Archive for January, 2020

Again with the reading: 2019

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

This year brought a long commute, which I was not (and am not) a fan of, but I will say, it did allow for some quality reading time. And of course, even time I wasn’t killing was sometimes spent reading, because, well, yay books!

Without further ado, here’s what I consumed (in order) in 2019:

  1. Americanah, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  2. Calypso, David Sedaris
  3. Becoming, Michelle Obama
  4. The Hate U Give, Angie Thomas
  5. The Circuit: A Tennis Odyssey, Rowan Ricardo Phillips
  6. The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives, Leonard Mlodinow
  7. The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid: A Memoir, Bill Bryson
  8. The Comic Hero’s Journey, Steve Kaplan
  9. The Sopranos Sessions, Matt Zoller Seitz & Alan Sepinwall
  10. The Personality Brokers: The Strange History of Myers-Briggs and the Birth of Personality Testing, Merve Emre
  11. Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed, Lori Gottlieb
  12. The Valedictorian of Being Dead: The True Story of Dying Ten Times To Live, Heather B. Armstrong
  13. Gingerbread, Helen Oyeyemi
  14. Normal People, Sally Rooney
  15. Charlie Savage, Roddy Doyle
  16. I Love You, Nice To Meet You: A Guy and a Girl Give the Lowdown on Coupling Up, Lori Gottlieb and Kevin Bleyer
  17. Someone Who Will Love You in All Your Damaged Glory: Stories, Raphael Bob-Waksberg
  18. Stay Sexy & Don’t Get Murdered: The Definitive How-To Guide, Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark
  19. Mrs. Everything, Jennifer Weiner
  20. I Miss You When I Blink: Essays, Mary Laura Philpott
  21. Veronica Mars: The Thousand Dollar Tan Line, Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
  22. Educated, Tara Westover
  23. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Gail Honeyman
  24. The Queen: The Forgotten Life Behind an American Myth, Josh Levin
  25. Veronica Mars: Mr. Kiss and Tell, Rob Thomas and Jennifer Graham
  26. Three Women, Lisa Taddeo
  27. The Friend, Sigrid Nunez
  28. Fleishman is in Trouble, Taffy Brodesser-Akner
  29. Range: Why Generalists Triumph in a Specialized World, David Epstein
  30. Nice Try: Stories of Best Intentions and Mixed Results, Josh Gondelman
  31. Had It Coming: What’s Fair in the Age of #MeToo?, Robyn Doolittle
  32. Batman: The Long Halloween, Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale
  33. Wanderers, Chuck Wendig
  34. Semicolon: The Past, Present, and Future of a Misunderstood Mark, Cecelia Watson
  35. Spider-Man: Life Story, Chip Zdarsky & Mark Bagley
  36. Patsy, Nicole Dennis-Benn
  37. It’s Garry Shandling’s Book, edited by Judd Apatow
  38. Wild and Crazy Guys: How the Comedy Mavericks of the ‘80s Changed Hollywood Forever, Nick de Semlyen

20, 19…

Sunday, January 5th, 2020

I’m not going to lie (particularly since I’m not sure anyone but me reads this): 2019 was not a great year for me. I feel like I spent much of it in a light-to-heavy funk. Partly because the world is burning, and the likelihood that my life will now end in some kind of camp seems to have gone up considerably. But on a more micro-level, several changes at work also combined to drain joy.

The move across the city added two hours of transit to my days, and the fact we moved from downtown to an industrial park upped the bleakness. Also, my best work friend went away, and the writing staff was reduced from three to two, meaning each day is a slog just to get through. Lastly, my fantasy that new owners would mean the obvious impediment(s) to improvement would be addressed proved idealistic; and while it’s nice I still have that muscle, it’s now bruised.

Long story short, I spent a lot of the year feeling tired. And so, it feels like there’s more I could’ve done.

