In this special episode (which came about after we published this loving review: "I Have Nothing" Review: Carolyn Taylor, Mae Martin, and the Radical, Ridiculous, Visionary Power of Queer Collaboration) Risa talks with Canadian comedy legend Carolyn Taylor (Baroness Von Sketch + I Have Nothing) about how improvisation works and how we can use its practices to conjure brand-new things into the world.
Carolyn talks about working with her friend Mae Martin, as well as skating icons Kurt Browning, Sandra Bezic, David Pelletier, and Ekaterina Gordeeva.
She reminds us that we can start with messy and ugly, and if "you just keep staying in that space with the intention of finding connection... if you can sit in that discomfort and know that you're going to find each other, then it's... it's so worth it."
"Carolyn Taylor is the creator of I HAVE NOTHING docu-series which follows Taylor on a comical quest to choreograph the perfect, full-length pairs figure skating routine to Whitney Houston’s 1992 iconic hit song, “I Have Nothing.” Joining Carolyn on her mission are legends from the world of figure skating including Sandra Bezic, David Pelletier, Ekaterina Gordeeva, Kurt Browning, Paul Martini, Barbara Underhill, as well as award-winning comedian, actor, and writer, Mae Martin.
Carolyn is an award-winning comedian, actor, writer, director and showrunner. She is one of the creators, executive producers and stars of CBC/IFC’s hit comedy Baroness von Sketch Show. To date, the series has received national and international critical acclaim in The New York Times, IndieWire, and Vogue, won 20 Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Sketch Show/Series, Best Writing in a Sketch Show/Series (2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021), an ACTRA Award for Best Ensemble (2018), two international Rockies for Best Comedy (2019, 2020), The Rogers Prize for Excellence in Canadian Content (2019, 2020), and an international Rose D’or.
Carolyn honed her skills in improvisation and social satire at The Second City in Toronto, starring in five original mainstage revues and garnering four Canadian Comedy Awards. She’s written and performed political commentary for This Hour Has 22 Minutes, The Hour and CBC Radio’s Because News and This Is That. Recent credits include playing the off-kilter owner of a haunted AirBnB on Workin’ Moms (CBC/Netflix, 2022), an off-kilter Camp Director on Detention Adventure (HBO Max, 2022) and as a (somewhat less) off-kilter lesbian organic farmer opposite SNL’s Punky Johnson on the hit CBS comedy Ghosts (2023)."
I Have Nothing on Bell Crave - https://www.crave.ca/en/tv-shows/i-have-nothing
The Documentary by Zach Russell, director of I Have Nothing, Someone Lives Here - https://www.someoneliveshere.com/
The Handsome Podcast with Mae Martin - https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/handsome/id1702258458
[00:00:00] Risa: The Missing Witches podcast is brought to you by The Missing Witches Coven. Our coven mate, poet, Sun, said:
"I came to this coven because nobody else was centering mutual aid and informed resistance like the Missing Witches, but this community is also hugely loving and supportive and full of artists and thinkers and healers who have such a huge diversity of experience.
Even when we're not in circle, there's magic afoot. Also, I have a chronic illness, which makes it really hard not to swear all the time, so I am in fabulous company here. Bless a f*cking bee."
And Coven Mate Jen from Wheel of My Year wrote: "I discovered Missing Witches through Queen of All Queens, Jinx Monsoon's podcast.
After reading their contributor covenant, I thought I would give it a chance and attended a new moon circle. As a queer person of color living in a flyover state, I had very low standards. I was used to being burned by performative allyship and virtue signalers.
These witches were different. My first circle was a transformative experience as a solitary witch. Missing Witches Coven is what was missing from my practice. I'm so grateful to be found."
Anyway, those are some of the people who bring you this podcast. And if that sounds like your people, then come find out more at missingwitches.com. We've been missing you.
[00:01:33] Risa: Hi. Oh, sh*t. Hi.
[00:01:42] Carolyn: There we go.
[00:01:44] Risa: I'm so excited. Me too. Me too. I mean, you must be a little bit burnt. You've done a million of these in the last couple of weeks.
[00:01:51] Carolyn: I've done a lot in the last couple of weeks. I have, but I haven't been on a witch podcast. So there's, it's extra special actually for me. I lit, I burned some cedar. I have lit, I lit a candle that's back there. I don't know if you can see it. Anyway, it's a pretty cool one. And I pulled two cards from my healing herbal deck. So I'm ready.
[00:02:19] Risa: Oh, I feel so good. Welcome, listeners, welcome all my nerves, all my teenage improv club excitement, all the versions of ourselves had wild dreams that pushed in through the masks that we wore.
Welcome all of those beings with us today in this weird coven we make between our ears. Our guest today is Carolyn Taylor. I mean, if you're a Canadian, for sure you know Carolyn Taylor. This is, like, iconic feminist comedy. Like, Baroness Von Sketch changed everything. If you were like me, and you grew up obsessively watching Kids in the Hall, when you saw this, there was this wave of emotional relief, like, Oh, f*ck, finally, my friends are here!
And Carolyn Taylor brought that into existence, conjured those women, brought them into the room, and then together they created those fast-paced, hilarious, weird stories that made fun of us, and showed us truth, and it was fun the best. And then just recently, this weird series she conjured into existence also, I Have Nothing, I struggled to describe it.
I felt so weird watching it. Has it been weird to talk about? Because it exists in this weird place between comedy and like such earnestness?
[00:03:57] Carolyn: Yeah, that was the scariest part about it when I was finishing up the edit with the editors and the team. And Zach, it was like, oh gosh, this is a lot more earnest than I realized it was going to be.
And is that okay? And, and I, I mean, I realized that as I was going through the journey as well, like, oh, wow, I'm in this. This is, I have to do right by this vision and by these skaters and this world and the conjure the dream of it all. And so as a comedian, that's scary to put yourself in that position where you're not like just commenting off on the side or.
You know, playing a huge character or something. So yeah, that was, that was scary
[00:04:39] Risa: for sure. And how did you ride that out? There must've been moments where you were really, I don't know, emotionally exhausted even it seems like.
[00:04:48] Carolyn: All of my talk was emotionally exhausted. Like the first day of shooting, we did some interviews.
