An Open Letter to Students.

Dear students,

Today is the day of the Pride Parade in Vancouver. I am lucky to have so many friends who are involved in the LGBTQ community, and I am so excited for all of my LGBTQ friends who get to celebrate today. I hope that you have the absolute best time possible, and I thank you all for helping me be the open-minded person I am today. It’s tough for me to admit that I wasn’t always as open-minded as I could have been, but I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by loving people and people who were able to teach me how to be a more accepting person. I wish everyone could’ve had the amazing experiences I had and met the amazing people I have.

Students(both former and current), it’s with that in mind that I want to talk a bit about today with you. I think “Pride” is such an interesting word to use for such an occasion. It’s so strong. It invokes such strong feelings. I know that today, I am so proud of my students who identify as LGBTQ, and I hope that today, you are feeling immense pride in yourselves, and who you are.

I’m not one for soapboxing. I was going to write more. But I don’t need to. The stories of acceptance and harmony are being written every day.

As a society, we are changing, and I am so proud every day of kids who are unafraid to stand for what they believe in, who are unafraid to show their classmates who they are, and I am also proud of the students who stand beside them and support and accept everyone for who they are.

For those of you who identify as LGBTQ, it is sometimes difficult, I know that. For some of you, it is always difficult. I know that, too. You may face pressures at home, you may face pressures from kids at school, but I want you to know that, as a teacher, I am proud of you. You are the generation that is helping move our whole society forward when it comes to sexuality, and let’s face it, humanity. Because, at the end of the day, we’re all just people.

So today, and all days, I just wanted you to know: you’re kicking ass.

Keep it up.

In Rainbows,
Mr. Cullen

Tour Mailbag #1: I Went Across Canada, and All I Got Was This Lousy Post

As many of you know, I went on my first big tour across this beautiful country of ours for the month of July. It was pretty cool to be able to play shows in my home province of Ontario, and to make it out to the east coast for the first time. I felt and continue to feel very blessed for all of the opportunities comedy has given me, and getting to travel anywhere to do something you love is pretty amazing.

I really wanted to sit down and write a blog about my travels, but I figured that most of what I’d have to say is pretty boring and uninteresting. So I thought I’d ask my friends if they had any questions, to find out perhaps what the interesting parts of my tour are, and I got some cool questions. So let’s get to it!

Chris asked: Which location had the most comfortable pillow?

This is an easy one. The Halifax club is located in the Westin, and they have some A-1 hotel pillows, let me tell you.

Travis asked: What was the most unexpected thing that happened?

I think being away from home always presents itself with some challenges, and being on a comedy tour always presents you with some unexpected opportunities. Probably the most unexpected thing happened on a Tuesday in Halifax. We had been invited out by a friend of my tourmate, Kyle Jones (@kyledavidjones) to go sailing on her dad’s boat. You think, “holy shit, I’m being invited out sailing in a city known for its sailing with a good-looking girl and 3 of her girlfriends, touring is so Hollywood!” Turned out one of her friends had two kids, one of her friends was married, and the other had flown in to Halifax to see a guy. But, I digress.

That wasn’t the unexpected part. We headed out sailing on an overcast day, and ended up in a crazy storm. It was no “The Perfect Storm” shit or anything, but the rain was falling pretty hard and the wind had picked up quite a bit. So much so that the jib snapped. This would be essentially like the engine failing on a normal boat. Our faithful captain, Peter, was trying to fix the front sail and ended up slipping on the wet deck and hurt his knee. So it was up to me and his daughter(the one who had invited us out sailing) to try and take down the front sail so it didn’t rip. This involved me using a long hook to try and grab the sail, Kyle and another friend below deck trying to get the sail below(once we had latched it with the hook), and about 3 times where I was almost ripped into the freezing Atlantic Ocean.

I felt like a man and we were all safe so I can say now it was a ton of fun, but I don’t think I left Vancouver ever expecting an experience like that.

Christina asked: What was your most embarrassing moment?

