6 June 2016

Pundit - Goodreads Review!

I enjoyed this Goodreads review so much, I had to share it. Thanks to stand-up comic Kel Anderson for taking the time to tell everyone what she thinks. 


PunditPundit by Freedom Chevalier
Kel Anderson rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was given this book by a friend, and fellow comic. I'm a comic, part time and I've done shows in Toronto and other places. I haven't read another book about standup comics, let alone one about Canadian standup comics so I thought, why not?

I read the entire book in two days. From the opening tribute to the late Robin Williams you can tell this is personal, but it’s not maudlin. Holy God this thing has teeth!

Pundit, I found out, is the first novel by the author, Freedom Chevalier. It's a damn fine debut, if you ask me. It's takes place world of a standup comedy club in Toronto during the early 90's, which you'd think was all laughs and jokes and funtimes, right? That's what everyone thinks. Well, it wasn't! I was impressed, Freedom got it and got it right. It's hell up onstage, and it's a different hell altogether offstage.

This book is a throwback to a time when you read books for pure pleasure, and to be entertained. (and I’ll bet Quentin Tarantino would love this book). The sorta-hero is Krishna Johnson (he goes by K.) who's the owner of the biggest comedy club in Toronto, The Polaris. I don't know if he's supposed to be Mark Breslin, but I kept wondering that as I read the book. The constant is-he-or-isn't-he is something I think anyone who has ever done a show at Yuk Yuk's will be thinking. But as far as I know, no one's ever really plotted to kill Mark Breslin, even though I could easily imagine few comics who might have fantasized doing it.

K is a hard person to like, but Freedom does a solid job at letting you understand why he does the things he does. I almost empathize with him... almost. He runs his club with an iron fist and is brutal at times to some of his staff. He’s lost his bid to host the Sweetwater festival (Just For Laughs anyone?) and he goes off the deep end to try and win the next one.

We get to meet a bunch of comics like Lisse Bergen (I get the feeling I should know who this is supposed to be, but I can’t put my finger on it) and Sheldon Currie (again, the familiarity of the club's inner circle of comics is almost annoying because I think I’ve met them, but I can’t unravel who they really are.). Cowboy comic Wyatt Anderson is just perfect. A loser if there ever was one. We ALL know guys like this one, there’s one in every green room in every show I’ve ever be in.

For me, the funniest character is the French assassin, Guillaume, who's not even a comic. I had just seen Marsaille on Netflix and all I could think of was the French actor Gerard Depardieu from that show playing this role.

Pundit is a book that reads like a movie, thanks to great dialogue – it’s where the book really shines. Scenes in Pundit are tight and short. You get in, you get to the meat of the issue, and you get out. Onto the next page. There are tight turns of phrasing and funny one-liners (and plenty of swearing. These are comics after all) and I won’t be surprised if it gets picked up. I can totally see Jane Lynch as Lisse. Half the fun of reading this book is casting it in your mind.

Freedom tells a good tale here. The competition for the festival anchors the book and drug overdoses, torture (I may never eat shish-kabob again, thank you very much) and an attempted murder all spin out from there.

I was surprised to learn Freedom wasn't a comic, but her research is solid. She was an actress and I guess that's why she gets the entertainment point of view. I read another one of Freedom's short stories after Pundit, the story was called Low Tide (another really good dark piece). It was on a New York website and Liz Smith still has a column there talking showbizness. But talk about a throwback! Used to be, if Liz Smith mentioned you in one of her New York columns you were a star. There’s a ton of legend about how upcoming celebrities would compete to have her say something good about them in print because if she did you had it made and that again gave me that throwback feeling again. Like if this were the seventies and we're listening to Iggy Pop while we dive into Pundit, after having just finished the latest Harold Robbins work. It's a great summer read.

9 February 2016

A Get Well Message for The Grand Dame of Dish

And a life lesson I learned by reading her column

If you know me a lot or just a little, then you know that I adore entertainment columnist Liz Smith. The Grand Dame of Dish, who recently celebrated her 92nd birthday, writes, among other things, a daily Guest Diary for the New York Social Diary; it is my morning reprieve from insanity. A daily dose of humor and insight into a posh world that is the stuff dreams are made of.

Liz Smith, Martin Sheen (image credit: Liz Smith Twitter)

As some of you are aware I recently stepped into a political editorial position. With the foolhardiness of an election year at every turn, I have been working as near around the clock as humanly possible; if I can't order it for delivery or pay someone else to do it, it sits undone in my den somewhere collecting dust and awaiting my return. Also awaiting my attention was a small catalog of Guest Diary entries. With a little time available today, for the first time since early January, I began reading my way back to today. Coffee, croissants, and gossip, as if I were sitting across from a dear friend listening to industry news. And reading her column does feel like an old friend, I've been doing it for decades, back to the days when we were both brunettes.

Liz Smith, Robert Redford circa 1973 (Image: Liz Smith, Twitter)

By mid-January's post, tucked at the bottom of the day's report, a small footnote told her readers that Liz had experienced a "slight mishap," that she was fine and "on the mend."

It struck me instantly that I had become so focused on a job I was now doing strictly for money, it was consuming my life; it had stopped being about personal fulfilment and had become about growing a bank account. I was no longer looking outward, my sight was firmly and specifically locked on to the work ahead of me. I had stopped doing much of what I enjoyed by deciding I was too busy to do something as simple as read a daily column - unrelated to my job - something I enjoyed very much.  It was eye-opening; was I so driven by the quest to get more and more money? Or had I allowed myself to get swallowed up by a demanding machine that required all I could proffer. For my peace of mind, I choose to believe it is the latter.

This morning I handed in my resignation for editorial responsibilities, asking to remain as a writer, to one more be moved into action by the call to tell a story.

Image credit: pixabay

And as for Liz, I imagine she is holding court from her hospital bed while staff attempt, in vain, to rein her in from doing twenty things at once. I wish her a speedy recovery and quick return to the hordes of us who hang on her every Tinseltown utterance, allowing us to live vicariously through her days.

15 December 2015

#MarcelTheCat has left the building

I met him just over four years ago in the back kennel area of my amazing vet at the time, Leslieville Animal Hospital (Toronto). I caught one look at those big, green, old-man eyes and I was done for.

His previous owner had brought him into the clinic to be 'put down,' despite being a perfectly healthy old man.  Do not ask me what I think of that person, but at least, they cared enough not to simply abandon him to the busy streets of the metropolis. The doctor at the clinic intervened and suddenly this old man, known as Buttons, had found reprieve from the grim reaper.

I was in for a regular check-up with my wee squee, my little dog Tallulah.
"Do you want to see the new lodger?"
"Of course!"
 I was hooked in one devious swish of his too-fluffy ginger tail.

Logistics finalized, he soon found himself (a former lone kitty) in a house complete with dogs and other feline friends, and a new name. Make no mistake, #MarcelTheCat was an asshole, in the best possible way.

If someone happened to be enjoying a good snooze on his chair, even if he had no desire to sit on his chair himself, he'd chase them off. He became Mamma's Boy #1 and all other kitties purred on their acquiescing way. He became king of his castle; cherished.

He was the center of my crazy universe and right now my life is a series of misshapen pieces that no longer fit. I'm working on it and I'll get there, but for now - I ask for time to grieve in private.  I'll rejoin the universe once I get the pieces back together.

Some cats are pets; some are roommates, but Marcel was a love affair from the start.

mon petit Marcel,
tu et mon esprit, tu est mon coeur, tu est mon etoile
au revoir