Humourists: Literally Funny

 Humourist. Definition: A performer or writer of humorous material.

As you know, I have a history of producing genre blurring shows: Teen Angst Night, Say Wha?!: Readings of Deliciously Rotten Writing. Are they literary nights or comedy shows? 

In truth those shows lean towards comedy. Following that tradition but stepping further into the literary world, because it’s been a few years since I did that MA in Creative Writing and I’ve ignored it far too long, I am producing Humourists: Literally Funny, an evening with some of Vancouver’s best writers reading their funniest bits.

Readers have been chosen for their humour and their ability to engage a crowd. They are not only great writers they are fantastic readers too. On Sunday, March 25 join us at Havana Theatre as part of East Van Comedy and celebrate the literary art of comedy at this amusing show.  

The inaugural show includes:

Dina Del Bucchia has an MFA from UBC’s Creative Writing Program. When not busy being unemployed she writes for Canada Arts Connect Magazine and bakes away her feelings. Her work has been published in some fine literary journals. Currently, she’s at work on a novel and a collection of poetry. 

Steve Burgess is a freelance writer and the author of Who Killed Mom?, published in 2011 by Greystone Books. He writes a regular column for The Tyee, often reviewing films but also, sometimes, detailing his hilarious world travels for Tyee readers. Steve is a former CBC Radio host and has won two National Magazine Awards. He has also won three Western Magazine Awards. 

Jenn Farrell is the author of two collections of short stories: The Devil You Know (Anvil Press, 2010), and Sugar Bush & Other Stories (Anvil Press, 2006). Her stories have previously appeared in Prism, subTerrain, West Coast Line and Forget magazine. She has acted as reader and editor for several winning entries in the 3-Day Novel Contest, and in 2006, made her broadcast debut as a judge for Book Television’s coverage of the event.

Billeh Nickerson is a writer, editor, performer, producer and arts advocate who divides his year between Toronto and Vancouver. He is the author of The Asthmatic Glassblower, Let Me Kiss it Better: Elixirs for the Not So Straight and Narrow, and his most recent collection,McPoems. He is also the co-editor of Seminal: the Anthology of Canada’s Gay Male Poets, and a former editor of PRISM international and Event. He has performed at hundreds of readings and festivals across Canada and the U.S. He teaches Creative Writing at Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

 I will host and read some writing I’ve been hiding from all of you.

Show Details

Sunday, March 25, 8-10pm
Havana Theatre – 1212 Commerical Drive
$9 at the door or $7 with a receipt from Havana
Presented by East Van Comedy and Sara Bynoe Entertainment

Facebook Event: https://www.facebook.com/events/342429035799695/

Blues and Haikus

This Sunday I will be on stage at this lovely event at the Waldorf Hotel on East Hastings.

I will be sharing some of my recent writing. It’s a risk since most of what I’ve done lately is read terrible writing at Say Wha?! and made fun of my cringe-worthy adolescent writing at Teen Angst. But don’t worry, it’s still angsty and silly – true to my voice.

I hope to see you at there. Don’t just come for me, there’s a lot of talented people on this bill and I’m looking forward to what they’re going to share.

Poetry

For this week’s Story Time Tuesday I’ve decided to post a poem. Some of you may have read it before -if you’re a super online stalker. As I’ve been spending a lot of time lately hanging out on Main Street, debating if I should just find some dumb-ass serving job and remembering my days at Goldsmiths with my inspiring writing group, I figured this was an appropriate piece to post. Plus I’ve been too busy editing and rewriting my novel to write something new.

Main and Empty

one week before I got fired

waiting on tables
at East Van’s favorite late night eatery
across from the neon light store/ drug front
down from ten coffee shops in four blocks
next to stores with silk screened ironic t-shirts
locally made jewelry and retro records.

filling my arms with
local brew, sangria and the mix of the day
black beans on basmati
coconut milk and quinoa
mango, tofu, peanut sauce
large nachos the size of my torso.

two guys are sitting at a back table
drinking one p.m. beers
one hides behind Buddy Holly glasses
the other shields with a sleeve of tattoos

we talk
while white people with dreadlocks listen to hip hop
while the smell of spray paint loiters in the alley
while the new cook burns the chili
and I’m shedding dreams like onion tears

after three rounds
they left behind torn napkins
empty cigarette boxes
an insulting 6% tip
and a note

YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL

How to be a Media Whore

4

Look at this dumb stock photo girl. She'll probably never be a real media whore because she doesn't know how to write a proper press release. Oh well, so long as she gets out of a car commando-style she'll have half a chance.

