Comedian Susan Stewart – Taking Mental Health Seriously

Comedian Susan Stewart – Taking Mental Health Seriously

Comedian Susan Stuart – Taking Mental Health Seriously

 ‘My brain stopped working. I didn’t want to live anymore.’

 Join comedian Susan Stewart for a night of laughs while she shares her mental health journey and what she has learned the hard way about taking mental health seriously. You won’t want to miss this important community event that raises awareness about mental health and raises money for the Brantford General Hospital’s Mental Health Unit. Here is the link.

If you want to hear the entire interview with Susan, check it out here.

 Don’t miss Susan’s Show on March 27th and March 28th

 Hi there, I’m Judy Croon. Canada’s Keynote Humourist. Welcome to another episode of Laugh Long and Prosper. Today I’m chatting with Susan Stewart.

 For the past 15 years, Susan Stewart has been entertaining and inspiring audiences across North America. Susan is best known for her ability to make people laugh while helping them to meet their challenges with a sense of humour. Susan is the author of 3 books including her latest title, You Gotta Laugh: Wit And Wisdom About Not Taking Life (Or Yourself) Too Seriously. Susan’s podcast, Still A Hot Mess, and her comedy album, Relentless, are available on iTunes and Spotify. You can learn more about Susan on her website.

 By the way, Mar 27 and 28th, you can check out Susan’s latest show called; A Bit More Than A Rough Patch: A Comedy Show About Taking Mental Health Seriously. 

 Join Susan for a night of laughs while she shares her mental health journey and what she has learned the hard way about taking mental health seriously. You won’t want to miss this important community event that raises awareness about mental health and raises money for the Brantford General Hospital’s Mental Health Unit. Here is the link.

 Susan’s catalyst for this important fundraiser

Judy: Susan, welcome to the podcast. Your brand-new live show is called ‘A bit more than a rough patch. A comedy show about taking mental health seriously.Can you tell people what was the catalyst for this particular show? 

Susan: Well basically it was inspired by some events that happened to me last year. I found myself in a clinical depression and suffering from a high grade level of anxiety. I was having panic attacks and all that good stuff! So that happened late winter/ early spring last year. That’s when I reached what is called a mental health crisis.
To make a long story short, I basically didn’t want to live anymore.
The way I was feeling… my brain stopped working.

I was also caught up in a negative assumption that I was never going to feel better again. 

The situation was permanent. I had a feeling of hopelessness. So, with that bleak outlook on life, it resulted in an attempt. Luckily, I was unsuccessful. So, my new show reveals how I got there. I wasn’t interested in taking medication. I did not want to make an admission that it had gotten to that point. Right? You’ve read my bio; I’m an author. I’m a speaker. I’m a comedian. I help people see the lighter side of life. So, this was my own personal stigma. That was the real main contributor to reaching that crisis point. Also, I didn’t reach out to my therapist so I didn’t get the help. I wasn’t honest with the people in my life about how severe my condition was getting.

 When it comes to suicide, people often wonder, ‘How could you let yourself get to that point?’ 

Judy: Did this mental shift happen over a month, over a week or one day, did you suddenly feel like a switch went off? Explain the timeline to me if you can.

Susan: I would say that both my symptoms of depression and anxiety got to an intolerable level around last June. So, it was a slow decline. I was so resistant to the idea of medication that I could have gotten on medication, like, say, in January or February and avoided the whole damn thing. However, I was so unwilling to admit what was going on because of what I do for a living. I was convinced that I could handle it on my own.

You convince yourself that you can just think your way out of it.

Yeah sure, I had the tools in the toolbox. I had healthy habits. But I didn’t start to feel better with all of my self-help. The self-help wasn’t helping. I was at a point where my brain’s chemistry was so imbalanced that medication was a necessary element to my recovery. So, I finally did get on medication, but then I was playing around with it. First of all, I wasn’t taking it every day.
Then I would switch prescriptions. I‘d go see a psychiatrist and decide that I needed a new prescription. It was a series of errors where I just didn’t respect the role of medication in my recovery.

My symptoms just kept on worsening.

Judy: Is this a common reaction for people like yourself who are going through that slow decline?
“I don’t need to do this with medication. I can talk myself out of this”.
Or is it also a fear of what the side effects of the medication might be like? Or are you so removed from yourself that you just can’t think clearly?

Susan: Well, all of the above, I think, Jude, yeah, it was fear around side effects. But if I had to pinpoint it, if I had to get down to one major reason, it was stigma. I didn’t want to be standing on stage as this motivational speaker on anti-anxiety, antidepressant medication. I thought that it made me a bit of a fraud.


