Comedy is often the presence of the absurd in otherwise quite serious circumstances. Monika Smith is one of Hollywood’s comedic actresses that has become increasingly of note in this world due to her work on shows like Adult Swim’s Newsreaders. Newsreaders is the spinoff of Adult Swim’s ChildrensHospital produced by The Corddry Company (established by Emmy award-winning actor and comedian Rob Corddry of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, HBO’s Ballers, Hot Tub Time Machine, and ChildrensHospital). Many of the Corddry Company productions use an eclectic cast to add an impression of reality to their fictionalized comedy productions. Appearing in addition to Monika are personalities and actors like Dan Rather, Jane Seymour, Ed Begley Jr., Dave Foley, Conan O’Brien, Billy Ray Cyrus, David Hasselhoff, and countless others. This series requires actors of major presence and talent to perform with such recognizable faces and not become overshadowed. Smith more than met this challenge with her role as Cammie on Newsreaders.
Los Angeles may be a big city but the entertainment community is quite small for both the famous and those not as widely known professionals. Canadian born comedic actress Monika Smith had made a name for herself early on in Canada as part of Second City, the famous improv sketch comedy group. After moving to Los Angeles to pursue an acting career, she also became involved in LA’s Second City as well as the Upright Citizens Brigade and Nerdist. Possessing this background and her talents as an actress quickly gained her acceptance into the LA comedy community. She tells, “I felt very much a part of the community right away. When it came to my work on Newsreaders, every writer, producer and actor on that show is an exceptional comedian so the bar definitely was raised. The environment was accepting, every joke was yes-anded. The comedy world in Los Angeles can feel small at times, and this was one of those moments where I felt I got to be a part of something special.”
Being a part of the LA improv comedy world can mean that you sometimes work with the same people, whether onstage or on set. When Monika auditioned for the role, she was aware of the great writers, producers, and cast members, but did not expect to be working with Thomas Middleditch (Emmy nominated lead actor in HBO’s Silicon Valley). Smith reveals, “I had performed with Thomas before this at some improv shows, and on an improvised web show (Improvise Live), so working with him was easy as we already knew each other’s styles, plus we have the bond of both being Canadian. On Newsreaders I played Cammie who was doing an undercover interview with the lead of the show who plays the reporter. Thomas Middleditch played my boyfriend and we were supposed to be in school paying for our tuition using the bang bus. The newsreaders host was interviewing us in order to catch our boss, who was supposed to be using it illegally.”
One of the stereotypes that Newsreaders like to play off of is the idea that television news personalities are more possessing of pleasing aesthetics than the intellect to properly process the information they disseminate. With all of Monika’s success as a comedic actor, who also had a thriving modeling career with Ford and Elite modeling agencies (before focusing on her acting career), she proves that this stereotype does not apply to this actor. Commenting about this idea she states, “I don’t think looks are as important in comedy. Comedy is about the circumstances created and the reactions of the people within it. Being beautiful isn’t a trope of comedy. But, this is Hollywood, so looks always factor in.”
In the world of Prank TV shows, Monika Smith is one of the shining stars. This actress has numerous film and TV credits in her list of credits but made her mark early on with shows like Disaster Date (as the name implies, a program about horrible dating experiences) and Who Gets The Last Laugh (WGTLL). WGTLL pitted famous comedians against each other to see who can pull the most outrageous prank. Smith was one of the comic actors on the show who acted out the parts dictated by these comedians. Possessing a strong background in improvisation as well as being extremely confident and convincing was a necessity for the actors on WGTLL. Monika saw the show as a chance to challenge herself. She states, “I love pranking. I think it has helped me hone my skills as an actor and I am very fortunate for this experience. As I move forward in my career I am continually trying to challenge myself with the roles I play.” WGTLL, produced by Ashton Kutcher and Jason Goldberg for TBS, resulted in Smith working alongside household comedy names like D.L. Hughley, Alan Thicke, Tom Green, and many others. Smith concedes that she particularly enjoyed working with so many comedians whose work she has enjoyed for so long. Monika relates, “. It was so much fun to work with Cherie OTeri. I grew up watching her on SNL. She had made me laugh for so many years with her work so it was particularly fulfilling for me to make her laugh. Kevin McDonald from Kids In The Hall was the same for me. He was a celebrity guest and Kids in The Hall is a very famous Canadian comedy show that I grew up watching. That show shaped a lot of people’s comedy styles. To make Kevin laugh was thrilling. At one point he was complimenting me about how funny I was and I was thinking to myself, ‘I watched your show over and over at home in my pjs growing up!’ Those are the pinch me moments that a lot of us aspire to achieve.” WGTLL Producer Nick Kriess adds his comments to Smith’s other admirers noting, “Monika struck me as an actor to keep an eye out for when she came in to audition for Punk’d. She was incredibly captivating during the auditioning process, showing a clear sense of direction; she knew how to grab your attention and keep you mesmerized. I brought her along with me on TBS show Who Gets the Last Laugh?, a hidden camera comedy television series that saw some of the industries’ most well-known comedians going up against three guest comedians to see who could pull off the most outrageous practical jokes on the unsuspecting public. Monika was a series regular on the show. She was critical to the project because she had to convince ‘normal’ people to do the crazy tasks that the comedians were coming up with. There aren’t a lot of actors that can stay in character during insane situations and convince people to do absurd things, but Monika is one of those actors who can. Who Gets the Last Laugh? was a hit due in large part to Monika’s extensive improv background. Monika has managed to make a strong career out of her fantastic comedic sensibilities and her amazing way of always knowing the best direction to take a scene in no matter what is thrown her way. She went neck and neck with some of the biggest celebrity comedians in the game and stood her ground, sometimes even completely overshadowing them. Monika’s leading role on the production catapulted her into being the fan favorite, directly resulting in the one million plus viewers Who Gets the Last Laugh? received each episode. Monika is a very unique actor in that she can convince people of just about anything. For example, on one of the most hilarious and popular episodes, Monika had to convince an unsuspecting person that her dance partner was cheating on her and was subsequently going after the person’s significant other. This task would be a very hard one to accomplish for most people, but it was almost too easy for Monika. She is a class act and has helped the series succeed as both a piece of entertainment and a showcase for what makes Monika such a professional and amazing actor to work with. Monika has accumulated many impressive credits in a number of major film and television productions in the global entertainment industry for several years now.”
Monika Smith has created a unique situation for herself in the entertainment industry. At a young age she had a successful international modeling career with Ford and Elite. Rather than make this her life’s work, she pursued her love of comedy and joined the Second City Touring Company in Toronto. Recognizing the opportunities available to her, she relocated to LA where she began performing on harold, maude and house teams at UCB, as well as Second City and Nerdist. She has taught improv at Second City, UCB, Nerdist, and even internationally in China. The unique combination of her physical presence, comedic instincts, and acting abilities made her the first call for shows like WGTLL. The programs lead performers needed to be eye catching, persuasive, fast thinking, and able to stay in character longer than almost any other actors. Smith explains, “Who Gets the Last Laugh, and the numerous prank shows I’ve done have made me a better actor. I was forced to be in character in front of real people for hours sometimes. With only a mic on my person, and an ear bud letting me know what was happening in the scene, I was able to convince real people that I was a crazy person. It was hard work and it was thrilling. There are no second takes as you have to have your ‘mark’ (the real people) believe you the first time. It’s a skill that I think has made me a better actor.”
Smith states that the X factor which makes her scenes so demanding but also so highly educational for her is the “marks.” She emphasizes that working with an unknowing participant, although similar to improv sketch comedy, can pull you in directions that are completely unexpected. Monika confirms that she is often relieved when her true motives are revealed to the “mark”, but the experience is well worth the small amount of uneasiness. It is often bewildering to witness what some individuals will allow her to do during the pranks. Recalling some of her favorite moments on WGTLL, she states, “On the show I played various characters and tricked real people into believing that this character and these odd situations were real. I played an intern that accidentally discovered classified government papers. I made people believe that the FBI was after us. On another episode I called a locksmith and had them open a jewelry store that I told them was mine. Once they unlocked the door I proceeded to steal all the jewels and leave them in the store. I had to convince these people not only that I owned a jewelry store, but I also got them to open the safe. You can discover whether or not you are truly convincing in the role you are playing in these situations. That’s the type of immediate feedback that confirms if your acting instincts are correct.”
Monika Smith can be seen in a number of films and television programs, most recently starring alongside Patrick Stewart and Adrian Scarborough in the STARZ series Blunt Talk (Golden Globe nominated). All of these opportunities are the reason she moved to Los Angeles. She feels confident that she has chosen the right environment here in LA stating, “I had thought about moving to NY, as I had worked there when I was modeling and loved the city. But, LA is where TV and movies are cast and I thought it was the smartest option. It’s a wonderful city where art is being created just about everywhere.”
