by Ryan Meehan
Lynn Shawcroft is a Canadian standup comedienne. She was a member of the touring group “The Unbookables”, and was born in Burlington, Ontario. Lynn met comedian Mitch Hedberg at a New Faces comedy showcase in 1996 and they were married on February 25, 1999. She recently appeared on an episode of Sklarborough Country, and will be featured on the WTF podcast with Marc Maron. Lynn has always been one of comedy’s more intuitive minds, and is somebody that I have always personally wanted to interview. We are very lucky to have her as a guest today in 5 Questions.
FOH: You’re from Ontario…Do you think that there are clear differences between Canadian Humor and what Americans find to be funny?
LS: Hmm. I don’t think so. I think Canadians might have a little bit more appreciation for British humour (I spelled that Canadian) than Americans, but we basically have the same television and a lot of the culture that Americans do. And we live a very similar lifestyle so drawing from all that, I think we finds similar things funny. Canadian comedians or writers may draw from the fact that we live so close to ‘AMERICA’ and there’s an angle to be explored there in a funny way. There are always geographical things that people share with each other that is funny, in the same way that people from Seattle can laugh at something different than people from LA or NY or people from suburbs. Y’know localized humour.
FOH: Who were the comedians that you saw working early in your career that made you really interested in doing standup?
LS: Umm. Well, the first time that I saw stand up live I thought “Everyone is amazing!” and laughed at everything. I could not believe how funny ALL the comedians were. Then I started waitressing at a comedy club and started to see the ‘tricks’ so to speak and could see a difference between better writers and performers. Who stood out, kind of thing. Then I started doing it a bit and I became aware of a few more comedians and I loved Dave Attell. I still love Dave Attell. Todd Barry and my friend Bonnie McFarlane who is a good friend of mine and she had worked at the comedy club before I did and was a door girl (takes the tickets etc) and she had just started. I loved (and still love) Harland Williams, who is Canadian, but lives in Los Angeles. Also, I think I pretty much liked any stand up comedian that was on TV. Like Carson or Letterman etc.
FOH: What’s the best way that you would describe The Unbookables? Was there a certain event that led that group of comics being labeled “Unbookable”?
LS: Well. The name and idea came from Doug Stanhope (totally fabulous Comedian! He’s dope!). When you do stand up comedy there are soooo many elements to becoming successful or even seen. On top of being really talented or funny. Like, getting your tape or set out there to be seen by bookers (of clubs), getting head shots, maybe kissing up to or at least following up with club owners. Not getting fired. Getting booked. Being able to get to gigs. Stuff like that. Now, there are obviously comedians that are super talented and there are also some comedians that are just mediocre. And some are shitty. Like any art form. Sometimes the world’s least funny people are super great at doing the ‘self promotion’ that is involved and sometimes it’s the really unique people that suck at it. Or maybe they get too drunk or tell the club owner to fuck off and don’t get booked back. Thus ‘The Unbookables’. ‘The Unbookables’ was really formed to promote and group together these great funny people that maybe can’t get their shit together to perform all the other tasks involved. And also a way for Doug to sort of perform with or help these comedians that he likes. I am so bad at so many things that have to do with stand up. I can’t stand taping and listening to myself. I never put things online and have a hard time asking for spots. Ideally you should be able to write, perform and move forward doing everything involved. Shit…I suck. There was actually a couple of tours and there is a documentary out there somewhere (I’m not involved with it). It’s with Andy Andrist, Sean Rouse, Kristeene Levine and a few others.
FOH: Is comedy to you more of an extension of the writing itself, or do you think it’s something that exists separately but only until the moment you step on stage?
LS: It’s definitely an extension of the writing of your own jokes. If that’s what you mean. When a comedian can figure out what they want to say and how they want to express themselves on stage, that’s when the writing and performance really meld together. To me, that’s when stand up can be amazing. It can take years (forever!), and maybe you can may never really get there. But to know how to write for your own performance…I think that’s the goal.
FOH: Do you ever grow tired of answering questions about Mitch? What is the most important thing that you want comedy fans to remember about him?
LS: Well. I guess it changes a lot. Usually people are so sweet and kind so I don’t mind talking about Mitch. At all. I’m in a situation that dictates that I have to (or want to) talk about Mitch every day. It used to be really weird and hard. When Mitch first died, I felt really strange and lost. Spaced out and in too much pain. Detached from everything and, for some reason, I felt I had to answer anything anyone asked me. Complete strangers would say the strangest things to me – ‘Mitch visited me in a dream!’ (which, by the way is a weird and awful thing to say to someone who loses someone they love) or tell me ‘You should put this or that out!’ and I didn’t really know how make boundaries and take time. But now I have a better grip. I love Mitch and totally want to share what I can. And most people don’t ask very personal questions. Mostly about his comedy etc. I’m trying to write about him, comedy – our relationship etc. Ps. Mitch loved Mexican food.
FOH: What do you think is the biggest mistake young comedians tend to make when they are coming up in the field of comedy? Do you think that most of them are unaware they are doing it?
LS: Shit. I don’t know. I guess everybody makes mistakes whenever they start something because they haven’t worked on it before or mastered it yet. It takes a while to figure out what you want to do or say. To be unique and not be too heavily or obviously influenced by someone else….so maybe a mistake would be not to take time to figure it out. Hmm. I think that maybe today there is a big temptation to try and move too fast. I mean, there always has been but comics can put there sets online and have them be seen so quickly. Maybe before they are ready?
FOH: What’s on tap for Lynn Shawcroft in 2013? Anything big in the works?
LS: Well. My New Years Resolution is to change my Zodiac sign and eat more Kale. So that should keep me busy! Also, I am doing more stand up. After Mitch died, I did some and didn’t know what I was doing or why. But now, I really want to do more and write a good headlining set and perform it. Put myself out there more. Create a web site and upload some video and do more writing. As far as Mitch related projects. I am editing and want to release a concert film of him. Mitch and I hired a crew and had some shows recorded – on actual, real live film – and I want to share that. I want to ultimately make a documentary about Mitch. He always carried a video camera and I have a lot of footage. We filmed a bunch of stuff on the road that is lovely. So I hope to work towards that this year.
Video of Lynn discussing Mitch’s writing process: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSLG1scOfa8
Lynn on Twitter: https://twitter.com/Shawcroft
Lynn on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/#!/shawcroft?fref=ts
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