On Wednesday I had an all-day comedy writing and performance workshop with Kevin McDonald from Kids In The Hall. I’ve been excited for a month about this and also slightly nervous for a couple of reasons. Reason one is that I have a terrible track record of meeting famous people who I admire. In the past I have cried, said absurdly awkward things and just dawned a frozen faced grin. Johnathan Taylor Thomas, Miikka Kiprusoff and Adam Lavine – I sincerely apologize. Reason two for my nervousness was that there was word we would be performing our sketches at Kevin’s show that night Yuk Yuk’s and while I was working on my stage fright issues, I was not sure I had completely conquered them. But I was determined not to let my nerves take away an opportunity to learn sketch comedy from a member of Canada’s most successful sketch comedy show.
My class consisted of 15 people from all walks of life including advertising & oil and gas and even a few active members of Calgary’s comedy scene. For a man who has had so much success in his career, worked with Lorne Michaels and has been on Seinfeld – Kevin McDonald is the most down to earth, quirky and lovely man. He gave each of us detailed, helpful notes throughout process and he was really supportive of our work. And the fact that I did something that made Kevin McDonald who has written on Saturday Night Live laugh and say I was funny, was like the highlight of my whole life up until now.
We did indeed perform our sketches that night in Kevin’s show. The crowd was bigger than I thought, about 50+ people. Not only were our sketches to follow Kevin’s stand up set, it also was to open for some of my personal improv heroes and teachers. Before the show started I felt those old stage fright nerves bubble up, so much I would go to the bathroom to talk myself off a ledge every 10 minutes. Then I saw my instructor from the Kinkonauts Owen Chan and I sort lied and told him I felt ready to get up there, finally. And he asked me what changed and as I was explaining to him how in his class I really started to understand how it not as nerve wrecking when you know you are not alone on stage and your job is not to make yourself look good but to make your stage partner look good – I somehow completely felt focused and calm. I also asked Owen what he does before he goes on stage and he said he just acted normal. I don’t why this concept blew my mind as much as it did. I always thought you had to like pump yourself up or like warm your vocal chords or something but I actually think those things psyched me out before. So I took his advice and just enjoyed the hilarious sets before our turn on stage.
I was so consumed by the comedy before I was supposed to go on that when I made my way on stage it was just like oh yeah, it’s our turn to go up in a another class. So we went up and we did our scene and we got a few laughs. Was it my best work? In my opinion far from it, I think held back a lot but I did it! I tackled one of my New Year’s Resolutions and I got on stage again. I was exhilarated and then the night was capped up off my watching some of my favourite Calgarian improvisers do some hilarious scenes with Kevin. I was really proud to be a part of that night and it is a day I will always remember.
I feel like I got this part of myself back that I thought I had lost. I never thought I would have the kind of bravery I had to go up on stage that I had when I was teenager. But even just performing in my classes had reminded me of a kind of joyfulness that I have only found in my life when I am on stage being ridiculous. And I don’t want lose it again. I am passionate about my pursuits in comedy performing and writing. And I hope that doesn’t come off as totally obsessive and crazy because I try to direct those feelings towards my cat. Anyhoo, I am pumped and excited and hopeful about what lies ahead! YAY!