What can I say? What is pertinent? I was born and raised in Toronto. I began my performing experience at the age of 7 through 14 in the local church choir. Apart from sacred church music, we performed comedic operettas and secular choir music in concerts. For example, I enjoyed playing the roles of Marcelina in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and The Pirate Captain in Benjamin Brittain’s The Golden Vanity which we performed at the National Arts Centre in 1968.
During high school, I continued to perform music in folk masses and continued my work in comedy through parody and satire skits at high school assemblies.
In my twenties, I attended three universities but was never inspired to finish. I had jobs as an oil rig roughneck, nursing orderly in a geriatric Veterans Hospital, house painter, construction worker, frying pan salesman, pizza maker, waiter, and bartender. In my early 20s I studied guitar and in 1981 at 25 I was front man for a rock and blues band on lead vocals and slide guitar for 1 night at the National Hotel in Calgary. We played 11 songs warming up for my friend’s punk band The Pata Beatniks. It was that night I knew I had to be on stage so I quit school and began the trek I am still on now.
After several years of taking music and acting classes while working in restaurants and catering to make ends meet I enrolled in the Second City Improv Class program. After completing the third level my teacher, Bruce Hunter of the brilliant Illustrated Men, bumped me up to his level six, the top level at the time. In this class I met Michael Kennard and soon after Karen Hines, who would become my collaborators in Mump & Smoot.
Mike and I decided to work together as a duo after being encouraged in part by our teamwork ability, especially in gibberish exercises. We had barely begun with improv jams, writing sessions, and making short comedy videos at his studio including a soda pop commercial done as clowns in gibberish…”Gingopa”. Then he suggested we take a clown workshop that had just been advertised. I was aghast at the idea and should have expected it considering the clown art that decorated his studio and the Gingopa commercial. I think my response, admittedly based on pure clown ignorance, was “I thought we were going to do comedy”. I began considering finding a new partner when Karen piped in having heard of this Richard Pochinko clown visionary. Now they were ganging up on me and when Fiona Griffiths who I was taking movement improv from suggested it as well I gave up and reluctantly agreed. It was a natural to bring on Karen Hines now as our director and she would go on to collaborate and direct us on all our theatre work to date. And that was that.