Well, luckily this tour I didn’t have any publicly embarrassing moments, like Kyle giving onstage advice to a single woman on how to meet the right guy, only to have her inform him that she is gay, or Brett doing a show in Halifax so hungover that he told the audience at the show “I really tried my best, but that was just like trying to run a car with no gas,”(Ed. Note: for what it’s worth, I thought he had a great show that night and so did the crowd, but we’re all our own worst critics) but there is some video-recorded evidence of me getting very upset at a video game that I’m sure will find the light of day soon, and it’s pretty bad.

I’m not a huge iPhone gamer. I own a bunch of games, but I rarely play them past the first week I own them. For me, I get a real sense of, “yeah, I get it,” and then I move on. I have three different editions of Angry Birds, all of them sit unfinished. Tiny Wings? I dominated that shit for a week, leveled up my nest to the highest you can, haven’t played it in 2 years. Paper Toss? Scored over 1000. Fruit Ninja? 572 on Classic Mode.

However, one game has kept me coming back: The Impossible Game. As its name suggests, it’s incredibly difficult. It’s a platforming game that requires you to jump a small square over a series of spikes and pitfalls. The catch is that you have to complete each level from start-to-finish with no mistakes. Death means restarting. So it requires a ton of concentration and a LOT of muscle memory. I had been trying to beat the third level of the game, titled “Chaoz Fantasy”(I don’t know either), for a year. I decided in Halifax that it was happening. I finally did it, but Kyle secretly filmed many of my attempts, where many of my failures ended in bizarrely massive reactions, including one where I scream at someone for texting me mid-game, causing it to lag and my in-game death.

Check YouTube in a week or so. Embarrassing doesn’t even cover it.

Thanks everyone for the questions. I’ll post the second installment in the next few days!

Phosphorescent – Song for Zula.

I haven’t posted a song in a while. Phosphorescent has been really hit or miss for me in the past(his song “Wolves” is one of my favorites of the last decade but he also released a Willie Nelson tribute album, so go from there), but this is just absolutely great stuff.

The lyrics are thought-provoking, the strings provide a nice backdrop for the moody synths, and it’s just a stellar example of how an alt-country artist can expand their repertoire without compromising their core sound.

Get into it.

Team Gushue Post-Game Interview.

When I started Cullen and a Curler, I did it because curling is full of really great personalities. Because of the lack of mainstream media coverage in curling, when curlers are featured on TV/in interviews, they are often pigeonholed into very brief interviews where they can’t express themselves and are forced into the usual series of post-game quotes about missed opportunities, how well they/their opponent played, etc.

Dean Gemmell started his great podcast, The Curling Show, quite a few years back, and curlers’ personalities began to shine in a longer format. It’s only recently that YouTube has begun to play a role, and it’s about damn time.

I’ve only been able to do 3 Cullen and a Curlers so far, but they’ve amassed almost 6,000 views between the 3, and feedback has been tremendous. There’s no reason why more of this stuff shouldn’t be done by the CCA, CurlingZone(which has just started their own YouTube series, “Far From Home”), and any other curling media outlet. There’s quite clearly a market for this(this Gushue video amassed over 2,000 views overnight), and it only paints our sport in a positive light.

So kudos to Brad, Brett, Adam, and Geoff for putting this together(with what looks like an assist from Al Cameron, CCA Media Director), and let’s see more of this please.

Aziz Ansari Interview.

I just had to post this. I’m a huge Aziz fan, and this is a phenomenal interview with him.

He talks a lot about how modern communication is ruining people’s abilities to have relationships with one another. It may be a bit of an obvious/stale topic, but I see it every day in schools and it is a legitimate fear of mine. He addresses it brilliantly. Well worth the read and if you ever doubted Aziz’s intelligence, this should put it to rest.

http://www.avclub.com/articles/aziz-ansari-candid-about-love-elusive-sadly-ephem,92476/

Travel Diaries: 02.01.13 – Canadian Junior Curling Championships – Fort McMurray, AB.

Occasionally, my job as a comedian takes me to places other than my hometown of Vancouver, BC, and occasionally, I will write about those experiences. This is one of those experiences.