That said, I still have many blessings, and I want to remind myself (and anyone else who might be reading) that not all of them will be recorded here. My weekly rituals include a family dinner on Sunday nights and basketball on Wednesday nights, and both bring me great comfort. Movie nights at Robin’s continue to happen with regularity, making me feel like I’ve got a “crew”, Food Trucks got together enough to make me feel I’ve got a “band”… and hey, bimonthly blood donation makes me feel like I’m putting good into the world.

But of course, the name of this game is highlights. So here are a few.


I feel like this first post of the year anticipated what was to come pretty well!

I joke, of course… but honestly, this Mensa calendar was a really great thing for me. (Thanks, Renee!) Even if it was just for five minutes a day, I got to feel smart… and that’s a good thing.

Evan and I go to see ‘A Kevin McDonald with an Evening’ at the Rivoli. He remains one of the most naturally funny people ever (Kevin, not Evan, who’s just okay), and he’s certainly got stories to tell. (The Shrink 2020!) And Bruce McCulloch opened for him, allowing me to make this post:

Huzzah for technicalities!

Okay, this is just a POSSIBLE preview of things to come. I still haven’t really decided. But I do make this joke, which I like:

A standup joke, perhaps?

Later that month, Evan and Jen take the family to see The Play That Goes Wrong. I think the moral is that when I tell people I don’t like farce, they should believe me and not argue that the one they have in mind is different. Still, a nice thing… and I did like the farce episode of Party Down, so I guess there is at least ONE exception!

And finally, a post no one much cared for, but I still feel there’s something there, and since it will continue to come up…


I take part in a genetic research study, where for a full day, every three hours I have blood drawn and have an MRI. I think I mostly did it for the experience and the story (even though the previous sentence is basically the story)… and the money helped.

Pete takes me to a DGC event where I learn all about Star Trek: Discovery. Neat!

Two tweets, one in which I get excited about something that turns out not to be a big deal, and one which I think is funny, regardless of its reception!

And later in the month, the Oscars. I believe I tied with Mom in the family pool and won the pool at work. I *work* in the industry! (I don’t really. It’s just a fun thing to say.)


Puns meet politics!

And since the world isn’t making me any less cynical…

After years of us all chanting it and only me having seen it, I invite a group of friends over to watch Barton Fink! (Simpsons’ fans will understand the chanting.) The movie is not the biggest hit (and as a writer, Ian may have felt a little targeted), but the night is a delight.

I play squash with Hillary, then a few days later with Evan. They’re my first squash games in forever. As I write this, I realize I wanted to play more, then didn’t. But hopefully I will!

A pretty low-key birthday. I assume, because I can’t actually remember. I guess it’s an important one in the Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy sense?


After months of making us wait, Toronto Pho opens around the corner from work. A very welcome addition… though this decorating choice evokes a dark laugh on the inside every time I see it…

I lose at March Madness once again, this time to a four-year-old. Which would be embarrassing enough, but he also beat us all when he was two.

I take this picture to commemorate the time I passed muster. (Yes, me dumb!)

I see Go on the big screen, possibly for the first time. Twentieth anniversary, so I guess I’m old?

I also see Jen do standup (for what I think was her first non-class show) at Dawn Patrol. Though I’m a little intimidated by how good she is right out of the gate, I start wondering if it’s something I should try. At this point, I’m still wondering… but I’ve also started compiling and organizing, so it’s more than speculation. Guess we’ll see what happens in next year’s post!

Passover happens. Details are lost to memory and lazy research, but this is kind of funny, right?

After years of having insurance and basically only using it for dental, I have an optometrist appointment. (This’ll pay off later. Kind of.)

And then late in the month, a bunch of nerds go to see Avengers: Endgame. I liked it… and them!

The Hershfield men catch Buddy Guy at Roy Thomson Hall. If anyone ever assumes based on the name that he’s a made-up blues man, well, now we can confidently say he exists!

Tim Burns is nice enough to meet for lunch and talk ‘the biz.’ Though my momentum feels largely stalled on that front, it’s always good to stoke the coals.