Judy: It’s funny that you would say that, because your keynotes and your workshops are all about mental health, right? Yet, you don’t want to be considered a ‘fraud’.
What would you say to people now who are feeling the way that you were feeling back then?

 Susan: Well, now, I understand a lot more. We have these neurotransmitters in our brain; like serotonin, norepinephrine, dopamine. When they are basically imbalanced to a certain degree, all the self-help in the world isn’t going to be enough. Right?

 Like, all the exercise and positivity and spirituality in the world is not going to be enough.

 Now, what’s in the equation is medication to balance out those, well, we call them good feeling chemicals, right? It gets down to science. I didn’t know that at the time.
This is now clarity. This is information I have now.
But you talk about me being this mental health advocate, and so, yeah, I’m choking on the irony of it all to this very day. But I think there was just so much shame around it. I just couldn’t believe that I was sick.

Going on medication was not an admission I wanted to make.
Now, here’s the thing. If there had been something physically wrong with me, right, like, if I all of a sudden got diagnosed with diabetes, like high blood pressure, even lower back pain, I would have had no problem getting medication. So, there’s my stigma.
I really had to face down my personal stigma with this. As a result, that’s the show that we were talking about earlier- the show that I’m doing March 27 and March 28th called, A Bit More Than A Rough Patch. Really, it’s just me sharing with the audience what I learned.

Judy: I would say it’s a bit more than a rough patch. That’s the understatement of 2024, Susan Stewart.

Susan: Well, the title comes from a conversation that I had with my partner when I was in a recovery treatment program at the Homewood Health center in Guelph. It was a nine-week program.

 I basically went there after my attempt.
Yeah, one day I’m at Homewood, I’m talking to my partner and we get talking about my mental health crisis, and I say to her, “Yeah, it was a bit of a rough patch”. And it was just like silence. We’re facetiming, actually. I could see her, and she was, like, stunned and wide eyed, and she said, “What the hell did you just call it, Susan? Let’s be very clear. It was a bit more than a rough patch.”

And so, to this day, we laugh about that conversation. Now, there I was, minimizing it to the very end. So, when I was thinking about the title of the show, like, what the hell am I going to call this a show? And then I recalled the conversation and I thought, well, that’s kind of. There it was, yeah, it was a bit more than a rough patch.

Judy: But it’s interesting that you say that it’s a stigma because there are no mistakes on this planet, right? And I mean, something in the universe picked Susan Stewart. Funny Susan Stewart, who says this is a stigma to write a comedy show about it. And I think you’re going to reach a lot of people who have too much pride, who have too much, who have too much going on in their head that they don’t want to ask for help.

 How does someone in a similar position go about getting help?

 Susan: Yeah, well, I think it’s really important that you get your symptoms assessed. There are some classic symptoms when it comes to depression and anxiety.

 Judy: Tell us what they are.

Susan: You lose interest in pretty much everything-an apathy about pretty much everything sets in. Another symptom is isolation- I withdrew from my family and friends. The chemical imbalance in your brain really affects your cognition. I had a severe problem focusing and making a decision. Finally, the last big symptom is that you go into survival mode. You lose your creativity, your curiosity, your courage and your sense of humour.

When depression and anxiety set in, you do not feel like yourself- your behavior dramatically changes.
 I think the one indicator that something was going wrong was actually last January, I had this gig in Victoria. I was out there to do an after dinner talk for a bunch of travel agents. And I don’t know about you, but when you’re a couple hours away from getting on stage, I start to get kind of pumped up. I have a lot of energy in my body. I can’t really sit down anymore. I pace around, I run some lines. On the day of the event, my partner and I did some sightseeing during the day, and then when we got back to the hotel, I crawled into bed and fell asleep.
The girl who practically does jumping jacks before a gig, was napping.
That change in behavior was a sign of much bigger things to come.
So, you just start doing things that you never do.

There’s just a lack of energy for everything. Physically, mentally, emotionally. You just feel drained.

 Judy: What else are you hoping to achieve with this blockbuster pre-Broadway show?

 Susan: No pressure felt there whatsoever.

 Well, first of all, I want to emphasize that it is going to be fun. I promise.
t’s a comedy show, of course, and any shows I’ve ever seen you do have been ultimately comedy shows. We’re going to have lots of laughs about our experiences with mental health. I poke fun at stuff like anxiety, but what I’m achieving, or what I hope to achieve with the show is, I think, helping people feel less alone, people feel seen and heard. I really hope that it’s incredibly validating for people just to, I think, understand how I got to a crisis point. So maybe they can avoid reaching that point. Seek help, like talk to a therapist or a social worker, anybody, really, just talk to anybody and get medication if your symptoms are at an extreme level. So, yeah, it’s really just to kind of understand the necessary steps to avoiding that feeling of hopelessness. So, yeah, like you said, it’s really what I learned the hard way.