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When I first started with Yuk Yuk’s, they asked me if I had any special talents that might be useful for future gigs. As comics, we often get asked to perform in weird places and for different types of people. I told them that I was a highly competitive curler, figuring that wouldn’t mean too much in their world. They were pleasantly surprised, saying they had lots of curling gig requests, and my status as a curler may help.

Less than a year later, I was asked to travel to Fort McMurray, Alberta, to perform at the Junior Nationals. It was humbling for me, to be asked to perform at a national event for the sport I love, but it was also a bit weird. Having dreamed of making it to a national championship for years and to date still not having done so, it was a bit strange to me to be the entertainment, but I accepted the challenge.

I had never done 30 minutes of clean material before, and doing comedy for teenagers is widely accepted as the worst gig possible. It’s no offense to teenagers, it’s just that most of them haven’t developed a comic sensibility yet, and even if they have, many of them aren’t fans of stand-up. I decided to write what was essentially a brand-new 30 minutes. I figured these are curlers, and if I’m going to be a curling comic, might as well do some curling-specific material.

I headed off after seeing weather reports suggesting the temperatures in Fort Mac were somewhere in the drawstring-pulling region of -45, vowing never to step foot outside. While I wasn’t fully successful, I did a pretty good job of avoiding the elements, even though I was there for a “warm front”, the temperature gods blessing me with a bearable -20.

I arrived at the airport(I think small-town airports need different names, because airports they are not. “Air-house” or “air-shack” are my two favorite ideas) and was greeted by some great airport signage:

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It was cool to know the city was embracing the event. I had a great cab ride into the city. I feel like small-town people are the best people, and my cab driver was no exception. He was originally from Ethiopia, and told me all about working in Fort McMurray 8 months out of the year to support his wife and 6 kids, who are all back home. He said the money he makes in 8 months in Fort Mac is enough to support his wife and children for 2 years back in Africa, including school fees, food, clean water, and shelter. Kind of crazy. I asked him why he had so many kids, and he said “in Ethiopia, it gets dark very early in the summertime, and electricity runs out and so the lights go out. Not much to do once the lights are out except have kids.” It was pretty great.

I got to my hotel room and found a weird, space-like contraption that reminded some of 2001: A Space Odyssey:

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It had a TV on each side, so I could choose whether I wanted to watch TV in bed or on my couch. Pretty splendid. I’ve heard horror stories about being on the road and some of the places you have to stay, but it seems like these days, most places treat their comics really well, and this was no exception.

I headed down to the gig and was met with a room of about 200 curlers and parents. The curlers are all under-20, and it was cool seeing them all in the uniforms and ready to be entertained. I thought my set went well. I talked about how being a curler is seen by the real world, and talked to all the provinces and teams individually, having some fun along the way. I was worried about an audience that would be inattentive, with the nerves jangling around for the tournament’s opening games the next day. Instead, I found a lot of warm faces, excited to be there, to meet one another, and to enjoy good curling. It was great.

I was also the co-creator of the official slogan for the week, “Pop Pop”. After referencing Northern Ontario in my act, one of the players made a gun hand signal in the air. I made fun of him using the famous “pop pop” from Community, and it stuck. Curlers began to hashtag “#PopPop” on Twitter, do the gun signal to each other, and just generally shout it out for no reason. We’ll see what I can create for the BC Men’s Provincials this week.

I met a lot of very cool kids from across Canada, and I’m sure in a lot of cases, I’ll be seeing them on Tour very shortly. I was lucky enough to be able to watch some of the action the following day, with the BC girls picking up their first win, and the Nunavut teams playing their first games at a national championship.

V-I-P, yeah, you know me.

V-I-P, yeah, you know me.

It’s still pretty crazy to me to get flown out to a gig, to be somewhere for only 24 hours, but it was a ton of fun and I hope this is just the first of many curling gigs to come. It was great to meet the future of curling in this province, and I hope both BC teams bring home the gold!

Pretty slick.

Pretty slick.

Music in 2013.

I widely regard 2010 to be the best year for released music in my lifetime. Any one of my top 8 or so albums could’ve been the top album in another year. Sleigh Bells released the punishing and fresh Treats, Beach House had the incredible Teen Dream, Damien Jurado shocked me with a harrowing and haunting Saint Bartlett, Tokyo Police Club dominated with Champ, and The National, Local Natives, Tallest Man on Earth all just fell short of my #1 album in 2010, Kanye West’s magnum opus, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.

