Meet a Comedian: Rebecca Kohler
By Brianne Hogan
Originally hailing from Ottawa, Toronto-based comedian Rebecca Kohler has a pretty impressive resume. Not only has she done the requisite appearance on Comedy Now! and provided snarky commentary on MuchMusic’s Video On Trial, but she also writes for This Hour Has 22 Minutes when she’s not performing regular gigs at Yuk Yuks across Canada. We chatted with Kohler about Louis CK, The Golden Girls and her personal gold rush.
Were you the class clown growing up?
I don’t know if I was the class clown, but I definitely made loud and obnoxious contributions to most of the classrooms I attended. I always had personality, but I don’t think I knew how to make a joke until I was about 14.
How was your first time doing stand-up? How did you feel? How did it go? Where did it happen?
The first time I ever did stand-up was at the Comedy Nest in Montreal. I was 23 years old and it was something I’d wanted to do since I was 10, so I was pretty nervous. I remember thinking, “As long as I make them laugh once, I’ll be happy.” I ended up getting more than one laugh, maybe eight or 10, but to be honest, I don’t remember much about the actual set — I was in a kind of trance or autopilot. It was a surreal experience. Looking back, I realize my jokes were terrible — they weren’t even really jokes; they were more unfinished observations of ideas I had. But I think I did well because I was so excited and enthusiastic. My style actually stayed like that for a while — it took several years before I understood the importance of having jokes and not just depending on my peppy personality.
When did you know you wanted to pursue comedy full-time?
I was hooked on stand-up pretty much from the get-go. Somehow I had the belief that I could be really good at it. Once I’d been doing it for a couple years, it was kind of like the only option I had for my future. I held other jobs to pay rent, but stand-up was the only important thing to me. So, it was part stubbornness, part just not having any other passions.
What was your big break?
That’s an interesting question — what is a big break? Growing up, I imagined my ‘big break’ as someone from Hollywood seeing me and offering me a sitcom. Seeing as that almost never happens (especially in Canada), I guess I have to look at some of my smaller breaks: my first paid spot, my first festival, my first time headlining, my Comedy Now! The thing is, I believe that several breaks add up to one big one. I recently signed with an agency based in Los Angeles — to me, that is my biggest break so far, and this is 12 years in. But it’s also a break I wouldn’t have been ready for six years in, so I’m glad it happened now — I now have the experience to make the most of this opportunity. I think of this career in terms of the Tortoise and the Hare. I am a tortoise!
Any memorable on-the-road experiences?
Ugh. I once had to pee in a snow bank on the side of the highway during a blizzard on my way to Kitchener. I’ve had to share a lot of hotel rooms with men I don’t know. Nothing too exciting — mostly a lot of waiting on street corners for rides, lots of traffic panic, lots of gossiping.
Who or what makes you laugh the most?
The Golden Girls still makes me laugh. That is such an excellent show. I also love a lot of Australian comedy: Kath & Kim, We Can Be Heroes, Summer Heights High. The Simpsons — especially when Homer’s in a muumuu. As for comics I’d say Jim Gaffigan, Louis CK, old Ellen.
If you could tour with anyone, who would it be?
I guess Louis CK because it would be so exciting and because I think our humour would appeal to the same crowds.
What’s your favourite funny movie?
Tough one! Here’s some: Sleeper, Old School, Saving Silverman, The Man With Two Brains, Better Off Dead.
Anything new on the horizon?
I just signed with this US agent, so I’m going to be going down to the States more, hopefully doing more shows there and trying to get my name around. I’m thinking of it as my personal gold rush, but instead of gold, I’m after laughs!
Year started: 2000
Influences: Janeane Garofalo, Ellen DeGeneres, Woody Allen, Mel Brooks, The Golden Girls