We did that interview with my sister. We had a couple of just sort of basic interviews the first day and then we went to the psychic. That first day. So that was on our first day of shooting and I went in, you know, with an open mind and heart and decided like, I'm not going to make fun of psychics or to make fun of that experience.
I'm going to have the experience and I've had my cards read. I've read people's cards, you know, great respect for it. But I did not expect that I was going to be brought to tears on my first day. I don't even know the crew well, and now I'm like, I'm welling up. I'm like, Oh God, this isn't what this, this isn't how I thought it was going to go.
And that sort of set the tone. It was like, We don't know what's going to happen. We'll see, you know,
[00:05:35] Risa: You had to convince people to go on this journey with you. You had to convince people to put money in and like, there's a crew, like people are hired. Did they think it was a joke? Like, was the vision you talk about getting this awesome sizzle made was the vision at that point, like comedian does a funny thing?
[00:05:55] Carolyn: I think people, everyone came to it with a different sense of what it might be. Because we weren't following a template or a formula, including me. So I, I, I didn't know exactly how deep I was going to go. But I think once, you know, Sandra and I had spoken and I really committed to going for like Gordeeva and Pelletier, it was like, Oh, there's no f*cking around now.
Like, yeah, we can have fun. Yeah. There'll be funny moments and there'll be all the stuff around it, but I can't f*ck this up. This... She's the goddess and the greatest of all time and don't mess this up and okay and that became really wild to dive in like that felt like going through a portal.
[00:06:40] Risa: You've talked about how you felt like you were channeling something. Yeah. I mean, or like you, or you were possessed. You used the term I was possessed. Yes. When you were on, Q I think, was it you were possessed?
[00:06:49] Carolyn: I, I think so. I mean, it's like the vision came then the comedy routine, which in itself was a big leap.
I was really scared to perform it on stage. Really? Like, what am I showing people? Like what am I doing? I've never done like a big physical piece like that. Yeah. That, that, that, that braids imagination, physicality, reality, fantasy together, and, and comedy. So when that landed, that was, that was extraordinary as a feeling like, oh, people are hearing what I'm saying, I'm able to convey this, or we're able to enter this space together and communicate together, and I'm able to do these jumps on stage, they're able to see, like people were like, no, no, I saw you landing the jumps, it felt like that.
So, oh God, what was the question? I'm not sure.
[00:07:39] Risa: Okay, well, the question was pretty floppy, but the idea about what was, what was possessing you? What were you possessed by? How did that feeling of being like carried - how do you relate to that in your life in general? I have seven questions about the word possessed.
[00:07:50] Carolyn: I'm so excited when that happens, when a vision takes hold and you can feel momentum, you know, and certainly with Baroness, there was momentum and you spoke. To the conjuring. I mean, each of those artists conjured themselves, for sure. I, of course, you know, brought them together as a group, the four of them, but they have, you know, they really, we were all creating it together.
Risa: Those are powers, for sure.
Carolyn: Those are powers. So anyway, just to...
Risa: Thank you, yeah.
Carolyn: ...But with this, with this possession of, and when there is momentum and you feel that, you kind of, your job is to get out of the way a little bit, like to plan and also allow the forces, to work. And I mean, I'm talking like this with you, I wouldn't necessarily with everybody. But yeah, when, when you feel those forces, you, you try to go with them and then ideas present themselves and then you think you've hit a roadblock and next thing you know, someone else appears and there's a different door that opens and you're like, okay, I guess we're going this way.
And so it's almost like the shape of a river, you know, like where, you know, we're caught. It was not a straight line. It was not a straight line.
[00:08:52] Risa: Yeah. I mean, you, you kind of talked in another interview about your experience doing the Camino in a similar fashion that it was like, you kind of had to lean into trusting that when you needed something, it would show up.
[00:09:05] Carolyn: Yes, so the Camino really taught me that, like, I'd recommend that to anyone. I mean, I walked the Camino, I think it was 2005, so I think it's changed a lot, you know, and maybe become more popular and more populated, but yeah, if you surrender to that process and you say, okay, my only job is to walk west for 30 days.
There's some clarity that comes and then your own issues come up. So if you have an issue with authority or you have an issue with, you know, whatever a type of personality type, you're a boss, suddenly you're not with that person anymore and yet that dynamic is showing itself again. So that was a great learning experience to be like, Oh no, it's you, wherever you go, there you are.
And what you need appears when you need it. And, and when you actually lean into that and go, okay, I'm going to trust that and play with that. It becomes. It's, you know, a really, really cool experience.
Risa: Yeah. Magic, even.
Carolyn: Magic, for sure. For sure. Yeah. It's a great, oh, that walk is fantastic.
[00:10:04] Risa: I struggle with the word spirituality. I... part of what we, you know, this, this podcast is sort of investigating what the word Witch even means and claiming it you know, as a space of activism and creativity and art and politics. Before we started the podcast, you said you pulled two cards. You lit a candle.
You, when I wrote to you, which I couldn't believe you wrote back, you used hashtag witch sees witch. How does that word sit for you? Or like, do you feel comfortable thinking about witchiness?
[00:10:32] Carolyn: yEah. So yes, I feel comfortable thinking about witchiness. Yes. I listen, I, I think because of our deep histories, all of us that go back, you know, generations and generations.
I don't, I don't take the word lightly, you know, and I also know there's a lot of,, pain and, horrible abuses. So to identify as a witch, I think, is to carry some of that fear forward. You know, if we're speaking that way and it's even scary to talk about it like this.
I definitely feel in tune with that I always have. And so, yeah, while I don't put it in my bio, I definitely feel like a witch and a lot of my friends, sometimes we find we're in a natural coven and we're all sitting around a fire.
Not people who... specifically identifies witches and then we're like, Oh God, there's 13 of us. Here we are. We're, we're in a coven. So let's call it light. Not, not necessarily well, researched, but certainly attuned to nature and herbs and forces.
[00:11:37] Risa: Yeah. It's a funny one. I appreciated that you, that you were cool with that or that you saw that part.
Carolyn: Oh, for sure.
Risa: Are you in your cabin?
