Thursday, February 05, 2009

Week 2 (much belated)

Okay, so here’s the deal: I’ve barely been updating this blog. You know it, and I know it. The problem has been finding a decent enough internet connection during our port days to upload pictures with. It’s been hard, even though on my last boat contract the internet was good enough to upload pictures (slowly) from the boat. But today Piero and I discovered an Asian restaurant in Cozumel, and decided to hang out there and take advantage of their excellent connection, wonderful service, and mediocre Asian fusion food (I, unfortunately, cannot recommend the spicy tuna roll).

So yeah, these pictures are from about a month and a half ago. I’m going to try and accelerate the pace on this blog, and maybe do some updates without pictures, just to keep friends and family at home abreast of what I’ve been up to. Remember, this is a two way street – I’d love nothing more right now than to get e-mail, and hear about how you’ve been doing.

So yeah, when last we left America had a new president, and I hadn’t yet performed on the boat. But we have posters, complete with my old headshot, which looks nothing like me.

Though as Piero pointed out, I look a bit like Jack Nicholson as the Joker.

Our first show was our big “Second City Archive” show, which we do in a 700-seat theatre called the Stardust. It’s huge, with a cool art deco/ vaudeville feel, and we have to wear headset/ Britney Spears microphones when performing.

Our show includes the scene “Hand Sanitizer”, which is a take-off of the “blackout” scene “Soft Serve”. Point is, during the scene Piero and I play machine dispensers aboard the ship – I spit a mouthful of water onto Alice’s hands (aka. hand sanitizer) and Piero spits whipped cream on her hand (aka. soft serve ice cream). This may sound incredibly dumb, but I swear it gets the biggest laugh in our show. After the scene ends and the lights come down, I’m supposed to wipe up the water on the stage in the dark. In our second show Alice ran right into me in the dark, tripped end over end over me, and we both fell to the stage. She was fine, but the back of my head and suit got covered in whipped cream. So I did our final, 10-minute scene, unwittingly covered with whipped cream.

The next day we arrived in Cozumel (a tiny island off the coast of Mexico). We all got off the boat to explore, with Beth (pictured centre) leading the charge.

We were in search of authentic Mexican food, and adventure! Along the way I took some cool pictures of VW cars:

But those paled in comparison to my next discovery... BIMBO!

When I was 15 years old, I visited Mexico alongside my uncle John. Given that John was born in Nova Scotia but raised in Mexico, his knowledge of the local culture meant I didn’t have to learn anything: therefore in Spanish I can only count to six, and barely order a coke. But I remember Bimbo brand sweet bread (or “Conchas), which are amazing! It’s basically a soft cake, with powdered sugar on top. For my nerdier friends, it’s what I always assumed Elven lembras bread tasted like when I read “Lord of the Rings”. I ran into the first convenience store I saw with Bimbo the unfortunately named bear mascot, and bought as many as they had (they go for about $1 US for a package of two).

So we eventually found a place for lunch, which was little more than a stall, but smelled delicious. I got a plate of enchiladas for $4, which looked like nothing but brown goop, but tasted fantastic.

After lunch we walked back to the cruise ship dock and found a bar called Barracudas, where a lot of the cruise ship crew go to hang out and use the (decidedly crappy) internet. Here are some pictures I took of the bar:

And a picture TJ snapped of us swimming:

We had another great snack of guacamole and chips (those real great homemade tortilla chips that you can only get in Mexico and at great Mexican restaurants). If any of you guys back in Toronto can recommend some really good Mexican joints, I’m always interested. Here are a couple more of the pictures I snapped in Cozumel:

Not sure about that Vampire one. So our first week flew by really fast, and we had a great time with Beth and TJ. On our last night Beth took us out for a customary producers dinner, where we were not only allowed but encouraged to order anything we wanted. Here’s Piero “two steaks” Procaccini* saying something that has TJ doubled over with laughter. This picture was also taken moments before Beth went to the bathroom, and we told the waiter it was her birthday partly for free cake, but mostly to draw unwanted attention to her.

* Note. The nickname “Two Steaks” was ironically not bestowed that night, but weeks later as a result of Piero’s Atkins diet (on which he often orders two steaks minus any potatoes on the side).

Here is a picture of me in my suit, sipping on Grand Marnier. I am several martinis in at this point.

