I’ve got big dreams , Carol Burnett

 

Most people call me Ally Lane, although I grew up as Allison Lane, originally from Winnipeg, I have English roots. They say your name literally denotes where you are from, so apparently I’m from a back alley. The English couldn’t be more blunt. So if I curse or offend you, don’t blame me, blame my roots.

Since I was a little girl, I had big dreams of becoming the next Carol Burnett. I used to sit at my desk in school and create characters, drawing them in my Hilroy notepad. The boy next to me would draw too, he’d scratch “Burn in hell ALLICCION ” on his desk with a safety pin. Everybody had their ways of expressing themselves.

 

   With both the support and concern of my parents, I started taking acting classes. I was always dramatic- I turned my first menstrual period into a long running soap opera with two spin offs. Once I graduated high school, I went straight to University and majored in acting. My professor would point out my comedic faces and compared me to Jim Carrey. Little did he know it wasn’t intentional, I had Irritable BoweI Syndrome.

I realized comedy was my biggest passion, that and my collection of vibrating shower heads and overdue charges at the adult video store, but comedy is what I wanted to pursue. After graduating, I moved to Calgary in 1997 and started a theatre company. I wrote and performed in several one woman shows, playing a variety of characters. I loved performing solo, but it was lonely. I had nobody to share it with, whether I had a good show or a bad show. All I wanted was to perform comedy, but I needed to figure out how I could share the stage with others.  

 

I started my own production company that caters to entertaining corporate and private parties. Nothing brings me more joy than being a part of an event where a group is having such a memorable time, laughing, and showcasing their hidden talents and personalities. Over the years, I have hosted game shows, taught improv and comedy, wrote and acted in murder mysteries, and organized adventure races. I am truly blessed and grateful for the job I have, and the people I have met. Through my experiences, I have realized that doing corporate entertainment and team building, although a blast, has nothing to do with me or my performance- it’s for and about the audience and nobody else.  They don’t care if I’m Meryl Streep or Jerry Seinfeld. Although if they believed I was a Jewish man from New York, I would be very concerned. So, I continued searching to find the perfect outlet to do my own rendition of The Carol Burnett Show.

 

My friend Janet St. Germain(owner Terry Shane Murder Mysteries) and I wrote, produced and acted in comedic interactive dinner theatre shows for many years. We wrote and produced the shows, and sought out the venue, the catering, operated the bar, did ticket sales and all the marketing. I enjoyed the creative aspect of it, and loved the fact that people can sit back and watch a funny interactive show while drinking, dancing and having dinner. The tough part was the advertising and marketing. This was before social media exploded and it would cost thousands for a marketing campaign.  I still can’t figure social media out-I haven’t responded to a “poke” I received in 2006. The exorbitant costs of advertising, and stresses of the catering, took away our passion for it. I thought there had to be an easier, less expensive way to do comedic shows. But in Calgary, how?

When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2008, I turned the camera on myself and documented my entire journey in a comedic series on YouTube. The “Chem-Ho” was a cathartic process and I never expected the amount of feedback and opportunities I have been given as a result of having half a boob. I’ve travelled all over giving humorous, inspirational speeches and I’ve appeared on television all over the world. It has, and continues to be, the most gratifying experience in my life. Deep inside, my heart still ached to do what Carol did. To make people laugh playing all sorts of hysterical characters.

 

Most people define comedy as “stand-up comedy”. So I thought my only opportunity to write and perform “comedy” in Calgary was to perform stand up. Over the years, I have travelled performing stand-up comedy particularly with an amazing stand up show called “ The Boob Tour”. The creator of the tour, James Uloth, is the hardest working comedian I have ever met and his passion for this charity event is very inspiring. The tour gave me an opportunity to meet some incredible people- both audience members and fellow comedians. I have loved the camaraderie of traveling with a group of very funny people and appreciate how supportive they have been, helping me with my joke, making the show even better. Stand-up comedy is a real craft and I admire and envy those that do it as a full time profession.   It takes years of hard work, dedication and thick skin because there is a lot of rejection. I thoroughly enjoy it, but I had to face facts, what I loved was playing characters, and it’s a lonely world up there doing stand-up. Most of my jokes were about either being single or having breast cancer. Once the cancer was gone and I met the love of my life,  I had nothing to talk about. Being happy and in love, just isn’t funny. I thought of Carol Burnett, Lucille Ball and Tina Fey, three very funny comediannes but aren’t known as stand ups. I figured it was time to switch my definition of what it meant to be a comedian.

 

Someone once asked me how I would describe my style of comedy “It’s like SCTV type stuff or Saturday Night Live”. They then say “Ya but where can you do that in Calgary?” They have a point, it’s few and far between… so I had to board a plane to Chicago.

 

I spent this summer at Second City in Chicago studying sketch writing and improvisation. Second City is the world’s largest sketch comedy institution and they have hundreds of famous graduates including a lot of women- Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Catherine O’Hara, Gilda Radner just to name a few. While I was in Chicago, it was the first time I finally felt like I was in my element. It was exactly what I had always wanted to do. During my time there, they encouraged us to explore the city, and see as many sketch shows as we could. Each night, I was sitting in a different pub, relaying inappropriate stories to Asian tourists while watching a sketch show. I was so happy and inspired. On the flight home, I wished I could live in Chicago,  and have that vibrant scene right at my fingertips. Then I thought…wait a minute… Why do I have to move? I own a production company, why can’t I do it in Calgary? All I needed was a bar with a stage. Everything is always funnier when drinking is involved or in my case, restraining orders

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A couple of weeks later I had found the venue, in a convenient downtown location with an owner who believes in us and what we are doing.  With a ten dollar ticket price and right along the C-train route it caters to everyone. Thanks Dickens Pub.

 

I had also found a cast of insanely talented and hilarious people. I am so excited for what is to become with our troupe ADHD Sketch Comedy. Aptly name because all sketches are 5 minutes or less, for the focus-challenged. I love working with these people and each time we get together I am peeing my pants with laughter and so amazed at their humor and talent.  Sketch is all about working together and letting the whole group shine, not just one person. What would Carol Burnett have done without Vicki, Harvey or Tim? We hope to become a staple in the Calgary comedy scene and entertain audiences for years to come. I encourage everyone out there to go and see other sketch troupes, and together lets watch the sketch scene in Calgary grow.

 

I have finally found something that is truly my dream, it combines my love of acting, writing, creating characters and making people laugh. Through writing these sketches, I get to tell my own stories, involve the audience in the interactive portion of the show, and share the stage with others- all for the love of comedy.

 

I never thought in a million years I could do exactly what I wanted. I always thought I would have to compromise. I used my city as an excuse for not pursuing my dream. I now realize no matter what your dream, no matter what it is you want in life, you can go out there and get it. I have always dreamed of being the next Carol Burnett but being Ally Lane is just as fun!

ADHD Sketch Comedy opens in Calgary Canada on October 22nd at Dickens Pub. Ticket and additional information available at http://www.sketchcomedycalgary.com

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