September 12, 2002

10259294_792996077377577_8034247668049405665_o12 years ago tonight, I did stand up comedy for the first time.

I never intended to do stand up comedy…but it started out when I was visiting my parents in Ohio.  My mother wanted to see a show called Tony & Tina’s Wedding.  We went, and it turned out several of my friends from high school and college were in the show.  I LOVED the show, particularly the Maid of Honor, Connie Mocogni.  8 months pregnant, smoking and drinking, not sure who the father of her baby was.  Might have been the best man, maybe not.  In any event, I promised myself if the show ever came to Bradenton, Florida, I would be in that show.  And the answer to my performance prayers arrived about 6 months later in a community theater audition.

Tony & Tina’s Wedding is an improvisational show.  There is a script, but most of the play is character and event driven.  You have a timeline and you need to follow it, while staying in character, while interacting with the audience in ways that you might or might not expect them to interact with you.  To prepare the would-be performers for the show, an improv class was offered by the director.  I signed up, and met other would be actors and comedians in that class.  I remember one of my assignments in the improv class was to portray a bank teller…with Tourette’s.  I did some funny faces with it, and several members of the class said I should try stand up comedy.   I filed that thought away…as I auditioned for the part of Connie Mocogni and got it.

Mindy Sterling and Traci Kanaan 2002

with Mindy Sterling at Judy Carter’s Comedy Conference, in November of 2002

After the shows ended in July of 2002, I began reading about stand up comedy and joke writing.  Our little group of would-be comedians met once a week to go over each other’s jokes, and on September 12th, we performed outside a vacant store front on Old Main Street, downtown Bradenton.  Each of us did 5 minutes of comedy, and then finished out “the show” with improv games.  It was a real thrill, and I got hooked and started writing and performing as much as I could.  Stand up comedy suited my life in 2002.  I chose it because it was less demanding than community theater, which had intense rehearsals for 6-8 weeks, 3 weeks of shows…then nothing.  I could write comedy and perform around my schedule and as a business owner, so I did.

And here I am…12 years later…still in the game.

Since 2002…I have driven thousands of hours across the country, often making below minimum wage, and staying in hotels that make even the most seasoned crack whores nervous.

I have endured rejection from a few haters, and relished in the hugs and emails from many.

I have experienced what seemed like hours of silence when a joke didn’t hit, to what seemed like years of laughter when a random off the cuff remark hit home.

I have enjoyed thousands of hours of what I call “pro bono” comedy.  This includes everywhere from making the Publix check out lady laugh, to sharing funny stories with several hundred people at funerals, including my father’s funeral.  Traci & Weight Loss

I made a conscious choice to silence the voices that said “You really should ____________.”  And I finally heard the little voice in my heart that said “If you do it your way, you’ll be happy.”  And I am.

As I look back over the last 12 years, I am proud because I have transformed myself from a 32 year old, severely depressed and overweight woman on anti-depressants, to a 44 year old vision of sexy, curvaceous fun and LOVE.  I went from hating myself and hating others, to forgiving myself and loving others.  I went from feeling that I was unworthy, to being a fountain of making others feel good about themselves.

What a wonderful 12 years it has been.  I’m so blessed to be able to do what I do, but I definitely have much more to accomplish!  So stay tuned…

Hysterical-rectemies

IMG_1503Sept 3rd, 2013 – A year ago today, I had a hysterectomy.   I had a uterine fibroid that had reached 6-7cm.  Which means it had been gaining 1-2cm a year since it was first detected, and no sign in sight of it getting smaller.  My first gynecologist wanted to cut me open with a 4-5 inch cut, she wasn’t sure if she was going to cut me horizontal or vertical, and I decided NFW was she touching me.  My doctor referred me to another gynecologist, who teaches other gynecologists how to do daVinci surgeries (4 small holes, instead of one big gash), and the rest was “hystery.”  