This year might end up topping that. Tokyo Police Club and The National both have albums due later this year. Local Natives just released their newest album and it’s fantastic. Kanye West is too prolific NOT to release an album this year. Throw all those fantastic artists into a pile that includes a new Daft Punk record(their first “proper release” since 2005), a new effort from Vampire Weekend, a record from the Yeah Yeah Yeahs I thought we would never get, and a new MIA record coming from a place where MIA sounds more motivated than she’s ever been, and that’s 8 potentially phenomenal records right there. Not only that, but I’m sure there will be the regular handful of bands that I haven’t heard as of this minute who release something this year that is as vital and important as any of the records coming from established artists.

But the list doesn’t stop. JUSTIN TIMBERLAKE HAS A NEW RECORD. Pop’s savior has returned because, why not? While I didn’t think “Suit and Tie” was the second coming, the man is too talented for the album not to be good or at least have a few vital tracks.

Wye Oak had my favorite album of 2011. It would seem like the prolific twosome would be in line for a follow-up, and given how interesting “Civilian” was, I’m excited to see the direction the band is heading in.

Cloud Nothings had one of my top 3 records of 2012, and are already promising new material. Normally two records in consecutive years would have me a bit scared, but Dylan Baldi’s talent and age(he’s only 21) makes me feel like he’s simply eager and has more to say.

Phoenix announced a new record. A$AP Rocky released what will likely be one of the better hip-hop records of the year. Unknown Mortal Orchestra. ATOMS FOR PEACE. Thom Yorke and his supergroup are releasing something that is bound to be at the very least, interesting. Earl Sweatshirt is back, motivated, and if “Chum” is any indication, he could be releasing the hip-hop record of the year. Though his compatriot, Tyler, the Creator, might have something to say about that.

Oh, and My Bloody Valentine.

So yeah. 2013. Let’s do this.

So That Happened #1: A Girl Danced On Stage…While I Was Performing.

Sometimes, I’m going to write about things that happen to me in my comic life. Lots of people ask me what it’s like to be a comic. Most of the time, it’s great. Sometimes, it sucks. Sometimes, it gets super weird. This is one of those times.

Last night, I performed a show in Vancouver at a new restaurant/bar in Yaletown called Hooker’s Green. For those unfamiliar with Vancouver, Yaletown is the richest area in downtown, and the bar, as such, has a certain clientele. That’s what made last night even more strange.

The bar itself is a weird set-up for comedy. I am good friends with both guys who run the room and they are doing their best, but unfortunately, the construction gods are against them. The bar is very narrow, and the stage is buried in the back. It has a small viewing area in front of it, and then the rest of the bar feels somewhat detached(with several tables out of view of the stage), which makes people who are not directly in front of the stage feel no guilt/shame over talking. Loudly.

So the room was already conspiring against us, but the comics before me had done a nice job eking out their sets. As the comic before me took the stage, a patron from the bar area of the show wandered in by herself, and took a seat right in front of the stage. As his set went on, it became increasingly obvious that she was both

a) insanely drunk; and
b) very much wanting to be a part of the show

Unfortunately, the other comic had to essentially make his entire set about dealing with her(more on that later). At one point, she threw her boot on stage at him, and while he handled the situation with great aplomb, he ended his set right there, as there’s nowhere really to go from there in terms of telling jokes effectively.

I was up next, and was sort of hoping that “Lulu”(she said that was her name but I’m not sure she was coherent enough to even know her own name) would’ve got what she wanted and left me alone.

So I got on stage, and she immediately began to assert her authority over my set by yelling “boot! boot!” at the boot she had thrown on stage. I told her that it was, in fact, a boot, and I was impressed with her ability to name objects. I think she wanted me to hand it to her, but that wasn’t about to happen. I then pointed at the stool on stage, and asked her what that was. She said “stool!” and took that as an invitation to sit on it. So now she was on stage. It was a glorious moment for both of us. In hindsight, I should’ve threw the boot at her and done us both a favor.

