comics have been in this game for twenty years or longer, although due to all the lockdowns and on again off again closures of live venues, 2020/2021 may have an asterisk in the margin of the record books.

In That Canadian Guy’s opinion, how has the comedy scene changed over the past 4 decades since you started out?  Comedy reflects reality, so all the issues that have been part of that reality like racial tension, the #metoo movement, gender issues have all had an influence on comedy. The biggest thing I’ve noticed would be the rise of political correctness, which isn’t unique to comedy of course, though comedy seems to be the focal point of a lot of anger lately. Certainly a number of comedians have been under the threat of being “cancelled” for mere jokes.  This is another one of the themes of UnCheckedGlen Foster_Unchecked coverThere is this notion that comedy, like everything else needs to be more diverse and inclusive.  Along with that comes the idea that old, white, male comedians such as myself should step aside, give up our privilege, etc.  As a result, I find that a lot of comedy is more preachy than it used to be.  It’s more about making your point, or standing up for this group or that group, not punching down, etc.  There is a lot “clapter” these days which is a term for an audience half laughing, but more clapping and agreeing with whatever point a comedian might be making: I think it’s all a bit of nonsense.  To me, the only thing comedy has to be is funny.  My rule is be funny first, then you can preach or do whatever the hell else you like, but be funny first.

Where can we purchase/download your UnChecked album and how much will it cost to enjoy and own great comedy?  On May 25th, it will be available on all the usual music download platforms like Apple, Amazon etc.  Or you could just visit my website www.thatcanadianguy.com because I will have all the links listed there.

Good luck with the launch, Glen…I hope everyone buys the album and the next blog interview I do with you will be for next year’s Juno awards!!  Make sure you visit Glen’s new website, follow him on Fcbk at  www.facebook.com/thatcanadianguy or visit the record label    www.800poundgorillarecords.com

Fabulous funny lady CARLA COLLINS tickles funny bones, meditates on life & laughter, and soothes our souls

I remember the night of the Oscars many years ago when one of Canada’s leading TV networks sent beautiful Toronto comedienne CARLA COLLINS down to L.A. to cover the red carpet arrivals and do interviews with the stars. OMG, I’ll never forget that vision of her in a bizarre, wild orange sparkly frock tossing out bon mots and kudos to the stars, drawing them into her microphone and asking them hysterical questions about their nominated roles, their lives and loves…and whatever else came into her head – a wacky stream of consciousness. She was brilliant! Totally unafraid to meet to BIG named stars head-on, kinder than Joan Rivers but just as “intimate” with her enquiries, Carla charmed everyone that night and I knew it was only a matter of time that she herself would walk among the showbiz giants…on 6″ stilettos and with even bigger hair!

Working her magic in west coast comedy clubs, hosting corporate events & awards nights, special guesting at swanky soirees – years later Carla has forged a successful comedy career as well as becoming a best-selling author, launched a brilliant interactive program that merges laughter with meditation and yoga principles, and now back on home turf in Canada, she’s hosting a brand new webcast series (which should go live with a studio audience once Covid quarantining is over) staged at the legendary El Mocambo nightclub in downtown Toronto.

I recently caught up with my fellow blonde goddess and posed a few scintillating questions I thought my readers would enjoy….th (1)It’s been a long time since your first stand-up gig at The Rivoli in Toronto – do you remember your excitement or fears when you first set foot on the stage? And did you think it would lead to such a successful career in comedy for you?  For the longest time I was absolutely terrified of doing stand-up and had a crushing nerve problem where I couldn’t even eat for days leading up to going on stage. I only dabbled in comedy a couple of times a year when I was working fulltime on TV and radio.  Although comedy was my first love, I was terrified before every show. Now I could jump up and do 45 minutes at a garage sale! I can’t wait to make people laugh and I certainly never imagined it would become my greatest high and healthiest escape. Like every other comedian right now, I’m practically doing a tight 5 in the Whole Foods parking lot against everyone’s will.   The Rivoli was the mecca of comedy – I’m so sad to hear it has closed and so honoured to have had the opportunity to perform there a few times.

Your stand-up comedy has attracted a huge following in the States and whenever you’ve come home to Canada for special appearances you pack the theatres – do you find any difference in the audiences?  Audiences can vary a little from place to place, city to city. If I were to make a general, sweeping, certain to offend someone observation it’s that US audiences tend to be a tad more effusive and more prone to standing ovations and Canadian audiences seem to prefer more intellectual humour at times. Having said that, depending on the town or region, that statement can be totally flipped. At the moment I would kill for any type of audience, even though my Chihuahua, three kittens and UPS driver have been a great crowd during lockdown.15C4588F-D0F0-4D61-B70A-CBE938F0D1FE