After the procedure, I remember recovering in the hospital, feeling so wonderful.  And then the drugs wore off…and I still felt so wonderful.   All the stress, anxiety, frustration, and pissiness that came with being a woman…just vanished.   I joke now that I still can’t believe how much HATE a uterus holds, and you don’t realize it until it’s gone.  The wonderment that enveloped my mind when I realized I never had to buy maxi pads or tampons ever again.   No more taking birth control pills – you know the ones that made your face break out, made you gain weight, and so friggin’ moody no one wanted to have sex with you once you started taking them.   No more having to plan vacations around “my highly erratic cycle.”   No more cancelled “date nights” because I started early.   I have never been so happy, even though other circumstances in my life are not always so wonderful.

Perhaps I will regret someday, that I never had children.  Being from Italian Catholic and Lebanese Catholic families, having children and the importance of family was always stressed.   But sometimes, in a fit of anger, my mother would always say “Someday, you’re going to have a daughter JUST LIKE YOU.”  When she said it, the underlying message was that I must’ve been a terrible daughter.  I know NOW that I’m not.   But the incentive to reproduce after hearing that was long gone.  Who needed that grief and aggravation?   Not me…at the time.  

A few years ago, I decided to choose my family, because the family I was born into wasn’t going to last forever.   And I have to admit, since September 3rd, 2013, my reproductive options have been pretty limited!   My chosen family is awesome-sauce.  It changes from time to time, as families do, but I have some great people in my life.  Sometimes I meet them through comedy, sometimes I meet them through my strange life – but they are there and I can’t thank them enough!

Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio

And the tour continues…

Cassi Cunningham, Mark Cunningham, and The Princess of Parodies

Cassi and Mark Cunningham

Wednesday, August 13th – drove to Sylvania, OH to spend some time with friends, Mark and Cassi Cunningham.   Cassi and I went shopping, and then I had a lovely dinner with her and her husband Mark at a fantastic Italian restaurant called Ciao!   It was delicious!  I am a cheese ravioli connoisseur, and that was some of the best I’d ever had.

IMG_1297

Part of my father’s tombstone.

IMG_1308

Bernie and Jan

IMG_1304

Aspen

Thursday, August 14th – after saying goodbyes to Mark and Cassi, I headed to Berea, OH, where I was born and raised.  My father is buried there, and a trip to this area would not seem right if I didn’t pay my respects to my first comedy mentor.  Then, it was on to North Royalton, OH to stay with our friends, Jan and Bernie, and their golden retriever, Aspen.  They are always fun to hang out with!  We had dinner at TGIFridays, and then lights out!

IMG_1345

The Cleveland skyline!

IMG_1399

Cleveland skyline at night, with The Terminal Tower in rainbow lights

Friday, August 15th – I spent the day running errands and doing laundry.  Jan and Bernie got home early, and they took me for a ride on their boat downtown Cleveland.    WOW!!!  The last time I had been on Lake Erie was on The Goodtime 2 (or 3), in 2002.  Their is nothing like the Cleveland skyline to me.  Every time I come to Cleveland, EVEN IN THE WINTER, I have such good feelings and memories about my hometown.  The three of us had dinner at The Edgewater Yacht Club, and then to the dock for a moonlit night.  The Gay Games were in town, so The Terminal Tower was lit up in rainbow lights!

Saturday, August 16th – Saturday, I headed over to Wickliffe, OH for a corporate show.  I couldn’t check in to the hotel until 3pm, so I amused myself at a nice joint called The Local Tavern.  Great portobello mushroom, grilled onion and goat cheese burger – pretty fancy for a local joint!   After checking in to the hotel, which yikes, had seen much better days, it was time to set up and prepare for the show.  The show really well – and I got some new fans.  :)

Sunday, August 17th – it was back to North Royalton, OH for a few more days with Bernie and Jan.

IMG_1421

Aunt Rose and Uncle Steve

Monday, August 18th – I had lunch with my Aunt Rose and Uncle Steve at Rockne’s…it was so great to see them.  Spent the afternoon working, and then prepared a healthy pork chop dinner for Jan and Bernie.

IMG_1434

Nidal, one of the owners of Funny Stop. My sister from another mother.