At long last, a mini-vacation. Evan and I spend a long weekend in Halifax/Dartmouth to celebrate Brad’s birthday. I don’t know what I would do if I moved there… but I can see the appeal. Anyway, here are a few pictures, one for the Archer fans and one for the medium-old-school SNL fans. (And yes, the party had a theme.)

Loose cannons! Also the party was at the Mic Mac AAC, which I mention mostly because it’s a very specific regional reference I will have to drop at some point.

Later, in the month, I go from visitor to host. First, there’s a McGill reunion when Sam Sewall swings through (always a good time). A few days later, Dave is in town, and I show off some Leslieville, including the Saulter Street Brewery and the Broadview Hotel rooftop bar. Classy!

Game of Thrones ends. I could rant some, but I’ll leave it at this:

Then Larry’s 70th. Because Grandma is in poor health, the big party is cancelled… but we will not deny ourselves schnitzel! Also we realize that since the price of a wiener schnitzel has been creeping up, the cost of a wooden platter for two is actually a little less than the cost of two schnitzels. I think you know where this is going…


Ian (the one from work) has his annual BBQ. Since the move, we rarely all hang out, so it’s a nice little refresher.

Having renewed my friendship with the lovely Jenny earlier in the year, I am invited to watch The Bachelorette with Tom, Lindsay, and her. Though I will have to repress my natural instinct to eeyore, it is fairly habit-forming, and a nice new ritual. (I mean, I check in and out, because you easily can until the end… but still, I am forever invested in Hannah and forever headshaking at Luke P.!)

Moving on…

Ian invites me to see Ghostbusters in Concert, with a ticket Jason couldn’t use. (Thanks to both!) We meet up for drinks beforehand, and I arrive first, which is when this happens.

But to be clear, the highlight is this:

Social media continues to be good and bad. But it does seem like I have some feelings about it…

Anyway, within a week of that, THE RAPTORS WIN IT ALL! I haven’t mentioned it, but obviously, I watch A LOT of basketball in the months leading up to this, and it’s all pretty glorious. My personal highlight from this all happens in December (Stay tuned!), but for now, I’ll just say this:


Also cause for celebration: Jason and I follow through on our plan for an East Toronto Brew Pub Crawl! I helped quite a bit, but most of the credit goes to him. With ESPECIAL credit for commissioning this incredible map/itinerary!

There’s actually a version with times on it and everything, but since that one includes his home address (where we had a Mortal Kombat tourney after breakfast and beers at Louis Cifer), this is the map I’m sharing. A very intoxicating day, and thanks to flights, dozens of beers are sampled! (Though I haven’t been back since, Rorshach blew my mind.)

Okay. Putting in a transition sentence between paragraphs, because sadly, near the end of the month…

My Grandma Vera passes away. At age 96, and following several years of mental decline, so very mixed feelings. Still, never easy to lose someone who you love and who loved you. She’s also my last grandparent, and while it’s crazy that I had one into my forties, I can’t help but realize the next losses will come from the next generation… and that’s very bracing. At any rate, I am reminded of her constantly, not just by our similarities, but by a little shrine to my life I have in my bedroom.

That’s my intramural hockey sweater (Go, Rez Dogs!), a bra that was a cast gift from the first play I directed, and a sweater my grandma knitted me. Though I’ve got some good years ahead of me, knock on wood, it reminds me I’ve had a life, and there’s been some love in it.


I see James live in concert. For some reason, it’s not as exuberant an experience as I was hoping for, but I do love that band and they’ve still got serious chops. Also, Sean is there with his daughter, and it’s her first concert, so that’s a pretty cool moment. That said, when the choice was between a ride or seeing the Psychedelic Furs finish their set, I pick the ride. So make of that what you will. At any rate…  James!