So I guess that’s an acceptable amount of photographic evidence of my travels. Our first week was a complete rush, and we were actually thankful that the next week was relatively quiet. But here’s a picture of our last night with Beth and TJ, drinking at my favourite bar on the ship (or collection of bars) Bar City. They have a martini bar, a champagne lounge, and a malt/ whiskey bar. And it all looks like it’s from the 1940’s (or the video game “Bioshock”).

So that was our whole first week, in pictures. That only leaves me with 8 weeks to catch up on. So what I’m going to do is start writing as well about what I’ve been up to recently, while I upload pictures from earlier in the cruise. I’ll be writing about the cruise in both the past and present tense – think of it like an episode of “Lost”. Speaking of, Piero and I have been catching up on recent episodes of ‘Lost’ with Chris, one of the singers on the ship. He’s in the Jean Ann Ryan Company of dancers (usually referred to as the JARs). Really nice cat – looks a lot like a young Willam Defoe.

Recently we’ve been pretty settled into cruise life overall. Last week saw a visit from my aunt Imelda, my uncle Lewie, and their friends Greg and Gertie (all coming to us from Antigonish, Nova Scotia). I’ll have pictures of that visit up soon. Since then we had a stop in Miami where Alice and I went to the mall (she was very excited to visit an Urban Outfitters store). I raided the Barnes & Noble and managed to find some decent comic books: the last two issues of “Buffy The Vampire Slayer: Season 8”, Ed Brubaker’s “The Man Who Laughs”, and the first volume of “The Walking Dead”, an excellent zombie-survival comic. I also downloaded last Thursday’s episode of “The Daily Show”, with the much-touted Jim Cramer interview. I thought that was excellent, by the way, and wouldn’t be surprised to see Cramer get “Tucker Carlson-ed” and lose his show.

Our shows recently have been going well. We’ve had a sudden influx of spring break crowds on the boat, and they get especially rowdy (though enthusiastic) during our improv shows. This makes it difficult during our Friday night “Family Improv Shows” (which keep getting scheduled at 10:30 – ugh). We did a game last night where audience volunteers come on stage and finish our sentences. In spite of the children in the audience, and the 10 year old volunteer on stage left, our second volunteer (an obviously drunk woman) kept offering inappropriate suggestions (gynecologist, etc). So that’s been challenging, but at least our shows have been well received.

Oh, and speaking of shows I split the seat of my pants during our big show on Monday night. It happened just as the lights were coming down on a scene, so no one in the audience noticed. Luckily (I guess) I’m not in the next 15 minutes of the show, so I ran all the way from the front of the ship to my cabin (back of the ship and up 5 floors), got new pants, took a picture of the ripped ones, changed, and was back in place with about 6 minutes to spare, and the audience never realizing a thing. And no one has let me forget about it since.

In general though we’ve pretty much settled in for the long haul. I keep getting random bouts of homesickness, mostly for seeing people or eating specific foods form back home. I would kill for some Sushi on Bloor, or a decent slice of pizza, or to do a show at The Bad Dog right now. But I’ll have to focus on the now, and see as much of the ports as I can before we take off. After all, we only have 4 more weeks before the Panama Canal...

Cheers everyone. Keep those e-mails coming.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Week One and a Half: Chicago and the Boat

(ed. note: I'm really sorry for how long it's taken me to get this blog up - I wrote it 2 weeks ago, and I've been trying ever since then to find a decent enough internet connection to upload pictures. I promise to try and update this blog more frequently, but that's all internet permitting. For now, enjoy!)

Hey everyone, greetings from the sunny port of (looks out nearby window) Cozumel. Just to give you an overview, things are great, Chicago was a blast, and we’re enjoying the boat. I know it’s been a couple of weeks since I updated this blog, so I apologize to... Mom. And Dad. And anyone else who stumbled upon this. I’m gonna use this post to catch up on the last 2 weeks, mostly in picture form, so I’m gonna go pretty fast.

On our first night arriving in Chicago, Alice and I didn’t know what to eat (and didn’t want to venture out of our Second City provided apartment into the freezing 24- temperatures). So we called the offices at Second City, and they recommended Marcello’s Deep Dish Pizza for delivery (that Monica is a life-saver!)

The pizza came surprisingly fast (I only had time to watch my first ever episode of the ‘Dick Van Dyke Show’ – I liked it), and was some of the best deep dish either of us had ever eaten. It remained delicious 4 days later, when we still couldn’t finish it!

