Comedian Tina Friml will be performing in Toronto for the first time this week, bringing her one-of-a-kind standup to Comedy Bar Danforth for what are sure to be three side-splitting shows.
In her sets, Friml often addresses her experience of living with cerebral palsy, flipping the script on ignorant comments or assumptions that were made about her, and calling out many of the stigmas disabled people face. With instantly relatable anecdotes, a dose of dark humour, and incredibly witty social commentary, she is definitely a voice to watch in standup comedy.
Originally from Vermont and now based in New York, Friml’s comedy has captured audiences around the world. In 2019, she was named a New Face in the acclaimed Just For Laughs Festival, and she made her debut on Comedy Central earlier this year with a hilarious set titled: “I’m Like the Bisexuality of Ability.”
Friml has also amassed a strong following on Instagram and TikTok, where she frequently shares clips from her sets and more funny stories and observations.
We caught up with Friml before her Toronto shows to ask about her approach to comedy and what’s making her laugh right now.
What are you looking forward to about your first Toronto show?
I’ve only been to Toronto once in my life for just 24 hours, but it was such an amazing impression of the city and just how much culture was happening in one location. I honestly don’t know what to expect other than great things. I don’t even know what the stereotypical Toronto tourist thing to do is — I’m going in blind and I freakin love it.
How would you describe your very first set as a stand-up comedian?
Deer in the headlights. I grew up performing on stage in my school theatre productions and at poetry slams and stuff like that, but it’s a completely different challenge to be standing up there alone with nothing except yourself. But I think a lot of comedians have a very strange familiarity with standing in front of the world, trying to prove that they should be here.
You’ve garnered a significant online following- what are some of the pros and cons of sharing your comedy via social media?
It can be very hard to not get in your head about what your brand of comedy is. Standup is such a personal thing, it’s based on your actual observations of the world and your real-life stories, and so it is very unnatural to live “on brand” all the time. When you are only performing it live for 15 people, you share a camaraderie of, it’s just us in this room, and we’re all hanging out like friends, but online is entirely more exposed and perceived. I’ve developed a kind of “dance like no one‘s watching” approach, I put out what I believe is funny and what makes myself laugh when I go back and rewatch it. I realize that that is the only way I can continue sharing comedy online, otherwise, I would simply freeze under all the pressure. In a way, that “deer in the headlights” feeling never completely left.
How would you describe your comedic style?
Optimistically dark! Ironically empowering!
A lot of your comedy addresses your experiences with cerebral palsy. What would you say has been the greatest outcome of sharing those experiences?
This is dramatic—but I’m emotionally invincible. I’m taking my power out of my situation and nothing can ever really bother me anymore. If someone ever says something off-colour to me, where it would previously have completely ruined my day, now the only thing I think is “Oh my God, write that down!” That is why I say that being born disabled turned out to be the best decision I ever made as a comedian.
Who are some comedians you admire?
I love comics like Emo Philips, Anthony Jeselnik, and Maria Bamford — constantly keeping you on your toes. They really put an art into crafting a joke. There’s so many incredible comics out there but when watching those kinds of comics, I can’t even laugh in the moment because I’m just so in awe of how talented they are.
What career advice has always served you well?
Networking is everything. You never know what will happen with the seeds that you plant. Also, never go for anything pinstripe, it’s an abomination to the wardrobe.
What’s a book, film or something you recently consumed that more people should know about?
I’ve been reading Jenny Lawson’s memoirs. Currently reading Furiously Happy. I’ve learned something about myself and that is I cannot read these books in any kind of moderately quiet environment. I’ve never guffawed so frequently in one sitting.
What’s making you laugh these days
Can you describe the vibe that audiences can expect from your show?
We have fun. Honestly, it just turns into one big hang. So far, it’s never turned into anything more. No one’s taken any articles of clothing off, but I am not saying there’s a 0% chance that couldn’t happen. I honestly don’t know if this is good marketing or not but I’m willing to give it a shot.
Tina Friml will be performing at Comedy Bar Danforth on August 25 and 26. Tickets are available here.