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Transcona optometrist balancing second life

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Rachel Sommer’s second time performing comedy onstage was shown on airplanes for a year.

The Transcona-based optometrist, who practises under her married name Dr. Rachel Holden at Oakley Optical at 1570 Regent Ave. W., and Image Plus Laser Eye Centre at 1015-233 Kennedy St., got her start as a comedienne in Australia a decade ago.

"It was a chance happening — I was walking down the street, and I saw a poster for an amateur comedy night," she said, noting her roommates at the time encouraged her to enter the five-minute competition. "It was terrifying. I remember I completely scripted everything out, word-for-word, hand movements, everything."

Sommer said she was initially told it would be a small room, so there would be little pressure on her. Surprise! Approximately 350 people showed up to see the 12 competitors and a headliner.

"It’s the biggest comedy night in town," she said. "At this point, I’m vomiting because I’m so nervous."

Sommer ended up winning the regional competition, which qualified her for the final, which took place at the Melbourne Comedy Festival.

"My second time ever onstage, it was televised, and it was in front of 3,000 people in Melbourne," she said. "I was sweating pretty badly. But I did OK.

"Qantas Airlines bought the rights to the show and they played it for a year. It is a great opportunity, but I wish it wouldn’t have happened for my second time."

Things have settled down a bit for the Whyte Ridge resident, as she sticks mainly to doing corporate shows. However, she was slated to perform in Portage la Prairie on May 10 in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association alongside Dean Jenkinson and her manager, Big Daddy Tazz.

As well, she is slated to perform during the Winnipeg Fringe Festival this summer as part of the Tazzy’s Angels showcase.

Sommer said the focus of her material has changed as her life has developed — she’s married an Australian and become a mother of two since starting out.

Combine that with being raised in the small town of Rosenfeld (just north of Altona), and her occupation, and she finds she has plenty of comedic fodder, so much so that she’s writing a TV series about an optometrist-comedienne.

She plans to "attempt to act" in the pilot episode, at the very least.

"Usually the optometry theme is pretty strong. That’s my niche, my thing," she said.

"Optometrists are not very funny people on average. One of my jokes is: ‘I’m an optometrist; I have to ask an accountant how to have fun at a party.’"

Sommer said she got connected with Tazz about five years ago on the recommendation of fellow Winnipeg comedian Jason Beck.

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