13 Aug Stories of Starting #4: Geoffrey Appelbaum, Comedian & Mountain Man
Today on Stories of Starting I chat with Montreal comedian and voice actor Geoffrey Appelbaum. Learn how Geoffrey changed his quality of life and happiness level by doing one thing that many of us take for granted.
Welcome to the Stories of Starting podcast. I’m Heather Boyd as a self-employed artist for the last thirty years I’m fascinated with people’s passions and creative projects. In this series we discover how people like you have started new projects by thinking outside the box, going with the flow and tapping into their childhood imagination.
Heather: Welcome to Stories of Starting. Today we are here with my friend Geoffrey Appelbaum. So Geoffrey, I’ll get you to introduce yourself. Tell us who you are and what you do.
Geoffrey: Okay, I’m Geoffrey Applebaum. I do comedy in English and French. I’m also a voice actor so I do a lot of radio and television for commercials. Sometimes video games for Ubisoft. That kind of thing.
H: Cool, yeah cool, that’s awesome. About the voice acting it’s funny because I remember you had told us you were a voice actor and Mimi had shown her friend one of the ads that you’ve done and she had actually recognized you.
G: Oh really? Cool. Was that the Oasis one? It might be for Oasis juice I think you mentioned?
Mimi: Maybe, ya.
G: Oasis is a good juice, you should try it!
H: This is not a paid sponsorship though!
G: But it can be! Sorry, go on.
H: So Geoffrey, I always like to start the podcast by telling people how we know each other. Because so far all these podcasts are people that I know, our friends and people that we’ve gotten to know over the years. We originally met you at The Comedy Nest.
H: You were hosting The Nest one night when we went to see Helen Hong.
G: That’s right.
H: I remember that night, after the show we all got up on stage to take a group photo. A couple of months later we saw you at Comedy Works (there was a fire and it no longer exists.) I remember we went out after for chocolate. What was the name of that place?
G: Cacao 70.
H: Yeah so we went out for chocolate.
G: Another sponsor!
H: You became our chocolate buddy and going out for sweets.
G: I pigged out on the bananas and the crepes and the hot fudge and you guys pretty much just watched me.
H: I’m pretty sure I posted a couple of photos on Instagram.
G: Yes, my chocolate covered face.
H: Yes, that’s it. So we’ve been to a ton of your shows in French in English.
G: Yeah you guys have really supported. I think the first time that we really hung out was I needed a ride yeah to Ottawa. It was right before I was still going for my license. I had a show just outside Ottawa and I needed a lift. I was just finished taking those those buses. I won’t name the brand of the bus, but you know you are! You guys offered to to take me. We had dinner at Herb’s.
H: Herb’s, yeah!
G: I got you guys hooked on Herb’s.
H: The iconic Herb’s.
G: The iconic Herb’s…they can get free advertising. They’re so good. That was the first time we really really hung out for a sustained period of time and we’ve been buddies ever since. You did some wonderful things for me. You took some photos of my cat.
H: Yeah, Mimi did.
G: Yes, right before she (the cat) passed. We didn’t know at the time that she was ill. So now I have these these beautiful photos, actually the framed and they’re just back there. So it’s a great gift to have.
H: That’s actually something I really wanted to talk about because these podcasts are all about Stories of Starting. Things that people have started, projects they’ve started. Even little things that have changed their lives. I remember when we met you, yes you didn’t have your driver’s license. Almost 40 years old and you just didn’t really have a need for it I guess living in the city
G: I was living in Montreal at that point. We are not in Montreal filming this by the way. We are we are north of Montreal. We’re an hour north Montreal.
H: Exactly. So that was something I wanted to ask you about.
G: You’re not going find a house that looks like this in Montreal.
H: Exactly. So tell us, you finally got your license. How has your life changed since then.
