Phil Rickaby
Welcome to Episode 236 of Stageworthy, I’m your host Phil Rickaby. Stageworthy is a podcast about people in Canadian theatre featuring conversations with actors, directors, playwrights and more. My guest this week is Carly Heffernan. So how are you doing? Are you? Are you getting by? Alright? You know, I don’t know about you. But I started really strong in this social distancing thing, but now I’m starting to struggle a bit. I’m starting to miss hanging out with friends or meeting for coffee or just seeing people or going out for a meal or seeing people. And it’s starting to really get to me but then I remind myself that this is so important and that it’s necessary for our health. But you know, that doesn’t change the fact that as the weather gets warmer, I’m wishing that I could go out and Do things and it’s starting to hit home that we are going to have a summer without the fringe, or without summer works or without the dream in High Park and so many things that make living in Toronto and other places in Canada, so livable and so wonderful and so magical. Which is why when we start being able to go out and meet each other again, I suppose that the most important thing for us to do is to, to greet each other warmly and to smile and to embrace and to be thankful that we made it through and then next year, we’ll be epic.

A while back, I had the producers of the playmate podcast, Laura Mullin and Chris Tolley as guests that’s way back in Episode 113. For those who are looking for it now, play me from CBC podcast is proud to present a new series, The show must go on for Featuring exciting productions from some of Canada’s top creators, including Hannah Moszkowicz. Drew Hayden Taylor, David Yee, Chloe Hung and Anna Chatterton. Each month. Enjoy a new show from the comfort of your own home. The theatres have closed but the show will go on. You can subscribe to play me wherever you get your podcasts.

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So I was just asking, like how you’re doing so and you respond to that you’re doing great, which I think you’re the only person that I’ve spoken to since this started who said great.

Carly Heffernan
I made a real sort of promise or deal with the devil and myself. When this started, I said I was gonna try not just survive but thrive. I think I’m doing a pretty good job Phil to be honest.

Phil Rickaby
Okay, okay, so you’re gonna I mean, you’re gonna have to give us a little bit of of, of like, How How are you? Are you doing that?

Carly Heffernan
I know and all of its legal that’s what I’ll start with. I promise you the legal way, but honestly, I’ve used the time so far to do a number of different things, you know, and, and that big bucket list things but the name of the road bucket list things fill. I’ve been trying to get in better shape humblebrag I’ve lost 20 pounds since we went into quarantine.

Phil Rickaby
Uh, wow. I might have gained that much.

Carly Heffernan
Sometimes people find what other people lose. That’s just how fat works. This is

Phil Rickaby
true, this is true.

Carly Heffernan
But it’s shocking the difference. Oh, it’s like a mirror really reflecting yourself hardcore once you go into quarantine and just the amount that I used to and who knows probably will go back to as soon as the economy’s reopen up. But the amount that I eat out at restaurants and fast food and drive thru, and I’ve just cut all that out. And we do have a lovely dog and nine year old mix here in the house, and I’ve been watching him more regularly than I usually do. Walk him at least twice a day now. It’s made a huge difference.

Phil Rickaby
I mean, having a dog to walk does does help because you can sort of lose yourself in the dog’s exuberance about everything.

Carly Heffernan
Oh, 100% I mean He there are a number of silver linings to this quarantine that we’ve all been living in and one is the pets are living their absolute best lives. I mean, I’m not gonna lie to you that’s nine years of separation anxiety training just down the toilet, Phil. Oh, yes, yes.

Phil Rickaby
I heard somebody say that that when this starts to end we’re gonna have to retrain our dogs to like be able to exist without us.

Carly Heffernan
100% Well, literally, it’s just my dog now believes this is the way it was always meant to be. He was right the whole time. This is a superior way of existing family together 24 seven more walks more belly rubs more.

He’s living in excess. He feels like a king I swear to God

Phil Rickaby
I’m sure he does. I’m sure he does. And and in among all that. One still has to get some work. Done.

Carly Heffernan
Oh, yes, absolutely, we have to. And I mean, I’m sharing the home with my husband. And we’re both working pretty full time. And it is amazing how I mean, I always had a home office. And now I don’t feel my husband has completely taken over the home office. And the rest of the house is my office. And that’s just a curious sort of little bit of aftermath of all this.

Phil Rickaby
That’s interesting how that happened that you had the office and then it was it was commandeered?

Carly Heffernan
Yeah, I think he works better with thick thick blinders on. It’s a narrow – he needs something to help him narrow his focus where, you know, this natural woman’s intuition, multitasking, I can do it from anywhere really can.

Phil Rickaby
It’s interesting because as somebody who for my day job I would go into an office every day. It has been a learning process learning how to work from home. Which is something that I always avoided. I always I’d done it a couple of times and knew that I did not do it well. And now I have no choice. So it’s like, what are the things that I can do to trick myself into being able to work from home? And I start by putting on shoes, and I get dressed and I put on shoes every day.

