'I'm a professional': Get to know comedian Kyle Brownrigg
Confident and outspoken, Kyle Brownrigg has grown into a formidable standup comedian who owns the spotlight every time he takes the stage.
Hailing from the suburbs of Ottawa, Brownrigg now calls Toronto home.
Brownrigg is one of the featured comedians in the CBC Gem special The New Wave of Standup and is available to watch online here.
We invited Brownrigg to take our questionnaire, and here's what he had to say!
1. Where do you come from, and what were you like growing up?
I come from the eastern suburbs of Ottawa, not to brag. Growing up, I was a very awkward, skinny art kid who was extremely unsure of himself. I was never the class clown. I was never the popular kid. I was trying so desperately to not be too gay that I had to suppress my personality at the cost of my identity.
I remember years later I had a teacher come to one of my shows, and afterward she said, "Looking back to who you were in high school, I would never have guessed this would have been your career path, but I'm so glad it is."
I realize that's probably not a very fun answer but that's the truth. Growing up as a gay person and constantly hearing that word as the butt of every single joke, you learn to suppress who you really are to survive. But let's not mistake, I was always funny, bitch.
2. What kind of first impression do you hope to make on audiences when you step on stage?
That I'm a professional. If an audience can clearly tell that you know what you're doing, they are more likely to relax and be more open to the experience. Plus, it's a more honest reaction from the audience if a joke is funny or not.
They're more willing to not laugh if something is unfunny because they can tell you're confident enough to handle it. When you're watching an amateur comic do poorly, the audience tends to fake laugh to avoid the anxiety of watching someone bomb for seven minutes. Honesty is the most valuable thing in this profession because without it, we would never grow.
3. When did you first know you wanted to do comedy? When did you decide it was a career?
I feel like I get asked this question a lot and I really wish I had a solid answer for it, but the truth is, I didn't. I truly believe that standup comedy is not a profession someone picks. It kind of just happens. Most pro comedians that I know sort of stumbled into it and realized, "OH! This is what I'm supposed to be doing!" You perform it all the time because it eventually becomes your life. You get paid for it more often, then suddenly it's your career.
4. What was the greatest moment you've experienced on stage? How about the worst?
When I performed at Massey Hall in Toronto on New Year's Eve 2017 in front of 3,000 people. Those opportunities occur few and far between so you have to soak them up and enjoy every second of it while you can. It makes all of those gigs you drove to in a snowstorm four hours out of town seem worth it.
The worst moment I had on stage was the very first weekend spot I did at a comedy club. I was so nervous and had never performed for a sold-out audience. I went to tell my first joke and it was something stupid like, "I know when you look at me you can obviously tell I'm…" and this guy from the audience yelled out "a faggot!"
I was so new to comedy that I had no idea what to do. I remember an audible gasp from the audience and the doormen running the show didn't do a single thing. I froze. I collected myself. I continued my set. I was furious but I didn't know how to express it without ruining my entire set. It's probably the biggest regret of my career to date that I did nothing. However, that was a teachable moment for me because if something like that were to happen now, the city would shut down. But at the time I wasn't equipped with the skills I have now.
5. Who are your comedy heroes? Who do you look to for inspiration?
My comedy heroes have always been women. Comedy has always been a boys club and I have never fit in to the boys club. I admire the women who gave the middle finger to the industry and succeeded as a result. People like Amy Schumer, Kathy Griffin, Margaret Cho, to name a few. I've also always loved Maria Bamford, Sommore, Sarah Silverman, and Jim Gaffigan. I would love to name a gay male superstar standup comic on that same level of fame but, yikes, we still don't have one…
I don't know if I look to other standup comics for inspiration because, whether you mean to or not, you will begin to imitate them. Standup is the most personal expression of comedy, so it's best to not focus on what other people are doing. However, I will watch any one of those comedians' specials for motivation to work harder.
6. What other fellow comics should Canadians know about?
Too many to name. Off the top of my head: Heidi Foss, Michelle Shaughnessy, Ted Morris, and Ryan Dillon.