You can make the drive from Ottawa to Toronto in five hours.
That is unless of course, you pit stop twice, your parents live at the halfway mark, or if at one point you are forced to a slow crawl by a rain storm so severe you can hardly see the taillights of the car in-front of you.
Yesterday we left Ottawa at 1 pm. By 6:30 we were driving down the Lakeshore Parkway, looking up at what is no longer the world’s tallest freestanding building. We were passing by scenes that used to be more commonplace to me, back when Toronto was “The City” that we made an excuse to visit at least once a month. This makes sense because it’s only an hour and a half from where I grew up. My oldest sister has lived there for so long now that she hosted us that weekend we went to The Gap on Queen Street to buy my Grade 8 Graduation dress. In grade 11, (convinced I was going to attend the University of Toronto), my best friend and I navigated the subway system on our own to take a University campus tour.
So I’ve done Toronto in far less than 24 hours, but now that I live in Ottawa, it has been fewer and farther between each visit.
A 7 p.m. we were walking around Kensington Market, trying to calm Mike’s pre-performance jitters. In the interest of full disclosure, it’s important to include that the purpose of the trip was to attend a “Comedy Brawl.” Amateur comedians will take just about any opportunity they can get with stage time, even if that means making a long trip and taking time off of your day job.
The Comedy event was held at a bar at College and Bathurst Street. When you are in unfamiliar surroundings, it’s a strange feeling to encounter a familiar face, and when my sister walked in the door of the pub my first thought wasn’t, “Oh there’s my sister.” Instead it was… “That’s odd, that person who just walked in the door looks so much like me,” even though I was expecting her to meet us there.
At 8:30 pm, my sister, brother-in-law, my cousin and a group of Mike’s friends joined the rest of the comedy crowd in what can only be described as a basement that looks more like “Dexter’s Den.”
While crammed around patio furniture in a dark space we watched as each comedian took their place on stage, trying their hardest for 8 minutes to make the crowd laugh. The host, a more seasoned veteran who usually butters the audience up, did a horrible job of keeping everyone in light spirits. Instead he cut us down when we answered his questions with an eager “wooooo!” and said that we must be “stupid” if we were unable to answer with a “yes.” Not your customary “every-man” like-able guy. But hey, it’s not the easiest role in the world to be a comedy host.
If it’s a hard job to host a comedy show, it’s much harder to interact with an audience who comes off like they don’t want to laugh. Sitting there with their arms crossed, as if they have convinced themselves that the last thing they want to have on their minds is enjoying an evening in a basement listening to people making jokes about shopping and baseball games.
The road is long.
And there are so many cliches that accompany it:
“Nothing worth waiting for came easy”
“Rome wasn’t built in a day”
“If at first you don’t succeed, try again.”
“That which doesn’t kill you, only makes you stronger”
I look around at the people in my life who I’m so incredibly proud of:
One sister is producing and directing a movie, based on a short story my grandfather wrote, and a few weeks ago my other sister delivered her first baby. (This is not to be confused with “gave birth”to her first baby.. she actually delivered someone else’s child into this world.) But that was a month ago. Now she is up to almost 10 deliveries in total. It won’t be long before the children she has delivered start to walk, talk and on their birthdays ask their parents to recount the story of when they were born… which will of course include my spunky, passionate sister.
It takes incredible courage to put yourself out there. To write something down and post it on the internet. To go back to school. To invest your spare time. To ask for the support of your family and friends. To take a risk.
So yes, the road is long and there are going to be many road trips. Many dark basements which aren’t set up for a show. Many audiences and hosts and competitions which make you question why it is what you are doing. But you chip away at it. And one day, we’ll look back and think, “I did it,” and that makes the trip worthwhile.
But for now, this is “doing it.”
(If you are interested you can follow the @lovelymikekelly on twitter… for more trials and tribulations of an amateur comedian. Plus, it would make his day 🙂