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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Today’s blog is sponsored by: @TROOLSocial 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- 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
Check out www.TroolSocial.com

 

 

 

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

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Barnie The Red Shadow

Barnie The Red Shadow

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

Recently, I lost my beloved dog, Barnie. He was nearly 15 years old. I can barely talk about it – much less write about it. I know that Barnie won the doggie lottery. He was spoiled. I only wish that every dog on this planet could have the life that Barnie had. He deserved it. Every dog does.
However, knowing this doesn’t make the grief any easier.

Barnie was my constant companion. So much so that I nicknamed him The Red Shadow.

When my dad suddenly passed last year around the same time, I looked into Barnie’s cataract covered eyes and begged him to give me an extra year. It’s as if he knew his mission and he heroically fulfilled it – and then some. To be clear, Barnie never suffered. Thanks to Dr Marcus and the wonderful staff at Greenwood Animal Hospital, he was given amazing treatment right until the very end when the difficult decision to let him go was made.

When a person passes, there is so much to do besides grieve. There is a funeral to plan, friends and family to contact, financial and legal matters to settle, a eulogy to write, flowers and catering to order, etc. You almost go through each task robotically but in a weird way, it slowly helps you get used to the idea that your loved one is gone.

However, when a pet passes, there is almost nothing to do. Fifteen years of pure joy and happiness and then poof– it’s over. There is nothing to do but sit in the grief. My good friend, comedian Martha Chaves said a profound thing to me a long time ago, “Judy, pets are pain on layaway.” Isn’t that the truth?

It is so painful BUT I will gladly sign up for it all over again. Not now but one day.

I said to another comedic friend that it was like losing a family member. She said that she felt bad when her father passed because occasionally, she was mean to him. But then she quickly added, “But wait a second, he was mean to me.”

That’s the thing about dogs. They’re not mean (unless a human has let them down and betrayed their trust). There is no hidden agenda. They love unconditionally. They are four-legged angels.

Barnie was my angel.

For a three-month period in 2019 before my mom passed, Barnie came with me every time I visited her in palliative care. On countless occasions, I was told that he was a sight for sore eyes- not only for other patients and visitors but also for the staff. On the rare occasion that he wasn’t with me, no one tried to hide their disappointment. Clearly, I was second fiddle and that was okay.

When my mom passed, for the next three years, Barnie came with me when I visited my dad for lunch every week. I always pretended I didn’t see the pipeline of french fries that my dad was feeding Barnie underneath the kitchen table. I knew it gave them both so much joy to think that they were getting away with something.

Barnie was always with me. Whenever, I did pick-ups and deliveries for a local outreach program called City Street Outreach, Barnie rode in the back seat. He enthusiastically licked every kid and adult who stuck their hand in the back window wanting to greet him. 

As I said, Barnie was an angel but that didn’t mean that he was perfect. He never learned to walk without pulling, he once ate a friend’s home-made chip dip thus earning him the nickname Barnie Dip, he begged for food, he had bad breath and perhaps his worse crime of all, he loved to lick people whenever he met them. Some people were indifferent to this odd habit, some people hated it but some people thought it was a lucky sign. Whoever he licked usually won at a friendly game of poker that night.

Barnie was smart in his own way but he didn’t really do tricks. In fact, he only had one party trick-ringing a bell tied to the back door when he wanted to be let out into the yard. I read about the trick in Puppies for Dummies and thought it would never work. Barnie learned it in one day!

 From that day on, he rang the bell whenever he needed to be let out. Ding ding ding. I could hear it from anywhere in the house. Ding, ding,ding. One particular night, from upstairs, I could hear the bell frantically ringing. Ding ding ding. Ding ding ding. “Okay, okay, I’m coming.”, I said as I ran downstairs. There was Barnie standing on the back mat frantically ringing the bell.  Beside him was Murphy – my sister’s dog who I was babysitting. Murphy was trying to throw up on the back mat. Barnie was ringing the bell to let me know that we had to let Murphy out! 

Barnie was my best friend (no offense to any humans) but he was also my political ally. Even as a young pup, he had democratic leanings. In 2008, when CNN forecasted that Barrack Obama was going to be the next president of the US, we both jumped up and down in the living room.

Barnie taught me so many lessons in life, including patience. Throughout the years, he wore sunglasses, raincoats, Halloween costumes and Santa hats without a single complaint.

He was such a good boy.

I will miss him dearly.

I still don’t have the heart to put his raincoats, bowls or bed or toys away yet. It seems too final. It’s like I can’t get used to the idea of him not being in the house. In fact, just the other night, I thought I heard Ding, ding, ding coming from downstairs. Maybe, just maybe The Red Shadow is still with me somehow.

RIP my four-legged angel. Until we meet again. 

 (PS Thank you Reggie Robb for this beautiful painting of Barnie) 

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

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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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

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
Check out www.TroolSocial.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

How Comedy Keynotes and Joan Rivers Changed My Life

How Comedy Keynotes and Joan Rivers Changed My Life

‘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 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?
Would I???

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!

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

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
Check out www.TroolSocial.com