Second year Humber College comedy student Taylor Smith is making Toronto laugh every Tuesday at Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club.
Smith, 20, said making people laugh while on stage is the best high he can get.
“Comedy has gotten me through so many hard times in my life,” he said. “When I get up on stage and I can make people laugh, I feel like I’m doing something important for the world.”
Smith started performing on stage when he wrote and acted in student plays in high school.
During the first performance of a high school play he wrote, Smith said he was blown away that the show had laugh breaks from the audience.
“I realized I wasn’t as concerned about telling serious teen dramas as I was with just making people happy,” he said.
Performing runs in Smith’s family. With a comic book artists father and a CBC singer, pursuing the arts was encouraged.
“The idea of pursuing your dumb, childish fantasy was a genuine possibility in my family,” he said.
Smith dealt with intense stress and OCD growing up. He said listening to his favourite comedian, American stand-up comic Mitch Hedberg’s album made him feel better.
“That feeling is what I want to give back to others,” he said.
Tuesday night’s stand-up show was not the first for Smith. He has been performing at the comedy club’s Humber amateur night shows almost every week since his first year.
His first performance was a two minute stand-up set at an open mic night at Etobicoke’s Placebo Space bar.
“There were 10 people in the audience and I knew about five of them. I panicked about that performance for days,” he said.
Smith still gets nervous before every set he does. The only time he is not panicking is the two to five minutes he’s performing on stage.
He said it took him a long time to get comfortable with being on stage and he was terrified before he started performing stand-up. He wished he knew how easy it was to just get on stage and not be so afraid of it.
“I roll with my nerves now. I let them fuel me,” he said.
Alumna Brie Watson joined students on stage for the Tuesday amateur night, which featured an hour of stand-up by Humber comedy students.
She said having Humber alumni perform with students is a great learning experience for them.
Interacting and performing alongside alumni is what Smith loves about the Humber comedy program.
“My favourite thing about performing at Yuk Yuks is performing with peers, other comics, and alumni because you’re able to talk after your set and give each other tips, pointers and help each other out,” he said.
Smith said he advises aspiring comics who are looking to join the Humber program to get out there and perform as much as they can.
He also advised that aspiring comics not hate other comics and their peers.
“You’re going to be stuck with your classmates for two years, so learn to work with them and to love them,” he said.
“A part of comedy is being a social, interactive person, so collaborate with other comics as much as you can, network, and make professional friends who are willing to support you,” Smith said.
Smith urges Humber comedy students to take advantage of their resources, like going to the after school comedy sketch sessions and pitching their stand-up to Yuk Yuks co-founder and Humber comedy professor Larry Horowitz.
“It’s such a short program, squeeze every minute of it for what it’s worth,” he said.
Horowitz said students try their material and then video their shows for him to evaluate them, upon request.
“It is required that they try a few sets there but they don’t have a required number of performances to do. It just so happens that most utilize the opportunity as much as possible,” he said.
Smith said a lot of people think his program is just “clown school” and is easy. In reality, the comedy writing and performance course at Humber is an intensive program, but he doesn’t let it faze him.
“I love it. Comedy is all I’ve wanted to do in my life so just finally being in it is so exciting to me,” he said.
Smith said the ability to laugh at the end of the day was very appealing to him, so when he heard of Humber’s comedy program he decided to go for it.
That being said, Smith didn’t always plan on pursuing comedy. He almost auditioned for Humber’s theatre program and intended on becoming a stage actor. However, comedy was still always a huge passion of his.
Smith used to go by stage name “Snake” to disassociate his real self from his stand-up self.
He said his stand-up self is more confident and says things he normally wouldn’t say. He also said he seems to bully himself a lot more on stage than he ever would off stage.
“No one’s ever going to complain like, ‘Hey! Stop picking on that tall, white guy,’” he said. “I try to make it, at the end of the day, that I’m targeting nobody but myself.”
Smith said his stand-up is more like having a conversation with someone at a table, rather than performing to an audience. He doesn’t feel like he’s talking to an audience when he’s performing.
Instead, Smith feels like he’s talking to friends.