 Judy: You’re a tough egg, my friend. And I don’t know how many other people would have come out of this saying, “You know, what? I’m going to write a comedy show about this, and I’m going to teach people what they should do.”

Because the great takeaway out of just having this interview with you is you said it right in the beginning. Sometimes you just need medication because the chemical imbalance is something that you can’t fix on your own. So, stop being brave, you know, worrying about the stigma. Do what Susan did. Talk to somebody, even if it’s just talking to a friend or talking, know, just get it. It’s. You’re not helping anybody, especially yourself.
Susan, how many comics do we know that have mental health issues? Again, it’s the tears of a clown. You see people who are on stage, they’re funny, they’re confident, and then behind the scenes, it’s the exact same thing. Right? So, my hat is off. I’m really impressed that you’re putting this together.

 Why do you think it’s important to see humor in something serious, like mental health?

Susan: Well, okay, first of all, I think there’s something funny about everything. Okay. Like, even the really tough stuff, for sure. I strongly believe there is room and a necessity to laugh at the hard things in life. Mental health is a serious topic, but it’s important not to take it too seriously. I believe seeing the humor in our struggles helps us move through them and get to the other side. Actually, research has proven humor to be a key element in our ability to be resilient, and I’m not surprised by that one bit. The struggles we face create tension in our lives. Right? There’s tension there, and laughter releases that tension, which gives us the boost to keep going. So, like I said, I think it’s not only important to laugh, but I think it’s necessary. So that’s one of the things I do at the beginning of the show, is I give the audience permission to laugh, and hopefully they take that cue. Hopefully we can feel like we’re in a safe space to see the funny, because there’s funny stuff. And hopefully I’ve done a good job in bringing it to the stage.


Judy: Every show I’ve seen you do has been hilarious. So, like I said, I’m not worried at all. I know we’re talking about a heavy topic, but it takes a brave person, and it takes somebody with sometimes a dark humor to see through that. Because again, we’re talking about the combination of humor and tragedy.

Like the comedic experts say, tragedy plus time equals comedy.

 Once again, March 27th and 28th, join comedian Susan Stewart for a night of laughs while she shares her mental health journey and what she has learned the hard way about taking mental health seriously. You won’t want to miss this important community event that raises awareness about mental health and raises money for the Brantford General Hospital’s Mental Health Unit.

Get your tickets Now

 Susan, Thanks so much for coming on my podcast!

Until next time, laugh long and prosper.

Judy-Croon-laugh-long-pro$per-sig-logo

Feel free to take a listen!

If you would like to catch up on any of my other Laugh Long and Prosper episodes, voted one of the best podcasts of 2021 in Canada by CTV, check me out.

Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud

Wayne Gretsky – Hockey and Humour

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YOU MUST ADOPT THE RIGHT MINDSET- When you’re open to being visible, your online presence becomes like a well-assembled puzzle that search engines can easily recognize and elevate in rankings.
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Live to 100: Secrets of The Blue Zones

Live to 100: Secrets of The Blue Zones

Don’t be shy. You can check out my Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud.

‘Laugh Long and Prosper’ is shelf help with a smile, stressbusters with a smirk, and information with a wink wink. You get the point.

Live to 100: Secrets of The Blue Zones

This is a great documentary to kick off the new year.

In this compelling 90-minute Netflix movie, author and National Geographic explorer Dan Buettner shares fascinating information about the Blue Zones, five areas in the world where, per capita, there are the most residents who are living to 100 years-old or longer!

The Blue Zones are located in Sardinia (Italy), Ikaria (Greece), Nicoya (Costa Rica), Loma Linda (California) and, topping the list with the highest number of centenarians per capita in the world,  Okinawa (Japan).

Host Dan Buettner, who has studied the Blue Zones for over 10 years with doctors, demographers and psychologists, tries to uncover the secrets to longevity in these parts of the world. 

It’s worth noting that presently, according to the CDC (the Centre for Disease Control) the average American is living until they are 78 years-old.

However, research shows that the human body has an excellent chance of making it to 90 years-old, if taken care of properly.

So how do we get back 12 years? How do we protect ourselves from chronic diseases, heart disease and diabetes?

It’s also worth noting another study outside of this documentary that was done in Denmark, involving 2500 Danish twins.  

The study revealed that genetics only determine about 20 percent of our longevity. Our lifestyle determines the other 80 percent!

So, what can the Blue Zones teach us?

First of all, if you’re hoping for one easy fix, there isn’t one.

