The comedian tells The Strand about her favourite performances, industry tips and her time at Vic
Ann Pornel is part of Second City’s Mainstage company. She is a graduate of the Second City Conservatory Programme, Musical Conservatory, Bob Curry Fellowship, and the University of Toronto! The Strand sat down with Ann to learn more about her.
The Strand: What was your first entry into comedy? When did you realize you wanted to be a comedian?
Ann Pornel: My first experience of doing live sketch comedy actually came at Vic. In my first year, a bunch of people living on my floor (5th floor MargAd, WHAT UP) were auditioning to be in The Bob, and invited me along. I wasn’t doing anything else, so I went with them, got in, and went on to do The Bob every year in my undergrad and directed it the last two years of my university career. Victoria College is singlehandedly responsible for getting me into comedy—so thanks, Vic!
What are your thoughts on the comedy “scene” in Toronto? Is it difficult to “make it” as a comedian?
Compared to other cities like Chicago, the Toronto scene isn’t very big, especially in sketch and improv, but it’s certainly saturated with incredibly talented and funny people. Whether or not it’s hard to “make it” depends on your definition of “making it.” Going out, doing shows, hanging with cool people? Yeah, it’s definitely easy to make it. Getting paid and making money off it? Less easy to make it. But if you work long and hard enough, and you’re not a total dick to people, chances are you’ll find a couple of jobs here and there. If you have a fall back plan, you’ll probably quit after a few years because jobs don’t really make themselves available to you. You have to create your own content, keep doing shows, get good at everything: writing, acting, improvising, producing, because you’re your own boss and no one’s gonna push you to do anything except for yourself. It’s a grind, but there’s more and more places to get stage time: Second City, Comedy Bar, Bad Dog, Social Capital. Also, the Toronto sketch and improv scene have some of the nicest, coolest, and supportive people around.
What has been your favourite performance to date? Can you tell us a bit about it?
I have two favourite performances. The first one happened a few months ago at Second City when I found out Kevin Pillar, of the Toronto Blue Jays, was in the audience. I was told five minutes before the show started and I immediately started crying and was hysterical until curtain. Did I have the show of my life because it was in front of one of the best centre fielders in the game? I don’t know, but we got to take a photo with him after the show and he was even hotter in real life than you’d think.
My second favourite was at Comedy Bar with The Sketchersons in our show, Sunday Night Live. Kevin McDonald, of Kids In the Hall, was the host, and, while I was with the troupe, I had a re-occurring sketch called “Wash Ya Ass,” and it was a talk show where the hosts tell people to “wash they ass” if they smelled bad and I got Canadian comedy legend Kevin McDonald to say the words “Wash ya ass”—huge highlight.
Your website describes you as “Glam Pornel”: what is the significance of glamour to you?
To me, being glamorous is just being super confident and owning who you are, because there’s nothing more glamorous than self-love. To be a comedian, you have to have a certain amount of ego because going on stage every single night and revealing yourself to your audience can be a very humbling experience. There will be some nights where they love you and everything you do and say is hilarious, but there are some nights where the audience just isn’t feeling your vibe or they straight up think you suck, for whatever reason. A healthy amount of confidence can pick you up on those types of nights, but also take you a peg down on those super hot nights too. I also think it’s important to be dressed better than your audience. I could weave a blanket that would cover the world with all the plaid shirts and dirty jeans I’ve seen in improv and sketch shows—do better, everyone.
Also, I have a huge problem with spending my money on clothes, makeup, nail polish, hair, and anything with glitter or jewels. Please send help.
When can we catch your next show?
You can catch me eight shows a week, every day except Monday, performing in “Everything Is Great Again” at the Second City!
Do you have any sage advice for young artists/comedians/actors?
Work twice as hard as you think you need to work and don’t be an asshole. Seriously, no one will want to work with you if you’re a selfish, lazy, dick.