Rachelle Elie | the 1000 step program for addicts-Ottawa Citizen story
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the 1000 step program for addicts-Ottawa Citizen story

21 Aug 2018, Posted by Rachelle in Comedy, Touring
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Spotlight is a weekly look at some of the people who are part of the Ottawa area’s arts community. This week, Bruce Deachman talks with stand-up comedian, clown, playwright and actress Rachelle Elie. She’s performing her one-woman show, Joe: The Perfect Man, on May 5 at Almonte’s Old Town Hall. Visit crowningmonkey.com for more information.

“I got kicked out of ballet school. I always did very well in the productions, but when it came to the discipline of it and the exam time, I was always joking around and messing around with friends. It was basically the clown coming out in me; I just couldn’t be serious.

“I didn’t want to be a comedian when I was a kid, but I do have footage of me telling Newfie jokes when I was six years old, so it was definitely in the stars. But I did go to theatre school for 6½ years — I went to Studio 58 in Vancouver, and also to Bishop’s University — and had great ambitions to become a serious actress. But what started to happen was that when I was very serious, people would laugh, and I’d be like, ‘Why are they laughing? This is not my intention.’

“I also started writing one-woman shows and I found that I got a lot of attention for all the comedy stuff I did. And it became very clear to me that as much as I really wanted to do acting and be serious about it, comedy was going to be what I would be doing.

“I was in Toronto in the mid ’90s, doing stand-up comedy in clubs. Coming from theatre school, it was really pooh-poohed upon to do stand-up comedy. It was considered a lower form of art compared to theatre, so I was a little embarrassed to be on stage. I was also doing visual art then, and waitressing, and I was really tired of waitressing, so I started experimenting with only doing art. I took all my Joe-job energy and put it into art, and put out to the universe that I wanted to do comedy. So that’s when my career in stand-up really started.

“In the ’90s when I went to Yuk-Yuks in Toronto, the environment was not conducive for women in comedy. It was such a gross environment, but I remember thinking that the fact that I can do this and I’m a woman means I have to do this. I remember writing in my journal ‘You can do this. You have to do this.’ Because I was so tired of being in clubs and only hearing men’s voices. And that stayed with me.

“I eventually had to stop, though, when I fell in love with a doctor and got pregnant. At that time, people were smoking in clubs, so my career in stand-up shifted. I stopped completely, focused on my visual art, and then toured a one-woman comedy show across Canada.

“But 10 years ago, I did my fifth one-woman show. It was an autobiographical show and I was embarrassed to realize that I could play all these characters really well, but I couldn’t play myself. That’s what inspired me to go back into stand-up clubs and get in touch with me.

“Robin Williams said something like if you want to do comedy, get up on stage 100 times and do stand-up, and you’ll figure out if you even want to do it. Then once you get to 100, do it 1,000 times. So the first 100 times I did it, I felt there was always this knot in my stomach of not knowing if I was going to do well or if I’d totally bomb. My biggest bomb was being on stage at two in the morning and this guy, high on coke, heckled me, then got on stage and did comedy. And I stood there watching him do comedy and kill, and I was just totally dumbfounded and thinking ‘I really suck so badly.’

“I thought about quitting many times. But I’m comfortable with hecklers, because I have two older brothers who heckled me so much.

“I think stand-up is one of the hardest art forms. Theatre is really tough, too, but the toughest part with stand-up is if you go to a stand-up club and you destroy, everybody loves you. But if you don’t do well, people didn’t like your comedy, but you also feel they didn’t like you on a certain level, so there’s a certain shame. I think that’s why I performed in character in the ’90s, to protect myself. If I bomb, no one knows who I am. So there’s a courage with stand-up — you just don’t have anything to hide behind. The humiliation I’ve felt sometimes has been really paralyzing, but when I wake up the next day or two days later, I always get hungry to get back on stage.

“But part of why I got into stand-up comedy was that addiction to laughter. I was that annoying person at house parties who wouldn’t shut up. All I wanted to do was make people laugh. That’s all I wanted, and it was a big moment when I realized that I needed to go on stage. And once you start experiencing that on stage in front of a group of 500 strangers and having them really laugh, like belly laughs, that feeling is pretty fantastic. I often say that people who get into stand-up comedy are laugh whores, because who would work so hard on perfecting laughter? And really, that’s what we live for, the laughter.”

Rachelle Elie
Joe: The Perfect Man
When: Saturday, May 5, 8 p.m.
Where: Almonte’s Old Town Hall,  14 Bridge, Mississippi Mills
Tickets and informationcrowningmonkey.com

https://ottawacitizen.com/entertainment/local-arts/spotlight-the-1000-step-program-for-laughter-addicts

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