Across the street from our apartment (which was only a 4 minute walk to Second City) was a bar called the Twin Anchors, as seen in ‘The Dark Knight’, when Two Face shoots a crooked cop. Sadly, we never got time to go in and have a drink (this was only sad to Alice, who is still often amazed and dismayed by my nerdiness).

Speaking of food (and I usually do on this blog), I was finally able to purchase my beloved McSkillet Burrito from McDonalds. The fools at Canadian McDonald’s won’t sell them. Damn FDA... Anyways, it’s a breakfast burrito with scrambled eggs, sausage, and hash browns baked in. In my opinion, it’s the closest thing to real food McDonald’s makes. I highly recommend it.

But this blog isn’t just about food, so I guess I should write about what we’re actually, you know, doing. Up next is a picture from the Mainstage Theater at the Second City in Chicago. For those of my friends and relatives who aren’t comedy nerds, this is literally the exact same stage (plus or minus a coat of paint) that people like Bill Murray, John Belushi, and Tina Fey worked on in their younger/ poorer days.

Pictured on the Mainstage is Pierro Procaccini, one of our cast mates. He’s from Chicago, and has been performing and directing for the Second City for the past few years. He’s also our resident cruise ship expert, having worked on about 6 of them. Super nice guy, really funny, and will laugh at anything. We had 4 days of rehearsal in the theatre, working mostly with our director, TJ Shanoff (or as I call him, “American Marcel St. Pierre”). I’ll tell you more about TJ later on. We also did a workshop with Mick Napier, or as the folks back home might remember him, the bald judge from “Next Comedy Legend” who looked like JK Simmons (the bald cop from 'Law and Order', 'The Closer', or the dad from 'Juno').

Mick Napier

JK Simmons

Oh shit, I was on a reality show.

Anyways, the rehearsals were great, and we got to check out the new Mainstage Show at the Second City (featuring Lauren Ash from the Toronto Second City, which was awesome to see). The show was pretty great (I especially dug the ‘Polar Bear’,‘Nuva Ring’, and ‘Chicago Olympics’ scenes). Alice and I also got invited to join the improv set after the show, which was hugely appreciated.

That night at the Second City a huge contingent of Toronto comedians were also in the audience, (most of the Sketchersons, and the delightful Julie Dumais) because they were in town for the Chicago Sketch Comedy festival (which I was also appearing in - I was wiped by the end of the week). Me and the Approximately 3 Peters were once again performing in the festival, which was a blast. This is us, after the show, drunk on... uh, success...

Oh, and during the festival, Alice and I went to a place across the street called Joey’s Brickhouse (Jason and Neil, was that the place you were telling us about?) We went between shows to get a late dinner, but they had so many amazing desserts! We had orange floats, waffle sundaes, delicious coffee, and S’MORES!!! They brought us a small fire and a lazy susan full of ingredients, and we roasted our own s’mores! I now truly know what it is to eat like a king.

We managed to see lots of great troupes: I saw Last Call Cleveland, whose videos killed; and the guys saw BriKo, who are supposed to be excellent. We also caught the other three Toronto acts at the fest: The Sketchersons, The Imponderables, and Accidental Company (seen below). This is myself, Brian and Jordan at the “Sketchubator”, a late night event where sketch troupes perform unusual (or, “bad”) sketches for each other. And you get to drink on stage.

So, on Saturday the 17th we did a full day of rehearsal at Second City, then a show at the sketchfest, then I stayed and drank until about 2am, then headed home and got about 45 minutes of sleep... and Alice and I got picked up by the airport shuttle at 4am. Ouch. SO we flew from the freezing, -25 degree temperatures of Chicago to the +18 degree temps of Miami. I barely remember the flight. But we did get picked up at the airport in a limousine, which was a nice way to officially start the day.

You can see pretty much everyone in this picture: along the back is Beth Kligerman (producer for the Second City and person who hired Alice and I); Dave Keeton (our musical director, veteran of several Boat gigs, and co-founder of the Dad’s Garage improv theatre in Atlanta), TJ Shannof (our director, currently hard at work on a musical comedy about Illinois Governor Rod Blagoivitch); Pierro again; and Michael Bertrando (a really funny dude who’s originally from Philadelphia). Not pictured are Alice and Hilary Bauman, a very funny improviser who has worked with the Second City and Boom Chicago.

So we got on the boat alright (in spite of the jackass guard working at the Miami Port). We spent most of the first day catching up on our sleep, and awoke to a beautiful sea day on Monday morning.

