Genuinely the funniest moment of my life (up until that point)

I’m 13 years old, I’m on the couch at home, and I am HORIZONTAL with laughter. Laughing so hard I’m crying. Laughing so hard I can barely breathe.

On the screen, a man with glasses is leaping about, saying things like, “can you imagine the sheer joy of an empty bin in your kitchen, a new fresh bin liner in the swing top bin? It’d be like a bin in heaven, wouldn’t it?”

What i don’t know at that tender age is that, for the first time in my life, I’m watching observational stand-up comedy.

I love it more than I’ve loved almost anything else I’ve ever seen.

The routine was by Ben Elton on his show The Man From Auntie. It’s still on Youtube (and still holds up) on re-watch, I was once again crying laughing. His delivery! The physical stuff! The fact that he seamlessly brings the point back to politics at the end! How you can hear people SCREAMING in the audience!] And while, yes, I was being introduced to Ben Elton and to stand up in general, what I was more specifically being introduced to was one of my favourite concepts in comedy AND presentations, which is…

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One of my favourite EVER pieces of art (5 mins long)

A Youtube screenshot of Christa Couture and bekky o'neil's movie How To Lose Everything: A Field Guide. An illustration of two women kneeling

“This is what I know – first your heart will break…

You will start by staying in bed. Being awake is the first and hardest thing to get through. You may ache every minute of the hours in between the relief of sleep. The ache will overwhelm you at times. The ache will press on your chest so hard it will be difficult to move. The ache will shake through your body in uncontrollable sobs. The ache will numb you to all feeling. The ache will want to break things. The ache won’t care what does break.

Try to wait.”

The first time I read those words, in early 2020, I was in my home office, tears streaming down my face.

That quote is the opening of the final part of the final chapter of How To Lose Everything by Christa Couture — writer, musician, broadcaster and, co-incidentally, my co-parent (which is how I got to read such an early copy). The rest of her book is a memoir, each chapter about a loss she experienced (cancer; amputation; abortion; death; death; divorce; more cancer — she’s had a few). She is a INCREDIBLE storyteller; she has this gift of being able to show you these really, really hard things, in a way that doesn’t pull you under. One of the reviews of her book talked about how the reviewer didn’t want to read the book at first — too sad. But when they did, they found that it “is actually uplifting.”

The part I want to tell you about today — the part that starts with that passage above — is not the part where she’s telling stories.

right now, your not having clicked display images is denying you a picture of BOOBIES

That might seem like a strange choice, given that I’m supposed to be writing here about how to tell stories. But it’s because this passage — on the page, and on the astonishingly beautiful animation that has just been released on YouTube — does the MOST IMPORTANT thing that our stories do. The thing that I think about every time I even talk about this passage (and, inevitably, cry).

It says, to the right people, the four most powerful words in the English language:

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How to tell a good ghost story (3 essential components)

As Rico is talking, I think, Oh I am SO glad I said yes to him running through this with me first!! I’ve been doing my live storytelling show — True Stories Told Live Toronto — for 10 years. It’s currently on 4-5 times a year, but there’s one show in particular that I look…

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I beat myself up about this for YEARS

Standing at the streetcar stop, David smiles down at me and I smile back. But the pit of my stomach is clenched. I know today is the day I have to say something. **in a rush? In a VERY RARE MOVE, I’m running an open-to-the-public storytelling workshop *THIS* Weds Sep 27th 12–2pm ET (with replay…

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The most terrifying pee I’ve ever done (+ a review of Laura Belgray’s memoir)

A couple of months ago, I had one of those moments where you have to sit yourself down and give yourself a talking to.

“MARSHA.” I said to myself. “You are a FORTY-SIX YEAR OLD WOMAN. With a reasonably successful career. From the outside, it looks like you have a WILDLY successful career. People like you! They find you charming! Stop responding to this situation like you’re in your twenties with zero life experience!!”

When I was in my twenties, I was working as a radio DJ and A&R (new music) scout. This meant I spent a lot of time at radio, comedy and music industry events. There were conferences, where the heads of the stations would be schmoozing. There were late-night stand up gigs where That One Off The Telly would be stood at the bar. Then there were the music gig aftershows, where the indie band of the moment would be hanging out, being fawned over by anyone that managed to get into the party.

I hated all of those events.

I mean, sometimes I loved some of them. But mostly I just felt totally stressed out. Trying to talk to the exec, the comic or the band — even if I knew them! Even when we were old friends from before they got famous! — was a matter of hovering a few feet away, waiting until it was your turn to be spoken to, and always feeling like a fangirl. But equally, not trying to talk to them felt like wasting an opportunity. Arg!

My second career — as a Storytelling coach and trainer — has been mostly online. This has meant almost ZERO stressful events like this, other than industry conferences where, usually, I’m one of the speakers myself. But last month, I was faced with the same feeling as in my twenties:

I was going to…

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When you’re an expert at something, you ruin it for everyone

Reading the spines of the CDs in Mike’s bedroom, the thrill of anticipation I’d been feeling slid, instead, into confusion.