G: I’ve gone through some dramatic changes I guess you could say. I lived the last six years in the Plateau. I was doing the public transportation and then a couple years ago I started getting booked in Ontario. I was relying on taking the buses. I was relying on other friends driving me. I was relying on ride shares and it was just becoming a pain in the butt. I needed a car. I needed to start driving to gigs. Sometimes if I had a one-night gig, let’s say in some small town in Ontario, it could take 15 hours. I’d have to wake up and go to the bus stop. I would like to take the seats by myself so I’d have to get there before everybody else, run to the back of the bus and pretend I’m asleep. And then get there and do my show. But then there wouldn’t be a midnight bus back, there’d be a 2:00 a.m. bus back. So what so what would end up being a 30-minute show ended up being leaving my house at 3 o’clock in the afternoon and coming back at 5 in the morning.
H: It’s hardly worth it.
G: It was not worth it, especially for the money. So I got a license in June of last year. I was going through some rough times living wise. I was living in apartments that were not…I’m hypersensitive especially as a voice actor I’m very in tuned to sound. I was getting very anxious with certain people’s behaviours. Where I was living in Montreal, I found in the apartments people were stopping to care about what they would do in terms of late night parties and drugs and that kind of thing. It just wasn’t my scene. I’m getting older and I just don’t want to live in that scene anymore. So I began looking for quieter apartments in Montreal with older people there hopefully. I found one place and I asked if the building was soundproof. He said yes. I asked, are there parties? He said absolutely not. I moved in and the minute I moved in it sounded like there was an elephant over my head. The people next door were doing drugs constantly.
H: Oh, no.
G: I got out of that lease after two months. But I was going through so much anxiety that I would take my car. What I discovered what I loved was driving. I would just love to drive for a long time, not in the city. Just get out into the country and just drive. So what I would do is I would drive up here to Sainte Adele.
H: Oh cool.
G: The reason I would drive up here to Sainte Adele is because we used to have a cottage here just on the other side of the mountain. On this mountain that we’re on right now is where I learned to ski.
G: So all my best childhood memories were on this mountain that we’re sitting on right now. I didn’t know at the time so what I would do is I would drive up to the parking lot, there was a hotel right here on this mountain. And I would that’s where I learned how to ski on that ski hill and I was a camp counsellor in the summer. So I would sit in that parking lot and just sort of pray, just like what do I need to do? I’m so anxious, what do? I’d sit and stare up at the stars. I did that two times. This was in the beginning of August of last year. And in the middle of August. I got back to the city and I opened up Kijiji the next day. And actually on the way back from the parking lot I drove down and I saw this house that we’re sitting in. I thought what a cute house, what a quiet neighbourhood, wouldn’t it be nice to live here. And I thought oh well it’s never going to happen. I get back to Montreal. I open Kijiji and THIS house is for rent. maybe I didn’t yeah and it turns out
H: Oh, that’s insane! I don’t know if you told me that exact story.
G: Turns out we’re 213 meters from the parking spot that I would sit in. So this house was sitting for me the entire time. Then within two and a half weeks my lease was canceled in Montreal and I was moving up here.
H: Incredible. And wouldn’t have been able to do that if you hadn’t got your license.
G: No, exactly. Also knowing that I belong here. It’s been such a nostalgic year. Even on the radio, I found all these radio stations on my internet that were the cheesy songs my parents would force my brother and I to listen to on the way there and back from the early 90s late 80s easy-listening. So that was it and it’s been great. It’s a nice little house.
H: I remember the first time you brought us up here to see the area. You showed us that little hotel you talked. We joked about how it had like this ‘Shining’ vibe to it. This haunted old hotel type of thing.
G: Yeah, it’s empty. It’s completely empty right now.
H: It’s so cool and that sense of nostalgia. There’s something just so special about that. It’s like full circle coming back here.
G: It’s literally full circle because when my father discovered Sainte Adele… My parents, they’re from the States and my father came up for a conference, to give a conference. He stayed just off the hotel in a little house. It turns out it’s two doors from here. So he stayed two doors from here, loved the city and we bought a house here. A country house. So it’s literally full circle because we’re on this street that is a circle. Just two doors up is that house that he stayed in. It’s pretty crazy.
H: That’s incredible so you can see yourself staying here for a little bit of time. And how have you adapted your life work-wise to fit into this.