[00:11:48] Carolyn: I'm in a studio, yeah, in, in the backyard and it's a studio that was just an old garage. My friend Phil helped me and we together learned how to use power tools and stuff and we put in all the stuff that's what on Kijiji and so now it's my studio space in the backyard.
[00:12:07] Risa: Yeah. It looks beautiful and so comfortable.
[00:12:09] Carolyn: It is. I really love it. It feels like, one of the things. A friend and I were talking about is I was talking about this room and to finally have a, you know, this idea of a room of one's own. And, you know, I was like, Oh, this room is giving me room. This space is giving me space.
Just this idea of having a space that's yours, that you've created through work.
[00:12:31] Risa: What's, what's like, bubbling in the space these days or like, is your imagination starting to go to next projects? What, what comes up after I have nothing?
Are you a choreographer now? What do you think?
[00:12:43] Carolyn: I mean, that makes me laugh when I think there are choreographers, like, well, and Sandra has said, you know, oh, we should do something together or you should do another show, you know, live show or something. And just trying to embrace that in a really playful, fun way and say, well, sure, if people want to work with me again, like, yeah, let's, let's try it.
So both the choreographer and the comedian and me find it funny and something that, yeah, I really love that process. And I do think in choreography a little now for skating, it took a long time for it to land for me. I was well into the project before I even understood that, oh, my job is to take emotion and translate that into movement.
And so yes, I would, other ideas are definitely percolating there, yeah, there's some for sure bubbling and then it's knowing when's the right time when the heat starts to, you know, when you start to feel it on a different project or, or a season two or something. So yes, things are bubbling. But I'm not...
I haven't gone into full, full womanifestation.
[00:13:48] Risa: My I, I, the dream show that I want to attend is a live show with different skating routines choreographed by different non-choreographers. Yes. Executive produced by you.
[00:14:02] Carolyn: Oh, I, that, ooh, I like that a lot. I like that. Skating!
[00:14:09] Risa: So underutilized as an art form, right?
[00:14:12] Carolyn: Yes. And it was really interesting to hear the skaters and how excited they were, or that they were, to have someone from outside the community, you know, work with them and how an outsider sees things versus the people who've really been in it, a lot of them, their entire lives. So yeah, to see other people come together.
I love when, you know, disciplines cross. I love it. I remember being, do you remember, did you ever watch The Love Boat as a kid or?
[00:14:38] Risa: Oh, like a little, like grandma watched it, but I wouldn't remember names.
[00:14:41] Carolyn: Okay. Well, one of my favorite things that used to happen in network television back then was like when things would cross, like the Charlie's Angels are on The Love Boat, or, you know, it's like, what?
So I love when people from different disciplines cross into each other's world, they're like, you're not supposed to be on Fantasy Island. Yes. What's happening? So, anyway. Yes. So I would love to do more and I love your idea. That's great.
[00:15:06] Risa: Yeah. I want to talk more about like, how improvisation worked and in those Moments of creation because you're in this like super tight time frame, it seems like.
[00:15:15] Carolyn: Yes, yes, definitely.
[00:15:19] Risa: Like you only have these icons for a couple of days under really rigid conditions. Yes. And part of the joke when you're watching is like, Carolyn doesn't know the terms. She can't skate. She has a helmet on. It's all very silly. Like, you've talked about how the agreement was like, you would always be the buffoon.
They would never be the joke. And like, that works so beautifully. But there is also a thing where it feels like to me anyway, in watching where they start to like, shake out a little bit and be willing to improvise with you. And like, play with you. Can you talk about what that seemed like it was like for all of you?
[00:15:55] Carolyn: Oh, it was so exciting.
I mean, it I think originally I thought I was going to be with skaters for about two weeks. I think Sandra had said, you know, you want 12 days or like, you know, eight to 12. So then when it was like four days, I'm like, Oh God. And, and personalities, you know, when David Pelletier came in, he's like, okay, so let's just show me what to do and I'm going to train it and then we'll do it and we'll keep practicing it and then it's done.
And it was like, Ooh, that's not it. Oh. What I want to do. And so, bringing them into the spirit of improv, which really you can only improvise, or actually for myself, I can only improvise when I feel safe. So, I started at Second City and learned improv there, and I was a fairly terrible improviser at first.
And if I didn't feel safe with my cast, or I was new, or was too boys club, or whatever, I just, I didn't, I wasn't in the moment, and I couldn't play. And now, it's one of my favorite things to do, and you know, in Baroness, we improvised a lot, and on stage, if I'm with people I trust, and like, I love to improvise.
So it was an exciting part of the process and, and Zach Russell, who also directed the show and was an executive producer. We would, you know, be back and forth talking all the time and I'd be like, well, I want to see what happens. He's like, no, no. What happens in the story? What happened? And I'm like, well, I don't know because it hasn't happened yet.
And that was a really cool dialectic because in television and creation, you do actually need to plan certain things, but in improv, you have to leave room for magic and for things to happen to play the truth, right? So that was a really, I think that worked in our favor that we had those two forces. You know, in the creation process.
[00:17:37] Risa: Yeah, that's so interesting. And then for the skaters, did you feel like that was a genuine, like a similar experience, like they had to feel safe with you and then they were willing to improvise moves?
[00:17:48] Carolyn: I believe so. Yeah. You know, in watching again, and in the edit suite, and watching it's like, Oh, right.
They really, I mean, Katya. Well, is sort of more open to all of that at the beginning, certainly she likes, she was eager to try those things. But at the same time, when we're talking about like lifts and, you know, really intricate moves, it's as we learned in the show and I learned it's dangerous. You actually can't just like have fun and toss someone in the air.
So, I think it was, we built that trust and that had to happen at like breakneck speed, but we were together and creating a really safe environment. And I think just the way you say to me, we're, we're doing this podcast and we can edit it. And if you need to take a moment, you have that. that ability.
It was creating that same kind of container to say, Hey, my objective here is not to make you look bad or funny or make fun of you or, and, and it is a comedy, but chances are if anyone's laughing at, it will be at me. So just don't worry. And I think that helped all of us. That was one of the guiding principles that, that I think helped.
Make people feel safe so that we can explore. And then, of course, they did get more comfortable. By the end, David's playing and coming up with his own ideas. And it's like, what? I, I wished, you know, if we could have even started there and had a few more days. But but it happened when it needed to. So that, that sort of last day in Toronto was really exciting.
That was when tons of great work got done. And, and then in Edmonton. You know, that final push by then it was like, it's a bit like when you're on a deadline and or for me anyway, I can procrastinate, procrastinate, and then have laser focus at the end. And so it was in those, those final days and hours that a lot of the really precise work got done.
[00:19:40] Risa: It's so, it's so emotional to watch because you do go through the like, the really, it's a real emotional journey, the series, like the six episodes, I'm sure the whole thing for you was, was wow, especially, I mean, There's this strange through line with, you know, the song, I have nothing, the song is written by the same person who wrote the Calgary Olympic anthem?
[00:20:02] Carolyn: 88 Olympics. Yeah, David Foster wrote both. When I found that out, I mean, I'd, I'd always known that he had written the 88 Olympics. I always knew that. I loved the theme. I've always loved the theme. You know, if you're obsessed with those Olympics, you love the theme. I know it was David Foster, Canadian, David Foster.
And then when I learned I was preparing for the show and like just doing research and I was watching, I think Lena Waithe, Instagram live or something, she was talking with Rickey Minor, the Whitney Houston's former musical director and, and Lina was wearing a bodyguard t shirt and I was like, Whoa, what?
What's going on? Like, this is cool. Like I'm into synchronicity. I'm like, this is strange. And then talked about, oh, and then David Foster wrote, you know, I have nothing. I'm like, what? Like I just, my brain cracked in half. And then that the song was actually released on my birthday, I, as I'm like, yeah, that's super weird.
Risa: I didn't catch that. That's weird.
Carolyn: I don't know if I've mentioned that, but that, yeah. So that's super weird too. So just as those things unfolded, I'm like, oh, get out. And then when people would say, well, can you just use a different song? It's like. That really was anathema, because I'm like, well, well, no, I actually can't, because that's not the point.
That's not the vision. You know, it's not just, oh, comedian tries to choreograph. It's like, no, no, no, there was a vision, and it needs to be as fulfilled, you know, to the best of my ability, given, you know, what we have. Yeah.
[00:21:28] Risa: And I mean, The other piece of this sort of like,
I don't know what a good phrase for it is. I don't want to say the haunting of it, but there's like echoes, right? Your own family has all these echoes building up to this moment where you like for you to even have those. References as a link to all the sports knowledge and then the beautiful tribute to your dad that ends up in this story
[00:21:57] Carolyn: like we hadn't expected that.
I mean, that wasn't a planned story beat. That was like, you know, my sister on actually the first day I was exact and I were taking turns interviewing her. And she started talking about my dad and his obsession with the Olympics. And I was like, what? I didn't know this. You know, I think of him as baseball dad.
And so that was wild. And then she, you know, or I guess I probably said, hey, can you send the whole movie? She's like, oh, I've got some footage. And the next thing you know, one of the editors is staying up all night crying. Andy King, he said, he, he formed this beautiful tribute and found other, voice recordings of my dad.
You know, he really was present in this process in a way I. I hadn't at all expected at all, but it kept coming up and then an odd piece I'd share with you, if anyone else who's listening, I suppose, all right, just you, I'm just me. Right? I mean, that's maybe this is nothing to other people, but my dad's name was Russell Taylor and Zach and I together on the slate, he's Zach Russell, Carolyn Taylor, we were Russell Taylor.
We were just going to go by our last names. I'm like, Oh my God, there's my dad's name. I'm like, just some really. Small, and yet, for me, very powerful signs or, or synchronous use, or. So,
[00:23:15] Risa: in a, in a like, "what if" imagining, like, so, if you know, this whole work is sort of being called forward by, um, a, a, a, a, an accumulation of energies.
What's, what's it about? Or like, what does your dad think of it?
[00:23:37] Carolyn: Well, I don't know. I, I really, I really don't know. I would love to know, but I don't know. I think maybe I just look at it almost as a protection, if that makes sense. Yeah. Kind of spiritual protection, but. I don't know beyond that.
[00:23:57] Risa: What does that mean? What, what's it protecting or how?
[00:24:00] Carolyn: I'm not sure. It's just a feeling of like, of an energetic protection. Like, I'm looking out for you and things are, it'll be okay. You know, that sort of. Yeah.
[00:24:10] Risa: But there's something, because I'm, I mean, I'm so glad you feel protected and I'm so glad, you know, had to make a safe container for people, artists to make new things.
These are a lot of like magic terms and also like improv stuff. It's like, yeah, interesting. But I also think like, cause I was a viewer of it and it made me uncomfortable and emotional and it made me think a lot about like. How strange it is that new things ever happen, right? Like that weird
How do you mean?
Yeah. Well, like, how does something weird and new come into the world, ever,
[00:24:52] Carolyn: right? I think when we let it, like, well, one, when we're open to it, and I mean, that I would say, you know, my mom certainly was a a force that while she didn't live out all her dreams, she really was very open minded, very open minded to magic and ideas.
And so that was never really question us. As, as kids, we were able to have imaginations and we weren't told that was wrong or stupid or whatever. I owe a great service to her for, for that for many things. I think original things happen when we stop saying how things have to be done.
And that was what was really exhilarating about this show. There was no template, so there was no one coming and saying, well, this is how you have to do it. You don't do a docu-comedy about choreographing figure skaters unless you do it this way. And it's like, there was no, there was no template. So Zach and I really spent lots of time in so many different possibilities.
There were so many ways it could go. And I think that's part of conjuring, right? Like you have all of it and then it starts to say, Oh, I'll take this and that. And then a lot of things just fell off to the side because they didn't serve the. The story or, you know, but yeah, I think it staying open and.
Realizing when someone says, no, they don't want to do that. Okay, well, let's do something else. And then you find out, oh, actually, now they are open to jumping. Okay, well, great. Let's, right. Let's explore that.
[00:26:18] Risa: Yeah. Well, and that's something I think is so interesting in the series too, is or about you in the series is like, you are so visionary, like, so like comedically visionary committed to this idea of this thing that you've like leapt across stages convincing people to see it.
Oh God. Yeah.
And it's so great. And the super fun thing is like, as an audience member, watching you do the standup. It's a, it's like a very funny, surreal brain body experience because it's like, you actually I mean, Mae Martin says it in the, in the show, the audience goes crazy because it's like they saw you just land the jump.
Like there's something that happens in the brain that crosses over and that's so fucking cool already.
I think I lost my train of thought just being excited about that, but
[00:27:13] Carolyn: yeah, it's, there's something strange that happens, strange that happens. I don't know what it is, you know, and something that we contemplated a lot was this idea of memory, and what is memory, and so. Even when I'm, you know, in front of the audience on stage, when I would do a lift and I would skate with the skater over my head, I'm like, skating, like, powerfully. And Sandra's like, well, no, you glide.
Like, generally you glide when you're holding up a skater. There isn't someone skating like a, basically like a hockey player, you know, with someone above their head. And it, it's like, oh, okay, oh, right, right. But yet an audience, when they're watching it, they're not thinking that. They're like, oh, yeah, of course.
That's how it's done. And so that's what, it's interesting what our memories of what figure skating is versus what it actually is. It's, it's, it's wild when you're actually confronted with the stark reality.
[00:28:02] Risa: The reality of it. I remembered where I was going with that. Thank you. Oh, good. Right. For, for catching that ball.
The, the other weird thing that happens or that you're so good at is like you're committed to the vision, but then also constantly throughout you improvise. So you're willing to be like, okay, it's not Kurt Browning and Katarina Witt. It's not two singles where it's going to be this whole other thing.
We're going to do an edit to show a jump somewhere. Like, can you talk about tools and practices of improv that we can use in our own life. Because I also heard you talk in an interview about the term greasing the chain.
So that's like another one I want to talk about.
[00:28:43] Carolyn: Okay cool. So save, we'll save greasing the chain. I'll put that over here. I'll put that one can remember it. And the first question was about, right, so you have a vision at first, it's like, oh, it's Kurt Browning and Katerina Witt. And then realizing, oh, that's not possible, they're two single skaters, I don't know if Katarina Witt even performs on skates anymore, you know, Kurt certainly was still, but there are certain moves that pairs do that singles don't do, oh, okay, right, I have to, you have to change, so I think part of Improv, and I mean, I learned this at Second City, when you go out to do a scene, you have an objective and you, or even, you know who you are, you have a first line of dialogue, you don't really know much beyond that, and then you have to be ready to just keep throwing things away, like holding, you can hold your character, but you think you're a pianist playing the piano, and someone's like, oh, you're baking dough, and you're like, oh, yeah, I'm making, you have to be ready to throw away what you went in with, But you can still have the attitude or the character that you came in with.
It's a practice in what do you keep and what do you throw away?
It's a practice in what do you keep and what do you throw away?
What's essential and what is not? And essential is I need to have a piece choreographed to this song with great skaters. Okay, you can't use two singles. All right, well, who can I have, you know, so you have to be prepared.
And I think that's part of the creative and improvisational process to really know what's essential. And if you hold on to that and you're honest about that with yourself, then, the things are all there, the material's there, but I, I think most often, if, if it's really something that you want to do and something that you, you want to create with other people and a willingness, of course, of everyone.
[00:30:18] Risa: Yeah. So there's a safe container. There's a willingness of everyone. Yes. There's like being honest about what's essential. Mm hmm. Or maybe those were two kind of separate
[00:30:29] Carolyn: things. Yeah. Maybe, but something like that, yeah. And there's also look for what's there. You keep, you know, I'd sometimes be like, oh, it has to be this, well, wait, what is here?
Okay, let's do that instead. Okay, great. And so just really being grateful for what's presenting itself. And then sometimes it will morph into what you want, like you, you don't think it is, and then it will, and so that trusting, there's definitely trust and, and people being willing, they don't have to know everything, you don't have to know everything, know enough, like Sandra would say when she choreographs, sometimes just knowing somewhere to start, have something, and then the next moments, present themselves.
Because in fairness, she really does approach choreography from a place of improvisation as well. But for the sake of the series, she stayed more in, and to be fair, she needed to with me because I don't have the skill to do that. She's an Olympian. She can improvise she understands the craft.
Whereas someone who doesn't, it's really important that they actually don't just leave it all to, to chance. So I think it's. It's, it's understanding those two things as well.
[00:31:42] Risa: Are there other ways, I want to come back to greasing the chain, but are there other ways that, like, I feel like... I, I did improv in high school, Villa Maria in NDG in Montreal.
[00:31:55] Carolyn: I went to Villa Maria before I,
Yes, yes. I switched school. I went, I, my best friend changed schools and I changed with her...
[00:32:05] Risa: I didn't know that when I said that. I just knew that you grew up in NDG.
[00:32:07] Carolyn: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Okay. So I was there for a couple of years.
[00:32:10] Risa: Well that's really cool. I, I feel like learning about improv from a young age, my dad was like a theater guy.
Yeah. Like, it made it possible for me to, or it's been like a set of tools that I feel like make it possible for me to like, start with the dumb thing. You know, start with something messy or be willing to jump into something and be really, really uncomfortable or really ugly and then try to figure it out from there.
[00:32:36] Carolyn: That's greasing the chain. I think. That's what that is. That's our, that's our link. Yes. So then greasing the chain, I guess it's a term, is it musicians use? I don't know. I learned it from a couple of friends who are. Oh, who are musicians, so maybe it is a term, I don't know. I don't know its etymology, but let's say it's a term now.
Yeah, let's call it a term.
Someone came up with it, not me, but this group of witches, essentially, we play together a band called Mintz (??). And when we play. We always start by greasing the chain, which is like we choose an instrument and we have something and we, sometimes we close our eyes or not, and you just start playing something or you might have a riff in your head or something, and at first it sounds horrible because we don't say, oh, we're playing in the key of D.
Or, this is the progression. We don't do any of that. And so you really have to listen. And if someone has sort of hooked into something, cool, then we all start adapting to that person, right? Like, you can't just do what you're doing without listening, or you just have cacophony. But at first, you can have grease in the chain, which means it's messy, it's ugly, it doesn't sound good.
And you just keep staying in that space with the intention of finding connection. and having something that sounds good. That's your intention. And you just flog through it. And then eventually, oh, you're all in the same key and things are sounding great and lyrics are starting to appear. And that's how we work all the time.
It's starting from something nasty and gross and, and the thing that you wouldn't want someone walking in on, cause they'd be like, you guys are horrible. But if you can sit in that discomfort and know that you're going to find each other, then it's. I mean, it's so worth it
[00:34:15] Risa: do you, do you have aspirations, or dreams, or visions of doing more music?
[00:34:22] Carolyn: Yeah, I love making music. And I'm not particularly it's not, I'm not a natural, like, I'm not a natural singer, as you can see from the show. I, you know, I can play different instruments.
And I love playing them, but I'm not like ever, ever going to be anywhere close to the best person in the room or even remotely, even, yeah, like not even miles away from anyone who's very good. But what I am good at is I'm a bit listening and I might just stay like on a keyboard and stay on two notes and find the truth in those two notes and collaborate.
And then often I'm on lyrics on vocals. Because we don't care, it's not about sounding perfect, it's about just keying into the truth. Or the, oh gosh that sounds so woo, well listen, this is your audience, these are the people who understand. You're okay, yeah. It's a safe space,
[00:35:14] Risa: It's a safe space for, for finding what's true in two notes for sure.
[00:35:19] Carolyn: Yeah. Yeah. So I do, I have other, I did do a music project a few years back with my friends at the Fathouse in Kingston and we all got together over 18 days and. There is an album that's been mastered and mixed. I just haven't had the courage or the sense of timing that it's right to put it out.
So it's, it exists, but it'll be more like an art artifact, not a, like it has no dreams of becoming a hit. Pop sensation. It's literally for the people who would find it interesting. Yeah.
[00:35:53] Risa: Yeah. Yeah. I, I feel like there's, there's something to that. Like, I feel like there's something to that as a gift to people who didn't get to learn that it was there... Didn't get to learn how to be uncomfortable on the way to finding the thing. Do you know what I'm trying to say?
[00:36:13] Carolyn: No, I do. And you have to. Like, that's, there's no one who starts out good at something. Like, I don't think that's, unless you're like a prodigy but short of that, no, you kind of have to be bad before you're good.
And also in that sort of spirit of that sort of wabi sabi, the beauty is in the mistakes, right? Like, and so even. You know, with my song with Mae, our song, you know, it's not perfect and our notes are not perfect and the lyrics are weird and my voice is, Mae has a gorgeous, amazing, fantastic voice and I'm not like that, but we wanted both voices to exist because it's in the imperfection that, that, that the soul sort of exists of the song, you know, rather than like bringing in top singers to sing it. Like it just wouldn't, I don't know, I don't know. So I think embracing the beauty and imperfection and being again around safe people who value those things as well, then you're able to create and, and that's your audience.
Like those are the people you're playing with and for.
[00:37:17] Risa: Did that feel. Did it feel like it added safety, having Mae there? I know you guys are friends for
[00:37:25] Carolyn: 25 Well, someone said 25, it's wrong. Twenty-three. Anyway 23. Damn! Misquoted again. But oh gosh, it felt great because Mae is such a fantastic comedian and, and actor and friend and musician.
And. Improviser and observer of life and, and open and interested in metaphysics and in, the classics and the Greeks and the hero's journeys and all of that. So Mae, of course, was like the perfect person to. Someone said, like, that they were the Greek chorus. Totally. So I thought that was a really cool observation.
[00:38:06] Risa: Yeah. Yeah, and as an audience, you definitely feel, like, held by them. But then there's also that moment when they are like, Oh, I just realized. This is not a joke for you.
[00:38:18] Carolyn: Yes. Yes.
[00:38:21] Risa: So there's a way that like having your closest person there can also be extra confronting. Like, it's harder to not be who you've always been somehow?
[00:38:30] Carolyn: Yes. And then from a comedy perspective, someone saying this is no longer a joke is funny, right? So you, it's true that it's not funny anymore, which then makes it funny. So like it becomes a bit of a safeguard, right? Right.
[00:38:45] Risa: Yeah. Yeah, I can only imagine that it was spectacular to have them there, but also I imagine it added to a bit to the out of body experience to have people who knew you in one way see you suddenly trying to do this thing very sincerely.
[00:38:58] Carolyn: Well, and having Mae come back. So Mae really was there at the very beginning of shooting and then, you know, went off back to LA and then came back for the finale, and when they showed up, they really were like, what has happened?
And so that was a very real, it was like, what the f*ck? I was with my friend and we used to be joking and having fun and ha ha, playing hackey sack. And now, yeah, these Olympians are listening to her. What is happening? Yeah.
[00:39:27] Risa: Yeah. Yeah. It's wild. Can I ask, you mentioned before we started that you pulled two cards.
Do you want to tell us what they were?
[00:39:35] Carolyn: Yes, for sure. So they often, I'll let two cards, like if they fall out while shuffling. And so that's what happened with these two. So. And it's a herbal deck. It's called the Herbal Healing Deck. And this... deck appeared. Listen, I have to tell you, this is kind of cool.
I was walking in Victoria. I was working on a show where I was playing a witch.
It was a kid series and I'm playing a mean witch, you know, terrorizes the children of the town. Fine. I had a bunch of days off and I'm walking in Victoria, BC and I'm talking to my friend, Lisa Brooke, who is also very, very witchy and involved in all of this world.
And so she, With talking to me, I'm on my headset and we're just walking and I stop at a window and I'm just looking in a shop that looks interesting and she's talking, she says, you know, we really, you really need to have a deck out there. You should have. A tarot deck. You should have some sort of deck.
And I'm like, well, Lisa, I'm actually looking like, as you say this, I'm looking at a deck in the window right now. She's like, I'm buying it for you because you want someone to buy your deck. So I went in and it's this herbal healing deck that has, I'm really interested in herbalism. And, and so it has great information about herbs and roots and flowers and trees.
Medicinally, historically spiritually, and then, and as divination tools. And the two that I pulled or that fell out today were calendula, which is shine and essentially it's, again, very sort of childlike calendula and also just being open like that. It's to me, it's just, this is safe, you know, just be yourself and be open and it's okay, you know, like, in some environments it's not safe to do that.
You've got to be cynical and. You know, funny. And then the other is turmeric, Persistence. And this one's cool. Like, while persistence doesn't look so glamorous, you can just keep working it the, the description, there's just, there's usually a quote at the beginning. Oh, it's an Einstein quote. Okay. It says, never, "never give up on what you really want to do. The person with the big dreams is more powerful than one with all the facts," Einstein. Interesting. So that sort of speaks to, again, there you go, like, okay, so we're talking about this and it's true because people with the facts, if we just went by facts, we'd say getting rights to a song that big is not impossible, but really f*cking hard and to start a project without having that secured is not smart, is not reasonable, you know, and it can be true to just, they could just say, I don't want to, I don't like your face. Like it could, there could be no reason, it could be any reason to say no. And then and you don't know how to skate. Who's ever going to agree to this? This hasn't been done before.
How are you going to translate? Like, there's so many facts that say this shouldn't work, right, what's extraordinary about this is there are so many people who are willing to see the possibility, and that was Catalyst, the people who who I worked with, Zach, of course, Zach Russell, Blue Ant, who came on board, and then Crave to say, Oh, I see this. Like they didn't see exactly how it was going to go. We couldn't give them that, but they saw that the passion was real. The dream was real. And that again, I have tangible skills. I know how to make television. Like Zach is a genius. People who, know how to execute something, have experience in the field that they're in, whether that's a line producer or, a PA or whatever, people knew what they were doing in the positions they were in and they were open to it, it not being... it's harder for personality types that like to know.
So I know that was very challenging. For some individuals, for sure.
[00:43:13] Risa: Yeah. Right. Like, I feel like I, I spend a lot of my life with people who are mostly like me because I'm sort of, you know, you're like a magnet for people who are kind of like you and like, so I make a lot of messes and I try strange things and like, I'm often with people who are okay with that.
But some of my, my, my like partner, my best friends are definitely more in the like. Like, very uncomfortable to be so, so messy. Yeah. And that, and I, and I think that there's, there's something there in how we learn to, to dance with each other that
[00:43:47] Carolyn: Yeah. It's that dialectic. Yeah. Yeah. And in the right measure, it really, and respect for methodologies or approaches is sort of what's needed.
And also, which is the one that's guiding? Like which is the one that's guiding it? So in this case, the magic improvisational aspect is guiding but just like it's like but just, you know, because there still needs to be the planning and the hard budget things and the excel spreadsheets and the endless zoom meetings and
[00:44:16] Risa: Yeah.
Yeah. Yeah. You gotta have all of it. Yeah. I mean, yeah. It does feel like that, that mix of the perseverance and the optimism, maybe the, maybe the, the tumeric and the calendula. Yeah. Yeah. Is there anything that you feel like you have wanted to talk about more about the show or this experience? I know you've done a ton of interviews, but are there parts that you feel like,...?
[00:44:43] Carolyn: Well, I, I think.
I mean, I have spoken with a lot of people and pieces have been written and sometimes people, you know, you don't get to hear all the people who worked on it. And so often a light is like shone on me. Oh, you're the one who created it. You're that, that there are so many people who took a leap. of Faith into the project and the crew and the camera, you know, D.O. P. and camera people who were like on the ice and they are for hours like our D. O. P. Chet Tilakani and, and Dan Tamizian. Dan, when we were on the ice, spent his whole time just with the camera on me. So while Chet was getting the others, the skaters, he was getting me. So he never even saw, he's like, I don't even know what the routine looks like the entire time I'm getting your reaction. So just the, the different roles, all the people who had to, you know, try to clear rights to the song or rights to Olympic footage that it really, while there was magic and conjuring, there was a lot of hard work, right?
And so I would just say that doesn't always, that isn't always the part of interviews that makes the copy. It's not all just magic and it doesn't just appear hard, hard work has to be part of it.
[00:45:56] Risa: Yeah, we, we say here there is no, there is no mundane, all the work is part of this. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Thanks for, for helping us see outside the portal or the box of the TV to see all the people that were around there. Getting cold on the ice.
[00:46:17] Carolyn: Getting cold!
[00:46:17] Risa: yeah. Taking chances. Yeah. And like, it's fun to imagine, for me also, the ripple effect of everyone tipping over into believing in the vision, right?
[00:46:29] Carolyn: Yeah. That was, that was exciting. And it just, I don't even know what the moment was when that happened, but it just sort of did. And yeah, that was great.
[00:46:40] Risa: Yeah. I can see. I can imagine, like, I didn't grow up in a sports family, but there were moments when watching the Olympics where, a great sportscaster makes you feel the, hope and the sweat and the labor of the person whose, brief moment you're watching now.
That person, translates for you that kid's dream or whatever, and suddenly you care about it even if you don't care about sports.
[00:47:09] Carolyn: Yes. Yeah.
[00:47:11] Risa: So I sort of feel that, I feel lucky to have gotten to encounter that bit of your dad in this story.
[00:47:18] Carolyn: Yeah, that, yes, that's such, thank you, that's a beautiful perception.
It's true. And he loved sports so much. So when I listened to the broadcast that he did, for the expos, he was the, I think they called it like the color commentary or whatever that was. So the person who really brings in, the emotion and all the sort of extra bits and just to hear him laugh and he had a great sense of humor and, a love of sport, like a love of the game and then as someone who's not particularly athletic, me, and not super sports-focused, to give over to that and be like, okay, like, holy, it's exciting. It's exciting to tap into those passions, and worlds that aren't naturally yours.
[00:47:59] Risa: Yeah. Oh. And you got to meet Kurt Browning. I mean, that's like, 13-year-old me would die.
[00:48:04] Carolyn: I know. He's so fun. And then at the opening, we did a launch at Just for Laughs. He gave me his jersey, like this t-shirt from 1994 from Lillehammer that he said he'd lost a bet with Katerina Bitt and he had to give her a foot massage or something like that.
And, yeah, and it's so soft, and that night I came home from the launch, I was staying at a hotel, and I put on my dress, like I literally, I felt 14, and I was like, I just sat and I'm like, I'm sleeping in this tonight, like, just like, what? Yes!
[00:48:32] Risa: Yes, I would die. My grandmother and I would die. Yeah. Cause that was, it was so important...
Some of this feels so niche Canadian.
[00:48:46] Carolyn: Yes! It's true. It's true. Are most of your witches, are the people in your community, are they Canadian or are they all over?
[00:48:52] Risa: All over. All over.
[00:48:55] Carolyn: What are you all working on conjuring or is there any group effort on something or is it...?
[00:49:00] Risa: Group effort. Yeah. It's interesting. I mean, our, our group effort really is in trying to, I think, sort of liberate our own individual and collective power to make our worlds better and our lives better. You know, that's the work. That's..
[00:49:20] Carolyn: Okay. That one is yes. Sounds great.
[00:49:25] Risa: Yeah. F*ck. I mean, I also just like, to be honest about how heartbroken and full of rage we are.
And also, to be honest when there's magic in the world to insist upon that. It's existence.
[00:49:38] Carolyn: Yes. You know? Yes. That idea of magic is afoot. And the more you, you acknowledge magic and revere it and know that it's elusive and, but it, that it can appear and just when you think it can't, it can, and leaving room for it.
It's just exciting to be, yeah, around people who are open, talking to people who are open to that and who. Love it and recognize it, you know, and it's there for everyone, like it's not just for some, it's there for everyone.
[00:50:07] Risa: Yeah, that's like our main thing I think in our coven is like, you know, you, anybody can join and we find each other and we sort of talk about unmasking from all the roles we have to play during the day.
And then just to be with people who come from all different cultures and backgrounds and different interests in magic or beliefs about magic or, you know, different religious traumas and just, just to get to be honest together is, um, has become important for us anyway.
Carolyn: Yeah, that's beautiful.
Risa: And I, I think the way I, I, I really wanted to talk to you about improv because of that.
So thank you for indulging in that in the past hour with me. I. I just appreciate your work so much, just a huge fan, super f*cking cool, I'm slightly less sweaty than I was at the beginning because you're so lovely, but are there any practices, could be professional or improv related, could be magical or creative, that you feel like you could share with our listeners, that they could take a piece of your practice with you today?
[00:51:16] Carolyn: Well, it's interesting. I'm looking at a word on my computer. Fortier says song. I would say one thing that helped me early on and, and nice to be reminded of it, is if you're looking to become in tune with yourself or energetic, to listen to a song that you can vibe with, and it has either a beat or a message or a something melody or just a vibration that really resonate and to let yourself move that to just get in touch with your own rhythm and then, and then let that carry you into the project.
Just the power of music and song and rhythm and that, that when I auditioned for Second City, the first time I listened to Lauryn Hill Lauryn Hill track and like, ah, I loved it. And I just got in the zone. And then I wasn't thinking about fear. I was just like riding it all the way to the audition and, and, and just the power of that, that if you can't find it in yourself or you're just not feeling it, that music often can be a way, a portal.
Into the vibe, right? Totally. Yeah.
[00:52:15] Risa: Totally. Such a simple, radical spell. How should the people find you and support you right now?
[00:52:24] Carolyn: Why support me? Well, they don't need to support Like, just support their own magic and their own practice. Support their own magic.
Risa: Yes. I mean, watch, I Have Nothing on Crave.
Carolyn: Well, yes. Okay. So, in that way, yes. So, yeah,
[00:52:33] Risa: yeah. Find you and support you. Like, you can do like, do some plugs now. Like, I know you're back on Instagram because I got to message you there. You hate it, but you're there.
[00:52:41] Carolyn: Yes.
Risa: Which is fair, me too.
Carolyn: So, don't spend too much time there, but go there and find all the cool things that people are doing, and then go away and close it, and then, yeah.
So yeah, I'm @carolyntaylorofficial on Instagram. The show is on Bell Crave. So, it's called I Have Nothing, six parts. It's, I think, well worth it and you can always ask a friend for a password or something, you know. Yeah. And Mae Martin has a fantastic podcast called Handsome.
With Tig Notaro and Fortune Feimster. So good. Like, I never tire of it. I'm excited when a new, I think a new episode just dropped.
[00:53:21] Risa: Yeah, I listened to it right before talking to you.
Oh, you did? Okay.
Risa: Every episode, as soon as it comes out, it's so, from the first episode they did, it was just like listening to your favorite people get to know each other better. Which was so dear.
[00:53:34] Carolyn: yes. Yes. Yeah. Yes. Oh, that's a great, that's a great perception. It's true. And they have. As you go on, it's like, okay. So yeah, it's great. So, so, you know, check that out. And and Zach Russell has a documentary that's been touring the documentary film circuits around and it's called Someone Lives Here.
Somebody Lives Here? Someone Lives Here. About the homeless crisis in Toronto and, you know. kind of everywhere, but specifically in Toronto during the pandemic. And it's a really powerful piece of film. So, check that out. You can look it up and I'm sure there are places to see it.
[00:54:11] Risa: Yeah. Awesome. We'll link to all that in the show notes. Okay. Great. I'll go find it. tHank you so much. It was really, really cool. Thank you. To get back to me. I know you're, you're doing so much to share this awesome special, so I really appreciated you taking the time. It was really cool to meet you.
[00:54:27] Carolyn: Oh, it was my pleasure.
Really cool to meet you too. I look forward to hearing more of your podcasts and, you know, and, an honor to virtually sort of meet your community, whoever's out there, hello. Hello, witches.
[00:54:39] Risa: We always say at the end, blessed f*cking be, so blessed f*cking be!
[00:54:42] Carolyn: Thank you. Thank you. Okay, I'll see you down the road.
Risa: The Missing Witches Podcast is created by Risa Dickens and Amy to rock with insight and support from the Coven. Amy and Risa are the co-authors of Missing Witches, reclaiming true histories of feminist magic, and of New Moon Magic 13 anti-capitalist tools for resistance and re-enchantment available now wherever you get your books or audio books. find out more at missingwitches.com.