Monday was spent mostly rehearsing our big show. Like the last boat gig I did we do two shows per week of old Second City scenes, as well as two completely improvised shows. For those really in the know, we’re doing some pretty good archive scenes, like “Applebees”, “Customs” (from ‘Reloaded’), “Orchestra”, “Vera”, and “Dead Grandama” (don’t worry actual grandmas – it’s just a name).

Tuesday our director, TJ, was quite insistent on switching rehearsal to the afternoon and evening. It may have been our first port day in Roatan...

...but we spent it inside watching President Obama get sworn in via the (I shit you not) 2-storey television in the main atrium. As you can see, both TJ and Bertrando were very excited for the whole event (I think Michael even volunteered for his campaign).

TJ and Pierro.

Michael Bertrando.

We watched from 9am until Obama was sworn in at noon (or not sworn in, depending on whether Justice Roberts actually did make a mistake). The whole morning was genuinely inspirational – except that a crew boat drill had been scheduled for that morning, so the Sound System would occasionally cut out for instructions. Seriously, it sounded like this:

OBAMA: On this day we come to proclaim and end to the petty grievances and false promises, the recriminations and worn out dogmas, that for too long have-

CRUISE DIRECTOR: And now we will proceed with the forward stations. Please wait for a series of ten loud alarms.

OBAMA: ...journey has never been one of shortcuts or settling for less-


OBAMA: ...principles-

CRUISE DIRECTOR: And now the mid-stations. Only 7 more stations to go...

But the crowd was very resolute, and there was much applause throughout the whole ceremony. It was pretty neat to watch the whole event with people who actually, you know, got to vote for him.

Okay, I was going to write up to today, but this blog is already enormous. So I’m going to end here, and catch it up to present day by the end of this week. I hope everyone is doing well back home, and enjoying the... brisk... winter. I’m gonna go get another daiquiri.


We live here.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Chicago Day 2; Hey, does this thing still work?

Hey everyone, I'm here in Chicago, rehearsing to go on another cruise ship gig for the Second City. Alice and I are currently sitting in the corporate apartment, watching "Seinfeld" reruns (the "they're real, and they're spectacular" episode) and looking for something non-comedy related to do tonight (we're checking out the Second City Mainstage show tomorrow night).

And now, a picture!

This port-a-potty was on the way to our rehearsal at the Second City today. Eat it, Maggio!

I just wanted to check if this blog still works (and still updates to Facebook). So here goes. Feel free to comment on the blog, or drop me an e-mail. Cheers all!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Week... Uh... Six? What Country Am I In...?

Alright everyone: this is the one where my blog catches up to the present. This’ll be mostly pictures – a lot of them. Hang on kids; learning curve’s steep on this one.

Happy Canada Day! As is customary in my home and native land, we celebrated July 1st with the traditional “cute Canadian girls”:

These are 3 of the YC’s, or “Youth Counselors”, on the ship (think camp counselors). From right to left is Jennifer, Patrick, and Isabella. For some reason, it seems that most of the YC’s come from Canada. In fact, there’s another girl named Amanda who I discovered this night went to the same high school as myself (go Prince Andrew High! Go... Wildca- no... Fightin’ Eagle- no... ah, whatever). On our first day on the ship, we accidentally stole Jennifer’s luggage when we were grabbing our own. We replaced it eventually, but I don’t think she ever found out...

The evening was celebrated with the time-honoured Canadian traditions of Molson Canadian, and the “Frosh 1” compilation CD. Much hooting and dancing was observed during the traditional Canadian hymn, “Home For A Rest”. And there was cake:

And then the cake was thrown everywhere:

Earlier in the evening, Derek was heard to say “I’m just gonna get dressed up tonight. Suit, tie... No particular reason”. That... turned out to be a mistake.

A couple of nights later we finally checked out the private karaoke rooms here on the boat. They don’t really work perfectly, so they’re not open to the passengers. But the crew can sign them out, and they’re a blast. This particular night was the final night on the boat for one of our technical people from the theatre – Butch, who is from the Phillipines, and had been on the ship for 10 months straight! That’s him, on the far right:

That’s me and our head tech Rusty, throwing down some mad rhymes on an Eminem song. And by “mad”, I of course mean, “buzzed”.