Over the years I’ve accumulated a good stack of press clippings; newspaper articles, radio interviews, Breakfast Television appearances, magazine mentions, and blog links. You could say I’m lucky or you could say I know how to work it.

For this week’s Story Time Tuesday, I’m not going to tell you a story, I’m going to give you some pointers on how to get attention for your events and even your name in the paper. It’s as easy as … not being an idiot.

1. Write a press release. Sounds silly, but you would not believe the amount of people that have asked me, ‘How do you always get your events featured in the paper?’ When I tell them I sent a press release they look at me like I just asked them what is the square root of infinity.

The job of the press release is to make the busy reporter’s job easier. Write a good hook for the event about why what you’re doing is interesting or important now. Then tell them all the who, what, where, when and how much. Don’t forget to include your contact info so they can book you for an interview. Keep it short and punchy and send it at least three weeks before the show.

2. Have a good idea. That’s the tricky part. The things that I get press on are things that no one else is doing. Teen Angst – totally started that myself. Sparkle Bunny- I was the only person doing a play about a forgotten 90s trend in 2005. Dance Dance Party Party VanCity – it’s got so many spins an editor can put on it you’d think it was a fly-girl. Say Wha?! (happening this Tuesday July 20) okay, I’m not the first person to make fun of bad writing, but I’m probably the first person in town to program a night dedicated to it who sent out a decent press release and awesomesauce poster to go with it.

3. Take pictures! Never underestimate the power of a good colour high resolution photograph. I spent decent money on my photographers for my Sparkle Bunny and F*ck Off and Die‘s promo pics and many of my shots appeared in local papers. Sparkle Bunny was even the cover of the Georgia Straight’s fringe pull out, probably because it was a tall, colourful photo with the perfect amount of negative space.

When choosing your photos don’t just pick them with your own vanity in mind, put yourself in the shoes of an editor. What is the most interesting, attention grabbing, clean photograph? That’s the one that will get used.

4. Spread the word. Spread it like a disease; like swine flu. It took me three years of hard viral marketing, spamming, e-mailing and press releasing before I got the attention of an editor at Random House who messaged me to say, “This TeenAngstPoetry.com website of yours would make a good book.” And I completely agreed.

5. Make friends with the press. How do you do that? Be reliable. Be ready at the drop of a hat. Be persistent but not annoying. Don’t piss off the listings editor by e-mailing them every day to double check that they got your event. Send it once, relax and let them do their job. (Thank you event listings editors!)

Granted, I could go a lot further. I’m no media whore like the way Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian and Courtney Love are. Our goals are different. Some people want to be famous for being famous. Me, my goal is for people to come to my events and have a good time. Hopefully they’ll throw in a little respect because  no matter how silly my events may seem I take this all seriously. But serious in the most fun way possible.

Story Time Tuesdays!

The Old Man and The Play

“We’re going to be neighbors,” a white haired man said to me in the balcony of the Old Vic Theatre. He took off his tweed coat and draped it on the back of his chair next to mine.

I smiled politely and nodded at him as he lowered himself into his folding seat.

“Have you been here before?” he asked in a way that did not sound like a cheesy pick-up line.

“No. Sadly. This is my first time.”

“Are you American?”

I laughed, as I had been asked this nearly every day since I’d moved to London six months prior.

“No, I’m Canadian.” I replied, restraining myself from my usual ‘make them guess’ response. Several times people answered Australian or South African then finally ending in an “Oh! Canada!” as they had forgotten that my home country even existed.

“Are you a student?”

“Yeah. I’m here getting a Masters at Goldsmiths.” I enjoyed saying that I was a MA student every chance I got. As I’d only applied to my program to get my best friend, who’d been encouraging me to go back to school for years, off my back. I was utterly shocked when I was accepted and knew I had to jump at the chance.

“Oh!” He said with the reverence of people who knew about the school. “Are you going to be the next Damien Hirst?” A graduate of Goldsmiths who is famous for putting dead animals formaldehyde and being the highest paid living artist ever.

Damien Hirst

“Hardly. I’m a writer.”

“Good.” He smiled. “I can’t stand that crap.”

Our conversation lead into literature and then a narrative critique of the plays we’d seen that season.

Madame De Sade was so terrible even Judy Dench couldn’t save that play.”

“I agree completely,” he replied just as the house lights dimmed hushing our neighborly banter.

We were seeing Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale. A romantic tragedy where a King accuses his pregnant Queen of adultery and puts her on trial, locks her away, then orders the death of the baby. Watching Shakespeare in London had become one of my favorite joys, as I watched masterful actors show me how famous speeches ought to be performed putting my former classmates attempts, when I was starry-eyed drama school kid, to shame.