Secrets of the Blue Zones proposes that the key to aging well is a combination of lifelong practices – a series of daily fixes if you will.  What’s hopeful about this documentary is that there are lots of takeaways that people living outside of the Blue Zones can use.

Buettner says it boils down to 9 pieces.  

Number One: Moving Naturally (without effort)

No gym memberships here. Blue Zone centenarians move without having to think about it.

They build natural movement into their daily routines.

It could be as simple as sitting. The women of Okinawa don’t sit on chairs – they sit on the floor! This means having to get up at least 30 or 40 times a day.

Many Okinawan centenarians also garden at least one hour a day.

In Sardinia, Italy many of the centenarians are or were shepherds.

This means that they easily clock at least 6 miles a day walking up and down hills with their flocks.

It doesn’t get easier when they go home. The town itself has many hills and stairs. Many narrow houses are built with multiple level staircases.

Number Two: Purpose

A recent study showed that more Americans die in their first year of retirement than in their last year of work.

People in the Blue Zones do not have any specific year for retirement. They always keep busy.

Perhaps the centenarians of Okinawa, Japan say it best when it comes to purpose. They have a word for purpose. It’s called Ikigai. Ikigai means’ a reason for being’ – a reason for getting out of bed every morning.

But Ikigai doesn’t have to be complicated.

One resident who is a karate master at 102 years- old says his Ikigai is to continue his martial arts practice.

Another Okinawa centenarian says his Ikigai is catching three fish a week so he can feed his family.

Number Three: Downshift

Blue Zone centenarians incorporate breaks into their daily routines to help them shake off stress. These breaks can include simple gestures like; getting outdoors, walking, or just laughing with friends. Whatever breaks the routine and feels good!

Number Four: Enjoy a glass of wine

In some of the Blue Zones (particularly Italy and Greece), a number of centenarians like to have a glass of red wine a day. Studies have shown that red wine has antioxidant compounds that can help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress. This can lead to lowering the risk of atherosclerosis as well as coronary heart disease and stroke.

Another report shows that moderate red wine drinking can also lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Number Five: Consume more plant-based foods

The top five elements of the Blue Zone diets were: whole grains, vegetables, greens, beans and tubers such as sweet potatoes.

Buettner notes that a cup of beans a day is associated with an extra four years of life expectancy.

Number Six: The 80% eating rule.

The Japanese have a phrase for this, as well – Hara Hachi Bu.  

Basically, it means eating until you are 80 percent full.

That way, you never feel stuffed, tired or lazy after eating a big meal.

Number Seven: Family/ Community

A sense of belonging is important in all of the Blue Zones.

Taking care of loved ones is part of their culture.

One interesting fact is that there are no retirement homes in any of the Blue Zones.

Blue Zone centenarians are mentally and physically fit enough to live in their own homes. 

Also, there are very few cases of dementia in the Blue Zones. The documentary isn’t conclusive as to specifically why this is but it perhaps it’s a combination of diet, lifestyle and community.

Families and communities in the Blue Zones take care of their elders. They don’t look at them as burdens. In fact, they look at them as fountains of knowledge that they can constantly learn from.

Number Eight: Friends

Research has shown over and over again that friendships help us to fight loneliness, give us a sense of purpose and lower our overall stress levels. There is no lack of friends and/or family in the Blue Zones. Again, centenarians are beloved in their communities.

Number Nine: Spirituality

Blue Zone residents tend to belong to a faith-based community. Buettner points out that individuals who regularly attend a faith-based service live 4 to 14 years longer than those who don’t. 

In Conclusion:

I highly recommend Live to 100: Secrets of The Blue Zones. We may not all live until we are 112 years old but we can certainly start doing small Blue Zone hacks on a daily basis to improve our lives going forward. Moving naturally, leaning into a healthier diet and socializing and caring for others and being aware of a sense of purpose can be done by almost anyone. It’s good for us and it’s good for the people that we care for.

By the way, the people in the Blue Zones all shared something else that isn’t highlighted specifically on the list but it is certainly part of centenarians’ lives. As a comedian, I can certainly identify with – the joy of laughter. The centenarians certainly like to laugh and share a joke.

Hey, if pull my finger in its small way can contribute to adding days, months or years to our lives, then we should certainly all be on board.

Until next time, laugh long and prosper.

Judy-Croon-laugh-long-pro$per-sig-logo

Feel free to take a listen!

If you would like to catch up on any of my other Laugh Long and Prosper episodes, voted one of the best podcasts of 2021 in Canada by CTV, check me out.

Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud

Wayne Gretsky – Hockey and Humour

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Today’s blog is sponsored by: TROOL Social knows that to be visible online you have to be fully committed, congruent in who you are and what you do.
YOU MUST ADOPT THE RIGHT MINDSET- Steer your ship to the SS Optimization & TROOL Social To get you Sailing On Course
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The Stress Prescription

The Stress Prescription

Don’t be shy. You can check out my Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud.

