by Ryan Meehan
A nominee for “Best Female Comedian” by the Canadian Comedy Awards, Jen has her own half hour TV special on CTV – “Comedy Now”. She has performed at every major comedy festival in Canada; including, The Halifax Comedy Festival, Just For Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, Hub Cap Comedy Festival in Moncton, and the Winnipeg Comedy Festival. Jen has been on CBC’s The Debaters, was a finalist at the Great Canadian Laugh Off and was the first Canadian to be a finalist at the Boston Comedy Competition. One of her greatest honors was to entertain the Troops in Egypt and Israel. Jen has just moved back to Canada from New York City where she lived for three years and had the opportunity to play major comedy clubs with such legends as Robert Klein and the great Louis CK – And she’s our guest today in 7 questions.
RM: What’s the best part about Just for Laughs Montreal and why? How many years have you been a part of that?
JG: I have done the just for laughs festival twice. It’s a big party and the best of the best in comedy are there. I chatted with Dave Chappelle at this amazing outdoor party that the festival put on. The festival kind of takes over Montreal for the week. It’s like living in an alternative universe that revolves around comedy.
RM: From what you’ve seen, what is the biggest difference between the way Americans respond to comedy and the reactions you get in Canada? Are there certain topics that you have to avoid around one or the other?
JG: for the most part we are all more similar than we are different but I’d say that American audiences seem to like more energy and enthusiasm from their comedians. Canadian audiences also enjoy energy but as a “people” we are quieter more understated. Unless you are the mayor of Toronto – in that case you’re a drunken crack smoking maniac.
RM: I read that you are writing a book: Will this be a fiction piece or non-fiction? What made you decide to take on such a big project?
JG: It is non-fiction. It’s kind of like a funny self help book. I didn’t realize how big a project it would end up being. I’m pretty lazy so it’s probably better that I didn’t know, otherwise I never would’ve done it. But now I’m too far in so I’m going to finish it if it kills me. Wow. I am so good at promoting! Read my book everybody! I’m only doing it because I am too far invested to stop!
RM: Your blog is called “Food on the Road”…what is it about the restaurant experience that makes you want to write about dining so much? What was the worst time you’ve ever had eating on the road? How did you go about putting that awful experience into words?
JG: I LOVE food. Food while traveling is generally shitty. That’s why I decided to write about the good experiences. I thought the exceptional places should be highlighted. I started to notice that most of the really good places were little hidden gems that you’d only know about through word of mouth. It’s amazing to me that the big corporate chains charge the same as a small mom and pop place that make their own bread or have ketchup from scratch. I have and still eat at corporate restaurants on the road but it’s only because even though they don’t have the best food, you know what you’re going to get. In an unfamiliar city where I don’t know anyone, it’s less risky to go with a “Boston pizza” than a “Shelly’s Kitchen”.
RM: How do you go about handling what is known as a “tough room”? Have you ever performed in a situation where it felt like no matter what you were doing; people just for whatever reason weren’t interested in laughing? What do you think makes people want to go to a comedy club if they are in that kind of mood?
JG: Of course it happens but whatever. For the most part I can let it roll off my back but sometimes I get sensitive and it affects me. I am a sensitive person but I’ve gotten thicker skin over the years. Now that I’ve been doing stand up for 15 years I have developed a confidence where if I don’t get the reaction I want, I kind of know it’s not me. That is, if I am giving it 100 percent and I’m fully present. There have been times where I am not giving it my all and I get mediocre reaction from the crowd. As a comic, you definitely get back what you give. Having said all of that, some people are just douche bags that go to a comedy club with the attitude of “make me laugh” but who cares about those losers.
RM: What is the aspect of the profession that younger comedians don’t put enough emphasis on when they are first cutting their teeth in the funny business? Do you think that’s more due to arrogance or just being lazy?
JG: I have no idea what newer comics are doing. Comedy is an individual thing as far as I’m concerned. One thing I have noticed over the years is that there seems to be two types of comics – one that thinks they’ve killed when they haven’t and one that did kill but is hard on themselves because they forgot a tag or focuses on that one person who wasn’t laughing out of the 300 killing themselves. The latter is always the better comic.
RM: When you went overseas to perform in the Middle East, was that something that you did for Canada or the United States? What was the biggest culture shock about being in that part of the world and could you ever see yourself living over there? Why or why not?
JG:I performed for Canadian Troops!! My home and native land! No, I could NEVER see myself living there. I’d be too scared. There were actual hotels that were half blown up that we would drive by! The biggest culture shock was the vast ness of the desert. You could drive for an hour and see NOTHING but sand and then all of a sudden there was a camel. Drive another hour of nothing again and then – poof – there’s a random dude sitting on the side of the “road”. What the hell? I’ve often said, in the middle of January in Canada, in the freezing cold – why did anyone settle here? (because it’s so cold). I said the same to myself in Egypt – why did they settle here? How can anyone grow any food in the sand???
RM: Which Canadian city is the best when it comes to performing standup and why is that the case? How about here in the states?
JG: There’s no better city but I have to say that Newfoundland is a great audience. They are down to earth, fun loving people who love to party. Calgary is my favourite club in Canada to play (Yuk Yuk’s). The club owners are amazing and the crowds are great too. Calgary has a booming economy so maybe all that money makes people happy and wanting to laugh. My favourite American city to perform in is Portland, Oregon. That might be because I used to live in Vancouver Canada and I feel like those two cities have a very similar vibe that I love. Long Island, New York was the toughest to get laughing. They are a tough crowd that only responds if you are giving 150%. I finally got them but it took at least five times on stage before I did.
RM: What’s up next for you in 2014? Anything big in the works that we should know about?
JG: yes! Stay tuned for the book! And also I’ll be starting an in depth interview segment called “8 questions”. Get it? It’s one more question than yours has. Boom!
Official Website: http://www.jengrant.com/
Jen on Facebook: facebook.com/jengrantcomedy
Jen on Twitter: @jengrantcomedy
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