Hometown (S)Heroes: Why Must They Always Move to Toronto???

Kirsten Rasmussen Kirsten Rasmussen

It’s a sad fact, but if you want to make it in comedy in Canada, and you speak and work in English, you are inevitably going to move to Toronto. They just have so many more people than we do, so much more in the way of (disposable income for) English performing arts. But, still, there is something that we have that Toronto doesn’t, besides greasy food, hotter people and naked racism, and that is the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival. And so this is the fun part: THEY COME BACK! It’s like they never really went away…

This year, Montreal has two notable prodigal daughters gracing our stages. Kirsten Rasmussen, a former collaborator of Uncalled For, master improvisor, excellent actor-writer and very missed by the artistic community in Montreal. Originally hailing from Saskatchewan, we nevertheless claim her, because really, we claim everyone that makes a mark, and Rasmussen is a rare talent. Winner of Best Female Improviser at the Canadian Comedy Awards and now a member of the legendary Second City Troupe, I asked her is she ever regretted taking off down the 401.

Angela Potvin (AP): What triggered the big move?

Kirsten Rasmussen (KR): I moved to Montreal from Edmonton, Alberta after I finished University, and I grew up in a small town in Saskatchewan. So I am accustomed to moving when it seems I’m ready for a stage of my life to change.  I had never meant to stay in Montreal for as long as I did. I had planned on going for a summer and then making my way to Toronto. But I fell in love with the city, with the comedy community, and the hot warm sexy summers. 

So after three years of being there I was getting really hungry for the next stage in my career. I had my heart set on moving to the States right from Montreal. But after a short trip to Chicago in 2012 and a look into the Visa application process, I realized there was much more I could do in Canada.

I moved that December and started 2013 out in Toronto with my sights set on Second City. I had been auditioning for them for a few years.  I was lucky enough to begin understudying for the tour company when I arrived in Toronto. 

AP: How  has moving to Toronto affected your career?

KR: When I first moved to Toronto I began teaching with both Bad Dog Theatre and Second City Training Centre. I had auditioned and gotten in the wonderful weekly sketch troupe the Sketchersons that do Sunday Night Live out of the Comedy Bar. And as stated earlier I was understudying for The Second City Touring Company.  

My life was lived in basements at the time. I felt like a troll. I was so poor because Toronto is much more expensive then Montreal and everything I did was in basements. I lived in a basement, the Comedy Bar is a basement. The Bad Dog at that time ran out of comedy bar, and the Second City Training Centre at the time was in… A… BASEMENT!

But four year later I get a lot more sunlight. 

I did a cruise ship for Second City that travelled from New  York to the Caribbean. I travelled to Berlin, Germany for an improvisation festival. I came back to Montreal numerous time to put up solo sketch shows and teach workshops at Montreal Improv and Theatre Sainte Catherine.  I did three mainstage shows with Second City Toronto Mainstage. I won a Canadian Comedy Award for Best Female Improviser.  

I found a comedy partner who I adore, Matt Folliott and our duo K$M have toured all over Canada. And I was lucky enough to find another duo with Leigh Cameron called The Bloody Mary’s and we will be doing shows at the Montreal Improv during OFFJFL.

In Toronto I actually booked some TV Work. WHICH HAS BEEN AMAZING! I’ve had the great opportunity to work on Schitt’s Creek, acting with Eugene and Dan Levy was a dream come true. And I’ve had great fun working on some hilarious kids show, Odd Squad and Dino Dana.

AP: Do you ever regret the decision?

KR: No. I feel that for my career, Toronto was the best choice at the time. And I’ll move again if and when I feel like I want to take my career to the next level.

AP: But do I miss Montreal??

KR: YES YES YES YES YES YES! Immensely. I fell in love with Montreal. It was my lover, whereas Toronto was just a practical decision. Montreal is where much of my heart still is. I really believe I found my voice as comedian in Montreal. I was birthed in Saskatchewan, trained in Edmonton, and came into my own in Montreal. The comedy community in Montreal is very special, it’s close knit, it’s a group of friends who all have such love and passion. I have memories of late night jams at Theatre Sainte Catherine after one of Alain Mercieca’s bilingual punk rock plays, and dance parties in the small studio that was the very first stage of Montreal Improv.  I produced my first solo show at the Free Standing Room, Blink Blink Blink, and then got to do that same show in a way bigger house at the Centaur theatre for the Wildside.  I wouldn’t be the artist or the comedian I am now without the influence of Montreal. Also I miss the coffee and croissants so much. SUPERIOR SUPERIOR!!!! One of the first things I do when I get into Montreal is get myself to a Co’ pain and get and a white cheddar croissant and latte!  

AP: So what can we expect from your show this year?

KR: So this show is a solo sketch, ram packed with some of my favourite characters.  You can see in the show a bit of my Second City time’s influence as there is a bit of social commentary in a few sketches, but of course that is rounded out with a lot of dumb silly bits.   There will also be some guests helping out in a few sketches, some amazing local Montreal talent. So that’s exciting!!! 

Kirsten Rasmussen is performing Full Time Idiot from July 20-22 at the Wiggle Room at 8pm as part of the Just for Laughs Festival. Details available here. 

Another one of of our faves is the inimitable DeAnne Smith. Smith has been making waves, going viral with her advice for straight men bit at the Winnipeg Comedy Festival. I remember our favorite gentleman elf as the host of a $5 comedy night at a now-defunct queer bar on St-Laurent and Bernard that I would cross town for, because Smith would actually have new material EVERY. DAMN. WEEK.  Also, Phoenix served poutine with a sunny side egg on it. I mean, dude. I miss being able to saunter over the local clubs to see her, but her star power will undoubtedly have her on every screen in your general vicinity.

She is performing DeAnne Smith: Post-Joke Era from July 20-28th, various times and venues, see HERE for details.

Sarah Millican has never lived in Montreal, but I still wanted to mention how incredibly awesome she is. You will have many opportunities to see her live, as she is a special guest on the Brit(ish) show, and also performing at the Colin Jost and Micheal Che Gala, but do yourself a favor and see her solo show on July 29th at Mainline Theatre. She is your hilarious no-shit giving aunty that has the fallowest fuck-field and since you will around there to see Rassmussen and Smith….stick around to see Millican, you will not regret it.

Solo show Sarah Millican: Work in Progress is on July 29th only at Mainline Theatre at 10:30pm. Tickets available HERE

Just for Laughs keeps the comedy coming until July 31. For all shows and tickets, click HERE.