At the end of the day/year though, it is all about the journey. So when it came to comedy, I strapped myself in for the ride and tried to make the best of all of the loops and twists and turns along the way.
Here, in no particular order, are some of my most memorable gigs of 2021…
With the mandates that were handed down, live indoor stand up comedy was deemed highly illegal and very naughty so we were forced to tell our jokes outside in mother nature like common medieval minstrels. I was lucky enough to get to work with the Grimsby DIA to bring a series of clean family friendly comedy shows to Coronation Park every Wednesday evening throughout the summer. The crowds were amazing and just as excited to be there as we were and there were even doggos in the audience! They were just the best times ever, so they were!
Speaking of best times ever, we teamed up with the beautiful Hernder Estate Wines in St. Catharines to bring the ‘Summer Comedy Concert Series’, complete with dinner, drinks, DJ, Photobooth and a whole lot of laughs under the moonlight. From Jeff Leeson having everyone in absolute hysterics to Seattle International Comedy Festival winner Danny Martinello smashing it under the stars…those were some special nights!
9. Tailgate Talent Show
I was recently unsuccessful in my attempt to gain a spot on Canada’s Got Talent, due to Howie Mandel being too afraid of my germs and nothing at all to do with the fact that I’m not nearly as funny as I think I am. I did however get the opportunity to perform on a talent show on TV just a few months prior. Granted, Brant Community Television doesn't quite have the same pull, but the Tailgate Talent Show was an amazing experience and they made me feel like a rockstar! We got photos taken with a professional photographer, hair and makeup artists to try and make me look pretty, and the set up, crowds and talent on the shows were all dynamite. It was also a cheeky bonus that my good buddy Craig Watkins was on the show too so we got to hang out and it was a blasty blast!
I never knew it was on my bucket list, but I’m proud to say that I have headlined a Drive In Comedy Night at a fundraiser for Big Brothers and Sisters in Guelph, Ontario. It was kind of surreal to be telling jokes to a fleet of vehicles as they honked and flashed lights to the punchlines. (see here) One car was laughing so much it had tears in its eyes and it was washing them away with the wipers. Another one heckled me and tried to run me over but that’s to be expected with Toyota Camrys. I remember I got on stage not 5 minutes after I’d just heard the news that the Montreal Canadiens had left Carey Price unprotected in the expansion draft and my heart had dropped down into my shoes and I was so worried that my hero was leaving. The only thing that could have brought my spirits back up at that moment was to perform one of the funnest and most unique shows of my career and I am very thankful for that.
There is a game on Steam that you can play online called Comedy Night. You create your comic avatar and then enter the open rooms consisting of some of the most vile and racist people imaginable and its just a cesspool of scum. But then on Tuesday nights we would run a Got Jokes Comedy Night and my buddy DK Phan would host and moderate the room and kick out all of the trolls and it was, surprisingly, a ton of fun! I never would have imagined performing as an avatar and wielding my jokes like an algorithm, but adapt or die! Insert seven syllables and then press E twice because that’s the button for comically raising “eyebrows eyebrows”. What a world we live in!
I also did a ton of fun Zoom shows but the one that stands out the most was the Niagara Needs A Laugh appreciation night for all of the Niagara Health workers. Cash Cab’s Adam Growe was the headliner and was so funny…and ingenious too. He had a small remote in his hand and he would click it at a certain time and the camera would switch to a different camera with a close up of his face, and then he’d say the punchline…it was absolutely hilarious and I’m jealous that I didn’t think of it first!
The coolest thing about virtual shows is that you can perform anywhere in the world! I got the opportunity to perform in the Saving Our Jobs Virtual Comedy Festival presented by Stella Artois based in Seattle, Washington. Not only was it super fun, but I ended up winning the contest and the grand prize of this graphic shown here!
I was also invited to a Virtual Reality Comedy Show, where everybody had oculus goggles walking around in a virtual world. Alas I was goggleless, but I could still play and see the world in 2D on my computer screen and it was surreal with people walking up and having a conversation with you…from Australia 15 hours into the future! Wild!
Thanks to funding from the Niagara Falls Cultural Development Fund we had been able to plan a filmed and edited cooking quiz show called Live Quizine with David Green. My co-star and good buddy Rob Dorinzi would invite guests over to cook for them while they played a quiz and we would also film on location at restaurants around Niagara. Once again mandates and lockdowns made all of those things impossible, so we shifted gears to an online interactive format with thanks to the technical wizardy of Patrick Coppolino and Jaybird Digital Arts giving us some razzle dazzle with snazzy overlays and logos. The live portions were always lots of fun, but the cooking and filming segments were some of the funniest times I had all summer. We laughed sooo much and then ate like Kings! Nom nom nom!