IMG_1435

Shawn Boyd, longtime Cleveland comedy buddy

IMG_1438

Sally Sinclair, Bill and Christine Snyder

Tuesday, August 19th – left for Cuyahoga Falls, OH to begin the first of my 7 shows at The Funny Stop.  I love this club!  I think of Funny Stop as my Ohio comedy family.  Tuesday is always open mic night.  It’s fun to see comedy in its’ infancy.  Young comedians with big hopes of making it big – each struggling to find their way down this humerous rabbit hole.  “We’re all mad, here!”  ~Lewis Carroll, from Alice in Wonderland   I received many compliments on “The Princess of Parodies in 25 minutes or less” show.  Yikes – I haven’t done 25 minutes since the last time I was here in January.  It was great seeing my Cleveland comedy brother Shawn Boyd, Cleveland comedy favorite Jeff Blanchard,  Funny Stop owners Pete, Tony and Nidal, Nick, and their wait staff…one of the best wait staffs in comedy!

Wednesday, August 20th – spent my time between the hotel room and Starbucks doing all those menial computer things you never have time to do at home…emails, sorting photos, and following up on those “non-urgent, non-important” things.  The show last night was fun, because long time family friends Christine and Bill Snyder, and Sally Sinclair came out!   They were in the antique car hobby with my parents – and it’s always nice to see familiar faces when you’re so far from home.

Thursday, August, 21st – I managed to sneak away to The Akron Art Museum – wowsa!  What a building and fun exhibits, IF you’re into modern art (which I am).  One of my favorite classes in college was art history, and I’ve always loved the creativity of the artist, and the more creative way their art is justified being in that exhibit by an “enlightened” art critic/historian.   So – here I am at Starbucks…awaiting Thursday night’s show…and calling this a wrap!!!!!

Brooklyn, MI

Greetings from Brooklyn, Michigan!  My adventures continue…

IMG_1201

Tang Dongbai dress in blacklight

IMG_1200

Tang Dongbai dresses in blacklight. In regular light, these dresses are white.

Wednesday, August 6th I left my grain silo in Bloomington, IL, and headed for Douglas, MI, home of comedian and comedy booker Jerry Donovan.  But on my way, I saw a billboard for the WallDog Mural Museum…and found myself turning off the highway and heading into Pontiac, IL.  I found the WallDog Mural Museum in a cute little town square, and wandered in only to discover “WallDogs” were those guys that painted the big billboards on sides of buildings and barns.  My father was a huge “Mail Pouch Tobacco” barn fan, and was always pulling over to take pictures of old Americana.  He left behind quite a collection of pictures and Mail Pouch memorabilia when he passed.  Also in this museum, were some white dresses by an artist named Tang-Dongbai, who does beautiful airbrush work.  When you turn on a black light, the plain white dresses come alive with a special ink that activates in blacklight.  I think I’d like to get a corset specially made for me, with music notes airbrushed on it.  I kicked around Pontiac for a few hours, had lunch, and then onwards to meet Jerry and Sarah for dinner.  We had a great time…and then I went back to his houseboat where I crashed for the evening.

IMG_1212Thursday, August 7th I spent some time on Butler Street in Saugatuck.  My goodness, there is some serious shopping to be done there!  In order to keep from blowing tons of cash, I spent much of my time at Uncommon Grounds, on the computer.  I had an “egg bake” there, which is “like” a “quiche” but I don’t know why the hell they don’t just call it a “quiche” instead of an “egg bake.”  Damn Hipsters!  Another cool shop I enjoyed was Swell Times.    They sold all kinds of pop culture and retro stuff.  Best of all, they played a CD from a guitar rift driven band called Man or Astroman.  THEY ROCKED!!!  I bought a few things and went on my way.

That night, my first show in the area was in Grandville, MI at a place called The Whisky River Saloon.  What a great place!   The audience came to have fun and everyone had a great time that night!  I was their third show – and I hope they’ll stick with it because it’s a room with some great potential!

Friday, August 8th I started my day having breakfast at Chequers.  They have these breakfast tacos that were to die for!  And they were $5 for 2 of them.  Then I headed out to Oval Beach for some rest and relaxation…

until…two moms and their 3 kids decided they wanted the same quiet spot I had, even though they were incapable of being quiet…grrr… so I hung out there until Noon and then headed back to the apartment I was staying at.  Jerry came by with comedian Kevin Kramis, and shared stories from the road.  Kevin is just an awesome guy and I hear he’s funny as hell.  I hope to catch his show someday!

