Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Montreal- July 27th, Nighttime.

This is where the comedy begins. Warning: the whole thing is spoilers. If you don't want spoilers, skip to the picture of Adam Hills at the end.

Before the gig, I met up with the lovely Heather of Halifax, my fabulous nerdy online friend. After chatting about the junk shop and our journeys to Montreal, we landed prime seats in the second row centre (in the first row you would look directly up the comedians' noses and get a neck ache).

The show began with a DJ that looked oddly like Eminem, and out came Adam Hills, who was one of the main reasons I bought tickets for the show. It was unbelievably weird to see him in 3 dimensions.

He chatted with the audience about how polite the Canadians are, exchange rates, and nationalities. He asked what nationalities were in the audience, and we had quite a range. There was a Brazilian called Sergio, an elderly Scottish couple in the 4th row, a quiet German guy, and an Aussie called Merv, but they were nothing compared to these next guys. When Adam Hills asked doubtingly "Are there any Welsh people here?", two big men at the back patriotically shouted "YES!!!" with fury from the deepest part of their soul. They had a sense of national pride that I've never seen from anyone from the British Isles, let alone the self- hating Welsh. The only people who think they live somewhere worse than Welsh people are people who live in Swindon, for goodness sake!

He also talked about National Anthems and how you can sing the Canadian National Anthem to Bryan Adams's "Summer of '69", American names (Hope, Charity, Honour etc.). Amazing beginning to a stellar show. He told the audience that these were some of the best comics from around the world, but they were so humble that they just wanted things like "He's pretty good... please welcome ______!", so Adam wrote them proper introductions like "He won the Perrier Award at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, he's had numerous successful tours around UK, he's guest-hosted Never Mind The Buzzcocks, and he's had his own TV series! Please give a big round of applause for ________!!!!" . And with that sort of intro, out came Tom Gleeson.

He did a small but terrifyingly memorable bit about sex. He talked about how his wife allows him to "let the bus drive, but the bus has to withdraw when it reached the terminal". And he said it was like a button he was pushing going "in, in, in, in, in, in, in.... ??? in, in, in, in..". Graphic & cringeworthy, but funny. He also talked about the insignificance of the phrase "trying to have a baby". "So what? Loads of people try to have babies! I tried to have a baby in the bedroom yesterday too.".

Then came the slightly less sexual Russell Kane, with a new streak of blonde in his dark brown hair like a cowlick up the front of his head.

There were a few things I'd forgotten about Russell Kane. Firstly, he twirls and kneels more than I remembered. Secondly, he speaks even faster than I remembered. Thirdly, he's prone to make chicken-like movements. I didn't remember that at all.

He was even funnier live than on YouTube. He did a bit about his grumpy, ultra conservative Dad and how that influenced him to become a liberal. "Most people become liberals naturally... I just did to piss my Dad off. You'd think with the twirling and the shirt that I'm gay, but I'm not! I'm straight! It's all fake gayness to piss off my Dad, and it's become a part of me." He talked so fast that at one point he said "You think that's funny? Now imagine if you could understand what I'm actually saying!". That got the biggest laugh of his set. I felt a bit bad for him once I thought about that...

He also talked about how his Dad reacted to seeing his standup.

"'You portray me as an unloving Father.' he said. I actually felt a bit bad! 'Well Dad, we never really bonded.' I said. And then I hoped for that moment, that moment where he would look into my eyes and say 'You know son, I suppose we didn't' and hug me and we'd both cry, but that never happened. Instead he said, 'Yeah, well? I never hit you!' I thought: THAT's you're idea of being a loving father? That you didn't hit me? So I asked him 'Why didn't you hit me?'. He stopped and looked at me, and said 'Cos frankly, if I started, I never would've stopped.'". Loved it.

Then on came Nina Conti. She went into her monkey where she brilliantly took the piss out of ventriloquism  (she went into a "trance" and her monkey tried to talk, but had no voice). The monkey then hit her and she awoke. "Ok, let's try this again," the monkey said. "This time you have to retain the part that makes me speak.". She then proceeded to sing a loud gutsy song with her mouth closed. I enjoyed it.

