Ashley Comeau shares her recent experiences writing and performing comedy in Toronto. Her first interview with Humber is here.
I studied at Humber in the Comedy Writing and Performance Program. I graduated in 2008. Right now, I am sitting in my pajamas, drinking tea in a flat in Edinburgh, Scotland. I am here to perform with my sketch troupe The Lusty Mannequins with our full-length sketch theatrical, Uncommonwealth, as part of 2019 Edinburgh Fringe. We just opened at Gilded Balloon today and are here for all of August.
What drew you to comedy?
Comedy is such a brilliant way to process, digest and change the things that we don't like about the world. I don't know many people who liked to be lectured or yelled at. Comedy is a very powerful tool and, sweet hell, it feels good to laugh!
Where do you seek inspiration for new sketches?
Honestly, anywhere. I'm constantly observing and documenting. Humber taught me to always carry a notebook; I do and I capture ideas or situations as they come. Speaking of which, I have stopped sexual relations in a fit of laughter with an idea for a sketch. Following the truth of situations is also a great jumping-off point.
One of the shows we saw you perform in, She the People at Second City, educates viewers and pokes fun of our knowledge of major Canadian political/social issues. What is the challenge of writing a show that's both educational and comedic?
She The People (STP) was an amazing show written by a team of hilarious writers under the direction of Carly Heffernan (as well as archive scenes written by the casts of Second City Toronto/Chicago). As for the scenes in STP, I am not able to speak to how they came up with those ideas, but I have been fortunate enough to write funny scenes that also speak to issues from the zeitgeist. I will say that I usually write dramatic scenes and add jokes later. I usually start from a rage place if the scene is socio-political. Other methods to create scenes may be developing through improv or from funny places/patterns, but I love a good vulnerable scene that you are able to add jokes too. I enjoy the math of a scene. And to think I failed grade 10 math.
How do you see comedy changing in the future?
I am not sure how it will change, but here is my Christmas wishlist on it:
i) I would like for comedy to be as respected as "dramatic" acting. There are two masks. My improv teacher at Humber told me that. Comedy is often given little funding by granting bodies and dramatic arts are favoured in the distribution of coverage and arts funding. It's time to take comedy seriously people; we're not going anywhere.
ii) I would like comedy to feature more accessibility towards marginalized groups. I would like more people who belong in marginalized groups to be granted access to the people at the top, and by doing so BECOME the people at the top so that decision making includes them.
iii) I would like for fart jokes to always be funny.
iv) I would like for comedians to support each other. Sharing the focus with your peers does not mean that there is less work for you.
How has your Humber education helped you in your career?
At Humber, I made the connections that were formative in my professional development. A lot of my graduating class are working professionals—we're at JFL, Second City, on Netflix and CBC and doing it. We were taught how to work hard. Admittedly, I have never cooked ground beef in a coffee maker in a hotel, but I have had my forewarned amount of traveler’s diarrhea from touring. The teachers at Humber give great advice and insight into the ins and outs of the industry by being brutally honest and telling you with compassion. They are encouraging, but they won't mince words about it.
Do you have any advice for Humber students pursuing comedy in the future?
Don't stop. Don't silence the voice inside you. You are funny. Keep moving forward and learning. Also, if you want people to take your comedy seriously, put some pants on for god sake and care about what you're doing.
Right now, The Lusty Mannequins—the sketch troupe that I am in starring Connor Thompson, Karen Parker and Alastair Forbes (all Second City Alumni)—are performing at Edinburgh Fringe for all of August!
Please tell any grads who may be in Edinburgh to come check out Uncommonweath, a full-length sketch comedy revue!
For more information on Humber’s Comedy Writing and Performance Diploma, please visit humbercomedy.ca.
Humber Comedy Writing alumni Ashley Comeau. Photo taken by Dahlia Katz.
Ashley Comeau performing with The Lusty Mannequins. Photo taken by Dahlia Katz.
Sketch troupe The Lusty Mannequins featuring Alastair Forbes, Karen Parker and Connor Thompson. Photo taken by Dahlia Katz.