Carly Heffernan
Oh, 100% I’m wearing shoes right now feel huge. Spoiler alert. I mean, they’re vans, but they’re still shoes. That’s the thing. You couldn’t be more right. I remember. I remember. A Queen’s grad go gales. And I remember taking Gosh, some sort of like, learning seminar at Queens. I think it was an extra curricular type of jam. And it genuinely said that you should create spaces in your home that are not at all associated with work or at that point, you know, studying sort of these relaxation and safe spaces. And you weren’t supposed to associate work with it. You know, the bedroom was for relaxing and sleep…uh there’s fun stuff that university kids are up to.

Now, now I’ve had to throw that and it always worked well for me hmm I don’t work in the home either go to the office, I work at second city so I go to second city, or you know, I do it 99% of screenwriters do and I go to the local Starbucks and I use their Wi Fi for seven hours while I write one scene for one and now they’re all out the window the dining room table is my office. The living room is my office. The basement sometimes is my office. They’ve the lines have blurred

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, I do think that there’s something about like a saying that you should have a space in your in your living area that is work free if you are work from home person and many artists are assumes that you have the space for that.

Carly Heffernan
I know right? We’re, we read the Washington Post, recent article that was like you know what, here’s a tip go to your guest room and pretend you’re at a hotel. I’m like, who’s got a guest room? We’re all in Toronto.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, I’m like I’m like I you know, I just upgraded about a year ago from a bachelor. So that’s I still don’t have a lot of space. So let me go to the guest corner of my bachelor

Carly Heffernan
100% most of us can stand in the middle of our home and see the entirety of the home you can see your rooms that exists and and they’re usually divided up just by like an Ikea bookcase or something. So be nice in Washington.

Phil Rickaby
Absolutely. Now, you mentioned that you’re you know, you’re working at second city and and I wanted to talk about how Second City is dealing with you know, this everything.

Carly Heffernan
Yeah, well, well, absolutely. I mean, the majority of our businesses still live in person shows that is that is absolutely. The bread and butter of Second City was before Coronavirus and I fully believe we’ll go back to after it. But we have made a massive shift to online programming, online learning. Our training centre was the first to go fully online. And that was a really natural and seamless shift. They were already looking into before Coronavirus, having more online offerings, because we’ve got our training centres in Los Angeles, in Chicago and Toronto. But there’s people all over the world that want to learn from the second city and in the second city style. So that was sort of already in the works. It just had to fast track Fast Track exponentially. So to be honest, that was really natural. And I, I have been teaching online and I’ve got to say this is another one of the silver linings before this pandemic. Rarely does my schedule ever allow me to teach. It’s actually been quite a few years since I’ve had time to teach. And as soon as this kind of hit, I thought oh my gosh, I think I think I could squeeze a couple classes in. And so I immediately signed myself up for the classes that I was looking to teach premise generation helping people develop ideas for sketches, because a lot of us do have this extra downtime, what a great time to write, to get together those writing packages, to write your first pilot to just work that writing muscle. And I’ve got to say they’ve been fantastic. The feedback has been amazing. It’s It’s you, it’s exactly as you said about putting shoes on to make it feel more like I’m going to work well having something scheduled that you know that you’ve got it, you’ve got it, you know, hopefully put a comb through your hair and put at least the top half of you at least needs to be dressed properly. And you know that you’re going to go and you’re going to interact with other human beings. I mean, it becomes a highlight for people It really does.

Phil Rickaby
Now, one of the things that because my way back when I was at a very serious theatre school, it was important that we would be in the room, there would be no talk about. And I can imagine that later on as time went on that we would talk about, as as you know, video conferencing got better. It would be unthinkable that you could do an acting class online. But now, we don’t we don’t have that option. So I wonder how what does an improv class look like when you’ve moved it online when you no longer have the in the room, face to face, breathing with each other thing going on?

Carly Heffernan
Oh, well, it’s actually amazing. You know, because what it feels like is it feels like a different medium, all of a sudden you’re improvising for TV and film. So things become a little bit more real, things become a little bit more subtle, things become a little bit more nuanced. And when you’re doing that, you can actually connect deeper and you can connect more fully. Here’s a really interesting thing that I have found since we’ve been improvising online. It’s way better for some people. Some people come To us at second city because hey, somebody at the office said they were funny, or they just got a love for comedy. They, you know, grew up on Monty Python or SNL or sctv. Want to try it out, but they don’t have years of theatre training, as you say they didn’t go to a serious theatre school like us. And they didn’t the diaphragm and they didn’t train the body, how to move on stage and know upstage and downstage and stage left and house, right. They don’t know all that. But if you’re telling them just to react, honestly, to their computer camera, well, they can do it. Mm hmm.