For her birthday (though not ON her birthday), Evan, Jen and I take Mom to the Science Centre to watch Superpower Dogs on IMAX. Though I do find myself distracted thinking about someone who used to work there, I focus enough to get reinforcement on our family’s wise decision to be dog people!

Fringe happens. I hope I saw more plays than I can remember (the years blend together!), but I know I saw the Lauras, because I remember thinking that was funny. Specifically, I saw Laura Anne Harris in Destiny, USA, and Laura Bailey in Clitoria. Both very good, and reminders of my fringe theatre glory!

Though I am not technically in a show, I DO get a black eye at basketball around then, and get to spend a few days pretending I’m in Fight Club.

Around that time, a visit from Becky! This was a long time coming, as we haven’t seen each other in YEARS, since my last visit to New York. (Where she no longer lives.) Though bad weather takes some of the shine off things, I drag her all over the city, and we talk and drink a bunch. She’s someone I’m very glad to know, and I am already looking forward to our next reunion. (Hopefully in America, though I’m waiting for sanity to be restored.)

The day after my Becky day, I see the new Second City revue Walking on Bombshells and hang out post-show with my buddy Chris and old showmate Stacey. The day after that, drinks with Jess. The day after that, I see Into the Spiderverse with Ian. The day after that, basketball. The day after that, a movie night at Robin’s, where I believe we watched Trading Places.

I mention all this because I think that’s about as social a stretch as an introvert like me can manage! Kudos to all involved for being people I can spend time with!

One last thing for July. The family went to Sunset Grill in the Beaches (yes, plural, rebranding exercise be damned!), as we’re wont to do, and I noticed something interesting about the omelette prices. I’ll give you a second to see if you can spot it on your own.

Give up? (Or “Get it?” I don’t want to presume you didn’t.) The vast majority of omelettes are cheaper if you “create your own”. The Green Omelette by a full two dollars! So I guess the question is, how much is it worth to you not to be “that guy”? In my case, the Sunset Omelette, it was worth the fifty cents.

Okay, I lied. One more thing for July, just because I made myself laugh:


A reunion a LONG time in the making! Over a decade! Joanna comes to town, and I am reminded of the wonder that is old friends: so much changes, so much remains the same! As an aside, it may be my lack of kids AND moisturizer, but I always feel like I’ve aged the least personally and the most physically. For the latter, judge for yourself.

I manage to get onto another downtown rooftop for some cool people drinking. At least once a summer, whether I want to or not. And I almost always do!

Of course, days later, our parent company has us over for drinks and some BBQ on THEIR rooftop. Mind you, we’re basically their hillbilly cousins from the sticks, welcome only because our women are hot. Or maybe that’s just my take. Regardless, I live up to that understanding by stuffing my face then running off early. (It was a basketball night!)

Anyway, here’s an August post I quite liked. (I’m also sharing it because the hilarious Josh Gondelman just made a similar joke on Twitter, and while it’s parallel thinking, I want it on the record that I thought this thought first, so I can maybe use it in standup. That’s how this works, right?)

Then it was cottage time. Back to the Armstrongs again, and a good, laid-back, light-on-guests time had by all.

One funny thing: I burned a pair of pants. Intentionally. When I was getting my wedding suit, Evan’s friend Matt gifted me a fancy dress shirt, on the condition I burn the pants from my original suit. (The fit offended him.) In what is either a touch of karma or a touch of irony, the pants from my NEW suit have gone missing. Which is bizarre. Hopefully, they’ll turn up, but either way, I watched my ‘pants on fire’, and I ain’t lying!

Then back to work. I won’t say the effect of the cottage wore off too quickly… but this was a thought I had within a week of my return to civilization:

Johnny and Marla have a wedding dinner. Everything is very tasty, though I would expect no less. I’ll mostly remember duck being chopped up next to our table. How’ve I gone this long without experiencing this?

I apply for the Saturday Night Live ticket lottery again. As of now, it still hasn’t happened. But I guess I’ll keep doing it until it does, because that feels like how life works, right?

