On Stand-Up Comedy

I’ve recently started watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Amazon Prime and, in so many ways, it’s right up my alley: Well scripted, funny, amazing sets and costumes, and it’s set during a golden era for comedy nerds. Comics like Lenny Bruce (who appears on the show as a character), Redd Foxx, and Joan Rivers (who partially serves as the inspiration for the title character) were pushing boundaries exploring subjects and using language rarely heard on stage in those days. I’ve long been a fan of stand-up because I think it’s the scariest of the performing arts. It’s you and microphone and an audience that can turn if your set is just not good.

It’s interesting to watch the tension between those audience members who appreciate the newly frank material and those who are still shocked by it, This is illustrated neatly in the second season when Midge Maisel launches into an impromtu R-rated routine at her friend’s very traditional, very Catholic wedding. What flew at the Glaslight did not fly at Our Lady of Perpetual Sorrow. The show is very good at showing a society on the verge of a cultural shift.

Comedy often forces the audience to either look at something in a new way, or serves as a release when someone addresses a topic that is taboo in polite society.

Today, there is very little that is forbidden to discuss on stage. The president of the United States has admitted to paying off mistresses with zero consequences so nobody is going stop you from saying anything. We are somewhat unshockable these days.

But society changes and those who challenged the norms of their time often feel threatened when they find they’re the old guard and the audience just isn’t into it. You find this attitude among comics who came up in the 80s and 90s when suddenly the material that gave them their living doesn’t land the way it used to. They’re confused and somewhat resentful, complaining of “political correctness” ruining comedy.

It’s not, of course, ruining comedy. It’s ruining their comedy because they have no back-up material. Last year at Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival, Darren Knight, who has gotten a small following with his “Southern Momma” character, bombed during a gala, in which he insulted the comics and then insulted the audience, saying that comedy shouldn’t be about sexism or racism. Saturday Night Live’s Chris Redd confronted him, saying essentially that his performance was his own fault, not the audience’s.

And he was right. If the material doesn’t hit with the audience, that is not the fault of the audience. You need to find a way to make the material work so that the audience responds to it. You need to read the room. Are you performing at your friend’s Catholic wedding, a downtown comedy club, or Just for Laugh’s infamous Nasty Show?

Are comedians really afraid of being offensive these days? Is the Nasty Show still one of Just for Laugh’s most popular events? There’s your answer.


September Catch Up

I realize that it’s been since June that there’s been a post so here’s a little update of what’s been going on.

We Still Have a House

Beyond the initial painting, not much work has gone into as summer came and we got ourselves busy. It was a combination of relatives coming through the place as they re-immigrated from Scotland to Canada (no they weren’t fleeing in the event of a Yes vote) and just the lack of desire to do any work when the weather is nice.

Plans are forming with regards to what we want to do with it. It needs a new kitchen, bathrooms, and rec room. All of which cost time and money which we don’t have at the money. In fact, since buying the place, we’re actually stretched a little thin. It’s temporary but it’s a pain and it prevents us from doing more with the place. What worries me is that we’ll get complacent and think, “Yes. The brown kitchen suits us fine.”

We Still Have a Child

He hasn’t moved out or anything as he just turned six. He may well be going to the MacKay Centre to help with his dyspraxia. Motor skills are still an issue for him but he’s a great reader and loves his books, especially comics. This bodes well for future movies we’ll be attending together. He may or may not be trick or treating as Star-Lord this year.

He also started a new school to go along with the new neighbourhood. It’s a bit different from his last one as I’d reckon our neighbourhood is maybe a peg lower on the economic scale than the last one but the people there seem pretty devoted so I’m generally happy with where he’s ended up.

He also learned a lot about Terry Fox this year and has continuously reminded us that he is dead now.

I Still Have a Job

It’s been about eight months since I started in the new place. I say I work in I.T. but I’m more of a link between the business and tech side of things. I’m for sure not bringing any special skills or knowledge to the table other than some general background from my previous department.

Anyway, it’s still interesting and I’m still learning but in general the vibe of the place is much preferable to my old place.

I’m Still Married 

Two years and some, doing life in reverse: baby, wedding, house. Take that, society and your so-called “rules”.

I Still Get Migraines

And they suck,

I Still Have Panic Attacks

They also suck, but I don’t get them as much as I used to.

I Haven’t Been to New Brunswick Since March

Mainly because of a busy summer but also, because we travel standby, the flights have been too full. It may be March before we get back.

Yes, we were planning to move there and have tried to make this happen a number of times, including me interviewing with a Certain Large Company there just to get there. You know how Maritimers have a reputation for being laid back and funny? This Company is not that. Oy, those interviews were un.com.fort.able. I may have dodged a bullet there. I’m sure I’ve said that before but it bears repeating, I guess.

