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Archive for March, 2012|Monthly archive page

A Q&A with Jess Beaulieu and Laura Bailey, founders of the all-female comedy show Chicka Boom

In Arts, Q&A on March 24, 2012 at 8:16 am

Photo credit: Dan Epstein

Female comedy is alive and well in Toronto. Proof? Chicka Boom, the all-female comedy show that happens on the last Sunday of each month at Free Times Café. Organized by comedians Jess Beaulieu and Laura Bailey, the show includes everything from comedy to dance to musical theatre, all performed by hilarious ladies. Read on as Jess and Laura tell us what you can expect from this Sunday’s show, explain the “too many boners”/ “not enough boners” problem female comedians face, and reminisce about their first show in Toronto.

SDTC: First off, what is Chicka Boom and where did the idea come from?

Jess Beaulieu: Chicka Boom is an all female comedy and variety cabaret night hosted by us. It features comedy, music, dance, clown, poetry, theatre, and anything else we can find. I’m trying really hard to book a female magician and mime right now. I love a good mime. Laura and I had been talking about wanting to start a new comedy show that WE would want to attend, and then we realized that the funniest people we know are women, so why not show the rest of Toronto how funny they are? Laura wanted to make it a variety show, and I’m so happy that we did. The night typically runs two hours, which some people may consider lengthy, but audiences are always captivated the entire time because it’s consistently surprising.

Laura Bailey: What she said. Also, we make a point of looking ridiculous-sexy every time, and tell a lot of mom jokes. Nine out of ten church ladies hate it.

SDTC: What has feedback of your show been like?

JB: Amazing. People really seem to love it. And what’s not to love? It’s pay what you can, in an awesome venue, that serves LATKES, and features the most hilarious ladies in the city. You know, I used to have a recurring dream where I was swimming across the Atlantic Ocean, except instead of water it was made of latkes, blintzes, and estrogen. I never thought it would come true. But here I am, years later, living the dream.

LB: Um… just to give you some background here, the Free Times Café is a paragon of Jewish cuisine in Toronto. And it’s really delicious, so that definitely helps our cause. She’s right about the rest of it though. One girl told me she totally got pregnant from a mozza ball! Anyway, a lot of people have come up to me saying they’re glad we’re doing this.

SDTC: How did you two meet?

JB: We took some improv classes together at the Impatient Theatre Company four years ago. I remember thinking when I first saw her perform “Who is this tiny little spitfire who willingly chooses to play a gross mobster, a gremlin, and Derek Jeter in her first three scenes?” It was so refreshing to see another lady wanting to be as ugly on stage as I wanted to be, yet she still managed to be powerful and gorgeous. Am I secretly in love with Laura? No. It’s not a secret… I am proud.

LB: Yes, we did take an improv class together. Months later I auditioned for Jess for the Fringe play she was directing, Politically Correct Bedtime Stories, for which I was late and horrible. I had memorized my first monologue for it, the angry vagina monologue, which it turned out they didn’t need to see. I left knowing I was too good for them anyway. The production went on to win Best of the Fest, with Jess the Success at the helm. I have sought revenge ever since. I mean, Jess is incredibly talented and smart as a whip, and I’ve always wanted to team up with her on something. I couldn’t ask for a better partner, and when you work with Jess you’re betting on a winning pony.

SDTC: As a female comedian, what obstacles do you face that male comedians don’t necessarily have to deal with?

JB: “And the next comedian up is a good old fashioned woman, that’s right boys, a lady stand-up, and she’s got a pretty nice ass, so let’s all have a look.” That’s a few horrible intros I’ve received mixed together. I’m relatively new to stand-up and most comedians I’ve met couldn’t care less if you’re a man, woman, donkey, or broom. If you’re funny, you’re funny. But I have come across hosts and audiences that make me feel like a piece of processed meat, which isn’t a great atmosphere for new female comedians to get started in. But I would never let comments like that stop me from doing what I love. The best retaliation is not quitting, fighting through it, and being as funny as I can be, or burning them in public about their small dicks also works.

LB: As a female comedian, you will face one of two challenges: the “too many boners” problem, or alternatively the “not enough boners” problem. Of course, if you want to make it as a lady joker, you should probably be causing a lot of boners. So get out there and pick up the latest Cosmo! Give your décolletage a healthy shine with a spritz of Windex, and rub your toothbrush on his balls! But don’t cause too many boners, or else no one will take you seriously. After all, laughter kills boners. Which is not as bad as causing no boners, because then no one will take you seriously. Or book you. I mean, who wants to laugh when they could be having a boner? Just be sure to give a good number of boners to the right boners. Bonering yet?

