There is a first time for everything, and today, on this first day of June, a month we all loved as children (I can hear the line "school's out for the summer" in my head), I can celebrate another first.
My friend Catherine was one of the first (oh look another one!) new friends I made here in LA. I noticed a new face at an open mic. I had been here a few weeks and was beginning to recognize the usual suspects, and she was sitting alone at a table at Silverlake lounge.
I went up to her and said hello, and that I was new from Toronto, and she said she was new from Chicago. I had been to Chicago on my way back from my first (haha another one, I'm lame) Canadian comedy tour, and we decided to return to Toronto through the US, and do some open mics in the Windy City. My tour mates, Andrew Barr and Michael Flamank shared my feeling that Chicago reminded us a lot of Toronto, the people were friendly, the food was good, and our populations sizes were almost identical. A lot of times when I hit it off with someone new here, they say they are from Chicago.
Catherine was also an actor and a model, and had moved solo. A few years my junior, our maturity levels were about the same, I'll just say that is a compliment to both of us. We traded facebook info, and I left before she got on stage, I was lucky at this lottery show, and my name got pulled early. Off to another mic.
At this stage of my life in LA I was very homesick. I had this one day where I had spent about 2 hours waiting in my car on a 30 degree day (90ish F) for my driving test at the DMV (all the horror stories were real)! They did not want us to be idling as we waited for the one instructor to make his way through the line, apparently five people had called in sick, and the heat in the car proved to be a great fuel for my nerves. Thankfully I passed.
When I got home I didn't feel well, and while in the middle of a phone call to try and set up another sublet for the next month, I felt the vomit rise up my throat. I put the phone on mute, puked my guts out, and unmuted just in time to keep the conversation going. It was not one of my finest moments, but also one of my finest moments.
I continued to feel bad later into the evening, and I called the one person I had known in LA from back in Canada, but she didn't answer. It would be past midnight back home, but I called my dad, and he picked up. I told him I was feeling really sick from being in the hot car, and the fact I didn't have health insurance to go to the hospital was making me panicked. I knew I would be ok, but knowing that you can't really go unless you want a hefty bill is unnerving. I would have health insurance once I started my job, but the start date was pushed back a month because of a delay in getting my social security number. I was not in Canada anymore.
My dad was kind enough to talk to me for an hour as I poured cool water down the back of my neck. He told me about when he had just moved to Toronto from Belfast, Northern Ireland, where he grew up. One weekend he spent the entire time in his apartment, not wanting to go out or talk to anybody. These were stories I had never heard, and it slowly pulled me out of my panic and back to feeling better.
After I had started my job at SolarCity, I was doing a shadow training day at the Home Depot in North Hollywood, and on my way home I got a message from Catherine on facebook asking if I wanted to hang out with her at a show at Echoes Under Sunset. Why not! We met up and sat outside of the now closed venue [sad face, as that was the place I did my first (hehe) four comedy specials in LA] and her friend Nora was there as well. Nora was a friend of Catherine's from Chicago who moved to California because her fiance got a job at Blizzard.
Catherine and I were honest about having our little breakdowns, and it was comforting that I was not the only one going through some relocation anxiety. We spoke of often calling our parents, her to her mom, me to my dad, and having them talk us down haha. We started to turn our breakdown talk into a motivational talk about how if we moved back to our respective hometowns we would only feel worse. We had done it, we had packed up our lives in the optimistic, if not difficult, endeavor to further our careers, and we had to be proud and dig deep.
I would ask Catherine to be on my third anniversary of comedy special at Echoes Under Sunset on September 30th, 2015, and since then she has done two more specials of mine. We also started writing a sitcom together, semi-autobiographical, and meet at coffee shops and fantasize about presenting each other awards.
She attended my all Canadian show in May for my birthday, and that gave her the idea to do her own birthday special! She asked if I would co-host with her, where we would both be on stage at the same time. We had never done this before, and I loved the Truth or Date theme she came up with. The audience would write truth or dares before the show and we would randomly pull them, as well as the other comedians, and perform them throughout the show (with veto power, I'm looking at you person who wanted to see a striptease haha).
We met up once for a hike to Griffith Observatory to triple check we would banter off each other well, and then took the plunge. The venue was Rafa's Lounge and I had heard of it looking for a new venue for my specials after Echoes Under Sunset closed. I had called IO West, a well known theater in downtown Hollywood, and the booker had recommended Rafa's when his venue didn't have availability. I find that simply asking follow up questions from people who may not be able to help you in one way, will lead them to being able to help you in another.
Catherine and I dressed up in dresses, and one of the first dares we did together was an arm wrestle. We locked arms and were pretty even at first, but in the end she came out the victor. I hadn't told her what she was about to do, I just grabbed a stool and put it in the middle of the stage and said get on your knees. She happily obliged, and I knew this was going to be a great show. Highlights were when a comedian, Richelle had a dare to sing a national anthem, and she and the audience belted out a damn good Star Spangled Banner, how appropriate for the day before Memorial day. One dare that I had to censor was "pick your nose and eat it", I put the tip of my finger in my nose and licked it.
The feedback from the audience was positive, and the theme of the show really did leave an impression of fun, silly and supportive. They wanted us to do another show, and we want to make it a regular thing. I will be leaving next month for the Edinburgh Fringe, followed by the Melbourne Fringe, but I am excited for my return to LA. I can sink my teeth into all the new projects I have been starting. The memory of pouring that water down my back, not even a year ago, seems like a distant memory now, one I almost forgot until I sat down to write. It is not those dark times that define who we are, it's how get past them, and I'm grateful to be building a network here that makes it feel more like home.