Next was Russell Howard. Bloody hilarious, but I remember next to nothing because he was so jumpy with what he talked about. He ran with a fluidity that blew my mind. The only things I remember was the bit where he talked about being at Wembley stadium in front of 14.000 people and having his tiny (under 5 foot) Mum sitting in the front row with her legs spread, saying "This is where the magic comes from". He also explained how she's not your average Mum, and how she defends his swearing, and talked about optimism. Apparently, he met a 7 year old who wanted to be a unicorn to stab things with his horn. "What kind of generation is this??? First kid: I want to be a flower! Second kid: I want to live in a candy village! Third kid: I WANNA STAB THINGS". Brilliant.

The last act of the first half was Adam Hills again. He did his stuff about the song "Feed The World" and the quickly released American song "We Are The World". He sang the songs of the different generations, as well as Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again? to see if the Australians would yell out the response that Australians yelled when it was played live. "Am I Ever Gonna See Your Face Again?" They yelled: "NO WAY GET F**KED F**K OFF!". He joked about the creation of that lyrics, acting out a conversation among a load of low brow Australians. He also chatted about gay rights and the military, and his arm numbing while spooning. His arm went numb, and he was stroking his own arm (thinking it was his wife. He soon realized it was too muscly and hairy to be his wife's arm, and he thought there was another man in his bed with his wife and himself. He sat up and turned on the lights, only to find it was himself, and thought that was the test to see if he was gay, and found he was indeed straight.  He told this story to his friends at a pub later that week, and they told him to put it in his stand up. He wrote "I'm Not Gay" on his hand with a pen so that he wouldn't forget the bit after drinking. When someone random in the bar asked him why "I'm Not Gay" was written on his hand, he absentmindedly replied: "Oh that? It's just a reminder".

There was a 15 minute break in which I wrote notes and watched ads for other comedy shows on a large screen, and a strange blanketed grand piano-shaped thing on wheels rolled onto the stage.

As a special surprise bonus, Sammy J and Randy were also added to the bill! They sang a song called Delete about deleting someone's life off the internet once they're dead, and a Metaphor-Off in which they describe their love for their girlfriends in more complicated and absurd metaphors, discover that they're dating the same girl, then somehow they ended up competing how many secrets they each had (e.g. I never saw Star Wars).

Adam Hills came back on talking about Dutch people, an American swimmer called Misty, and the Dutch phone company Ben.  He then introduced Fiona, saying her most commendable attribute was that she missed Australia when Russell Brand got audience members to throw beer at him and one of the bottles crashed on the wall beside Fiona as she waited backstage.

Her set was alright. She talked about her kid having an annoying imaginary friend, smoking, and her kid remembering just before school: "Oh yeah, Mum... I need a cow costume for today" and her giving him a brown sweater and telling him to "be the cow".

Then came Greg Davies, wearing a shirt that was too short for him as always. He did his tall jokes, some terribly graphic stuff involving the sentence "thumbing marshmallows up a cat's anus", and about a very awkward dinner with his Mum and his sister. He made me cringe, but he made me laugh a lot too.

Lastly, out came David O'Doherty to end the night. He compared Ireland to living in an Enya song, and talked about Travelodges. He also talked about a muscly guy with a bulging sports bag pushing a button his Casio keyboard that made a goofy version of some sort of classical music go off in a silent train carriage. Everyone glared at him. Also, he sang the Beef 2011 Song, talking about the "20 year old Canadian guys" as the ones with the stupid lights and doodads on their cars.

After the show, Tibbs and I ran backstage and waited there for 5 minutes... 10 minutes... eventually, out came Adam Hills and David O'Doherty.

Me: Hi! *eats banana*
DD: Hello!
AH: Hi!
Me: I'm the kid who talked to you on Twitter!
AH: Oh... I thought you were, like, 17... wow...
Me: Nope. *laughs*
AH: We should probably get out of the way of the car here... *Adam stuffs his face with the banana* *drops banana peel* *car goes by*
Me: You probably want this... *picks up banana*
AH: Mm... *takes it*
DD: How're we gonna do this? *I wander over to him*
*Mum takes a photo of me looking really happy*
DD: So what's your name?
Me: Julianna. J-u-l-i-a-n-n-a...
DD: I... am.... Day...Vid... O... Do..hert... Please-- Turn-- over... y. There. (he wrote his signature ALL OVER the page).
Me: Thanks so much. These means a lot...  I've been watching your stuff for ages.
DD: Oh really? Cool!
Mum took our photo, and I look enthusiastically happy.

