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How Comedy, Keynotes and Joan Rivers Changed My Life
I was honored when fellow comedian and writer Brandy Ford recently asked me to write an article for her brand-new magazine.
I asked her what the magazine would be about?
She said she wanted to have a focus on strong female role models, inspirations and motivational queens.
I don’t know if I fit the bill for any of those things but I can tell you a story about one of the greatest interviews and evenings of my life and how I got there.
If this inspires someone to live their dreams to the max, then that is truly a bonus.
At the very least, I hope this is a good story.
One of the greatest gifts that my parents gave my two sisters and I was a sense of humour.
They were both funny people.
However, as funny as they were, they were also very strict.
By the time my sisters and I reached ten years old, they started interrogating us about what we were going to do with the rest of our lives. Oh yeah, they were super old school.
My two sisters said that they wanted to be teachers.
I said I wanted to be a veterinarian.
Unfortunately, during my second year of university, 70 percent of my fruit flies and 60 percent of my final mark flew out of the biology class window.
I was devastated.
I went home that night, threw myself on the living room carpet and bawled my eyes out.
In the background, the tv was on. A comedian named Joan Rivers was doing stand-up comedy.
That’s when a lightbulb went off for me. Stand-up comedy- what a great idea!
Even though I didn’t have any prior experience (minor detail), I loaded up my car and drove down from Calgary to the states for three months.
I got on open mic comedy nights in Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, Los Angeles and every city along the west coast in between.
When I came back to Calgary, I packed up my car once again and moved to Toronto.
I started doing stand- up comedy at Yuk Yuks. I was one of five female comics in the country at the time doing stand- up full time.
After about seven years of full-time comedy, I decided that I should probably have another side hustle – just in case.
I enrolled in a radio course at Humber College in Toronto.
What I lacked in radio experience, I made up for in comedic experience.
This experience led to co-hosting radio gigs in Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and Los Angeles.
I never stopped doing stand- up comedy in the meantime. I always did both. Radio by morning and stand-up comedy by night.
It was when I was working in Toronto in 2011 when I was approached by Howard Szigeti of Unique Lives who asked me if I would like to host an evening with Joan Rivers at Roy Thomson Hall?
As I chatted with Joan on stage, the whole time I couldn’t stop thinking about that fateful night so many years ago when I was crying in front of the tv set. On the same night that my dream of becoming a veterinarian ended, Joan Rivers inspired a new dream for me and I never looked back.
Stand-up comedy led to morning radio which led to corporate motivational speaking, A Tedx talk and teaching stand-up comedy at Second City. I even got to ‘how to’ book about stand-up comedy based on my experiences with my wonderful Second City students.
I got to do everything that I wanted to do in life so I decided to give a little bit back and donate my time to various charities including a local group that helps Toronto’s homeless and most vulnerable called City Street Outreach. This is an amazing organization started by an earth angel by the name of Alex Smirnus and his wonderful wife, Grace.
So, in closing, here is the advice that I would like to offer to any tear-filled teenager who feels like their dream is over– don’t treat your obstacle as a stop sign…treat it as a merge. Maybe you’re supposed to do something slightly or completely different and that’s okay!
Who knows? Maybe one day, you’ll get to meet your Joan Rivers.
I sure wish Ms. Rivers was around today to make us laugh at a time when the world seems to need her humour the most.
By the way, for any aspiring comedians and/or Joan Rivers fans, here are seven things that I learned from Joan during our interview together May 18th 2011 at Roy Thomson Hall.
Until next time folks, Laugh Long and Prosper!
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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.
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