Phil Rickaby
And I guess that that’s that’s sort of been a barrier when somebody comes from a non theatre background when they when like you say some, their co workers said they’re funny, they should take classes and they show up and they’ve never done it before. How do people often in that situation, come with a lot of stage fright or they come in with confidence and then they get stuck. trade or how do what how do people come to the classes

Carly Heffernan
always? Oh, it’s so funny in all shades of the rainbow is that they come for sure at all ends of that spectrum, you’ve got some people that are coming in just absolutely full of gusto. And to be honest, you have to crank it down a little bit. It’s, you’re like, Whoa, the energies a little bit too much for the stage for the classroom, just for the whole world. And then and then the exact opposite is what you can find as well. I think that the most common is, is the sort of like mean and the sort of medium. Wow, I really don’t know math terms. Well, I don’t know why I tried to pull that out of my back pocket. Th e most common would be a little bit of nervousness. But then as you get that first laugh, and you have your first laugh, enjoying what someone else is doing, it really starts to fall away quickly.

Phil Rickaby
Mm hmm. And so what kind of classes have moved on, I Guess everything is moved online. So if somebody was thinking I guess there’s no chance for taking any classes at Second City right now has the whole have all the classes completely moved online?

Carly Heffernan
Yeah, a hundred percent. There are there are so many interesting classes, you can take a class online with Second City right now in improv, you can take in a musical improv, you can take writing, you can take stand up, you can take public speaking. And you can take a whole plethora of new classes that have been tailored just to this online existence that we’re all in. I’m actually currently teaching a class right now called let’s make a show online, which is all about creating sketch comedy that is specifically meant to be performed live on a zoom platform on an on a streaming platform. That’s so cool. We’ve never done that before.

Phil Rickaby
And I as as some, you know, if you’ve never done that before, I’m curious like how, how do you put together a class like that if it’s something that hasn’t really been done? Are you learning on the go? Or, or?

Carly Heffernan
And 100% I’ve got the benefit that I’ve been working on our we’ve got an online series of improv shows called improv house party. And we performed Tuesday nights we performed tonight. Oh got a show tonight. That’s our girls night in show. And then on Saturdays we have improv house party. This is short form improv mixed with some pre taped bits that will and segments sometimes it’ll feel a bit like late night mixed with improv. And we’ve been doing that now for about three weeks, almost a month now. It’s been amazing. We’re still doing exactly what we were doing in the theatre, which is so unique to Second City is that you know, breaking the fourth wall, connecting with the audience and letting them actually shape and participate in the show. Yeah, it’s absolutely trial and error. But what we have found now we’re in a bit of a groove humblebrag the audience, the audience is having a wonderful time in our chat feature. That’s where they’re giving us that They’re suggestions, which we’re taking and incorporating into our scenes. That’s where they’re giving us their paws there lol, all their energy, which is fantastic. And then we’ve also been able to bring people up as we say, Now, you know, in the theatre, it’s, hey, we’re going to bring it up on stage. Now it’s, hey, we’re going to bring it up on screen. And just last week, we had an amazing mother and daughter, who were watching the show from Colombia, and we brought them up on screen and they participated in the scene was as it was absolutely fantastic. And to be honest, something that would not have happened if we were live in our theatre here in Toronto.

Phil Rickaby
True, true. Now, when all of this broke, when everything when the toilet paper hit the fan, so to speak, and everybody freaked out and everything got shut down. There were a lot of questions about like, how do we move forward and and, and what happens? How long did it take second city to decide how it was going to approach this?

Carly Heffernan
Well, it’s great question. Because it honestly felt quite quick. And I was doing I was sort of working on two projects. So I was also on a TV set. While this was sort of breaking, and we were really looking at the time to really look at the data and really trying to be honest to look at what what was our government telling us to do? And it was only about I think we closed our theatre, I think one or two days before Trudeau came out and said, Okay, we’re, you know, this is a, this is a state of emergency, the border is going to close and Doug Ford came and said, okay, Ontario is in a state of emergency, because they had kind of just been, oh, just leaning towards it. Oh, here’s a new recommendation, maybe no more groups of 500. Okay, well, now no more groups of 250. And we’re like, okay, okay, well, we’ve got it. Safety has to be first and foremost. And, to be honest, I think I was in the theatre for our last show, and then because the audience dictates as well, the tickets sales go back people looking, hey, maybe Can I can I move my ticket? I’d like to come see the show in another couple weeks when this is all blown over. Yeah, you know, and so the house sizes started to get smaller and smaller and that and that was a great sign as to Okay. Well, the public is not feeling safe. Let’s, let’s definitely take a hiatus here at the very least. But I do remember being in the theatre for our last show. And you know, in Toronto, we’re a theatre that sits about 300. And there were probably only about 70 or so people in the theatre that night, and that was a Saturday night. So it’s very, very rare. And everyone was spaced out. So everyone was feeling safe. And I do have to be honest, it was really incredible energy. Because everybody felt like they needed to laugh. Like as soon as the show started, all the nervousness went away, all the fear went away. And it was just this beautiful comedic catharsis of everybody sharing interesting moments of lightness and levity, because that is what we turn to a lot of the time in times of crisis is we’re looking for comedy. We’re looking for For a way to laugh at what is going on to laugh it off Really?

