By Abby Stonehouse
Some days I forget that my job is unique. When I get asked to write about my life as a stand-up comedian, my instant reaction is to question why people want to hear about it. I think it’s because I’m a creature of routine. I have a schedule where I write and work on my projects. It can very much look like a 9-5, except for, you know, being on stage for part of it.
Staff meetings, stand-up shows, we’re the same. Then there are days that I am completely in awe and confused about what my life has become. This is due to growing up in a small town. Name of the town: Howick. Population: probably in the negative plus some cows…
It’s so tiny.
In comparison to some, I had very little exposure to the arts growing up. I didn’t know stand-up comedy was a thing for most of my young life. Which probably sounds absurd to some people. I was a kid of the 90s. There was no internet, and my parents had no interest in paying for satellite or cable TV (because they didn’t love me). My exposure to the arts usually happened when friends would play me some new CD they purchased in the big city with their allowance. Or I would get glimpses of some teen drama on their television because their parents loved them and spent their disposable income on things that mattered, AKA TV.
Even with very little exposure to the arts growing up, the words Just for Laughs (JFL), a The Montreal comedy festival, circulated a lot. I never gave it much thought until I developed an obsession with the podcast,
You Made it Weird with Pete Holmes in my mid-20s. This is when my love for stand-up began. At this point, I was living in Montreal and going to school. I was studying psychology and thought I wanted to be an academic (Hilarious). At this point, I had the internet and mainstream media. To this day it still feels like a novelty to have access to all of this content (but also a curse. I have looked at my phone 17 times since I started writing this). When I discovered this podcast, I grew a love for hearing about these creative people’s lives and their lives as stand-up comedians. It was during that time I started writing jokes. I had no intention of sharing these jokes with anyone. They were just for me. My little secret.
In 2015 the JFL festival rolled into town, and I was told that Pete Holmes was doing shows. I bought tickets and eagerly awaited the date to come up. This would be the first stand-up show that I would ever attend. I remember being so excited that I would be in the same room as this comedian I adored. On the night of the show, I walked into the small venue off of Sainte Catherines Street and was swept up by the atmosphere. I left there, obsessed with the magic I had just witnessed.
I started going to more live shows after that. This obsession increased even more when I started dating a guy that was an aspiring comedian. We would go to shows every weekend and write jokes together. In August 2017, the dude finally decided to go on stage for the first time. When he told me he got booked, I instinctually was like, “I will do it too, for support.”
It was a strange out-of-body experience for me to commit to this, but I did. On August 15th, I went on stage for the first time. I don’t remember most of the jokes, but I remember them not being funny. I got off the stage wanting more. Not even a year later, I was performing at the JFL festival. And two years after that, I was producing my first show in the same venue where I saw Pete Holmes perform for the first time.
What’s hidden in the events of me finding my passion is my hearing loss. I was told I had moderate hearing loss around the same time that I started to become a fan of stand-up. Like most people that develop hearing loss later in life, it can be hard to accept your new life with a disability. There is a flood of new things you have to adapt to and barriers you have to learn how to face. I feel fortunate that I was learning how to adapt to all of these things while diving into my passion. I saw the drastic positive contrast that living with hearing aids had on my ability to engage with the art that I love.
That being said, stand-up shows are riddled with inaccessibility. The shows that I perform at are often at noisy bars, with people talking over each other and bad lighting and sound systems. It can be wildly frustrating, as you know. I would love to see a change in the accessibility measure in all art forms. I hope to lead by example and advocate whenever I can. On that note, shameless plug alert. This summer, I am happy to announce that I will be releasing a Podcast called House of Stone. My priority is to make this podcast fully accessible to you and me. Therefore, embedded in the video option for this podcast will be ASL and professional captioning. Follow me on social media (@abbypstone_mtl) for updates! (ok, I am done, thank you)
While working on this new project, I have reflected a lot on how hearing loss has been beneficial to my career. Not only do I get to easily tune out the annoying comedians (truly a blessing), my disability gives me a unique perspective on life that inspires my art. Some of my first jokes were about having a hearing loss. It has also led to my love of producing
accessible art. It’s given me many opportunities to connect with other people with hearing loss.
I was asked to advise any future comedians. But I think this advice is universal. Find your fire. Find the thing that drives you and inspires you. The thing that changes you to your core and fills you with joy beyond comprehension. If you find yourself hitting barriers,
ask for help. When you’re doing the thing that you love, these barriers seem minuscule compared to the fulfillment you get from following your dreams.
Abby is the creator of one of Montreal’s best shows in town.GET FXCKED is a show that showcases up and coming talent offering them more than five minutes AND a paid spot to sweeten the deal.But it doesn’t stop there, Abby’s also the co-creator, along with fellow comedian Michelle Dominique, of COMEDY ON DEMAND (formerly known as Lawn Laughs). And because that’s not enough, she’s part of the FUNNY JUICE CLUB that runs open mics for the up and coming comics of Montreal in what is an extreme hug of a show for both performers and the audience.