SDTC: Who are some of your favorite female comedians?

JB: Internationally, I am officially obsessed with Maria Bamford and Amy Sedaris. They also kind of look like each other which is fun. I adore Chelsea Peretti and Victoria Wood as well. Locally Kathleen Phillips and Sandra Shamas can’t be beat.

LB: Tiny Fey, Amy Poehler, and Kristen Wiig are pretty much my TV/film/sketch idols. I am in love with female comedians who are fearless in performance and razor-sharp writers. I also look up to stand-ups like Margaret Cho, Sarah Silverman, and Maria Bamford for being funny as the world has never seen before. In improv, I am totally in awe of Susan Messing, Jill Bernhard, and Jess Grant.

SDTC: Do you remember your first show/sketch in Toronto? What was it like?

JB: My first improv show was four years ago at what used to be the Savannah Room on College Street. I remember being so scared that as soon as the audience even slightly chuckled at a daredevil grandma character that I was playing, I made the decision to commit to that character for the entire show and never did anything else. All I have to say is, thank god for that grandma character.

My first stand-up show was about 9 months ago at the Comedy Bar. It was the Comedy Girl Class recital. I was taught stand-up by the brilliant Dawn Whitwell. The host mentioned that I was the third girl wearing cowboy boots on the show. I walked out, literally shaking in my boots, and opened with “I am so angry that I am the third person to wear cowboy boots up here. I was trying so hard to be unique and vintage. What happened?” it was my first stand-up laugh and the biggest sigh of relief I’ve ever had.

LB: Oh man! My first improv show was many years ago at the Bad Dog Theatre. It was some sort of all-female improv show where newbs got to perform with pros, and I remember playing God yelling at Ashley Botting as she tried to get a tan. I also remember the musical number at the end where each of us had to introduce ourselves as a different kind of grape, and I didn’t know any kinds of grapes, so I said, “I’m the eyeball grape. They use me for eyeballs at Hallowe’en.” It was nice to find that I didn’t need to know anything and it was ok to be a complete weirdo.

SDTC: When you’re not performing, where can we find you hanging out in the city?

JB: Having breakfast at Saving Grace (907 Dundas St. W) , buying jewelry from Red Pegasus, drinking a pot of tea at The Green Grind, or drinking a bucket of beer at No One Writes to the Colonel (460 College St.) (which is also the venue for an amazing monthly show called Indie Comedy Hour. Check it out!) Do I sound cool enough? I can sound cooler if you need me to.

LB: I work out hardcore at the Academy of Lions a few times a week, so don’t mess with this. My favourite restaurant is hands down the New York Café diner (757 Broadview Ave.) at Broadview & Danforth—a place where friendly Greek ladies make amazing food for former wrestlers, and everything is $7. I have maxed out many a credit card on the shoes at Balisi, which has lead me to develop a love for the cheap and empty theatres of the Rainbow Market Square Cinema (80 Front St. E.).

SDTC: What can people expect from this Sunday’s show?

JB: The best night of their lives! Incredible improv, music, stand-up, clown, and freaking fan dancing! Also, free money, free love, free watermelon, and no refunds. Yeah!

LB: We’ll probably make some jokes about our moms.

* Published on March 21, 2012 at She Does the City


An interview with local singer-songwriter Ashleigh Semkiw, who dazzled us on Saturday at The Great Hall

In Interview, Music on March 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm

Photo courtesy of Ashleigh Semkiw

Ashleigh Semkiw is a local singer, songwriter, musician, and operatic soprano who held her EP release at The Great Hall this past Saturday. The venue was packed full of family, friends, and fans, and for good reason: this woman can sing!

Performing alongside her band of 10 (which included violinists, a bassoonist, and a cellist!), Ashleigh sang songs off her new EP, which is a mix of progressive pop, classical, singer/songwriter confessional, and rhythm and blues. (Think Tom Waits meets Kate Bush.) It’s nearly impossible not to be captivated by her vocals; powerful one minute and vulnerable the next. Each one of her songs received cheers from the crowd, but it was her encore of Stevie Wonder’s “Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away” that really blew me away. There’s very few who can cover a legend’s song and make it their own, but she did.