Phil Rickaby
Well, at the time that this was that this all started wasn’t like Toronto sketch fest going?

Carly Heffernan
Yeah. Oh, They finished that festival right under the wire.

Phil Rickaby
Cuz I remember going to see a couple of a couple of performances down into the theatre centre. And we were already people were already sort of like doing that, like eyeing each other and trying to spread out and it was very awkward and strange.

Carly Heffernan
Yeah, and I totally agree with you. And it’s like, you can feel that tension. I remember being at the theatre. I also remember being on set and we we were on set shooting, and on Friday, we had wrapped at one location and said, you know, great, oh, this was wonderful. See everybody on Monday, we’ll be in our new location. That’s gonna be so exciting. And one of one of the crew members went to hug me and I had a little knee jerk reaction was like, Oh, I don’t I don’t think we should have Right now, and then like, oh, sorry, yes, of course. But I think I was being a little overcautious at the time at least I felt like I was. And then by Monday, I mean, we were not shooting. They shut down production. Things went quickly that weekend.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, I work I work in my day job in the events industry. And our company had had instructed us if we’re going to an event or we’re meeting with a client, we are not hand shaking to the elbow bump or the foot, shake the foot tap, do the foot tap. I didn’t even feel comfortable with the elbow tap. I was like, let’s do the foot tap. But like that was we started that about maybe a week and a half before everything shut down. And even It was kind of like, half joking and also half like, let’s be careful, because nobody knew anything.

Carly Heffernan
Oh, I agree. And when you’re in, you’re probably you know, you probably still had a spectrum of people with that spectrum of opinion. Some people saying like, No, we really have to take this seriously. I’ve been watching what’s happening in Europe right now and I’ve and then you probably also had the people that are On that other end of the spectrum, they’re like, this is absolute BS. This is all going to be over. As soon as the weekend is done, come on. And and I think I always land somewhere kind of in the middle. Yeah, just kind of want to be that medium the foot. I’m not gonna lie to you. I’ve never heard of anybody doing the foot tap. And think I’d fall over. To be honest, I think that’s even more dangerous for me

Phil Rickaby
I don’t know, it depends on your balance, but I kind of like the foot taps. Keep your hands in your pocket and tap one foot, just just to shake hands. But I know the problem with the elbow is we cough into those

Carly Heffernan
100%

Phil Rickaby
I mean, for the events industry, it was very much like you might have been feeling like it’s no big deal. But as soon as events start getting cancelled yesterday, you have to take it seriously.

Carly Heffernan
100% and as a as an artist, you know, I mean, everybody and you could see him it was all over social media, as everybody’s gigs started to get cancelled. You know, I was gonna do a show over here. The stand ups were like I was gonna do a show here. People who had plays that We’re coming up and they runs a place that just sort of getting cancelled, cancelled, cancelled, cancelled, cancelled. And it just started to get further and further out. And then everyone thought, Okay, this is Yeah, this is far more serious than maybe we initially thought.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah. And I was watching you know, you’ve got your friends who were, you know, there, maybe they don’t have a show. But you know, when you coming up and they work in a restaurant, well now. Now that’s gone too. And so, like, it’s a tough time for everybody to try to make things make things work. Now, you can answer this or not, but a second city is able to continue paying their their employees and their performers. For for the work they’re doing.

Carly Heffernan
We got our faculties all completely paid still. And a lot of our performances, what we’re actually doing is basically, we’re kind of performing in this really interesting and odd space where it is very experimentations and so we’re kind of you know, living in that that really fun. varium zone, which is, which feels very natural for improvisers, a lot of us are, is unfortunately used to getting paid in beer and pizza. So and you know, we also want to be very mindful that, that anything that the company offers doesn’t, you know, exclude anyone from what the government is offering to Mm hmm. That’s kind of something that we have to watch. To be honest before what I found so much from our performers, is, yeah, listen, we can all use a little bit of scratch right now for sure. But it is genuinely the performing and performing with other with other improvisers with other comedians. That is the highlight of it that that is truly what makes it worth it. The thing I hear the most after we do a show is Thank you so much, because for 45 minutes, I really forgot that we were in a crisis. I really forget I really escaped.