Have you had any really weird experiences while doing your shows? Any men’s underwear thrown on stage, mothers claiming you seduced their sons or maybe some ugly streakers?   One time in Long Beach, California, a very drunken woman slurred and heckled throughout my set. That wouldn’t be remotely unusual except for the fact that I was performing at an AA meeting and the Ziplock bag full of vodka that fell out of her purse was frowned upon by the organizers. Last year in Calgary a former hockey player and his girlfriend bought me many, many drinks after I headlined a show. I had to excuse myself and retire to my room as I was beyond tipsy only to find a $1,500 tip in my purse! I was a bit of a legend the following night as the other comedians and wait staff had witnessed the event. Pretty sure I naively escaped an Albertan three-way!headshot2In one of your many film appearances, the diamond heist adventure Bitch Slap, you got to work with both Hercules (Kevin Sorbo) and Xena (Lucy Lawless) – how was that experience and did you manage to score any super powers of your own?   Well I was only in one scene so I didn’t get to work with either one on set. I did meet Kevin at the premiere and I already knew Lucy through a mutual friend. She’s absolute perfection and is one of my girl crushes. Pretty sure everyone adores Xena/Lucy. The only super power I emerged with was my ability to overact even in the tiniest of roles and my ability to kill off husbands. Metaphorically.bitchslapA few years ago, you created a fun online chat show, Carla Collins Comes Clean, set in your actual bathtub where you told us about all sorts of hilarious things that happened to you. How did you come up with the crazy concept and did you ever invite any special guests to the tub?   We had so much fun doing that web series and we still have a season 2 that needs to find its way out into the wild. It was directed by Tom Moser who has won multiple Emmys in animation. My then producer, Penny Edminston, and I thought it would be funny for me to just rant away in a bathtub as that is my natural habitat and form of cheap therapy. I would straight up be doing prison time if I wasn’t allowed to take baths. We were tickled by the twist ending of reversing the camera and showing some poor pizza delivery man, nun, B list celebrity, etc… fully-dressed in the tub with me and forced to hear my bullshit. There is interest in remaking the show this coming year so expect to see more of me, as it were. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

I’m interested to learn about how you’re exploring your spiritual side by launching the innovative Comedic Meditation program, hosted online now (thanks, Covid you bitch!). Please tell me about the healing effects of humour and how you have merged guided meditations with laughs and smiles.   Currently, Comedic Meditation is my favourite child! I think I have often combined my love of comedy and spirituality including performing stand-up at the Kabbalah Center in LA and my humorous self-help book “Angels, Vampires and Douche Bags”.8179923._UY630_SR1200,630_ (2) I’ve been spiritual all my life and have practiced yoga and meditated for almost 20 years now. Everyone in Los Angeles claims to be a guru and I just wanted to take the intimidation, preciousness and woo woo out of meditation. It’s simply focusing on your breath. The marriage isn’t as unconventional as it may seem at first. Starting off with 20 to 30 minutes of stand-up allows everyone to release endorphins and get out of their own heads and both meditation and laughter produce the same gamma brainwave. People are finding that they are able to relax more deeply and more quickly after some giggles (and sometimes a few drinks) Also, although no one thinks Zoom comedy shows are ideal, the meditation portion may work even better delivered online as people can relax comfortably in their own home without feeling judged and without having to drive home…or wear pants.   I’ve been fortunate to do a few corporate comedic meditations this month for a few organizations which I loved.  Thanks to several sponsors like our title sponsor, The Michael Stuart Webb Team, you can sample a show right now at no cost by visiting www.comedicmeditation.com Figure we all need to chuckle and chill during these mad times.9584DC8C-8DFF-4DBA-8F02-C07769F0FD8D meditationMore recently, you returned to the stage here in Toronto at the legendary El Mocambo nightclub presenting a unique talkshow-style webcast called Carla Collins Rox the Elmo – do tell…how did this happen and who will you be chatting with?  Pretty sure masks and podcasts have both become mandatory! I had a wonderful experience playing the Elmo for two shows in September during that brief but glorious window when venues were quasi-open. I had quarantined with Elmo Owner and former Dragon’s Den star Michael Wekerle and his family and we became fast friends. Michael Stuart Webb (whom I refer to as my gay fiancé!) and I had already partnered on Comedic Meditation and he was launching his new media group so the three of us joined forces to produce a pandemic panacea podcast/web series. Carla Collins Rox the Elmo is the perfect three-way of comedy, music and spirituality where mental health meets metal health with the iconic venue as the beautiful backdrop.logo IMG_5293 with KennyWe just wrapped season one with some exceptional guests partaking in no-holds barred, intimate interviews. Many also treat us to mini concerts you won’t see anywhere else. Season one includes candid chats with actor Dean McDermott, Canadian music icon Gowan, comedian Kenny Robinson (pictured above, with Carla), Olympic skating queen Elizabeth Manley, recording legend Kim Mitchell, singer/songwriter Gordon Deppe, the list goes on.  Naturally there’s a lot of laughter and great music but also a lot of raw emotion and honesty. I’m very proud of this show and hope everyone will check it out on my YouTube channel and/or iTunes and Spotify.IMG_5378The Covid lock-down, isolation and quarantining has not dampened your sense of humour and certainly hasn’t curtailed your creativity. How many webisodes are you planning at the Elmo and then what’s next for Carla Collins? Any more books in the works?  We’re planning more webisodes in the new year when we are able and I’m also going to release a new comedy album from my two shows in the fall at the El Mocambo (maybe even a TV special!).  I am working on a new book: the world’s first motivational/self-help coffee book featuring the beautiful fashion designs and photography of my dear friend Jorge Del Busto called Stairs: A 30 Day Step by Step Guide to being Fab AF.  It features various photos of me on a staircase with some hilarious and hopefully helpful hints of being even more fabulous than you already are 😊 I’ve been billing myself as the world’s most immature mature model. Funny fact: I was just signed to a modelling agency in LA. Now I’ll be spending the entire holiday season phoning up my exes and letting them know that they didn’t know it, but they were bangin’ a model!Facetune_20-11-2020-19-10-45 IMG_4986Carla, is there anything else you’d like to add, any shout-outs or messages to your fans?  Just wanna send everyone lots of love and laughs right now. Stay safe and healthy. If you can, during lockdown, adopt a pet. Or an accent.

Watch for webisodes of Carla Collins Rox the Elmo now on YouTube!76E97749-7719-4666-A45F-9BB83EF87B94