Me: Hi again.
AH: Hello. 
Me: Could you sign this? 
AH: Yeah, sure... 
AH: *writes a bit* To Julianna... See you online (in the nicest possible way). *smiles*
Me: Thanks very much! Photo...
*Mum takes lovely photo of us*
Adam Hills's Smile is always the same... I dunno how he does it...

We said some stuff about how we enjoyed the show, and said goodbye. We asked the backstage lady if there were anymore comedians in there, but apparently they had left during the show after their bits were done. The backstage lady then told us: "I'll tell you were they are though. They're at the Hyatt, 5th floor at the bar." she pointed. We followed her finger, and sure enough, there was a humongous HYATT nearby. Mum left me with Heather after making sure I had a key to the hotel, and we headed off at 11 at night (I grinned as I was without my Mum in another city for the first time).  

We went up to the bar's entrance to find Adam Hills & David O'Doherty chatting a few meters from the door. In fear of appearing as if we were stalking them, we sneaked behind them on a small staircase. We walked into a small room with a map of the world traced out in tiny white lights, and I joked we should've brought Jimmy Carr suits or something just so that the bar wouldn't suspect us for stalking or something like that. Once in the Just-For-Laughs-monster-green elevator, we went up with an American black guy complaining to some fairly pretty women in heels how how no one laughed at his gig. He wore thick rimmed black glasses.  I couldn't help but think "Well doesn't that mean you aren't funny? Doesn't it mean you need to change something rather than complain?" cos he just seemed like your typically rude American comic who isn't thorough with jokes and wants glory without the blood, sweat, and tears. Like Dane Cook, essentially. 

The elevator opened, and we walked out into the general hall. The place was gorgeously modern with half lit, hanging, ceiling lights, carpeted floors, cushioned chairs, a pool table, a series of screens displaying large photos of comedians, a back balcony that overlooked the festival outside and the mall inside, and a circular bar in which the bartenders stood, turning in circles serving drinks. 

Heather and I walked about the place in wonder, and ran into Tom Gleeson. We told him how we liked his bit and how Heather had watched him on Good News Week illegally. It was awkward to chat about watching Good News Week illegally, but he needed to go to the washroom. We directed him, smiled at each other, and moved on. 

We sat at a small table for 5 minutes just to take in the excitement. I had told her before entering the place that I was hoping to meet Russell Howard and Greg Davies. And we did just that. 

We headed towards Russell Howard, whispering between each other what the hell we'd do. I had a sketchbook for potential signing purposes and a camera. He sat in the corner talking to 2 other people who looked more like associates than friends. We approached as politely as secretly crazy comedy nerds can approach. He chatted with us, we told him we really enjoyed the show and we told him how far we'd each traveled to see him. He shook our hans and said it was nice chatting with us, and we were on our way. That's all I wanted. 

Then we went on to Greg Davies. 
Me:"Hi... Sorry this is a bit weird..."
GD: "Weird? Hm. Why YES this IS very weird! Nah, it isn't. Go on..."

So very Greg Davies. We chatted about his set and how much we liked his set, and he said it was the best one he'd done so far, and he felt good about it. Heather added that it was a nice touch with the curtain as a newspaper, we thanked him, and we left him to drink alone at the bar.

With this happiness in our hearts, we attempted to get out of the Hyatt Hotel but ended up strangely routed into the Desjardins Mall. In the mall, Heather and I experienced the zombie apocalypse empty mall. We joked in our nervousness about all those zombie movies with massive fully-lit malls like this and Heather said this was a hell of a lot like an Xmas show nightmare she once saw. The nightmare was that there was a man stuck in a shopping mall that couldn't figure out how to get out. He soon realized the people around him aged and died while he stayed eternally young and immortal, forever unable to get out of this seemingly endless mall.

