Monday, 24 May 2010

My Comedy Fix

Last weekend I took my grown kids to see Conan O'Brien's "The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television Tour" at Massey Hall in Toronto. I had a blast, although most of the time I could only see Conan's arm due to the massive support pole that obscured centre stage.

Thankfully, a giant screen showed me the parts I couldn't see for real. I leaned in front of my son (annoying him immensely bwahaha) and managed to get some decent pictures of La Bamba and Andy Richter. However, every time I tried to photograph Conan, all I got was a tall, spindly white ghost. You'll have to take my word for it. He was there, really.

Massey Hall is a beautiful venue. I walked past its red doors countless times when I worked in Toronto but have never been inside. If I ever see another performance there, I'll take Ticketmaster's "obscured vision seating" warning at face value and pay extra for a better seat.

The show opened with a half-hour performance from Reggie Watts, a guy who reminded me of my brother in law Pete. He used an electronic sampler to create vocal percussion and background music while singing about how polite Canadians are. He bounced around in baggy jeans, his huge shaggy Afro tossing around his head like wings.  

The band was awesome. I wish Max Weinberg was on the drums, but the guy they had was terrific. La Bamba, a cute soft guy in a Panama hat, led the band with his trombone and a surprisingly strong voice. I'd never heard him sing before. Usually, he just sits there while Conan makes digs at him.

Andy Richter was funny as hell and his off-the-cuff comments were well timed.

Most of the material was outdated by the time CoCo reached Toronto, but it was nice seeing him resurrect some of his 'bits' from his now defunct television show. He had to change the names due to restrictions from NBC, but the spirit of his old show was there. We even saw a video presentation of Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, with amusing spliced-in references to Toronto.

One of the highlights of the show was a prop that had nothing to do with Team CoCo. They had apparently purchased the giant inflatable bat from Meatloaf's Bat Out of Hell Tour, and it rose from behind the band in all its glory at least twice. It was the only thing I could get a clear picture of!

There were no surprise guests. No Jim Carrey, no Kiefer Sutherland, no random stars who happened to be shooting a movie in the area. Instead, we were treated to a sentimental rendition of "The Weight" originally performed by The Band. 

During the encore, Conan left the stage with his guitar and gave everyone high fives and hugs. He appeared on our balcony level, then disappeared. Everyone glanced around and I looked behind me and saw the boom mike guy running along the aisle against the back wall. I knew Conan was right behind him and stretched out my hand while he loped past like a ghostly giraffe. My kids insist I was trying to grab him but I just wanted a High Five.

I'm starting to like this 'paying an arm and a leg to watch someone being funny.' I think I need a second income to feed this habit.

Saturday, 8 May 2010

I'm No Longer a Virgin

You see, I went to this writer's conference. It was my first time, and it didn't hurt a bit.

Last weekend, I made the hour's drive to Ajax, Ontario for the Ontario Writers Association Conference, a one-day extravaganza of workshops, panels, food and friendship.

I hesitated to part with my New York City savings to attend this conference, but Kevin, a fellow Absolute Write member and one of the organizers of the conference, convinced me to attend. I signed up for three workshops and had a 'blue pencil' session with an established author.

The workshops taught me things like how to wring a plot out of random ideas, and how to develop a character. I learned that popular fiction is nothing to turn your nose up at, and that memoirs can be freakin' hilarious.

Along with Kevin, I met two more AW members, and made a few new friends. While in line for dinner, I chatted with a dynamic looking woman about Buffalo. She said, "My first book is about Buffalo."

I discovered later she was the author of Too Close To The Falls, a humorous memoir about growing up in the 50's in Lewiston, NY. She spoke at dinner, cracking us up with tales about her precocious childhood with a non-domestic mother and a pharmacist father. Her delivery reminded me of Jean Shepard's dry wit. I bought her book and while she autographed it, we talked about childhood memories and how time can mold them into something different from facts.

My Blue Pencil Session was with Martin Avery, a multi-published author and writing teacher. He seemed positive about the opening pages of my manuscript, so I think I'm on the right track.

After dinner, there was a publishing panel, taking questions. We had a lively discussion with best selling authors, an agent and editor, covering everything from submissions to poetry to Book Espresso machines.

Later, several authors gave readings, and one gentleman mesmerized us with his rhythmic poetry. I met a hockey writer who asked me to send her a copy of Bad Ice.

I had a great time, came away with some nice books and a cool pen. I had a pleasant drive home and was only slightly tired from a sixteen-hour day. I highly recommend this conference, and I have a feeling it will grow in the years to come.

Pictured above: Caroline Wissing, Me, Kevin Craig and Danielle Gaudet Boldt. Photo courtesy of Kevin Craig.