IMG_1249Show that night was at the Black River Tavern in South Haven, MI – the FIRST FRIDAY NIGHT South Haven show ever!  They’ve been doing comedy on Saturday nights for awhile, but those were consistently packed out so they added a Friday night.  Food at The Black River Tavern is really good!  The crab cakes are about the best I’ve ever had.  The show went really well…that room was ready to party!

Saturday, August 9th was a housekeeping day.  I needed a few things at the grocery store and I needed to do laundry.  Next door to the laundromat, was a nail place so in between wash and dry cycles, I got a much needed manicure and pedicure. IMG_1259 I think I’ve only had 5 pedicures in my entire life – so what a treat that was!   Back to the room to catch up on emails and journaling, then back to the Black River Tavern for show #2.  Again – a fantastic venue and an audience that was ready for a great time!  It was also nice to meet Brian Corrion, owner of the Old Comedy Club in Naples and there to do a guest spot.  It’s a shame I had to meet someone who lives 2 hours from me in Michigan!

IMG_1258I so enjoyed working with Jerry Donovan.  He’s not only very funny, but he’s also a class act and has a great mind for the comedy business!   He does everything he can to make sure his rooms are run right, from booking the right comedians, to educating the wait staff, to making sure there are butts in seats.  I met him by chance on the Michigan leg of my January tour working for The Disgruntled Clown.

Sunday, August 10th I headed to Brooklyn, MI to go camping with friends I met while doing a New Year’s Eve gig in Livonia, MI in 2010.  It was great catching up with them, and I’ve so enjoyed the great outdoors for a few days.  Unfortunately, it rained all day yesterday, and then it dipped into the low 60s today so I had to buy a hoodie and a blankie.  It sure smells a lot like “fall” for mid August!  Tomorrow I visit friends in Sylvania, OH – then who knows where next?  All I can say, is that it sure was great catching up with all of them when I got here Sunday.  I am truly blessed to have all these wonderful people and experiences in my life.

St Louis, MO – day 2

Me with pink elephant

Me with pink elephant

Well, another banner day for me in St. Louis!  I went to visit the Scott Joplin House.  Wow!!!  I began playing Scott Joplin rags when I was about 13 or 14.  When I got hired to play background music for children’s plays, I’d often use Scott Joplin rags for scene changes and intermission.  I heard Scott Joplin played at antique car events my parents attended, silent movies…and of course…I used to dance to the soundtrack from the movie, The Sting.  Everyone would ask “Can you play The Entertainer?” and of course I could…then I’d throw in The Maple Leaf Rag.  The Pineapple Rag and The Ragtime Dance were my favorites.  And learning to play Scott Joplin’s music took time.  Break down the jagged rhythms in the right hand.  Practice the constant shifting of the left hand.  Then practice with hands together…SLOWLY.  And when I finally got it with my hands together…it was the best feeling a 14 year old geeky music girl could ever have.  Until I discovered boys, anyway!

When I saw the sign that I was minutes from Scott Joplin’s House – my heart raced and I knew I had to go.  I’m so glad I did!  The home was nothing spectacular.  In fact, none of his furnishings are in it.  He only lived in this particular home a year or so.  But jazz was king in the neighborhood, and many other great songs were born blocks from here, including Frankie & Johnny, and The St Louis Blues.  Below is a video of me playing an old player piano.  The rag is one of Joplin’s lesser known rags but one of my favorites, Solace.  The tour guide selected this piano roll over others, and I’m so glad he did because it’s the first time I heard it played with the Mexican flavor it’s supposed to have.

Afterwards, it was time for lunch and I was told to get Imo’s pizza.  It wasn’t bad, it wasn’t great…but it was all I needed to get me on my way.