In an attempt to get her off stage, I took her boot, threw it off stage, and told her to “fetch.” Instead of doing that, she danced around on stage for about a minute, while I watched. She finally decided to leave the stage, and I thought my set was about to begin. I began the set by talking about the books that were on shelves at the back of the stage–what I thought was a weird set design–and Lulu took that to be an invitation back on stage, to come choose a book for home. So again, I had to secede the stage to my drunk friend as she “picked a book”. I made fun of her a bit more, and then finally, mercifully, the guy running the bar came on stage and removed her from the show.

People who had seen the show would’ve said I handled the situation “well”, as I kept the audience laughing throughout Lulu’s antics, and there still seems to be a sense that heckling/participating in the show without being asked is an okay thing. It isn’t.

I will never understand, no matter how drunk someone is, their desire to be a part of the show. You are at the show to be entertained, not to be the entertainer. In that sense, stand-up comedy is the weirdest art form. No one brings one of their own works to an art gallery showing and just tries to put it on display. No one brings a guitar to a rock show and starts trying to have their own show. No one walks on stage during the middle of a performance of Macbeth and tries to be a part of the festivities.

It seems odd to me that these people think they are improving the show. Here’s the thing. I have a day job. I am a very busy person. I make time out of my day to go down a bar late at night, pay for parking, deal with drunken idiots, so that I can work on some new material. The stage time that we have is our work time. It’s our time to become better as comics, especially when we’re there on a Tuesday night in a venue not suited for comedy, performing for 70 people, only 20 of whom are paying attention. We’re there for that microphone and that stage. That’s about it. When a show gets interrupted in that fashion, there’s simply no way to recover.

I tried to tell the new joke I had been working on after Lulu’s little escapade, but here’s the thing: telling jokes after these episodes rarely works. Once the show becomes about someone other than the comic on stage, it is very difficult for that comic to recover. It’s very hard to transition back into telling jokes, because the audience’s disbelief is no longer suspended. They’ve just witnessed one of the weirdest things they have ever seen during a stand-up comedy show(it was certainly one of the weirdest for me and I’ve been to probably a thousand shows at this point), and they associate me with the whole escapade. Even though I made the audience laugh nearly the entire time Lulu was doing her thing, the whole show becomes a waste of MY time because now I can’t do anything that I wanted to do. I love doing comedy because I love making people laugh, but there comes a point where practicing the craft has to take precedence. Make no mistake, at 11 PM on a Tuesday night when I have to be up to teach the next morning, I’m there mostly for myself. I want this new bit to work, because I want to make people laugh a bunch more over time(and not just during this one episode) and now I’ve just lost valuable practice time.

So yeah, Lulu, you were kinda crazy and kinda funny, and yeah, audience at Hooker’s Green, we laughed and we bonded over one of the silliest things that has happened to me so far in this comedy journey. But Lulu, what you did was intensely selfish and bizarrely self-aggrandizing. You aren’t the show. I am. And last night, I couldn’t be.

If you want to yell a little something at me, as long as it isn’t offensive or a denigration of my skills, I don’t mind it. I find hecklers can be a fascinating part of the show and I don’t mind a little interplay. But once it’s over, it’s over. Some people might say “but how can we know when it’s over?” Trust me, you’ll know. People aren’t at the show to hear you yell at me, or to hear me put you down, no matter how funny it might be. People see douchebags interact all the time, they don’t need it when they’re paying $5-25 a ticket to have a night out.

Oh, and if you’re going to get really drunk, do it somewhere else. You’re not going to get the jokes anyway, and unless you enjoy having an entire room of people absolutely loathe you, I hear there’s a lot of “dance clubs” looking for your business.

I’m Traveling.

Hey folks,

I’ve updated my “Live.” section with some tour dates for later this month and March.

I’ll be heading to scenic Powell River, BC on January 26th to do TC’s Pub, and then I’m off to Alberta in March, with dates at the Edmonton and Calgary Yuk’s. I’ll be adding a bunch of dates in Alberta in the weeks to come, so keep your eyes peeled!