G: It’s a lot of driving, but a lot of driving with zero traffic and zero parking problems. If my shows are at 8 o’clock at night I leave here at 6:30 and I’m in the city by 7:30. One hour straight cruise-control, go 100 kilometres, obeying the speed limit. I just roll right into the club and do my thing and then roll
right back up. Or other times I’ll go to Ottawa or Ontario and I just drive. It is a lot of driving but I do say it is worth it. Living in a house I’m spending the exact same amount that I would spend for a three and a half (apartment) in the city, in the Plateau. And the place in Côte Saint-Luc that I left was two hundred dollars more a month than here. And I have a full house now.
H: That’s it. I mean country living isn’t for everybody but if you have it in your in your history and you know that it’s something that you like than for sure. And it’s always good to try. I know my sister for example she tried living in the country for a year when she was pregnant with her first child. They tried living on a farm. They tried it. They hated it. They were really isolated. It wasn’t their thing but at least they tried it. So now they know it’s not for them. Even like you said you’re renting now. You’re getting to know the area and what-have-you. If you end up buying at least you know what to expect.
G: Yeah, I found out with other comics, there’s a great comic Julien Dion he moved to Wakefield. He performs in English and French as well, you should look him up he’s very funny. He grew up in New Brunswick. He did New York and he did Toronto and then he settled down. He did some really good stuff with this comedy and now he lives with his girlfriend in Wakefield. They commute to wherever they’re going. Once it’s in your blood you don’t want to leave it.
H: Exactly, it’s like the best of both worlds. We’re not the same but similar in a way that we live on the West Island.
G: Your place is pretty quiet.
H: It’s very quiet and then if we want to go downtown we hop on the bus and go and go downtown. But I honestly would never live downtown again.
G: No it’s not the same thing anymore. They’re building so many condos and they’re concentrating people downtown. They’re widening the sidewalks so it makes it very difficult to drive. You become reliant on public transport. That’s just not living for me.
H: Have you found that living in the country and doing all these road trips and everything, has that changed your comedy style in a way? Has that fed into some of your routine?
G: Yeah, I have more of an identity. My routine, I start embedding mentions that I live here. I did a set in French and I have a joke that I’m a mountain man now, but I’m really not! I’m still a city slicker try to be a mountain man.
H: You kinda look like it though with the beard.
G: Yeah, I’ve got the beard and everything’s bought at Giant Tiger. Some people came up to me after the set and were like “it’s the mountain man”
H: Oh, that’s cool.
G: Yeah so it’s helped me build a little bit more of an identity. Where it’s like I no longer have to joke “so I’m single” now I’m like “so I live in a cottage by myself in the woods”. It’s more who I am now. I kind of give off the whole Ted Kaczynski Unabomber from the nineties vibe. I’m this crazy guy in the woods writing my manifesto and sending mail bombs to people. But I’m really not because I’m scared. My first hike up here I went on my my ski hill, the one I learned on. I went to take a photo for my parents to show them. These two deer jump out of nowhere, they were sleeping. I was like “wahhhhhhh”. I was so scared. And there’s nothing to be scared of with deers. The fact that I’d never seen deer on that mountain my entire life and suddenly they’re like “this is our home now what are you doing here?” If you’re scared of a deer, you’re not a mountain man.
H: You’re like a pseudo mountain man.
G: A pseudo mountain man. Yes exactly.
H: I love that. Like I said I only got a little inkling of that last week at The Nest. I love that idea of creating this persona and identity. I think there’s so much out there that people need to really connect with the person for specific traits.
G: It helps them remember you. It’s like branding. When I perform in French it’s much easier to have like an identity that’s grounded in something just for the mere fact that I’m an Anglophone speaking French and doing comedy. So that is already easier at that point. It’s kind of written into who I am. But that’s not cultivated. Whereas if there’s something that’s more cultivated into my persona. I mean people know me say you do the sound effects. Yeah I do, but they enhance the stories. I’m not just like here’s an impression of a car alarm. It’s not that. It should always enhance my identity. If I’m this identity of a city slicker who’s trying to be cool by coming off like I’m this rustic country guy, when in December I had the fire going on here the fireplace right over there. I put too many logs in there and thought I was gonna burn.