My jaw was agape as I watched Rebecca Hall utter the famous, “Sir, spare your threats” monologue. Ok, perhaps it’s only famous to young actresses who use this speech much too often in auditions; as it is one of the few powerful female speeches Shakespeare has to offer in his male dominated cannon.

Rebecca Hall and the King- another famous actor not referenced in my story

At the intermission, David, as I later knew my neighbor, insisted on buying me a drink. I had a white wine while he ordered an orange juice. As he was an Englishman I had assumed he was going to have a pint, then I felt a little twinge of shame for drinking alone in the afternoon. But David never gave me a glance of judgement.

Over the course of the break, we swapped stories that brought us to the theatre today. I had received an e-mail from some student organization I was a part of where the first 20 people to reply got complimentary tickets. I was the fifth.

“I see a show every day” he said reaching into his jacket pocket producing a multiple paged spreadsheet listing dates, times, shows and theatres he had bought tickets for everyday for the next year and a half.

“See, tomorrow I’m seeing Waiting for Godot then Friday there’s a concert at the Barbican. Saturday is busy – a matinee at The Royal Court and back to the Barbican for a Japanese play.”

“Wow.” Was all I could say then the bell rang prompting us to return to our seats.

As I watched the play turn from Kings and Queens to the countryside and into a comedy focusing on a trickster character played by Ethan Hawke, my mind churned over how David was able to see so many shows, and why? Was he rich? Was he a retried actor who had ins at every theatre in town? And how was it Ethan Hawke was able to steal the show from these fine British actors?  Well done crush of my 14-year-old self.

Ethan Hawke!

After the King, Queen and their daughter were happily reunited when a statue comes to life (true story) and the houselights came up I was about to recite my ‘nice to meet you’ speech to David when he asked if he could take me out to dinner. So I went along for a free meal, instead of getting my 14-year-old self an autograph of the moody man from Reality Bites.

David took me to the National Theatre’s dinning room and as he’d earlier told me, he knew everyone there. This confirmed David’s story about being a frequent patron of the theatre. Then over a dinner of vegetarian lasagna and mixed greens, he told me his life story.

He grew up in London was divorced, had four children, two grandchildren, and he’d worked a mundane office job until he was 65.

“I didn’t discover the theatre until I retired. My daughter took me to a show, right here in the National Theatre.  From that moment I vowed that I would see as much of it as I could before I die, which I reckon will be in five years.”

“Five years?” I raised my eyebrows.

Yes, I’ve always had a feeling that I would die at 75.”

David rambled on and on about the shows he’d seen, how he spent his days and how he had a crush on this twenty-year-old Polish girl who worked at the Barbican.  I wanted to ask what it was he got from theatre and why had he chosen to spend his final years in the dark of a audience listening to other’s stories instead of making his own, but I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.

While David ordered strawberries with whipped cream for dessert I found myself resentful that David hadn’t yet asked me anything about my life. Why had I decided to move to London, what I thought about it and how was I coping with how lonely it can be?  At the very least, I thought, he should ask me what my novel is about.

“Well, I should get going. I’m seeing Jude Law in Hamlet tonight. Busy day- two Shakespeares!”  He said standing up and putting on his tweed jacket.

I thanked him for dinner and his generosity. I even offered to pay for my share again, despite having only five pounds in my wallet.

“No! No!” He insisted. “It was my pleasure. It’s always nice to have a dining partner.”

As we walked out to the South Bank, looking at the London Eye and the Thames river, I debated giving him my phone number or email address incase he ever wanted a theatre companion but held back wondering where that would lead. Besides he made it quite clear that he was interested in this Polish girl at the Barbican.

“Here’s where we part,” I said when we reached the Royal Festival Hall. “Thanks again. It was nice to meet you.”

David tipped his hat, “Good night. Sally.”

As I took the tube back to my cold derelict flat to crawl under my five layers of bedding and an electric blanket I thought about spending the rest of my life seeing theatre, wondering if I had an age I thought I might die at and how David at least could have gotten my name right. But who was I to complain? I was in London seeing free theatre, eating free dinners and I had another story to tell.

THE END

Note: This is a memoir in the sense it’s a true story but facts might have been muddled due to memory loss or creative license.

Story Time Tuesdays!

2

In an effort to get my writing into the public realm, I’m going to post an essay or a story every Tuesday on this site. So please subscribe, bookmark, or check back here once a week for a new story from moi.

My first story is a tad lengthy for this blog format but I think it’s well worth it. I hope you enjoy!

