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Stand-up comic Rebecca Kohler on comedians: ‘We’re the island of misfit toys’

Rebecca Kohler is performing a headlining set at the LOT Stand-Up Comedy Club on Thursday.

On Thursday, Rebecca Kohler and Nile Séguin will each perform headlining sets at the LOT Stand-Up Comedy Club. We spoke to the Toronto-based Ms. Kohler about gender-based heckling, cut-throat competition and casino cat fights.

You and Nile Séguin will each be recording your sets for DVDs. How does the taping effect your material?

We've both done professional CBC tapings. We've done festivals that were taped. But there are two problems with those. One, they're usually short. And two, if you're doing a taping on somebody else's dime, you have to make sure they're okay with what you say. So, what's special with this is that we can do whatever we want, and we can do it for as long as we want.

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I caught one of your professional tapings on YouTube. There was a commercial with it, sponsored by a group opposed to a Toronto casino. A casino would probably book comedians such as yourself, right?

I hadn't thought of that, but you're right. There's a comedy club in one of the casinos in Niagara Falls. I don't enjoy walking through the casino, because I find them really depressing. One of problems with casino audiences is that they get free passes from the casino and they come in between losing thousands of dollars. They're not the best audiences.

Do they heckle?

The audience tends to be raucous. I'm not sure I'm supposed to talk about this, but I will. Comedians are given specific instructions by the casino in Niagara Falls to not talk back to the hecklers. Because if we upset the hecklers, they might leave and not gamble any more. And to not be able to talk back, that, to a comedian, is like being neutered. [Canadian comedian Christina Walkinshaw recently lost a gig at Casino Niagara's Yuk Yuk's after she confronted a casino staff member about being harassed by hecklers during a performance there].

Do female comedians get heckled more than male comedians?

It's on par. I get extra stressed out when I'm heckled by a woman. You have to walk a fine line of standing up for yourself and shutting the heckler down without being [confrontational]. When a man talks back to a heckler, he's just doing his job. With a woman, there can be tension. It's kind of a cat fight.

I like this insider stuff. Are there any films that are more accurate than others on the inner world of comedians?

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Jerry Seinfeld's movie Comedian captured the feelings that I have. Which is surprising, because he's a rich guy. But he's pacing before his show. He's Jerry Seinfeld, and he's still not sure of himself.

What about the film with Sally Field and Tom Hanks?

Punchline. I actually watched that movie the night before the first time I did stand-up. There are aspects of that film which ring true. It's just a weird mix of people who do stand-up. We're the island of misfit toys.

The film gets into the competition among comedians. Is that accurate?

When comedians get together, the talk is about what jobs you're getting, and "how did you get that?" And it's usually behind a tight smile. There's cut-throat competition, but we're just too polite in Canada to admit it.

Rebecca Kohler and Nile Séguin, May 23, 8 p.m. $15. Lower Ossington Theatre, 100 Ossington Ave.,

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This interview has been condensed and edited.

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About the Author

Brad Wheeler is an arts reporter with The Globe and Mail. More


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