G: Here’s a perfect story. In the spring I was trying to impress somebody online I showed her my backyard and she’s like oh it’s so nice. I’m like, yeah this is good country living. And then I heard a crack coming from that tree over there. I was like, oh my god it’s gonna topple the house. I’m gonna die. I call the fire department they come up with a fire truck. They come over and they’re looking up and they’re like “Yeah that’s just a branch that fell and it’s teetering. Do you want us to get the branch?” I’m like “No, so I’m not gonna die?” Okay, so I’m not a mountain man!
H: Like the time I called 9-1-1 because a skunk sprayed in our yard. I thought it was a gas leak and I called 9-1-1 because I thought there was a gas leak. OMG that was crazy.
G: There was a skunk that came. I have these security cameras outside the house for other reasons. There was a skunk that came at 4 o’clock in the morning. My cameras are hooked up to my phone. The spot lights go off and I’m looking at the skunk going right under my steps under my front door and I’m super scared. I’m like oh no what’s gonna happen, what’s gonna happen? And then the phone goes off again. I open it and it’s a cat chasing the skunk away. I’m like “Thank you cat, thank you cat”. And the cat’s like “Ya, I got this!”
H: I love your surveillance videos that you have. We were talking earlier about YouTube and how a lot of comedians now are using YouTube as a platform to get known. Maybe you could get known with all your video surveillance stuff. That would be interesting.
H: I love that one of you dancing in the back yard. What was the caption? Somebody’s in my yard?
G: Yeah, somebody’s dancing in my yard.
H: We’re going to insert that in the video here because you told me you kept it.
G: Somebody had asked me, did you finally get the the cameras yet? And so I sent that and I’m like “does it look like I’ve got the cameras yet?” And they replied “well you got some moves there”
H: For sure when we met you that was one thing that’s a stood out was the voice acting. I wasn’t super familiar with voice acting. Especially in your first sets you did a lot more of the voice work. I always wondered why doesn’t he focus on this a bit more? But I’m realizing from what you’re just saying now is you don’t want it to become any gadget or a gimmick. You want to infuse it in your set.
G: Well it’s interesting that you say that because I’ve actually increased the sound effects. They’re just not as noticeable.
H: That’s right, they’re more subtle.
G: They’re more woven in there so they enhance the story. I made a concerted effort to actually pump the set full of it. Being up here I’ve been writing more so my writing has improved. I’ve been writing more and more of the jokes have been sticking and staying. You’ll do a joke you don’t know if it’s gonna stay or not so. That’s what the open mics are for the pass or fail. There’s more jokes now that are regular rotation jokes in my set now than there were a year ago There’s more sound effects and I deliberately put that in. I guess you’re not noticing them as much because it’s more subtle.
H: It’s obviously working then. That’s fantastic.
G: And they’re not so much sound effects as they are character voices that I created. They’re just things that just punch the joke home. Because I find sound is a very universal thing. Like music and it speaks to you on a very deep deep level.
H: And you obviously have a talent for it. In your set you say you knew from a young age you would do the voice work. Were you quite young when you discovered you had the voice.
G: Oh yeah, I was always doing impersonations in class. I was the guy everybody would go to and ask “imitate this teacher or that teacher”. And the car alarm I was doing in grade 10.
G: So I was doing that and I would make my ear squeak and I’d do all sorts of weird stuff. When I went to theatre school it was my close friends that were like “dude you have to do something with your voice”. I was like, yeah, yeah, but I wanted to be a serious actor. I wanted to be this serious character actor. I wanted to be taken seriously but everybody was like, your voices are really funny. And I said, I could just do that. Then a lot of my friend in acting moved ahead faster than I did. And then they were like, never forget who you are. Never forget that part of you. After a while, I was struggling in my 20s I didn’t work. It was getting to that point where I was like okay if I don’t make something happen with my voice I’ll never forgive myself. I realized that it was it was just a talent that I was given that very few people have. I never had to learn it. I just did it. The more of the self-development work that I was doing people were like, wow you should really do something this time. It was eating away at me. Then finally when I broke in with the acting. I finally got my first unionized gig it sort of just took off on its own. I became an in-demand voice actor at that point. It wasn’t because of sound effects. It was also because I’m able to bring any kind of text to make it very conversational, very alive. Very much like this is not a written piece of material. That took craft. That took craft that I learned in theatre school.