Things Could Be Worse

The sign by the Greyhound Bus ticket office says, “Garbage bags are not acceptable as luggage.” I laugh. Then I feel like a snob.

I’m at the Calgary bus station because I’m going to rendezvous with an old flame in Field, BC to stay at a fancy lodge he has free accommodations at – because he works for the company that owns it. I have the time and the will to do this because I’m utterly depressed, jobless and living back at my parent’s after having completed a Masters Degree and a year abroad. Since I don’t have a car, and I’m coming from the East while he’s driving from the West, I have to take the bus to meet him.

Me and this guy, I’ll call him Guy, have a history which goes back a decade when I was a 19 year old bar star and he was a 23 year old drug addict. We’ve had a few random hook ups over the years but the closest Guy and I got to a relationship was when I was his top friend on MySpace.

In the line for my bus there is a mother wearing Sponge Bob pajama pants and a hoodie with five children aged two to fifteen. I know the eldest is fifteen because she screamed, “Jesus, Cody, you’re fifteen and you don’t know what via means?” She looks tired. The rest of the people on this Vancouver bound bus are mostly young travelers; Asians and Australians whom I assume will be getting off in Banff working their year abroad in the STD capital of Canada.

After nearly three and a half hours traveling from the prairies, to the foothills and into the Rocky Mountains the bus driver announces over the speaker, “Could my Field passenger please come up to the front of the bus?” She tells me that she’s going to drop me off at the side of the road, there is no bus stop here. “Do you have any luggage in the hull?” No, I do not. All I have is a backpack with one change of clothes and some toiletries.

At ten thirty at night, I step out on to the shoulder the Trans-Canada highway; it’s dark, cold and quiet. I have flashes of being mauled by a bear or picked up by a serial killer. I check my cellphone and see that there is no reception in this valley.  My stomach drops.

The bus pulls away and across four cement lanes parked at the side of the road into Field I see a car. A man gets out. He waves.

Guy and I have not seen each other in at least two years. But I recognize him, he looks just like his Facebook photos. We hug and scurry back into his warm car. This is the moment when I ask myself, ‘What they hell am I doing?”

When we get to our cabin I see that Guy has taken the liberty of ordering wine and a cheese and dessert plate. A few months ago I asked if he was seeing anyone and he replied, “No. I’m not really into dating right now.” So, I’m confused about what the nature of this trip is, but I know why I shaved my legs today.

Guy, who’s now eight years sober, drinks fake beer while I sip back cabernet sauvignon by a fire he’s made. Behind us is one of the biggest beds I’ve ever seen. I bet Guy at 6’2” could lay in any direction and still have room around him.

“Hi.” I say as he smiles into my eyes.

“Hi.”

“Hi”

“Hi”

We laugh.

“Here we are again.”

“Yeah.”

For the first time in all the years we’ve known each other we finally talk about this odd attraction we have.

“It’s like there’s unfinished business,” he says later when my head is resting on his chest.

“But nothing ever got started,” I remind him.

He tells me that he’s at that age where he wants to play house. I remember a night we had about four years ago when he first gave me the wife interview. He asked me: Where do you see yourself in five years?  I said I didn’t know, maybe New York. His plan was Yellowknife. Now four years later he’s living in a remote town on the Sunshine Coast and I just got back from a year in London, England. We were pretty close to our dreams and now we’re right back at the wife interview. Our dreams still the same, our spirits slightly jaded. But now I know that I can’t live in a small town and he hates the city.

The next morning I wake up first. Through the blinds I can see mountains, trees and the greenest lake I’ve ever seen; an emerald lake. Everything is still except for Guy’s heavy breathing. With his back turned away from me I watch his tattooed shoulders rise up and down.

When he wakes up he doesn’t kiss me or hold my hand. Later he slaps my ass when I bend over to zip up the boots I bought last year in Berlin. We go for breakfast and take the piss out of each other like an old married couple, or people getting along smashingly on their first date.

Later that afternoon when he drops me off at my father’s house I open the trunk to pick up my backpack and sling it over my shoulder.

“Is that your bag?” He asks referring to a plastic grocery bag with some food in it.

“Nope.” I shrug.

In that moment I think maybe Guy is the type of person that considers using a plastic bag as luggage. I’m the kind of girl that takes busses to the middle of nowhere, just to have a story to tell. The kind of girl who laughs on the inside while seeing garbage bag luggage as a metaphor for her love life.

“I’ll call you later this week.” He says hugging me good-bye.

I take out my keys and go inside confident he wont call and not sure I want him to.