He and I had been dating for a couple of weeks. In London terms — certainly, in the mid-2000’s — that meant a lot more than it does these days. I often joke that when I lived in the UK, rather than dating, it was more like we had arranged matches — except, instead of the matches being made by your parents, they’re made by booze. You’d get drunk and then wake up in a relationship.

The getting drunk that Mike and I had done happened at a new bands live showcase. Like most of the people I dated when I worked in radio, he was in the music industry. An A&R Scout, it was his job first to go out to gigs every night looking for new bands to sign, and then to have opinions on the records being recorded for release. I was a radio DJ at a well-respected indie station. I liked him for his trifecta of being charming, funny and hot, but I can’t say I wasn’t also romanced by the idea of us being a junior-level, music industry power couple.

The first time I picked him up from his house before a gig, I was excited to look through his CD collection. Would we like the same bands? Would I learn from him about new bands I’d soon love? Would I find any guilty pleasures?? It was often my favourite part of any new relationship.

But as I flipped through the titles and artists, I was…

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Why the first 30 secs & the last 2 mins of anything are the most important parts (aka how to rescue a very public disaster)

DJ woman playing music at a bar

Standing in the booth, looking out at the ten people awkwardly dancing in a space that was built for 400, I felt sick.

I’m about to tell you one of the most important pieces of information I know. Then I’m going to tell you the rest of that story in order to prove it’s true and to help you hold it in your brain (because that’s what storytelling does!).

Here’s the fact:

The most important parts of any talk, blog, presentation or podcast is…

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How to… run great workshops; switch to doing work you love; get testimonials and more — YYQ #13 Review!

Repair Center Sign

Yes Yes Questions is my quarterly live advice column, that anyone can join for free. The questions I answered at the last one (and in this blog/recording), are:

1. When running a workshop, what are the most essential elements to make it brilliant?
2. Do I have to prepare before I speak on stage?
3. How do I brag about myself online without feeling like I need a shower afterwards?
4. Do you ever feel like you have too many stories to tell, and do you have a formalized process to choose which ones you tell?
5. “Content batching:” do you do it? If so, how?!
6. How do I go from doing work I *don’t* love that brings in money, to doing work I DO love that also brings in money?
7. What’s the best way to get testimonials from happy clients?

The next one is next Monday, April 6th at 2pm EST and you can come along and get free coaching by popping in your details on this page. But in the meantime, listen to the audio of the last one (where I answer all those questions) or read on!

1. When running a workshop, what are the most essential elements to make it brilliant?

Almost all of the time, it depends on…

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If the “END OF THE DECADE LET’S REVIEW AND PLAN!!” messages are bumming you out

two pencils on a yellow background

This one might not apply to you. Or it might land right where you need it to.

You know everyone online at the moment is all, “OMG END OF A DECADE LET’S REVIEW THE LAST AND MAKE GOALS FOR THE NEXT!!!”?

If you love that stuff — as I have sometimes (and as my pile of completed yearcompasses will prove) — then awesome. Get on with your bad self.

But if, every time you read something like that, it makes your stomach tighten a little…

– maybe because you don’t think you have time to do that
– maybe because you don’t feel you achieved enough or have changed enough in ten years
– maybe because you’re currently in survival mode and have zero capacity for reflection or planning

…then I just want to remind you that…

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How to make yourself my instant best friend

woman signing at a stage

Sitting in the audience, I was having wrestling conflicting feelings.

The woman onstage as belting out a number from the musical “Chicago” — one I haven’t seen, and am not particularly keen to. She was a little off-key. And LOUD. I felt like I should have been cringing, embarrassed for her and hating it… but for some reason, I wasn’t. Why wasn’t I?

It was my third night at Camp GLP, a Summer camp for grown ups. When I saw the sales page, what sold it was the talent show. The camp I went to as a kid had one and it was always the highlight. Skits where we sent up the staff, little jokey routines, maybe someone reading a poem. But this was different.

One after the other, attendees from the camp got up to sing. Some of them were knockout. Some of them really weren’t but, for reasons my brain was struggling to understand, they didn’t look embarrassed about it *at all. Being British, I felt like I should have been convulsing with awkwardness on their behalf.

So when I wasn’t, I looked to my left at my new friend Sam. An Aussie, she and I had been hanging around a bit the last few days. I whispered to her,

“Why don’t I hate this?”

She laughed back and whispered, “It’s because we secretly love Americans. If this had been an Aussie or Brit talent show, it would have been 10 rugby guys in drag looking embarrassed. Instead, all these people onstage are totally committed. They really mean it!”

“So?”

“So I think we secretly admire their self-confidence. Because we could never pull that off.”

And I thought, OMG.

Because, when she said that, two things happened…

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