G: I would would listen to advertisements on TV. I would not watch TV, I’d have the TV on the background. I’d be doing whatever on the computer. I’d be listening to the actor doing it and I was like, nope I don’t like that reading. That’s not a good reading. I would do it differently. I mapped my brain for years. I grew up listening to radio. I’d listen to the Expos and the Canadians on the radio and I would memorize the commercials on the radio. So that really became something imbued in me. I did this workshop before I was an actor. I did a workshop when I was 26. They said here try to read this this radio ad. The person giving the seminar is a very busy actress. At first she was like, I don’t want to give this seminar because these are non-union people who will never work. So I read it and just did whatever I did. She pulled me aside afterwards and said you’ve got a natural talent.
G: I replied, oh thank you, thank you, I’ve heard that before. She said, I’m going to make sure I help you get into the union. This is Jennifer Sagan who’s my fairy godmother. She helped me get into the business. But it still took another five years. But we’d struck a friendship. I directed a film and she was in it. So she was the one responsible for getting me into the business.
H: Amazing, yeah.
G: It was a couple years ago we did our first commercial together. We were cast together. I think we did a couple together and I worked with her husband a bunch of times. Just to wrap that up it was something I had to get done or I’d never forgive myself in fact, if it didn’t make it work.
H: Exactly. So there wasn’t necessarily specific training for voice work?
G: Yes, yes, yes I went to two theatre schools that lasted seven years total.
G: It was at the first school Dawson, Steve Lecky is his name, he was a scientist with voice. He helps you systematically break down texts so that you know where where the ebbs and the flows are in the text so you can turn it into natural sounding conversation.
G: He’s a genius. He’s a mad genius this guy. And he taught me how to sing. So I can sing. And then I began teaching it to other people. That taught me how to do it even better. I naturally took that on and and made voice work… because a lot of people come and go, “well people tell me I have a good voice”. That’s not what it is. Most of the work you’re going to get is about, are you gonna make this text sound like it’s a real person speaking. You don’t have time, I don’t get the text the night before or a week before. I get it when I get there and it’s BOOM and it’s done. In 30 minutes I’m done but they’ll pay you for two hours. I can get it done in 20 minutes, 30 minutes and never go overtime. That’s one of the things I’m known for is I never go overtime.
H: You really have an instinct for it. Something I’ve always thought about your voice is it really would be great to be able to do some kind of voice therapy. People are so into ASMR online. Just because there’s something so relaxing and so comforting in hearing a voice. I’ve even had people tell me on my DIY videos Heather you should make ASMR videos. I had one lady say oh I listen to your videos before I go to sleep at night.
G: Oh wow.
H: …because it helps me sleep. I guess she’s not watching me making all my wires. She’s just listening to my voice.
G: You do have a very soft peaceful voice.
H: There’s something very therapeutic about it.
H: So that’s maybe a whole other line of business. Like creating meditation videos and things like that. I think the sky is the limit. But you’ve really found your niche weaving that in with the comedy. I mean the comedy you obviously love. You love being on stage. I remember you telling me that you really love just to make people happy and bring joy to their lives.
G: Yes, there’s that palpable thing where people after the shows they’ll come up and there’s a real appreciation. They’re like, you were funny, you were great, thank you so much for that. That’s so validating. It’s nice to be able to do because people are stressed out with their day and they’re stressed out with what they hear on the news. But when they come to see the show that I do I’m never going talk about politics. I’m never going to talk about what’s going on and we remind them. I’m just gonna bring them into my wacky world. It’s a little bit absurdist. I’m making fun of myself and I’m doing it with high energy and sounds and stuff. For as long as I’m on stage you can forget about everything else and just let yourself go and laugh. Sometimes it’s stupid. Some of the jokes are just stupid. There’re stupid funny. I’ll see people just holding their head and laughing and I love it. I’m like I love what you’re going through right now.
