Tomorrow I will be performing stand up comedy at The Lyric Theatre in Hollywood with Anthony Jeselnik, Moshe Kasher, Rob O’Reilly and 2 secret guests I cannot legally announce - HOWEVER one of them voiced the adorable Vanellope in “Wreck It Ralph” and was “Fucking Matt Damon” while dating Jimmy Kimmel, the other is her current beau who you’ve seen on Reno 911. This being said, it is by far the most elite lineup I’ve ever been a part of in my short career.
Flashback to the end of grade 9 as a student at John Rennie High School in Pointe-Claire (a suburb of Montreal), Canada. It was the end of the year and the drama program was holding auditions for its special “Actor’s Studio” program where students would follow a special curriculum based around developing young actors. Since I could remember I wanted to be an actor, I wanted to entertain - when I was only 5 my young parents would attach a video camera to the TV and I would do characters, voices and scenes for hours until they had to drag me to bed. This dream was quickly crushed in one audition at John Rennie High School. I’ll never forget it, I chose Shylock’s “if you prick us do we not bleed” monologue from Shakespeare’s “The Merchant of Venice” and was told while I performed well enough, I was not to be permitted into the program because of behavior issues - I acted out, talked too much and always goofed around in class - that’s right, at 14 years old my school told me I was not allowed to enter a program designed for silly, energetic kids who enjoyed acting out, for those EXACT reasons. What made it worse was being rejected, made fun of and called a stupid jock by all the drama kids I so desperately wanted to be accepted by so I did just that, became a jock.
The following 7 years of my life I dedicated to playing elite level basketball and banging as many sexy bitches as I could because well… fuck nerds right? Was I happy? Hell ya. I was the top dog on campus, going to make the NBA and be cool not by being weird like those drama dorks. What I didn’t realize though was that it was an impure happiness, a happiness brought by false relationships stemmed from the longing of acceptance by my peers. I was never really great at basketball but I was tall and coordinated enough that combined with my desire to be cooler than the drama kids and addiction to acceptance I worked hard enough to be recruited out of high school to play for an elite provincial training program, followed by one of the top CEGEPs in my province for basketball (similar to prep school) and then into one of the top Canadian university basketball teams. This whole time I would entertain my teammates in the locker room by doing the exact same thing I was denied entry to Actor’s Studio almost a decade back. I grew to hate those type of people because they denied me, all I wanted was to be an actor but basketball was my calling. Everything changed at the end of the sophomore season.
As my second year ended I was ready to make a move into the lineup as a part of the regular rotation but just as things started looking up, my head coach - the man who taught me that no matter how much I tried, no matter how hard I worked, or how empty I thought the tank was, I can always do more - had left our team to take a much better job opportunity somewhere else. This left me at the bottom of the food chain again, the new coach didn’t respect me, didn’t know who I was and ultimately I decided it was time to hang up the shoes.The problem with this is I didn’t know who i was outside of basketball, I was a basketball player and good with women, that’s all I knew - take away basketball and all there is is sex, hardly a fulfilling life.
I drifted aimlessly in Ottawa bartending at the nightclubs in the Byward Market and serving at one of the most popular restaurants all the while thinking “yea, I’m fucking cool” but in reality I wasn’t. What was i? A guy who served people food and drink with a big ol’ smile in hopes that you like me enough to give me money at the end of your meal I was a glorified beggar. This didn’t sit well with me so I got even more angry at myself for giving up on my dream so long ago that I became miserable, I shut everyone out and away and occupied myself with one night stands and the fear of missing out. But everything happens for a reason.
While in Ottawa I met a few friends who saw the real me, they saw the childlike entertainer I was on the inside and one of my former teammates and lifelong brothers who is also a European underwear model and doctor (yes, he’s real) said to me one day after practice in my freshman year, “why don’t you do stand up comedy or act?” I brushed this off not thinking anything of it but unbeknownst to either of us, that that little comment, that idea was the starting point, the beginning of the end - the inception.
A few years had passed since then, basketball’s over, I’m waiting tables, smoking copious amounts of weed and loving my iPhone and everything Apple does when my dad texts me saying Steve Jobs, the co-founder, the face and revolutionary behind Apple had finally lost his long, grueling battle to pancreatic cancer - the same cancer that claimed my father’s best friend’ not too long ago. Needless to say when a celebrity dies, the world talks and my Facebook timeline was FLOODED with Steve Jobs - fucking everywhere.
One of my few real life Facebook friends had posted a video of the Commencement Speech Steve gave at Stanford with the tag “inspiring” so I figured, fuck it, I need some inspiration and I watched it. If Dr. Calvin Klein’s comment was the inception, this was what turned it into something more - his comment simply formed some clouds, this video roared like thunder through my body, it woke the 14 year old boy inside of me hungrier now more than ever. If you have not seen the speech I recommend you do, there is a link to it at the bottom of this. Steve covers major points that I needed to hear which are:
Work takes up a huge part of your life so find what it is you love to do, what you’re good at and make a career of it.
It’s impossible to connect the dots moving forward, only looking back - so trust your instincts and lets yourself live. It’ll all make sense one day.
Lastly, death - do not be afraid to die.
After this speech I realized 1) I’m good at acting out, being silly and misbehaving - what jobs can I get with that? 2) In 2003 I gave up but looking back,everything I’ve done in my life has lead me to this - it always comes back to drama class. 3) Reading has many things about death, mainly the fear of being forgotten. How do we overcome death? Through immortality, but not by slaying unicorns and stealing the Philosopher’s Stone from Albus Dumbledore, no - but through art. I looked back at life and took everything in for a few hours and realized I knew what I had to do. I called my other friend who had tickets to a comedy club in Ottawa, we went and watched, it was my first time ever at a comedy club and from that minute I walked in I knew it wouldn’t be my last. That was sometime in January 2012.
I finally worked up the balls to walk on stage on March 26th, 2012 at Absolute Comedy in Ottawa, Canada. It is now January 21st 2014, less than 2 years later and tomorrow I share a Hollywood stage with some of the biggest names in the game.
Thank you belief, thank you fear and mostly, thank you rejection.