Phil Rickaby
That’s pretty awesome. Yeah. It’s interesting because talking with You about the way that second city is doing its classes and its shows is very different from hearing about how people are trying to do their theatre online. Because Theatre in itself requires a room with an audience and things like that. And it’s hard to translate that to a zoom conference, especially when we haven’t been writing for zoom.

Carly Heffernan
And I mean, so we’re so lucky because we’re improvisers and what do you do in improv is you literally you make it up. And you change it based on what the audience is saying, based on what the world is saying. We’re also a house of satire. So our whole job when we are creating our sketch comedy reviews is to look at the world around us and reflect it up onto the stage. Well, now we’re looking at the world around us and reflecting it up onto the screen. So for us, it feels very natural. You really have to, I believe, I think even if we if we were doing Shakespeare, honestly Even if somebody said, okay, Carly, you’ve got to put this fabulous King Lear has got to go on zoom. Okay. You have to reimagine it. Yes. reimagine it, it cannot be, you cannot think that you’re just pointing a camera at a stage with stage actors. That’s not the medium anymore. So you’ve got a shift and you’ve got to reimagine, and shape it to suit the new medium that we’re in. Mm hmm.

Phil Rickaby
Now that we’ve talked a little bit about how Toronto is dealing with all of this, but there are other Second City companies, are they doing the same as Toronto?

Carly Heffernan
Yes, absolutely. They are. So we have Chicago which is another one of our residents stage, second cities. It’s also the home. It’s the birthplace of it. And then Los Angeles is primarily a training centre. Dylan is doing a really cool improv show on online as well Thursdays at two o’clock eastern one o’clock. Central, which means that’s 11am Pacific. I’m learning about times. Oh, wow, very fun for me. It’s called the really awesome improv show. And it is our TV show. This is a show that is for families. And it’s really, really fun. And to be honest, this show is free. So I know that a lot of parents are having a hard time out there right now. Nobody ever thought they were going to spend this much time with their kids. In fact, amazing. Canadian actor and comedian Jonathan Turin’s, very early on, tweeted that he became my father. So when he first became a father, everyone told him, it’s going to go by so fast. You really have to cherish it, Jonathan, like it’s gonna go by so fast. And he just said, well, none of them ever anticipated this. So if you feel like you need an hour long break, where you can pop your kid in front of the computer or in front of the TV, and have them do honestly, interactive improv, which is so good. For their imagination, it’s completely interactive so they can pop their suggestions into the chat again, they can be brought up on screen to asking the kids to do a lot of the really fun activities that they themselves are doing on screen. This is a fabulous way to hopefully, hopefully give parents a bit of a break.

Phil Rickaby
Hmm, indeed, especially right 11 o’clock as they’re starting to get into that hangry for lunch zone.

Carly Heffernan
That’s right. I’m not a parent. So I was like, I don’t understand a child’s schedule. I really don’t. I’m barely awake by 11am.

And I will say that’s been a really cool thing, actually just bringing up Chicago, Los Angeles in Toronto. For a lot of these online shows, the girls night in show in particular, we’re working with our cast members, all all of the cast members that we have been working with on that show so far, have all been alumna of a show that we do live called she the people and that cast has been done in Toronto. So I rather that show has been done in Toronto, in Chicago, in Washington, DC in Boston. And so we have cast members who join us every Tuesday night from all over the place. And all of a sudden, we’ve got these amazing international casts, and they’re so happy to meet each other and so happy to improvise with each other. It’s again, it’s one of the silver linings that I’ve been able to find in all of this.

Phil Rickaby
Hmm, that’s amazing. Now if we could I would like to talk about your journey to coming to Second City what you will say you mentioned going to going to Queens, did you intend to be a directing improv shows or to be involved with improv when you went to theatre school? Absolutely not. I wasn’t an insane person. Come on.

Carly Heffernan
I had applied to teachers college for UBC and fully intended to be an English teacher. It was a nice which is done. Thank you to all our teachers who are teaching online these days but I genuinely, I ended up with a I was I was at Queen’s for Political Studies for one hot year. And then I was a constituency assistant for an MPP. And I was like, whoo, this is this is brutal. I don’t like this. But I always had a love for politics. And so I kind of switched over to English language and lit and drama switches and natural out of politics. And, and I really did fully intend on going to teachers college because I just thought, you know, a career in the arts seemed like such a dream to me. I was a little bit from more of that. That way of thinking of like, well, there’s there’s only one Meryl Streep and she’s already out there. But I had her who encouraged me to try to try acting, to be honest. And so I thought, well, geez, like, okay, I’ll go and I’ll try it in Toronto for a year and I can say I was so lucky. I was doing a show at the terror gun and we went to Second City is like a bonding night. I saw that was the first first time I’d ever been to a second city show. And I loved it. And I went home and went online and saw that they were having auditions for their conservatory programme. I auditioned, I got in, and then immediately after Conservatory, I got hired to the touring company. It was all very whirlwind. To be honest, it worked out very, very well for me very lucky.