Anyhow, I have a colleague who moved back to NB for similar reasons to us (larger family and social network, cheaper cost of living) and is thinking she may have a mistake. Quebec has a lot of services that NB can’t provide, particularly when it comes to education.

So the new job and the decision to buy a house means we’re here for quite a while.

And there are worse places than Montreal for a kid to grow up in.

On Memory and Identity and Lost Supermarket Chains

(image via nous sommes folklore)

The other day, I went to the dentist for a check-up and cleaning (no cavities, mother!). The dentist’s office is located in a mall that is celebrating its 60th anniversary. In the mall, there were signs detailing the history of the mall, showing when it opened in 1954, and the new dining sensation of barbecued chicken available at Miss Montreal diner. The supermarket attached was Steinberg’s, naturally, as the Steinberg family owned the mall and adjacent car dealership. All that exists of Steinberg’s these days is the Pik-Nik in the mall’s food court.

“Oh yeah,” I thought. “I remember Steinberg’s.”

Which was not true at all. I came to Quebec in 2003, eleven years after the chain declared bankruptcy and got sold off to the Provigo chain. I had vague memories of being aware that it was a chain in Quebec in the 80s just from watching Lance et Compte and Rock et Belles Oreilles on Radio-Canada.

But I don’t “remember” this place as though I’ve always lived here. Maybe after having a kid born in Lasalle, getting married, and buying a home here, I finally see myself as a Montrealer/West Islander/Quebecker. So much so that my memories start pretending I’ve always been here.

Later, while listening to the game on TSN 690, I thought to myself, “I miss Dino Sisto calling the games on CJAD.”

Or maybe when you start pining for days long gone by in your adopted home, that’s when you’re part of the place for good.

And now we’re homeowners

We did it backwards and slowly:

Had a baby

Got married

Bought a house.

But we did it and while the place we live in is more or less identical to the one we were renting, it’s ours. Or it will be.

The move went as well as can be expected. We hired Bust-a-Move Moving solely on the name. They were the best moving experience I have had since moving to Montreal. I’d recommend them if you have a small space and not a detached house as their trucks are no longer than twenty feet. We had to leave some stuff behind to retrieve later. They were relatively cheap and fast, with the bill for six hours work coming out to about $1000 before tips. And I fed them lunch from Spanos Pizza which is really good pizza if you’re in the West Island area.

It’s exhausting moving with the knowledge that you still have so much to do on the house. I still need to finish painting the trim, fixing a few of my painting mistakes, before I even move on to painting the rooms. The basement will need work. There are stucco walls I’d like to remove and a gross carpet to replace. We’ll want a new kitchen, and bathrooms and probably even some doors. All of this will cost money and being brand new home owners, we officially have none. So it’ll all get done, bit by bit. I wonder if, someday, when someone comes to buy the house, they see our remodelled kitchen which we thought looked so contemporary, they’ll think, “Ugh. Backsplash.”

Anyway, the point of re-modelling your home should be because you like it and not what you think is going to sell. I think.

The neighbours seem nice. And they have two boys who’ll be attending school with James next year (in different grades, though). One neighbour tends to grunt at us rather than say hello. But I rarely seem him as he and his wife/girlfriend tend to keep odd hours.

D.D.O. in general is an odd place. Our direct neighbhourhood is pretty quiet while if you go down two streets in one direction, it gets a little sketchy and if you go two streets in another direction, it’s McMansions. But it’s a nice, diverse kind of place. We got our library cards last Sunday because that’s what we do when we move in instead of having house warming parties.

For the time being, we have a general “Do one thing tonight” approach when it comes to unpacking and making the house. Most of these measures are not permanent but will take us from a jumble of boxes to a functioning home.

Also, do you want a couch? It won’t fit downstairs.

On the Pending Homeownership

One week from tomorrow, we’ll own a house. Well, our fruit-based financial provider will but you get the idea.

This morning, I dropped a fairly substantial amount of money in the form of a down payment, notary fees, and taxes at the notary’s office before heading to work. The next meeting is May 1st when we get the keys.

This morning, as I left the office, my nervousness over this milestone in our lives together turned to elation. As I often do during life’s milestones, I looked for a song to connect to this moment so that I would remember it forever.

I tuned into Mike-FM, and this is what I got.

Songza’s 80s Dance Party in Canada is my favourite playlist so I’m not exactly adverse to a little Luba in my life. It reminded me, however, of that scene in Jerry Maguire. I guess you can’t pick your life’s soundtrack all the time.

I turned up the radio and sang along.