‘Laugh Long and Prosper’ is shelf help with a smile, stressbusters with a smirk, and information with a wink wink. You get the point.

The Stress Prescription

‘Worrying is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do, but it gets you nowhere.’

-Glenn Turner

Recently, I read a book called The Stress Prescription.

To worry or not to worry – that is the question.

Did you know that in some cases, worrying about a bad thing happening can cause you more stress overall than the bad thing actually happening?

By constantly worrying about an upcoming event, we repeatedly re-live a worst-case scenario when in fact, things work out better than we anticipated.

We also worry about too much that is out of our control.

A new study published in Nature Communications supports this theory. Perhaps you haven’t kept up your subscription of Nature Communications so I will fill you in!

In the study, researchers took 45 volunteers, broke them up into 3 groups and asked them to play a computer game.

In the computer game, the participants would turn over rocks.

Some rocks had snakes underneath them.

In the first group, if a participant found a snake underneath a rock, nothing would happen. Everything would remain the same and the participant would continue to play the game.

In the second group, if the participants found a snake underneath a rock, they were given a small but uncomfortable electrical shock to their hand. Ouch.

In the third group, if the participants found a snake under a rock, they were given a small but uncomfortable electrical shock to their hand, but only some of the time.

All of the participants were measured for stress symptoms which included signs like increased heart rate, pupil dilation and sweating.

Which group do you think showed the most symptoms of psychological stress?

If you guessed the third group (the group of participants who were shocked occasionally) you would be correct.

It turns out that worrying about a bad outcome can actually be worse than the bad outcome itself.

Increased heart rate, pupil dilation and sweating weren’t the only side effects, however. Participants were slower when it came to making decisions. Their overall performance was worse.

This is sometimes known as anticipation stress.

It is hard to convince worriers of this but you are no better off whether you worry or not.

In fact, you might be worse off.

Research has shown that long lasting worry and stress over time can lead to issues like ulcers, heart attacks, cancer and Alzheimer’s, to name a few.

So how do we minimize the stress element when something might or might not happen?

One researcher in the previous study noted:

What this research implies for us is that telling people what we know is important. Reducing the range and number of things that are uncertain and focusing on what is known will reduce stress even if you can’t completely remove uncertainty. The research also implies that telling people certain bad news (you are going to get an electric shock, or a reduction in sales etc.) is better than leaving people wondering.”

As the study would suggest, knowing that you are always going to get the shock can be better than knowing that you are randomly going to get the shock.

The study also suggests that telling people bad news is sometimes better than leaving them wondering.

Uber apps are a perfect example of relieving people’s minds by giving them immediate information.

Even though we have no real control as to when the Uber cab is going to arrive and our cab is sometimes late, we still feel better when we can see the little image of the Uber cab driving towards us and the little box beside it with the minutes counting down.

Many public transit systems have electronic boards that tell commuters when buses and trains are going to arrive.

I’m not a worrier (no really, I’m not hahaha) but I know a lot of people who are. At the very least, I would like to try and minimize their anxiety stress with these two last quotes.

Worry is a total waste of time. It doesn’t change anything. All it does is steal your joy and keep you very busy doing nothing.”

-Anonymous

If the problem has a solution, worrying is pointless. In the end the problem will be solved. If the problem has no solution, there is no reason to worry, because it can’t be solved.” -Zen proverb

Until next time, laugh long and prosper…and try not to worry!

If you would like to catch up on any of my other Laugh Long and Prosper episodes, voted one of the best podcasts of 2021 in Canada by CTV, check me out.

Until next time folks, Laugh Long and Prosper!

Judy-Croon-laugh-long-pro$per-sig-logo

Feel free to take a listen!

Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud

Wayne Gretsky – Hockey and Humour

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Mary and the Motel from Hell

Mary and the Motel from Hell

Don’t be shy. You can check out my Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud.

‘Laugh Long and Prosper’ is shelf help with a smile, stressbusters with a smirk, and information with a wink wink. You get the point.

Yes, there is a lot of bad stuff going on in our world and lately it seems like even more than usual. But these are the times that I like to lean on a quote by the incredible sage, Mr. Rogers. He said, ‘’When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’’’

Over the next few blog entries, I would like to tell you about some of the helpers who work for City Street Outreach.

City Street Outreach  is a local outreach program that is a 100 percent volunteer-run, donation- based and all-inclusive registered charity providing food, clothing and assistance to those in need and/ or living in poverty across the greater Toronto area.