Phil Rickaby
I want to there’s a few things I want to unpack there first first question is, so you went you you had an eye for politics. At first you were that was going to be your career. What time did you decide on politics and had you been doing theatre before that?

Carly Heffernan
They had? Yes, absolutely. I had I had a pretty good singing voice to be honest, from a very early age. So what you do with a kid that can sing is you shove them into musical theatre immediately. So I had done so much musical theatre in elementary school and high school was never It was never a dancer though, so so knew that I wasn’t going to be Broadway. And then once I got to Queens, I found a couple of shows there’s so much self producing and student producing queens. Honestly, it’s a great programme to use huge plug for Queens University of right here. It is, it’s a great programme. And it gets you the gifts you’re really used to what it’s like to actually come and try and be an artist in a city and self produce. There’s a show there called queens players, and it’s pretty raucous. It does involve some drinking, but to be honest, it’s basically sketch comedy. And it was the first time I had ever done anything that was even remotely close to sketch comedy, and I loved it. I still didn’t even know what to call it though. At the time. I was like, Yeah, I guess this is kind of like Saturday Night Live, but it’s on stage and there’s more drinking or less drinking depending on what era of Saturday Night Live, you’re watching but I still didn’t think that there was a career there. You know, there’s not a lot of there’s not a lot and I do hope we remedy this to be honest, you don’t learn comedy as an art form in when you’re growing up and, and even then even with the higher art forms with with music and with dance and with theatre, there’s still kind of thought to be these long shot career paths. And then comedy is the shape of the mall. Yeah, just hadn’t crossed my mind and it wasn’t read. Honestly, it wasn’t until I saw proper professional sketch comedy in a theatre with beautiful lights and talented performers that I thought oh my gosh, it can be a job it really and I just followed it. I just followed it so hard after I saw it, I was hooked instantly.

Phil Rickaby
So when you were when you when you before all of that when you were looking at at politics, how did somebody say you should go into politics? What made you think that politics politics was going to be the thing you wanted to do?

Carly Heffernan
Oh my gosh, it was hilariously oh man who’s gonna hear this but here we go.

My father is very political. But we have very Opposite political opinions. And we’re pretty much inverse in versions of each other to be honest, politically speaking. And so that that was really inspiring to to cut it maybe in a combative sort of way to be honest. All of the mind, of course, all of the mind in terms of combativeness. So, I was also pretty wide eyed, like most youngsters, I really wanted to make a difference. I knew the things that I was passionate about quality. So it was all it was all that idealism that I really wanted to explore. And then honestly, once you get into the practicals, of politics, and and seeing what our municipal politicians and provincial politicians do on a daily basis, who it can be, oh, it’s difficult, but it’s very, very hard work is very difficult. And there’s you know, what, there really is only I believe this two fields in which you will never ever please everyone and one of them is the arts and the other one is public. Thanks. So I still was a difficult field, we’re still gonna make some people upset. But the really interesting thing for me about starting in politics and wanting to be a politician when I listen, we all want to be the first elected female Prime Minister of Canada. We all do. I’ll tell you, all those young gals that were like getting in there, but I want to elect it, I want to get elected and for sure, that’s a dream for a lot of young Canadian women for sure. The beautiful thing about Second City it’s comedy. Absolutely. It’s satire. It’s satire is extremely political. It is a bit you know, capital P political, it is socio political. Its identity politics. It’s all in there it that theatre company took all the things that I had liked growing up politics, drama, English, because you write in you improvise and create your own material for the stage. It genuinely combined them all. It’s I can’t believe that well, it worked out

Phil Rickaby
huh, huh? Yeah. And and at some point, actually After that, you know, when you were when you were looking at you, you decided that politics is not your thing. So you went into theatre, which is great. Did anybody try to dissuade you from that at the time?

Carly Heffernan
No, you don’t want very lucky actually that that there was only one thing that my dad

my dad once said to me every once in a while he would bring this up. Okay. Well, I was very young. I was in high school in Beltsville, Ontario. And I was on a radio interview, because I was in the crucible. That’s the play we were doing, like every when, in 13, or 14 year old wants to do the crucible. Arthur Miller love it. And so I was being interviewed. And they asked me they were like, what do you want to be when you grow up? And I swear, I panicked, and I just thought, Oh, you gotta sound smart. And I said, paediatrician. Never Never once did it cross my mind, but my father heard it. And every once in a while you go I thought you wanted to be a politician…

Phil Rickaby
Oh my God.

Carly Heffernan
So proud if I was a doctor. Oh, it’s so funny.