H: Sometimes it’s the stupidest things that make us laugh. And I love the crowd when you’re hosting and you’re working with the crowd. There’s just something magical about that. You really have to have an instinct to do it. Not everybody is good at that kind of crowd work.
G: Yeah I guess I’m just trying to make people comfortable because there’s a natural anxiety there. I don’t have to try to be funny with that. Funny situations kind of just pop up on their own because we’re all anxious. I’m anxious to make everybody comfortable and the audience members that I’m talking to are anxious to not look stupid. They’re afraid I’m going try to make them look stupid, but I’m not. So then something stupid is going to happen, It just naturally happens. It’s like that’s a crazy stupid moment . Then everybody’s laughing but it’s all the good fun. We’re sort of together. We’re not making fun of anybody. Whereas if I’m on stage, like you saw the other night, I did this joke the whole audience laughs except for one guy sitting in the front row with his arms crossed. And so I’m like, oh so I guess you didn’t like that joke and he said yes I did. Okay, so why did you react that way? He was like, this is how I am. And I said, why are we even talking? And I just moved on.
G: It was like, this is valueless and then everybody exploded on that one! I just felt that, it I didn’t think about it, it just came right out like that. I was like why are we we’ve been wasting time on this? Your shirt looks ridiculous number one, moving on.
H: Yeah, it’s too funny. So going back to your persona. I wanted to have you on the podcast to talk about moving to the country and that kind of thing. I remember another joke that you do. I haven’t heard it for a little while. It was a text. Remember you had received a text from somebody looking for Gershom. That was a whole story. I thought that was funny because I think Mimi and I were around when you were coming up with this concept. But the whole idea of this storytelling. Not all the comedians do it. Some people do more than others. The idea of taking a story and almost every time you tell the story it gets embellished. It gets changed. Have you revisited that story? I haven’t heard it for a little while.
G: So that’s a story basically where I was approached on Facebook and somebody was spamming me. I was getting spammed a lot at that point because I just started a website. I was getting all these calls and spam. So this guy spams me on Facebook and instead of just ignoring it I started answering him back. I started answering him back to waste his time and it ended up being this whole long drawn-out thing. I just basically embellished that and wrote it out and it’s a joke that I read out. I read out the conversation and my reactions to it. And it works every time. It works a lot because it’s text. So again that’s one of my my strong points is making text sound…bringing it alive. It’s a longer joke and I bring it out in my longer sets. When I’m doing 20 to 30 minutes it’s a great joke because I’ll start the set with a lot of high energy 5, 6, 7 minutes of straight up boom, boom, boom, boom. And this is a good joke just to bring things down and slow the pace. Like when a rock band comes up they hit you with the stuff and then they slow it down after four or five songs.
G: And this is a good one again because it’s still funny it’s just slower pace. The payoffs are slower. And then I’ll do other slower jokes and then crescendo it up towards the end.
H: Yeah, I think it’s great to have a mix because we were talking earlier about some other acts that we’ve seen where it’s one-liner after one-liner and that wears very thin after a while. It’s funny but then at some point you’re like wait I can’t remember all this stuff. I love the comedians that we see even if it’s the same joke several times over. Mimi and I will quote comedians all the time, putting it into context of what we’re doing. Say we’re in a situation like in the car driving and then a line from a joke that we’ve heard just seems perfect to say at that moment. It’s like infusing this humour, stories or lines or whatever from acts that we’ve seen, into our daily lives. It’s like you’re internalizing these jokes. It’s not just going out for entertainment anymore. I find that I internalize a lot of what we what we hear to bring humour into our daily lives. I feel like I’m a happier person since going to live comedy.