Also, I think I should go, because I saw a Kids in the Hall taping, so this would round out my comedy name-dropping possibilities. Plus, I keep having funny thoughts like this!

And on the last night of August, Kat and I take in an outdoors screening of Back to the Future. Because it’s there!


Another September, another TIFF! Though, despite the exclamation point, I didn’t see much. And while I liked what I saw – David Copperfield and How to Build a Girl – I wasn’t really feeling it this year. But hey, it’s a blog, so here are pictures showing how close I got to famous people:

Around then, Tom and Lindsay have something of a housewarming. They live around the corner from the folks’, so it makes me extra-happy, and I hope to visit that backyard and fireplace for years to come.

Another September 8th, another iteration of this post! Okay, there seem to be diminishing returns from the audience, but it still makes me smile and it marks a real anniversary, so what the hell. See you again next year, post!

Also that day, the family heads down to Stratford to see Henry VIII. It was my idea to see a lesser work, and, well, it was lesser. But a noble venture, says I!

Through the series of tubes that is the internet, my McGill Twenty Year Reunion planning starts. So far, it’s looking like August may be the choice of champions. We shall see… but something to look forward to!

On the 19th, I have…  Jury Duty! I’m ambivalent about whether I want to be on a jury, but it turns out to be a moot point. Eventually. First, we’re directed to go directly to a courtroom, my first time making it that far; previously, I just made it to the holding room. While we wait, the bailiff tells us that it’s the biggest courtroom in Ontario and that the trial we’re being panelled for is expected to last at least six weeks. (I could be getting that wrong. I mostly remember the gasp!) Then the judge comes in, and after thanking us and noting that serving on a jury is a sacred duty, he explains that due to some procedural things and timing issues, there’s another panel scheduled for closer to the trial date that no longer has a case attached to it. So we’re all free to go! (Oh, the relief in that room!) Best of all, the whole thing took two-and-a-half hours, almost exactly the time to not make it worth going in to work!

That is also the first day of JFL 42. And me, Evan, and Jen went at the festival with gusto. Of course, the credit system makes it basically All You Can See, so we did. Here’s who I saw, in the order I saw them:

  • Roy Wood Jr.
  • Threedom (Paul F. Tompkins, Lauren Lapkus, Scott Aukerman)
  • Esther Povitsky
  • Todd Barry
  • Ronny Chieng
  • John Mulaney and Pete Davidson
  • Jen Kirkman
  • Sam Morril
  • Kate Berlant
  • Ron Funches
  • Michelle Wolf
  • Jay Pharoah (w. A.J. Foster)
  • Graham Kay
  • Jon Dore
  • Dan Soder
  • Jim Norton
  • Cristela Alonzo
  • Andy Kindler & The Alternative Show (Dave Merheje, DeAnne Smith, Nour Hadidi, Tom Henry, and Mark Forward)

Pretty crazy lineup, right? Mind you, seeing that much, there was a lot of “appreciating this is funny” rather than “laughing”… but hey, comedy is a hobby/business of mine too, so that’s still well worth it. Also, my baby stepping towards standup gets a little more of a nudge, and I do some valuable homework.

Here’s a picture:

Finally, a Pharoah who likes the Jews!

My McGill reunion streak continues with a visit by Rachel. Granted, it had only been a few years since I’d seen her, but hey, it’s always special. Here’s a picture, showing that my selfie game has marginally improved. If nothing else, my arms are long.

On the 28th, I attend the  Make ‘em Laugh for 90 Minutes workshop. So now I HAVE to write a screenplay. I just HAVE to!

The next day, we go for Chinese as a family, and I get this fortune which makes me laugh.

Thanks for the future tense, fortune cookie!

Then Rosh Hashanah, which falls on Evan’s birthday. He celebrates by not coming. Da jarit!


Another big concert: Thrush Hermit! It involved some stress, because I got two tickets months before, confident that I knew people who’d be into it. Only to find out it’s a little more niche than I assumed. But Greenstein steps up, and we enjoy some fine tunes!