This was my 3rd consecutive year hosting the Lip Sync Battle Niagara and I am so very proud to be part of an event that raises thousands of dollars for Women’s Place every year. The Greg Frewin Theatre is absolutely stunning and is one of my favourite places to perform in the world. For the second straight year we were sans live audience, but we had viewers zooming in to watch from all across the globe. UK, Australia, USA, Welland. The energy and thrill of being backstage and inside the theatre was electric and I just cannot wait until we can do it again next year back in front of a live audience…I’ve got goosebumps just thinking about it!
It had been three years since I’ve last performed in a retirement home. I've worked at many over the years, and you always meet such amazing people. To get to go and entertain the residents now after they haven’t been able to see any visitors for so long made it feel so much more rewarding. I know it sounds corny but it's true. I hope one day when I am old and living in a home, someone will come and yell puns at me too. This is Pearl, she is a legend!
Now this was something else entirely! Amy Layton, the organizer of the Lip Sync Battle had recommended me to Sarah Pritula the Director of Community Crew who were organizing their annual Night of Miracles Gala. This was also supposed to be a live in person event but was pivoted to a very innovative online presentation complete with lobby, photo booth and viewing presentation. I got to wear a tuxedo and a bowtie and feel like James Bond, the man with the Golden Pun. On the day of recording, my computer was acting up so I had to rush to St. Catharines where they were filming in a church. I was shaken, but not stirred and I’m happy to say we persevered and raised a bunch of money for a great cause!
One of the cool things about working as a professional MC is that there are so many different types of gigs that you can be hired for. For the past couple of years, I’ve had the pleasure of teaming up with Shane Blair of Sound of Harmony Wedding and DJ Services, working as a hired MC for weddings. It is an honour to be a part of a couple’s big day and being trusted to help ensure that we can make their day even more special. What I enjoy about these events is seeing the passion and dedication that Shane puts into to making sure that everything runs smoothly and is as entertaining as possible. I’m a big fan of the small details and Sound of Harmony events always go above and beyond to guarantee that everyone has a great time! Shane has also helped me so much with our comedy shows at Hernder Estate Winery by pimping us out with amazing sound and lighting and rocking the DJ booth and setting us up for success. If you have any friends who are planning to get married in the future you can’t go wrong with having Sound of Harmony in your corner. I also recommend upgrading your package to get the special MC deal wink wink nudge nudge say no more!
As much fun as all of these new comedy experiences have been over the past year, you just can’t beat a good old fashioned traditional stand up comedy show! Although I didn’t get to do nearly as many as I’d have liked this year, it just made me appreciate the ones that I could do so much more. I was lucky enough to get to do live shows in Niagara Falls, St. Catharines, Grimsby, Hamilton, Burlington, Toronto, Newmarket, Kitchener, Barrie, Guelph, Peterborough, Midland, Simcoe, Waterford, Welland and Montreal.
I have to say though that hands down my favourite place to perform is at The Exchange Brewery in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Although I don’t live in NOTL, I love the town and am proud to feel that I am a part of its community. It's where I've been leading Ghost Walks for the past decade and a bit. It is where I go to run the Terry Fox Run every year and attend the annual Remembrance Day Ceremony. It is also where I host weekly Wednesday trivia nights also at The Exchange Brewery. The Exchange holds a special place in my heart because for three years we've been putting on our monthly Humour and Hops comedy nights and these shows are my favourite shows to perform at in the whole wide world. The room is small and intimate, and everyone in the audience can see everyone else and there's always such a sense of togetherness within the room. It's always so much fun that I never want to give up the mic and introduce the next comic! The staff are some of the nicest people ever and treat me like family!
Largely from the help of my friend and fellow comic Jimmy England, who has been leading weekly zoom writing workshops, I have written more new material in this last calendar year than in any of my previous 14 years of writing stand up comedy. With all of these extra puns in my pockets I figured it'd be a pretty cool idea to record my third comedy special Live at The Exchange Brewery on Friday February 18th 2022. I’m going to be bringing some of my funniest and bestest of friends to be on the show with me and it’s going to be a grand old time so it is!
And Howie...I'm comin for you buddy! :)