Phil Rickaby
When you first came to Second City, what was your I mean, you saw your first live improv show. What was what did you know about Second City at the time that you went there?

Carly Heffernan
Okay, here’s my other one fun story is that I really didn’t know too much I knew about sctv and I knew the really really famous alarms. I knew the Catherine O’Hara’s. And from Chicago Second City and you know, the Tina Fays, the Steve Carels, the Keegan-Michael Keys, so I knew I knew the biggies the broad strokes of it. I had also while I was at Queens, we were doing a project in which we had to sort of model a hypothetical theatre company after a real Theatre Company. And so we were supposed to connect with a producer or someone in maybe a GM at a professional theatre company. And we were supposed to model left that get information from them and for our projects, and I had reached out A second city and no one ever got back to me.

Phil Rickaby
Oh,

Carly Heffernan
No really My. And I told my executive producer about that years and years later, which was very funny, he’s like, I don’t think I ever got an email. I was like, Yeah, probably not. I literally probably sent it to like a spam email. I didn’t know. I was 20 years old. I didn’t know anything.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, what would you know what what would you know about that?

Carly Heffernan
What would I possibly know about who to contact about your annual budgets for your sketch comedy theatre. But those are the big things. I knew that famous alum. I knew that they had not written back to me. So I really had both ends of the spectrum a little Yin and Yang.

Phil Rickaby
You know, I remember when I started Theatre School in Toronto and one of the early within my first year, I remember because I you know, I grew up watching second cities watching sctv. And, and seeing those greats. And so I would occasionally on the news, somebody would talk about the the old fire hall. And so I was in the at the discord of the time that the old firehouse was still a second. City venue. And I remember going there and I remember I saw some afternoon improv. And I just remember going there and it sort of felt like going to church for a second, I think because I had grown up with, with with that, and, and, and knowing that all the old fire hall was where they all came from. And so it did feel a little bit like, like going to church and like there was a certain reverence that that I had going there.

Carly Heffernan
Oh, yes, 100%. It feels sacred, right. And you, you know, most of our theatres, you cannot, you can still go back into the green rooms. And you can see, you know, with circle, you just literally call the wall and that’s what it is. And it’s signed by all the alum or special guests who then came and saw the show and they just read these amazing messages. And sometimes they’re super inspiring, and sometimes they’re just funny and sometimes like, I have no idea what that means. But it’s the amount of talent that has walked through those buildings and been on those stages is her If I mean, come on, it’s awesome. Yeah,

Phil Rickaby
absolutely. Well, I mean, it’s always interesting when you would when you would hear about somebody going from Second City to something like SNL, for example, like I’m Mike Myers and all of the people that came before that, who went from Second City to run when I was, I think, because I’m Canadian. I always noticed the people who went from Second City, Toronto, to SNL. And that’s sort of like the Oh, that’s the path. You think that’s that’s how it goes is you go you start there, and you go there.

Carly Heffernan
Oh, yeah. I mean, we’re always so proud of our Canadian talent. I’m, I’m so proud of Canadians who have gone and just been on the second city, Chicago mainstage. Because that in itself is a very few select amount of people. Laura Nash, who, shockingly is from the same town as me, we were both just so weird.

Phil Rickaby
Could I just stop for a second from Bellville?

Carly Heffernan
Yeah.

Phil Rickaby
I’m from Bellville.

Carly Heffernan
No, you’re not. You’re from Bellville.

Phil Rickaby
I spent the first 10 years of my life. in Bellevue, my dad taught at the Sir James Whitney School of the Deaf for the first 10 years of my life. So

Carly Heffernan
I went to Humber College, which is right by there.

Phil Rickaby
So funny. That’s funny.

Carly Heffernan
All right. Lauren Ash is also from Belleville. And she, she did. She was in she was in Facebook reloaded is the first mainstage review that I ever saw a second city in that review, and I was like, Wow, she’s so talented. And then she went on to do Chicago Second City. She did a couple months in there. Now she’s on NBC superstore. She’s big famous celebrity. Hello, Belleville!

Phil Rickaby
yeah. Um, now, as we continue into the social distancing situation that we’re in, and theatres around the country are sort of announcing how they’re dealing with it with, for example, is Stratford cancelling their season and Mirvish productions announcing that they would not be starting their season until January And things like that how, what does this mean for a second city is? Is, are you? Are you going to find ways to put your your mainstage shows online in some way? Or what do you think that looks like as this stretches, but for a long time before we can reopen our theatres?