Eventually we got out through the parking lot after instructions from one lone yelling man and a security guard. Heather had to speak to him in french via telephone. It seemed oddly excessive. Heather dropped me off at the hotel at 2-3 am, and I fell asleep unbelievably easily.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Montreal- July 27th, Daytime.

I went to Montreal for the annual Just For Laughs Festival for 5 days and 4 nights. After saving up for 2 months by babysitting, recycling beer and wine bottles, playing a band gig, and selling childhood books, toys and video games,  I had enough to pay for my Mum and me to go to Montreal and back on a bus, stay in a downtown hotel, and see 4 brilliant comedy shows. She just payed for our food, shopping, and some taxis and metro fares. So this was a pretty big achievement for me, especially the making of $500 in such a limited time span without a steady job.

We woke up at 5 am. After being driven to the bus station for 6:30, the fantastically cheap double-decker Megabus departed at 6:40 am due to a flat tire. For 5 and a half hours, I listened to Citizen Radio and cried about victims of AIDS that Tree of the Stonewall uprising was talking about (Citizen Radio people, if there any of you here, let me know), ate a peach, and slept for the rest of the time.

Upon arrival, we checked into our perfectly situated hotel Abri de Voyageur (after I flipped the suitcase on the curb countless times and needed a break). 

The place was cheap and lovely. Art covered the walls, almost all of it done by an artist who paints people with large and childish faces in black and white, usually dressed in old clothes. The doors and railings were covered in dark red paint. The electrical outlets were oddly upside down, but the lady at the desk with the large gum line and the wire dragonfly ring was eager to help us and the price was right, so it was more than fine for us in Room 202.

Outside, we quickly discovered we were awkwardly surrounded by sex shops (the closest one with candy themed windows). We got our tickets at the Just For Laughs box office in an adorable little pouch, and headed off to Saint Laurent.

When I say we went to St Laurent, I really mean we went to the street, found an incredible shop called Eva B, and didn't go out again until 4 hours later.

It was absolutely filled with junk. To the ceiling. This place was as eccentric as it gets. Bras and scarves and manikins and baby carriages hung on walls and ceilings, there was an old Wurlitzer organ in one corner of the room and a very out of tune upright piano on in the other, the floors creaked with age, and everything smelled vaguely of hash and of the free lemonade and vegetarian samosas the owner gave out. A completely awesome Bohemian atmosphere. 

The owner of the place was the old bearded man

It was all amazing, but the best bit was the Oompa Loompian mountain of clothes.  It was a massive crate of clothes of all kinds that you climbed upon and dug through for things to buy. Anything in that pile was a dollar, and it was unbelievably fun to jump around in.

It was easily the size of an upper middle class living room, if not bigger. There was a painting of Santa Claus in the back left corner that said "I am god" as well.

Me on the mountain of clothing

There were loads of people just digging to the bottom to see if they could find the floorboards. No one could get there.

In the end, I got a pair of jeans for a dollar, and a shirt which came free when my Mum bought two belts. Amazing.

Next, we went to Terra Nostra in the humongous Des Jardins mall and bought some very shiny jeans for my Mum. This mall was the most beautiful mall I've seen in my life. I loved the pillars.

Lastly, we went to the Museum of Contemporary Art. It wasn't all that people said it would be, but I really liked one exhibit called Battements et Papillons which featured a grand piano covered in aluminum foil and an open bench containing loads of electronics. These electronics hooked up to hammers which pushed down on the keys of the piano in random patterns that sounded like the scale used in the solo of Tim Minchin's Dark Side. Gorgeous.

Then came the night portion of the first day. That's when the comedy began.

Julianna xo

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Orthotics, AFOs, and Childhood Memories

I've had to wear these sort of orthotics for my entire life. They go to my knee, and I've always loathed them as they give me robot legs and they give people another thing to stare at (along with my hands). They feel like plastic bags on your feet in the summer, and made me feel incredibly embarrassed and self-conscious all my life.

Today, my doctor told me (despite the fact I've been told I'll have to wear these things forever) that I don't need them anymore. Apparently, despite missing the fibulae in my legs, I don't need them! I seem to have corrected my posture and walking through taking a year of intense dance classes at school, and now all I need are shoe inserts!