G: That’s good
H: I highly recommend it and I think a lot of people, I had this discussion with Ben (Cardilli) that some people just don’t make a point to go out to see live comedy anymore. They’ll watch it on Netflix and they’ll go to movies. Maybe some people are intimidated to go. Some people don’t realize how accessible and easy it is to go out to comedy. They’ll watch comedy on Netflix and movies and what-have-you. I tell everybody that they should go out to see it live.
G: Yeah you should go out to see them live. We are in a bloom period where comedy has just taken off. Netflix helps it but it also hurts it. It gives comedy itself more exposure but there’s that ease of like, oh I don’t have to go out tonight. There might be that thing of like well if they’re not on Netflix then they’re not going to be that good. Actually the truth is that on Netflix they’re gonna feature people…there is a certain narrative and a certain agenda and a certain thematic consistency that they’re putting out. And that’s why those comedians are on there, who are also good, but that’s really why it is. Whereas you can go to a club and watch top professional comedians you may not have heard of and they’re just not famous for other reasons that have nothing to do with talent. It just has to do with their not fitting a certain branding or certain zeitgeist that’s going on. So you’ll go out you’ll be shocked and surprised and you’re left like, like wow that was incredible. Why aren’t you famous? But there’s so many factors that go into that. Many times has nothing to do with it with the talent. So you go out and there’s this whole different experience when you go to a live event for anything. Like when I go to a rock show or something there’s that whole thing. You’re driving and certain streets are closed off because of the event. That builds that anticipation. This is special we’re all going to see this particular artist perform and other people are doing it too.
H: Yeah true.
G: WOW and it builds this up and then you get there, you sit there and there’s this pre-show music that’s playing and you’re wondering if the artist is in the room yet . And you’re wondering if the other people are there specifically for that artist. You’re wondering about why they all here too. Then more and more people come in and you’re like WOW this is going to be special. Something is going to happen. Then the lights go out and the music stops. Then (snap) the lights go on and the show starts. The comedian’s know what they’re doing. You’re taken by the hand and led into this situation and they’re controlling your world for an hour and a half. You’re brought into their world and you can’t hit the pause button and you can’t check your phone. You can’t do any of that. It’s like, whoa something different is now happening. I think that makes it very special.
H: It’s true I hadn’t thought of it in those terms but there’s something about that shared experience. Mimi and I go often to The Comedy Nest. They know us now and Theo is like, here’s your regular table. And you feel like a part of this community and it feels so good. Often when The Nest is full we will have other people sitting with us at the table. So we’re meeting strangers, we’re enjoying this experience with them. There’s something really special about that kind of shared experience.
G: And you never know who you’re gonna meet. I’ve met a lot of Montreal personalities in the audience who are in the media. That’s actually helped me in my career in terms of exposure but also just struck up friendships with them. It’s like, oh wow you’re this person I know you from that. And they like that. It’s cool because you never know who’s gonna be there. You know cuz you’ve met more people than I have. It’s a great way to just meet people in a scenario where you wouldn’t normally meet them.
H: It’s true. Actually for me it’s super nostalgic because I used to work at Canada’s Wonderland. They used to have these shows, these variety shows and singing shows. I worked as a dresser. They called it a costume mistress. I would help prepare the costumes and dress them (the performers) between sets. At beginning they always had that track “welcome to Canada’s Wonderland” it’s like “welcome to The Comedy Nest” and “put away your cell phone”. Every time that track comes on I get this wave of nostalgia from when I used to work there. I remember the sense of community. Even though I wasn’t a performer, I wasn’t an actor I felt a part of that community of the performers because I was helping them. We would go out together after the show and that type of thing. There was something really special about it.
G: Yeah, it’s like sometimes you’re watching audience members and watching how they’re reacting to it. You might be looking at someone, you’re curious about them. You might find them attractive so you’re watching them. You see a joke and you want to see if they react to it. If they find the same thing funny you find.
G: You’re so curious about that person by the way they look. You create a story about people in your head sometimes. About what this person must be like in their day-to-day life. Then you’ll see a joke that you find funny and you’ll want to look over. There’s all that curiosity of people watching too that goes on. It’s a wonderful experience that you cannot get on the Internet at all. So I definitely recommend it. Even as a comedian myself when my set is done I’ll people watch. I’m watching to see what they find funny.