Carly Heffernan
Yeah, 100%. I mean, we’re very much living in that zone right now. And the number one priority has to be the safety, it really does have to be the safety of the public and the safety of our performers. So that is, you know, the driving force behind all the decisions that we will make. However, we also do want to create satire about what’s happening right now. And so there might be some sort of hybrid way where there’s some sort of live aspect. There’s some sort of pre recorded aspect to these shows, you know, we’re seeing what SNL is doing at home that’s all pre recorded and edited. But we still want to have that magical aspect of Second City, which is happening live in the moment that we’re in incorporating the audience into it. So I can see a bit of a hybrid, to be honest, that’s where that’s where my gut tells me that we’re leaning so far. And then, and then, you know, even when we do even when the restrictions come off, I think that hybrid might continue in a way in terms of how we consume this medium, I think we might find the safe ways to come back into our theatres, but also try and maintain this online audience and online presence that we’re that we’re cultivating right now. Because there has been something really special about having international viewers at all these shows, having people tuning in from Brazil and Colombia and England, New Zealand, from from genuinely everywhere, across the globe. That’s been really cool. And so if we can kind of keep all the positives from the experience that we’re in right now, mash it together with the positives of what we love, where we came from, and genuinely create something new and innovative. That’d be the best way to do it.

Phil Rickaby
Yeah, that’d be pretty amazing. I always think I think cuz we always want this to be over Right, you know, all of us who are stuck at home and there’s no theatre and all of this sort of stuff we would like it to be over. And then I start thinking about when we start thinking about reopening our theatres, when do we know that our audience is ready to come back?

Carly Heffernan
Well, 100% they have to tell us and and everyone is unique. You know what I mean? Some individuals are going to take a longer time to feel comfortable in the theatre again, and others are just chomping at the bit I’m

Phil Rickaby
sure

Carly Heffernan
some of them are protesting in front of Queens Park.

Phil Rickaby
They want their they want their haircuts.

I’m sure its theatre that their after, satrically.

If only it was If only it was. There is that that idea though? If you move too quickly, there used to be a time when a cough in the audience would not incite panic.

Carly Heffernan
Well, exactly. Well, I would in the performers because they were not doing a good job to next

Phil Rickaby
Yes, yes, yes, but you know, please would not panic because they heard somebody Cough at the moment, if we were to open too soon, there would be certainly a lot of panic 100 from that,

Carly Heffernan
it has to be cautious. It has to follow the science it has to follow the recommendations of the people who have the most information. So I agree with you wholeheartedly. Interesting to the, again, in sort of trying to cultivate what this hybrid is between these online shows, and being live back in the space, you know, for there is absolutely no majority, what am I talking about, but but a solid, you know, portion of our population across the world where there is no going back to normal either for mobility issues, underlying health concerns, where they’re consuming their theatre, they’re consuming their art, always in this online fashion. And that’s another great silver lining that we all have to step our game up right now. And we want to make sure that we’re providing the best possible entertainment online for people that this is the normal

Phil Rickaby
Absolutely, you know, I was I was reading a little bit about the 1918 flu, and how, you know, although we’ve never quite like this, but we, you know, things were shut down, and the theatres were shut down and the movie theatres shut down. And eventually, they did come back. So I sort of take solace in the fact that we’ve shut the theatres for a pandemic before. Yeah. and reopen to them. And they started to thrive eventually.

Carly Heffernan
Yeah, I agree with you. I I’m full of optimism. I start I started this interview off great. And yesterday. Great, Phil. I think we will come back and I think I think we’ll come back. I think we’ll come back stronger, and again, more innovative. We will all learn from this. We have to there’s no other way to go through times of crises, but to learn from it. So I think I think that we are going to come back with a renewed This is going to be setting Interesting. Yeah, we’re going to be a little bit more cautious. I believe that. But I think it’s also going to mean so much more to us when we are in these spaces together when we are consuming art together. I don’t think we’re going to take it for granted for a while. I think it’s going to be really special experiences for us. And that’s really cool.

Phil Rickaby
Absolutely. I’m totally looking forward to the first time that I can sit down in a theatre and watch a play again,

Carly Heffernan
right. Oh, man, I was asking. My husband is the executive producer at second city. And I was like, Can I go to the the theatre? Just like sit on the stage?

he said No then we have to whipe it all down.

Phil Rickaby
Yes. Oh my god.

Carly Heffernan
You’re right. You’re right. You’re right. Always Always.

Phil Rickaby
Now, one thing that I’ve been asking people lately when they come on is in all of this. It can be there’s a lot of anxiety that that everybody is experiencing and there’s there’s so much uncertainty But we’re all have those things that we’re holding on to that are giving us joy. So what is the thing that is most giving you joy

Carly Heffernan
right now? Honestly, it’s that I still get to create. I’m still creating comedy in this wild west of a world that we’re living in. And that’s bringing me all the joy. Also a little bit of wine and some good music, right? It never hurts.

Phil Rickaby
Hmm, does not hurt. Carly, thank you so much. This has been a wonderful conversation.