I really never thought this day would come. Me and my Mum were in so much disbelief that I found myself running into my Mum's arms and smiling with my eyes closed, as she did the "I'm not gonna cry" face.

Unbelievably happy.
Julianna xoxo

Fairview Avenue Street Fair: Gig #1

I have done performances solo, but there's nothing quite like being in a band. Saturday June 25th, 2011 from 6:30-7:27, I learned how much coordination it took to keep up a show of 5 people working together. It was sort of a disaster, but sort of incredibly awesome.

After practicing for hours (and watching a load of Pokemon spoof videos and Weird Al), we walked over to Fairview Avenue to survey our audience. We were slightly freaked out to find 95% of our audience were kids under the age of 9, and that the majority of them were covered in face paint, armed with squirt guns, and riding in or on some form of kiddy transportation (scooters, mini plastic cars, bikes with training wheels, etc.). I tried to beg with my band to omit the heavy rock stuff in fear of making little 3-year-olds cry, but they said to just stick with the plan. Also, our drummer said "we gotta prevent another generation from becoming a load of Bieber fans". That completely convinced me, so I stopped squabbling with them. We packed our stuff into our guitarist's Mum's van to be transported around to the stage, and did a sound check (in which I did the noises at the beginning of Tim Minchin's Ready For This, and a bit of lame beat boxing). To our luck, we had the help of two pro musicians (an ex-Bare Naked Lady and another guy with the last name of "McCouat" who used to be in some famous Toronto band with the word Blue in it).

To be honest, it wasn't so much a stage as a porch with enough room for a drum kit, a keyboard, and enough space for three hunky guys to stand without poking each other in the eye with the heads of their guitars, but it still made me grin my face off. I wore a dark red spaghetti strap shirt with jeans and purple shoes while the rest of my band wore all black.

An accurate portrait of us

Our setlist was great, but a hell of a lot of things went wrong. We got polite applause for everything we did, but nothing enthusiastic. Also, to our advantage, the 3 year olds went home & to bed while the parents stayed, and teens appeared out of nowhere for the night's barbecue.

Alice Cooper- School's Out
I introduced this with "This is a good song to celebrate summer". We played awesomely, but paused at the second "no more pencils, no more books,"and the audience clapped, so we cut off the song half way through.

Deep Purple- Smoke On The Water
I introduced this song by saying "This is a song. You may have heard of it. It's called Smoke On The Water.", thinking of that episode of the Simpsons when there's a country musician on stage and says in his thick Texan accent: "This song is 'bout a country. You may have heard of it. It's called America.". I was slightly taken aback when my lead singer murmured to me "I think they probably have...", reminding me that not everyone is fluent in sarcasm, nor is everyone an ardent Simpsons fan. During this song, our guitarist broke a string, and we had no replacement string or guitar with us.

Supertramp- Breakfast In America
Went perfectly. We dedicated the song to Rachel, my drummer's friend, cos it was her birthday.

Gorillaz- On Melancholy Hill
I forgot how riff went, so I improvised, but it wasn't as pretty.

Electric Light Orchestra-  Don't Bring Me Down
I introduced this song saying "This song is called Don't Bring Me Down by Electric Light Orchestra". After 5 seconds of accidentally switching the microphone off, our singer replied "But we don't actually have an orchestra... in case you were confused... by the title". He turned the microphone off and on again. "But hey," I joked. "If there's a tuba player among you in the audience, come on up." The crowd laughed. "Really, come on up." I continued. "Tuba rocks". Thank god for watching comedy. It somehow rubbed off on me a bit and made me funny enough to save us from the awkward lull about whether or not we had an orchestra, and microphone issues.

When we played the actual song, I kept forgetting when the Groos bit began, and made 3 false entrances. Felt like an idiot, but it went really well overall.

Tim Minchin- Drowned
Our guitarist forgot all the chords, and we sped up out of stress. I felt like I made a mess of a beautiful song, but not to the point that I cringed after the gig.

Rob Zombie- What
I think it was here that our drummer's high hat malfunctioned. Funnily enough, the terrified kids I was expecting to see were replaced by loads of kids jumping up and down with massive grins on their faces.

Ragione- Live To Destroy
Great. They wrote this song before I joined the band, and the lyrics are unbelievably fast.