Imo's PizzaImo's personal pizza

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After lunch, it was time to head to Bloomington, IL where I had made arrangements to stay overnight in a grain silo.  But on the way, I went past Livingston, IL…and saw this marvelous roadside stop, known as Pink Elephant Antiques.  They sell all kinds of stuff inside an old gymnasium…unbelievable amounts of goodies and treasures to be found there!  When I grew up, my parents were ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS stopping at weird places hunting for treasures.  The weirder the better!  All I could do was laugh…the genetic code was cast.  :D  When I got into comedy, my first jokes were about my strange travels.  I’m the only person I know who’s been to both the Hare Krishna Temple of Gold in New Vrindaban, WV…and to have shook “stumps” with The Wild Mountain Man in South Dakota, who carved the alphabet in a pencil…with a chainsaw.  You might remember him on “That’s Incredible.”

On the way to my silo – the Princess Pilot had an auto b-day.  Happy 200,000 miles!

IMG_1187

 

I finally get to the silo – and here is where I wrote this blog from.  My “silo” is behind the tree.  It’s awesome – and my hostess Heather is a delight.  We had a fantastic dinner at a restaurant called Medici’s.  It was in Normal, IL – which is probably as close as I’ll ever get to Normal!  I would definitely stay here again.  I’ll have more pics of the inside tomorrow.  So…what a lovely day it has been!   More surprises are in store for me, I’m sure…and I hope they’re all wonderful discoveries and memories like the ones I had today.

IMG_1192 IMG_1193

 

St Louis, Missouri

The Princess at the top of the Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri

The Princess at the top of the Gateway Arch, St. Louis, Missouri

I had forgotten just how much I loved to visit new places and take pictures!  It seems like it has been forever since I went somewhere new, even though it hasn’t.  I had a few days in between my gig in Hattiesburg, MS and South Haven, MI so I decided to spend them in St Louis, MO.  I think the only time I’ve spent in St. Louis was for a connecting flight.  In any event, I so enjoyed my time at the Gateway Arch on August 4th, 2014.

The Gateway Arch is 630 ft high.  Construction on the arch started on Feb 12, 1963.  It was completed October 28, 1965, then opened to the public on June 10, 1967.   The tram ride up and down is 3-4 minutes, and in a little car with 5 seats.  Being a solo traveler – I could hop on any time.  I shared my ride up with a guy and his 3 kids, ages 4,6 & 9 I’m guessing.  Halfway up, he asks the kids what are they going to do if the tram gets stuck.  And then he decides to point at each of his kids and say stuff like “not enough meat on your bones.”  “You’re going to taste sassy.”  Oh great!  Being stuck in a little tram car with a potential cannibal is not exactly how I envisioned my day.  And then I realized – if our tram does get stuck…I’m not “family” and could easily feed all three of them.  Thank goodness we made it to the top!  At the top, you find yourself stuck in a narrow hall way with 100 people all fighting to look out about 20 teeny tiny windows.  There are ledges to lean on to take your pictures, and when you look down the hallway, all you see is a gaggle of butts from all over the world.  My icy, cold heart went out to the poor park ranger, who probably became a park ranger to save wildlife and prevent forest fires, but found himself inside the top of a national monument for hours on end looking at asses all day.   After 10 minutes of this non-sense, I got the perfect selfie and 2 decent shots of the 30 mile view, then headed back down.  I shared my tram car with a lovely Turkish couple and their 2 sons.  Luckily, they didn’t offer to feed me their children should the tram get stuck.

At 4:30, I hoped on The Riverboat Tour, which was enjoyable as well.   My boat was The Tom Sawyer, and I enjoyed hearing the history of the site told by a St Louis native in his midwestern drawl.   The boat staff was taking pictures of every one as the got on the boat, which is awkward when you travel by yourself.  What am I going to say when I show that picture to others?  “Oh…This is me, traveling by myself, AGAIN, because I’m a stand up comedian, didn’t get enough love as a child and thought I could make a living getting drunk strangers to like me in 30 seconds or less.”  It’s all the creepy narcissism of taking selfie…no need to add the pathetic Love Boat pre-cruise selfie to it.   Anyhow – I enjoyed myself, and St. Louis immensely.  I’ll hit a few more places today, before my next stop this evening…sleeping in a refurbished silo in Bloomington, IL.