I’m proud to say that in a very small way, I am part of this organization. I’m hardly a saint. In fact, I volunteer for very selfish reasons. It has been good for me emotionally, physically and mentally.

In my last blog, I told you about Alex and Grace, the co-founders of City Street Outreach.  

In this entry, I would like to tell you about one of the first volunteers whom I met on the front lines. Her name is Mary. I want to tell you a tale about Mary and the Motel from Hell.

I met Mary on one of the first nights that I volunteered for City Street Outreach a few years ago.

Mary is physically one of the strongest women that I have ever known.

She could pick up 3 cases of water and 2 cases of pet food without blinking an eye.

Meanwhile I was crumbling under one can of cat food.

Mary is incredibly strong in another way. She never asks for help for herself. She always asks for help for others and no matter what you give Mary (big or small), she is always very appreciative.  You would never guess the kind of adversity that Mary faces every day because she always greets you with a smile, a laugh and/or a thank you. In spite of her circumstances, Mary is one of the most grateful and positive people that I have ever met.

I remember the first time I took City Street Outreach supplies to the place where Mary lived.

Mary and her family were living in a motel room off of Kingston Road in Scarborough. The place should have been condemned years ago. The owner clearly did not care about her tenants. It was only after a newspaper article shamed the owner and local politicians that the place was finally condemned. Thank goodness Mary and the other tenants were relocated to more humane residences.

Mary, her husband, daughter and mother all lived in one of the cramped motel rooms for years! It was an oven in the summer and an ice box in the winter. A hole the size of a basketball was in the bathroom floor and had never been fixed, despite numerous requests.

On top of this, the entire building was crawling with vermin.

Mary once said that a rat crawled out of another tenant’s toilet and ran out of the guy’s room.

The tenant, a big guy who didn’t scare easily, was understandably freaked out.

Sadly, these were everyday occurrences at that motel.

Vulnerable people like Mary and her family trying to eke out some semblance of a normal life while being surrounded by violence, sexual abuse and drug use that ran rampant throughout the building.

Despite this, Mary made the motel a home for her family. 

Her husband, Bobby was amazing with the animals in the complex- from domestic to not-so-domestic. From dogs and cats to abandoned baby raccoons and squirrels, he did his best to help with what little resources he had.

Bobby also tried to make their motel room a home. One Christmas, he strung a small string of Christmas lights outside their motel window, only to hear from the motel owner that it needed to be taken down immediately because it was a fire hazard. One little string of lights.

It’s a small miracle that the entire complex didn’t go up in flames over the years due to the owner’s incredible negligence.

Amidst the chaos, Mary was the beacon of hope for her own family and for many of the other families and individuals in that motel complex. 

She became the main contact person there for City Street Outreach. Whenever City Street Outreach delivered food or dry goods, Mary would make it her mission to fairly distribute whatever there was to whomever needed it.

Once a week, I would also swing by with goods from City Street Outreach.

Honestly, before volunteering for City Street Outreach, I passed by that motel so many times over the years.

I’m ashamed to say it, but I probably would have been afraid if my car broke down in front of it.

Now I was driving into the back of the pitch-black complex (because of course, why would outdoor light bulbs be replaced?) and there would be Mary smiling, patiently waiting for me.

I am so grateful to my friends and family with whom I shared stories about Mary and the Motel from Hell. They regularly loaded me up with food and donations to give to Mary and the other tenants. I hope those donations made life temporarily a little easier for the recipients.   

One Christmas Eve, my dear friend Val and her husband, Greg, took Christmas dinner over to Mary and her family. I have no doubt that whatever Mary received, she shared and tried to stretch it with those around her.

As I mentioned earlier, Mary and the other tenants were finally able to be relocated to better living residences after the motel owner was fined and the place was condemned.

I regularly see Mary on the City Street Outreach circuit. She continues to volunteer and take care of her own family as well as so many others. She is a local hero.

Sadly, she still puts me to shame when it comes to unloading furniture or a truckload of pet food but Mary works tirelessly to make things just a little easier for those who struggle day to day to make ends meet.

Finally, I should add that a lot of the volunteers like Mary at City Street Outreach are or have been recipients of the food and dry goods that the organization distributes. A lot of these people are only too happy to help others as soon as they gain some traction. 

As the saying goes, ‘They don’t need a hand out, they need a hand up.’

Mary is a super star.

She chooses to lead with love, compassion, gratitude and humor.

I think she would make Mr. Rogers proud.

If you would like to catch up on any of my other Laugh Long and Prosper episodes, voted one of the best podcasts of 2021 in Canada by CTV, check me out.

Until next time folks, Laugh Long and Prosper!

Judy-Croon-laugh-long-pro$per-sig-logo

Feel free to take a listen!

Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud

Wayne Gretsky – Hockey and Humour

stand-up-in-10-steps-by-judy-croon-canadas-keynote-humorist

Alex • Grace • City Street Outreach

Alex • Grace • City Street Outreach

Don’t be shy. You can check out my Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud.

‘Laugh Long and Prosper’ is shelf help with a smile, stressbusters with a smirk, and information with a wink wink. You get the point.

 City Street Outreach came from Alex’s dream. Alex and Grace are Angels

About 10 years ago, I interviewed a gentleman on my podcast by the name of Alex Smirnus.

Alex had a dream in which he and his wife, Grace, were driving around the city delivering coffee, sandwiches, blankets and words of encouragement to Toronto’s most vulnerable.

Alex realized his dream when he started City Street Outreach. 10 years later, City Street Outreach has turned into a local outreach program that is a 100 percent volunteer-run, donation- based and all-inclusive registered charity providing food, clothing and assistance to those in need and/ or living in poverty across the greater Toronto area.

On average, City Street Outreach feeds over 4000 hungry mouths every week.

There are more than 50 volunteers and 15 community outreach/ low-income housing locations.

Over 6000 pounds of food are rescued on a weekly basis.

Companies like Costco, Tim Horton’s, Sleep Country Canada, Little Caesar’s Pizza, Second Harvest, Just Socks Foundation, Socks for Souls, Freedom Pet Supplies have all come on board to help those in need.

Recently, Sleep Country Canada joined the cause and donated beds to some of our many vulnerable friends who are sleeping on floors.

On a number of occasions, we have dropped off furniture to people who are fortunate to get some form of subsidized housing but do not have a stick of furniture in their apartments.

Donated beds go quickly and this generous offering from Sleep Country Canada has a huge impact.   Again, this comes down to people like Alex and Grace and volunteers like Louise who work to establish relationships with individuals and businesses in our community in hopes that they can help.

After my interview with Alex so many years ago, I became inspired to join City Street Outreach as a volunteer. Once a week, I would join the other volunteers just outside City Hall and help to hand out sandwiches, coffee and clothing to those less fortunate.

I graduated to picking up bread from local bakeries, like the incredible COB’s bakery, to donate to various locations.

I was also thrilled to take on the pet portfolio. Sean and friends at  Freedom Pet Foods  started giving us dog and cat food every couple of months to help our most vulnerable four-legged friends. So many times, I would see our street friends feed their pets before they even fed themselves. Now we can help them both.

I’ve been so inspired by Alex and Grace that earlier this year, I put together a comedy fundraiser with my very funny friends,  Martha Chaves, Evan Carter and Cathy Boyd. My good pal Linda McEwan from Sotheby’s sponsored the event and my wonderful friend Elaine Lindsay from Trool Social was kind enough to handle the social media. The evening was a great success and every penny went to City Street Outreach.

Speaking of help,  family, friends, neighbors and strangers have come together over the years to donate money, time, clothing, food, small household items, furniture (i.e., basically anything that I can fit into my car) to City Street Outreach. I am eternally grateful for their generosity. 

People always ask me, “How can I help?”

Here are a few suggestions if you feel inclined…

  • You can make a donation via the website. Again, City Street Outreach is 100 % volunteer based.
  • You can come volunteer with us!
  • You can buy Tim Horton’s cards for 10 dollars each. Hand them out to our street friends who are in need.  These cards are invaluable to our friends, as they can get they get a sandwich or a coffee, and some warmth and comfort, if only temporarily. 
  • Share some kindness and respect. For our less fortunate friends, there is dignity in feeling like they are part of the clan because, sadly, they are often treated like they are not.

Over the past ten years, City Street Outreach has grown to be an absolute lifeline for so many.

It wouldn’t have been possible without the dedication of its two founders, Alex and Grace,

two humble people with full time jobs who have made it their mission to be out on the streets of Toronto countless nights a week, helping others. They have inspired many.

They are angels and I am not the first person to say that.

Even some of my most skeptical comedic friends have met them and said the same thing.

Each and every day Alex and Grace quietly make it their mission to serve.

Good people (with great senses of humour, I may add) who are doing amazing things for those less fortunate.

I think I have become a better person just by knowing them.

If you would like to catch up on any of my other Laugh Long and Prosper episodes, voted one of the best podcasts of 2021 in Canada by CTV, check me out.

Until next time folks, Laugh Long and Prosper!

Judy-Croon-laugh-long-pro$per-sig-logo

Feel free to take a listen!

Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud

Wayne Gretsky – Hockey and Humour

stand-up-in-10-steps-by-judy-croon-canadas-keynote-humorist

How I got started in stand-up comedy

How I got started in stand-up comedy

Don’t be shy. You can check out my Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud.

