Arts & Life
Canstar Community News
Danielle Kayahara is a self-described "35-year-old awkward teenager." By day, she is a mild-mannered digital marketing manager at UpHouse Inc. in the Exchange District. But by night, she often performs standup comedy with a unique, deadpan delivery, capable of delivering a tight five discussing the prickly social complications that arise from… doors.
Born in Mississauga, Ont., "the home of the Toronto International Airport," Kayahara moved to Winnipeg after college, where she found the freedom to pursue comedy.
"I was only planning on spending a few weeks, but I liked it enough to stay," she says in an email interview. "It’s a big little city. The population is about the size of Mississauga but there’s a downtown and arts scene that you couldn’t find (there) unless you were willing to venture into Toronto."
Kayahara, a fan of comedians like Maria Bamford and Emo Phillips, says she’s always loved to make people laugh, "which is why a friend of mine suggested we attend a comedy workshop together."
"Though I was terribly hesitant, as I am with most things, I agreed," she says. "It turned out it was all part of her grand plan to get me on a comedy stage."
It worked. The workshop led to Kayahara attending Wee Johnny’s for the weekly comedy open mic; she’s been at it ever since.
"For me, comedy is about creating relationships between ideas and people," she says. "I like to expound upon the silly encounters and thoughts I have and hope that people can relate at some level and ultimately feel a bit less alone in this wacky world."
She’s only had one opportunity to do live comedy since the lockdown, and she’s missed it.
"I was lucky enough to be able to work from home during the pandemic, so I’m very lucky in that it hasn’t affected me financially," she says. "It was a bit hard on me emotionally, though.
"The two hardest parts were living alone and trying to fit a workspace into in my tiny Osborne Village studio. It definitely got a bit lonely and it was very hard to separate work and personal time when my ‘office’ was within sight from everywhere but the bathroom."
Over time, she’s gotten better at reaching out to friends and setting up boundaries.
"I also found a way to make my workspace compact enough that I could hide it at the end of the day."
She’s looking forward to performing next week at Wee Johnny’s in a comedy showcase called Wisecracks for Weirdos on Saturday, July 18, at 9 p.m. (Alex Ateah, Ava Julien, Michael Blomquist, Jeff Sinclair and Tim Gray are also on the bill).
"Comedy is all about expectations," she explains. "I find that laughter is generally a result of subverting the expectations a comedian has set for their audience. That said, expectations can sometimes work against you, it can sometimes be difficult for more offbeat performers or performances to connect with audiences when the crowd is expecting a more traditional standup experience.
"This show is my attempt to set a clear expectation for what a comedy lover can expect to see at the show," she says. "Don’t expect a show full of average jokes for average folks."
Kayahara’s list of five things getting her through the pandemic is likewise… unexpected.
1. Active Sitting
Not sure what "active sitting" is? Neither was Kayahara, "until I tried to figure out how to explain the odd office ‘chair’ that’s helped carry me through the past few months.
"Active sitting is the result of sitting on a chair that’s barely made for sitting on, think a rounded bottom or exercise-ball chair," she says. "Left to my own devices, I have the posture of the gentlemen who’s second in line on the evolutionary chart. My spine could not have survived working from home without the rounded garbage can-esque stool that forces me to sit upright at my desk.
"If anyone is going to be working from home long-term, I can’t express how important it is to have a chair that’s got your back."
"Early into the pandemic, comedians took to the internet to post well-produced videos of their comedy on social media," she says. "Seeing this, local comedian Sarah London began to request submissions for the #COVID19ONLINECOMEDYOPENMIC on Instagram.
"It was a low-stakes endeavour that saw comedians talking into anything but microphones while cracking wise about the impending end times," she says. "It was fun and silly and gave me confidence that comedy would find a way to survive anything.
"It was also great at making me laugh at a time when laughter was as difficult to find as toilet paper."
3. Socially Distant Collaboration
"With the help of Zoom and audio editing software, I was able to continue to produce song parodies with my friend Jenny-Lynn Sheldon," Kayahara says. "We’d rewrite a verse or two of a late-’90s pop or rock song and create short music videos about our new found love of sanitizer or the dangers of door knobs.
"Getting to bounce ideas back and forth over video chat, while laughing and singing ridiculous things while making equally ridiculous faces helped take away some of the seriousness of the situation we’ve found ourselves in."
"When the pandemic hit, I did what I could to maintain any sense of the routine I’d had in the before-times," Kayahara says. "While I no longer took half an hour to walk to work, I still made sure to get up at the same time each morning. I maintained my daily writing habit and did my best to get out of the house for a walk whenever I could.
"I continue to cling to whatever little bits of normalcy I can," she says.
5. Shopping Local
"As someone who had the privilege of working from home and a consistent income, I began to feel something akin to survivor’s guilt, knowing that so many people, including friends and family, were experiencing layoffs and uncertainty," she says. "Luckily, many of my creative friends were able to fall back on their talents and I was able to use money that I was no longer spending on my voracious movie habit purchasing their candles, jewelry and art.
"I also became a regular customer of a number of local small businesses, some of which I’ve never stepped foot in," she says. "It was wonderful to know that the purchases I was making were also helping people keep their lights on and their metaphorical doors open."
Tickets for Wisecracks for Weirdos are $10, plus online ticketing fees, at Eventbrite.com. Capacity is limited, to ensure safe distances between tables and seat. Advance ticket purchases are recommended, though some tickets will be available at the door if possible.
In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.
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