Ragione- Funny
A song I made up, and that we learned 3 hours before the gig. It went down well, although I stumbled at one point and just said "blubliblablubliblablubliblablublibla" for one of the verses. The solos were great, and after it was done, we said our names and our band's name, and awkwardly announced the gig was done after 5 minutes of me playing Peace Anthem For Palestine and the band murmuring things amongst ourselves.

At 7:27, I hugged my friend Kate (who said we rocked, contrary to what I saw), and ran as fast as I could to babysit at a house situated 7 blocks away from the party. I spent the rest of the night watching Scott Pilgrim with a 4 year old and an 8 year old, laughing with them about how many malfunctions happened in that short hour-long set, and cleaning their tabletops and window sills as they slept on the creaky floor above me.

Friday, 24 June 2011

A Small Chat About A Theistic Video

I was shown the following video as evidence for never questioning the Bible. Note: It's 10 minutes long, he has the soft teacherly voice, and he has creepy semi-enlightened music in the background.

Let me state for the record that I think it's fine if one is religious. Religious people can be amazing and compassionate people, but the bible states terribly homophobic and racist things that were the original principles of Christianity. 

It states such things like that it's a sin to work on a Sunday, or eat shellfish, or praise celebrities (false idols), or say "omg" (that'd be speaking the Lord's name in vain). EVERYONE does at least one of the above things, which according to the Bible (if the Bible is treated as a collection of facts), would make virtually everyone a sinner. So honestly, I can't believe it's justifiable to take the lessons of scripture as anything more than stories, from which you can learn lessons from. Also, by your youtube man's point of view, god is beyond logic. Now, this also means he is even beyond his own commandments. Exodus 32, with the priest running with the spear and killing the sinners. The priest who killed the people would become a sinner for killing, if it wasn't for God ordering it. For some reason, God couldn't kill the people himself to send them to Hell, nor leave the masses of sinners to live with the guilt, or somehow encourage them work through their issues with their church. This was no sacrifice for the greater good... it was just brutal, unforgiving murder, to which God is somehow unaccountable for. Rules are stretched without mercy, and suddenly the whole concept of a forgiving god disappears. Throughout the bible, God's personality just doesn't stay consistent, nor moral by even our simple standards. And if God can't meet the basic standards of the lowly human He created, He can't begin to meet the complex standards that he supposedly has that are beyond us.

Case and point. I could go on if you'd like, but it's 3 am, and I have to be up at 10:45 tomorrow. I love comments on this sort of thing, so please reply. 
Julianna xoxo

I have my first band gig!

Right, for those of you who know me may know I like piano. And if you read this blog with a burning devotion, you'll know I joined a band.

So I'm here to announce that my band Ragione is having its first gig with me as their keyboardist! It's for a street fair on Fairview Avenue from 6:15-7:30 this Saturday (tomorrow!), and I'd love it you guys could come (you guys being those of you in the area). It's gonna be a bunch of covers, and a couple of originals (I haven't been in the band long enough to learn all the songs the other members made up).

We're a bunch of rock and roll nerds. I think you'll like it.

This is us. Left to right: Lead Singer Watson, Bassist Jean-Marc, Pianist Me, Drummer Chancellor, Guitarist Isaac.

So yes, please come, because we don't want to play for the cardboard boxes we brought our instruments in. 

Julianna xoxo

Saturday, 18 June 2011

A Small Ranty Poem About Canada

Canada cannot live up to my standards
I think UK is better
Yes, it can be nice here
but we're constantly having an identity crisis
We don't know whether we want to be more like the Americans 
Or more like the British
We just end up being the confused, lazy, eldest child of the family
where UK is the mother
America is the disobedient teenage child who ran away from home at 16
and Canada just stands there as the 30 year old who was kicked out of the house
cos Canada hadn't been taken the hint when UK said "Have you thought about being an independent country?"
So it tried to emulate its younger, more hip brother
But failed, because its youth was long behind them
THAT is Canada to me
Yeah, we're relatively intelligent
and we have a couple of good products like maple syrup and money with beavers on it
but in the end, 
We're just the loser older child who sat at home mooching of its mother until it was kicked out of the house
Intelligent and awkward, but never really finding itself.