H: It’s true. You can tell a lot about people by what they find funny or not.
G: Oh yes, you learn to read people as a comedian. You learn a lot about somebody by what they find funny and don’t. What are their core beliefs. Then what did they find funny, what did they not find funny, what did they get offended at, what do they like, what makes them think. You really learn about a person’s core beliefs that way.
H: And it’s interesting about the live performing and the difference between live performing and doing your voice work. I’m sure the voice work is very profitable but there’s something about the live performing even if it’s just an opening mic that really feeds into everything you do. It’s like I make jewelry and I sell online but I need every now and then to do some in-person shows and exhibitions. Even if I sell nothing it’s just to get in contact with the clients and to have that personal touch.
G: You need it. I remember I would do a lot of Internet videos.
H: Yes. Which I love!
G: Thank you. It was about 10 years ago. But it would take a long time. From the germ of the idea to when it would be delivered online it would be about a month. It would be a long time to not get validation on something. Especially for someone like me who needs the validation. Whereas I could go tonight and message a few people go, hey can I jump on tonight, try a few things out and then immediately get gratification or not.
G: It’s that human contact. You know I live up here. I like to stay in the woods. I’m not nearly as much in the woods as I would like to be. I will be in the woods soon but after a certain period of time it gets lonely because there’s not that human contact. So I will go into the next town. As you saw I know all the waiters and waitresses where we went. Because of that human contact. And then I’ll go into Montreal and schedule people like it’s a doctor’s thing. I’ll come in and I’m going to see them for three hours, I’m going to go see there for three hours going to see them too and I’m going to sleep at my parents place. I wake up the next day then go to the West Island to see that person. Then I’m going to go over there and then I’m going to go do my show and then I’m going to come back home.
H: And decompress a little bit.
G: Yes because you need that contact. There is a healing contact around being with people. Comedy is meant to be seen and shared with people well.
H: That’s it and I do love your videos that you did 10 years ago. They’re really funny. But I think a lot of what people are doing online now which is much quicker which is something that I do once a week is the live-stream. Which is sort of an interesting compromise. Maybe some comedians do it as well. There’s certainly a lot of people that do live-streams at different reasons. For me it’s more to demo like how to make jewelry but at the same time I’m not just doing that. I’m chatting with the people. They can type comments and I can reply to them.
H: There’s something really fun about live-streams. I know a lot of people are really intimidated about doing them because it’s almost like public speaking or performing if you’ve never done it before. But you know if you just let go and say, oh whatever if I make a mistake it’s no big deal. I find live-streaming has been really fun.
G: I wish there was live-streaming when I was spending more time on the internet. I didn’t really use that. There was none of that stuff. There was no Instagram. And there was no colour on the screen! In my day we didn’t even have keyboards. We screamed at the computer and hope for the best!
H: LOL. Like that movie. What was that movie:
Mimi: The Duff.
H: What was that line? We didn’t have emoticons, we had actual facial expressions!
G: Yes, exactly. Even emoticon is an old word now.
H: Yeah, true. I think he used that word, I’m pretty sure!
H: So Geoffrey, tell us where we can find you, where we can most often see you for gigs and your social media.
G: I’m The Exploding Apple on Instagram and then Geoffrey Applebaum on Facebook This month I’m in French next week a couple times. I’m in Ontario at the end of the month and I have a show August 18th at The Comedy Nest. I have a show up here in St. Sauveur August 21st.
G: So I’m all over the place.
H: That’s awesome. So I’ll link up all Geoffrey’s links in the show notes. And I wanted to thank you so much for hopping on the podcast. It was really fun.
G: Yes, it was a ton of fun.
H: It’s always a pleasure and I’ll add a few pop-up pictures of your beautiful surroundings and link up to some of your old videos!
G: That would be great.
H: Cool. Give me a hug!
Outro: Thanks so much for tuning into Stories of Starting. Until next time always remember your story matters.