‘Laugh Long and Prosper’ is shelf help with a smile, stressbusters with a smirk, and information with a wink wink. You get the point.

Don’t be shy. You can check out my Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud.

‘Laugh Long and Prosper’ is shelf help with a smile, stressbusters with a smirk, and information with a wink wink. You get the point.

How I got started in stand-up comedy

It seems like millions of years ago.  I’m pretty sure that I was doing open mics during the Precambrian era.

By the way, I never had any intention of becoming a comedian.
For my whole life, I wanted to be a veterinarian.
Unfortunately, during my second year of university, 70 percent of my fruit flies and 50 percent of my final mark flew out of the biology class window.

I was devastated. I went home and cried my eyes out.
As I was weeping hysterically, comedian Joan Rivers was on late night tv doing stand-up.
That’s when the lightbulb went off.
I know what I’m going to do! I’m going to become a stand-up comedian!

To my parents’ horror, I quit university the next day.
I signed up for an improv class at The Loose Moose Theatre created by the legendary Keith Johnstone.
Unfortunately, I never got a chance to work with Keith but I was trained by some of his best students. Unfortunately, to a science nerd like myself, improv seemed so difficult.
Nerds like me like to work alone.
Fortunately, that worked out perfectly for stand up.
Luckily, nerds love formulas. Stand up has a formula! Eureka! Improv has formulas as well but I didn’t learn those until much later in life.
I loved the idea of working alone and carefully crafting the words for my monologue- which unfortunately, on some nights, probably seemed more like a Shakespearean soliloquy. However, I did not give up. 

The comedy bug bit me. Those few laughs that I got in the beginning fueled my craving for more laughs. I drove from Calgary to Boise, Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and every small town in between. The incidents that happened during those road trips are too much to mention in one blog so I will share two quick stories.

Once such tale involved a one-nighter outside of Boise, Idaho.  There were probably about 10 people in the audience. After the show, the two other comics and myself piled into the cars of the 10 audience members and drove waaaaaay up into the woods. Through the pitch-black forests, we drove on dirt roads for what seemed like an eternity. We finally arrived at a desolate cabin.
This could have turned into a scene from Get Out.
Instead, the host walked around and lit candles. He cracked open a window. We could hear a raging creek just outside.
Underneath the window was a beautiful baby grand piano.
The host sat down at the baby grand and proceeded to play Chaka’s Khan’s Through the Fire. This very white man with a beard, baseball cap and lumber jacket played this beautiful soulful song. A reminder to never judge a book by its plaid cover.

During another road trip- this time in Seattle, a female comic from San Francisco said that I could use her apartment while she was traveling across the country.  I had never met her before. I thought it was a very generous offer. I arrived at the apartment in the middle of the night. It was a pretty sketchy part of town but I was just grateful for the accommodation.
When I opened the front door and turned on a light in the kitchen, 8000 cockroaches came out to greet me.
To top it off, there was a note on the kitchen table from my host that said, ‘Hi Judy, welcome. By the way, a repairman is going to swing by tomorrow to replace the wall-to-wall carpeting. Do you mind helping him lift up the carpeting?’

Uhhhh, that would be a HARD NO.
I should have known that the offer was too good to be true. I checked out of the roach motel and checked into Motel 6.

After working in the states for a few months, I returned to Calgary, loaded up my car again and moved to Toronto. Using Toronto as my base, I became one of five female comedians doing stand-up comedy across the country full time.

Comedy led to a radio gig which led to motivational speaking and coaching gigs.

As I’ve said on a number of occasions, I even got a chance to work with Joan Rivers at Roy Thomson Hall in Toronto. It’s as if my life came around full circle.
This nerdy veterinarian wannabe could have never predicted how things were going to turn out. My only advice to kids or adults nowadays based on my experiences is to always keep trying new things.
If you are truly unhappy with what you are doing in life, pick a hobby.
At the very least, you will forge some new skills and perhaps, even make some lifelong friends with people who share your passion.
At the very most and if you have the courage- you might just find what you were truly meant to be doing.
As Tina Fey says in her wonderful book entitled; Bossy Pants, ‘Start with a YES and see where that takes you.’

Until next time folks, Laugh Long and Prosper!

Judy-Croon-laugh-long-pro$per-sig-logo

Feel free to take a listen!

If you would like to catch up on any of my other Laugh Long and Prosper episodes, voted one of the best podcasts of 2021 in Canada by CTV, check me out.

Laugh Long and Prosper podcast on Spotify or Soundcloud

Wayne Gretsky – Hockey and Humour

stand-up-in-10-steps-by-judy-croon-canadas-keynote-humorist

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