Though Ashleigh’s new EP has the singer taking a new direction musically, she is still committed to her opera career, and will be heading to Chicago in April to sing the role of  “Vava” in Shostakovich’s “Moscow Cherymoushki.”

I met with Ashleigh the day before her EP release at Sam James Coffee Bar to get to know the woman behind the vocals. Here are some basic factoids:

1. Her musical career began after being cast in her high school’s production for the Sound of Music. A retired opera singer was in the audience and approached her mom afterwards about enrolling Ashleigh in opera singing lessons. “I was pretty hooked right away,” says Ashleigh.

2. Her favourite spots in Toronto include Sam James Coffee Bar, Speakeasy TattooGood Fork, the Red Light (1185 Dundas St. W.), Communist’s Daughter (1149 Dundas St. W.), and the Black Hoof (which she declares as one of the best restaurants in the city).

3. Her top three places to include on a fantasy tour would be Chicago, Hong Kong, and Rappahannock County in Virginia. I hadn’t heard of the latter but she told me it’s one of the most beautiful places she’s ever been to.

4. Her musical taste includes A$AP Rocky, Tribe Called Quest, Azealia Banks, Annie Lennox, Bjork, Sarah Vaughan, Kurt Elling, and Ani Difranco.

5. She loves being on stage: “it’s more vulnerable; more exposing.”

Check out Ashleigh Semkiw’s official website and watch her perform on YouTube.

* Published on March 12, 2012 at She Does the City

A look back at the men’s hockey season

In Sports on March 2, 2012 at 8:14 pm

Photo credit: Murray McComb, Ryerson Sports Information Department

With 18 new pairs of skates and youth working against them, the Ryerson men’s hockey team managed to pull off a season full of highlights. The most notable, perhaps, were their 13 victories, which ties the team record for wins in a season set by the 1988-89 Rams.

“I’m very happy with the outcome,” said head coach Graham Wise of the team’s 13-12-3 record. “I’m proud of our players; they had a good, positive attitude.”

Though the final outcome of the season saw the team lose a best-of-three series to the UQTR Patriotes in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East quarterfinals, the Rams didn’t go down easily. The team took the series opener with an impressive 9-2 victory that saw 14 different Rams get on the scoresheet. In game two, the Rams fell 7-5 in a game that saw more than enough offence.

The third and deciding game saw the Patriotes take an early 1-0 lead, with the Rams responding less than a minute later with a goal by assistant captain Greg Payne. After scoring on the power play and again short-handed, the Patriotes were up 4-2 until the Rams’ Jason Kelly scored his team-leading fourth goal of the playoffs to bring his team within one. The Patriotes scored one more goal to take the game 5-3 and advance the team to the next round.

“You’re disappointed that you didn’t win. I felt the guys exercised our game plan to a T,” said Wise. “It’s really tough to win in Quebec — at times we had them really worried.”

Leadership was key for the Rams in both the playoffs and regular season, and head coach Wise named Andrew Buck and Payne as the two players who stood out. Buck finished the regular season with 10 goals and 22 points, and  had six points in three playoff games, while Payne finished the season with 13 goals and 22 points — a tie with Buck for the team lead. He had seven points in three playoff games.

“I was very happy with what I was able to accomplish this year, but I feel like it could have been even more without an injury that kept me out for a couple of weeks,” said Payne. “It means a lot to me to be able to go out and lead this group of guys.”

Among his season highlights, Payne lists tying the team record of 13 wins, scoring his first hat trick in the OUA, winning their first playoff game in front of an enthusiastic crowd, and the goalies’ two back-to-back shutouts in late October.

Wise also includes the shutouts against Queen’s and RMC in his season highlights, as well as two additional back-to-back shutouts in January against the Toronto Varsity Blues and RMC. Like Payne, he is also pleased with the record-tying 13 wins and 29 points — the most recorded in a single season by the Rams. The team was also able to post a winning record for the first time in 23 years.

“We had a lot of young guys jump into key roles and play lots of minutes for us, and were very successful at it,” said Payne. “Things look good for the future of this program and it’s awesome to be a part of this growth.”

Come next season, the team will have a new home at the Mattamy Home Ice arena on the third level of the Peter Gilgan Athletic Centre. With 27 of the 28 players from this years roster eligible to return for the 2012-13 season, only time will tell whether the Rams can continue to improve.

* Published on March 2, 2012 at the Ryersonian