This is Amanda doing a great rendition of “Gloria”, and Marco in the background, just being awesome:

And this is the girls, singing... the Spice Girls:

That week went by pretty uneventfully, though we did manage to check out both ‘Transformers’ and ‘Ratatouille’ during our stop in Florida (fun action but too much stupidity in ‘Transformers’; and ‘Ratatouille’ was excellent, if maybe a little too dry). I also managed to pick up a $20 used copy of the Daily Show’s “Indecision 2004” DVD box set, which I have watched front to back since then. Ah, Sen. Zel Miller...

That weekend, we stopped back in New York again, and I once again hung out with my buddy Robert (who you may all be watching a bit more of in the near future). Robert and I grabbed some quick lunch, and then he agreed to indulge my touristy plans – to go to the top of the Empire State Building:

I can honestly say, this is one of my favourite things that I’ve done on this cruise.

I thought Robert would enjoy this...

I also had a lot of fun taking some black and white shots.

Oh yeah, and it turns out they shoot the Daily Show like, 1 block from where we dock every single weekend.

For the record, the directions to the strip club are entirely accurate.

That weekend we had the first of our visitors join us on the ship: Katy’s mom, Susan. Susan came to visit us all the way from Indiana, and stayed with Katy for the week. For some of the people doing longer contracts on the ships, the Second City will pay for a guest to come join them on the ship for a week. (Since I’m only doing two months, I don’t get to bring anyone out, so don’t bother asking). On Susan’s first night on the ship, we decided to try out the steakhouse here on the ship, Cagney’s.

That’s Susan, seated in the middle. Ooh, and that’s my new tie that I picked up in Manhattan. The meal was great, and though a bit more expensive than the other restaurants on the ship, definitely worth it.

And here is a picture of Marco, telling a story about a time he nearly beat up some bartender in Yorkville, defending the honour of his lady. Awww...

It was great having Susan on the boat for the week. She’s really sweet, and has a great sense of humour. Very much reminded us of Katy, who I could tell really enjoyed having the company from home. It’s strange how being out here on this great boat, and visiting all these amazing countries can really bring into relief all the things at home that you didn’t expect to miss so much.

Ooh! Remember that Jeff Trachta guy I wrote about a few weeks ago? He’s the performer from Vegas, who sings “Proud to be an American” at the end of his show? Well he came back to the ship, and we hung out with him a bit. Turns out he’s actually a pretty nice guy. Here’s a picture of him teaching us to do the hustle:

This one’s for you, Carly.

I decided to go off on my own a bit this week, and check out the snorkel park in Bermuda. It’s right next to an old Colonial Fort, which you see in the background. The snorkeling wasn’t exactly... picturesque. But I did see lots of spiffy fish, and followed them around for a while. I like to think that they eventually took me in as one of their own.

Taco Time! Occasionally while we’re at sea, the buffet upstairs will serve tacos for lunch. These days are cause for celebration.

Here’s some more of the dancers from the boat, also enjoying the taco-y goodness. This is Reuben, Bree, and Jolene, all really sweet folks.

Remember that picture of the sunset I included in my last blog? Here’s a much nicer one that I took a picture of this past week.

The next morning we arrived in Tortola, and I once again went off on my own for most of the day. I found a great little homemade Italian gelato place called “La Dolce Vita”.

Everything you see is as delicious as it looks. I had the Cherry Vanilla ice cream, which had real whole cherries, and cherry sauce drizzled over the top of the vat. I’m thinking of writing a travel book after I get home, “Ian MacIntyre’s Guide to Caribbean Ice Cream”. I wandered through the street for a while more, doing some gift shopping. There are also wild chickens everywhere on this island. Carly had told me about a bakery with free wireless internet, so I hung out there and checked my stuff for a couple of hours. I also bought some music from the iTunes store, which was great. I highly recommend the newest albums by The Lovely Feathers, and Memphis (side project by the guy from Stars). After that I headed back to the ship, and snapped this picture of a rather ominous storm off in the distance.

Meh, it wasn’t that bad.

The last stop on the cruise this past week was in St. Thomas, where we spent some more time hanging out at the Barefoot Buddha coffee shop. I’m really hoping to get back to some more beaches next time we get there, since believe it or not I’m actually coming close to the end of this cruise. One thing we did do was take the Skyride gondola up to the top of the foot hills. Amanda and I did the 5-minute ride up to the top of the hill, and took in the view.

And this is where I leave it for another installment. The view from the top of the Skyride was really relaxing, and I’m so glad Amanda was up for joining me on the trip. I hope everyone at home is doing well, and I’ll talk to you guys soon.

Oh yeah, and did anyone watch my TV show?