Then later that month, I’m the one (well, one of the ones) making sweet music. Yes, after years of threatening it and thinking about it, I make it out to a Choir! Choir! Choir! (For those not in the know, this is an ongoing event where a bunch of people congregate and become a choir for a night, learning a song and performing it as a group.) What may have prompted me to finally go was having someone to go with (thanks, Jenny!), but also, it was the fiftieth anniversary of Abbey Road, so they did Something. How could I miss that?

A few days later, on Twitter, I make what I believe is called a ‘witty rejoinder.’ It draws valued praise.

Continuing my string of firsts, I finally make it out to one of the Christie Pits basketball games. And the people I know didn’t show up, so I’m playing with mostly strangers. But a few familiar faces, and all friendly, and a good time had by all. No Stranger Danger here!

A few days later, a federal election. Though I get a little frustrated with people who don’t seem to know how strategic voting can work (e.g. in a safe riding, you can vote your conscience), it’s the rare election these days that doesn’t end with the worst-case scenario, so I’ll take it. Even though the Hershfields’ attempt to sway the vote through fashion did nothing.

A few days after THAT, I buy a pair of jeans. Which I mention only because it was the most extreme markdown I’ve ever seen. OVER 95%, BABY!


Someone manages to drive through a window at work.

It’s very exciting short-term, pretty inconvenient long-term. It also means I move from open-concept with a window to my own office without one, so a lateral move, I suppose?

Boris Mortz jams for the first time. It’s my bro’s friends, who are more loosey-goosey, less rehearsey than I’m used to. But there are worse ways to spend an evening.

After a day of facial fashion show with Evan and Jen a few weeks earlier, I get new glasses. (It’d been years!) We do the appropriate Simpsons routine ad nauseum. (I probably miss my old glasses…)

Maybe they make me smarter, because I do a take on a Twitter meme that strikes myself as amusing.

I see that Pearl Court is closing, and since it’s supposedly the best Chinese food on the Gerrard Chinatown, and I’m kicking myself for never having gone, I leap into action. Will and I agree dim sum must be had, and we moved to rally some troops. Those troops turn out to be Jason, and the three of us eat a lot of dim sum and basically shut the place down. Better late than never!

And I end the month by directing at the 24 Hour Sketch Fest! It’s my first time doing it as a director, and it’s a ton of fun. Nice to spread some wisdom and help my lovely team bring their gold to the stage. Rihanna-matopeia! (That’s what I named the team , as we had a running Rihanna theme. Alas, we got announced as Rihanna-topia… which is still not bad.)


The office holiday party. Kind of a meh experience for me. I’d much rather have dancing than a casino. But hey, different strokes. And this year, I was one of the very sober people helping the very wrecked people… so in theory, I can get wrecked next year? (I do have an ‘every second year’ streak going.)

So remember when I said my personal connection to the Raptors’ championship would happen in December? Well, my buddy Myles (who also plays basketball with us) is an MLSE exec, so he was able to make this moment happen for me!

To be clear, I didn’t get to keep it. Nor could my scrawny arms handle that much weight on a regular basis. But for a brief shining moment, my ring finger was a champion!

The usual suspects gather to close out the Star Wars series with an opening night screening of Rise of Skywalker. The movie is pretty much hot garbage, in my humble but not too humble opinion… but the company is a delight!

Because of the origins of this blog, I feel I should mention that I interview for the Second City’s new Directing Program… and do not get in.


Christmas is a nice event at the house. New Year’s Eve, I use a spare ticket my parents have to see Uncut Gems with them, then just go home and watch Inside Llewyn Davis. Midnight is not noted. Maybe I should have forced myself to go out… but I was happy to just run out the clock, so to speak.

Well, fingers crossed for a more groovy year in 2020, though I’ll settle for survival. And because I don’t want to end on THAT note, I’ll end on this one instead: