Tragedy Plus Time: Toronto Comedian Jillian Welsh

Jillian Welsh is currently a cast member of The Second City MainStage here in Toronto, plays Jordan Chase on “I Woke Up A Vampire” on Family Channel which is set to hit Netflix in the fall, and is also a cast member in the second season of ABROAD on OMNI. We got to speak with her to find out more.

Jillian Welsh
Photo by: Graham Isador

How would you describe your comedy acting style?

Wow, this is a hard one. To be honest I’m not sure, I just try to tell the truth in a funny way. I would say that even all of my wildest big characters are grounded in some way (and always based on someone I know, shhhh don’t tell them). I love to be physical and wild on stage, but also love to play really grounded and vulnerable too.

Who are some of your influences?

My Paisley Bantam Girls baseball team. Is that strange? Growing up my biggest dream was to be the first female baseball player in the major leagues, but after I broke both my collar bones (motocross), I couldn’t play at the same level. I loved baseball so much and I still wanted to be valuable to my teammates so I kinda let my funny out? I came up with hilarious chants, would wear wild outfits and mooned way too many people. It was honestly a relief to put down this serious competitive side. My teammates embraced this wild authentic version of me. I couldn’t help us win with my rocket throwing arm anymore but I could make everyone laugh so very very hard, particularly my coach Al who would drive all the way out to the middle of nowhere to pick me up for games, just for the entertainment. I’m so grateful to him, my other coaches and the whole dang team.

Who was your favourite comedian growing up?

I grew up with “country cable” which basically meant CBC, and if you prayed hard enough with a coat hanger on your head, Global so I didn’t have access to a lot of “media”. My parents, however, have an old VHS tape of “The Best of Saturday Night Live; Classic Years Collection” and I wore it right out watching all things Gilda Radner. I was the only six-year-old in the county with a solid “Rosanna Rosanna Danna” impression; 20 years past cool. It also had a sketch (though I would have called it a skit then) where Steve Martin and Bill Murray play two tourists looking at something off camera and saying “What the hell is that?” This was the funniest thing I had ever seen in my life and it became my favourite game to play, to just look at something and say “what the hell is that” over and over again. My first-grade teacher, however, did not understand or even moderately enjoy this bit.

Who is your favourite comedian now?

Catherine O’Hara. Catherine O’Hara. Catherine O’Hara.

I have always watched her movies, but when I was a kid she always seemed like a bit of a villain or a “mean mom” in Home Alone or Beetlejuice. You know that slightly unhinged adult kids know to give a lot of space to. Now watching these movies I am able to see the pure comedic genius. To be able to create characters so grounded and believable yet simultaneously at war with the edges of their own sanity is pure mastery. And I’m also in my Molly Shannon era. Her fearless physicality inspires me to get even wilder.

What is your pre-show ritual?

Cup of earl grey tea, and a genuine moment of thanks to get to do what I love so very much. This was instilled in me by my grandmother. We would always talk after any show of mine. She’d be waiting up with a cup of tea and be brimming with love and excitement for whatever it was that I was doing and a reminder to cherish the moment with thanks. This became a pre-show ritual after she passed and I realized caffeine doesn’t help me sleep.

What is your favourite place you have performed? Why?

The American Globe Theatre in NYC. This was one of my very first professional theatre jobs. I got to do so much Shakespeare in this amazing little theatre just a few blocks from Times Square. It was in this row of very very old buildings next to a catholic church. All the incense seeping in from mass would make the air seem like this smokey magic. I worked with some really incredible seasoned repertory actors who taught me so many things. My favourite was how to use “tooth black” to make it look like I am missing teeth.

What is your favourite bit you have written and why were you proud of it?

I was babysitting a friend’s lil guy a few years ago and he was playing with a spoon and knocked on his high chair like a solid “knock knock”. I said “Who’s there” and got up to look in the fridge to see who was trying to get out. He laughed so hard and we spent the next two hours with him knocking and me opening various things. It’s the physicalization of the “knock knock joke” and the deep intellectual understanding that no one ever truly is “there” that makes this my greatest achievement.

What is your favourite medium for listening or finding new comics/comedians?

Word of mouth, I love a recommendation. I also love checking out live comedy usually at Comedy Bar and then on Tik Tok/Netflix when I don’t want to wear structured pants.

Tell us a joke about your city.

Oh, thank God the city’s been saved!
What a heroic act!
Not all heroes wear capes!
Thank God that woman F* John Tory!

Do you have anything to promote right now?

I’m currently a cast member of The Second City MainStage here in Toronto. Come check out our latest revue Skyline’s The Limit! I also play Jordan Chase on “I Woke Up A Vampire” currently on Family Channel and set to hit Netflix in the fall. I am also a cast member in the second season of ABROAD on OMNI and oh gosh an absolute dream! I truly loved every moment. We laughed so darn much! The creator Izzy Kanaan is just so incredible to work with. You watch her morph into a million different characters speaking both Tagalog and English with a variety of different accents and dialects and on top of it all she makes it look easy! She’s a full-blown weirdo and everyone’s talent crush.

Where can we follow you? 

Instagram

PAY IT FORWARD: Who is another local comic/comedian we should know about?

Beyond the amazingness that is Abroad’s Isabel Kanaan – Stop what you’re doing and go discover all things Ajahnis Charley and Nour Hadidi.

 

 

About Joel Levy 2588 Articles
Editor-In-Chief at Toronto Guardian. Photographer and Writer for Toronto Guardian and Joel Levy Photography