Who likes the idea of a Zombie Apocalypse? Nobody, right? Well, except for Alex MacPherson. Maybe it’s because he is such a fan of the genre. Maybe it’s because he feels as if he has already lived through it with his role in Dead Rush. The film was released earlier this year and was an Official Selection of the Canada Film Fest. Unless you have been hibernating or living off the grid for the past several years, you know that zombies are ubiquitous in film and television. Walking Dead and movies like 28 Days Later ignited a zombie fire that has seen TV and movies about them set records. One thing is for sure, people love seeing zombies and MacPherson is no exception. Whereas most zombie scenarios show a group paradigm, Dead Rush takes an extremely personal perspective by following one man as he loses everything. It’s this individual’s struggle in a world that is crumbling around him that implies the modern concern for our planet and how society is causing it to fall into a state of disrepair; one from which it can never fully recover…or maybe it is just good old’ fashion Hollywood scare tactics.
Dead Rush is simply the zombie version of the “riches to rags” story for one man. Early in the film the main character’s wife dies as they attempt to escape the chaos that follows the apocalypse, soon all those around him are dying and becoming zombies. We follow the journey of the main character and his attempt to find refuge with survivors. MacPherson is literally the first person we see in the film. Sadly for him, he is killed trying to escape and is impaled by a pole; his death resulting in his rebirth as a zombie. Even the long periods required to be in the makeup chair couldn’t dull Alex’s enthusiasm as he recalls, “It sounds a little crazy to say that you love a car crash scene but I didn’t have any of the negativity of an actual crash or the repercussions that follow so it was a lot of fun. The Art Department had beaten the hell out of this old van. They shoved a pole through the windshield, hooked up smoke machines, it was pure Hollywood magic! The Makeup artists were incredible so when I saw the zombie it really was terrifying. He looked so real!”
Zac Ramelan directed (along with writing and producing credits for) the film. Ramelan (known for his work on feature films like Late Night Double Feature, Zombieworld, and others) often works with cinematographer Karl Janisse. Witnessing the professional relationship between the two, Alex comments, “Working with director Zac Ramelan, and Director of Photography Karl Janisse, was the best part of this project for me. The two were like peanut butter and jam, working so well together. I remember sitting back and watching with admiration as they broke down a scene. Zac, who also wrote the film, had such a clear vision of everything, and of course, that always help as an actor, when you have strong direction.” It would be quite difficult for anyone to understand what motivates a zombie (other than eating brains, of course) but MacPherson confirms that working with Ramelan made it easy, noting, “When you have a director with a vision as strong as Zac’s, not much research is required. As for putting my mind fully into the film’s character, it really wasn’t hard with how detailed the set was, which was just done so well. It truly felt like I was in a post-apocalyptic world.” The film’s cinematographer Karl Janisse praises MacPherson’s abilities and contributions that helped achieve such a positive public response declaring, “It was an immense pleasure to work with Alex on Dead Rush. He is so creative. Working in this genre you need the story to be fresh but you also need the actors to bring something new to a role, something that entices the viewer; Alex does that. He is a wonderful actor. I’m scheduled to work with him soon on a project for Mimic Entertainment and I am really looking forward to it.”
It would seem that the misfortune which befalls the cast on screen is not without a real life counterpart, although in a much more benevolent sense. When the cast walked the red carpet at the film’s premier (at the Canada Film Festival) they were caught in a torrential downpour…in Canada…in winter! This occurrence (soundtrack provided by fellow Canadian Alanis Morissette’s tempting of fate) still did not dampen the cast’s spirits. According to MacPherson it has more to do with Canadian’s love of film that anything. He states, “Studios like to pick up horror films because they sell! Much of the feel of a horror film can be created with lighting, color correction and music. I don’t think Canada in particular has any specific things that make the horror genre so prevalent but there is just so much filming here! Toronto and Vancouver are film capitols, and the amount of filming there is actually increasing!”
Never content to settle, Alex has several projects in the works. He recently wrote and starred in Palmer’s Pumpkins. He wrote the film specifically as an ode to the 80’s horror films that he grew up loving, although it is more fun and fantasy based than horror. When Earth Sleeps is a trilogy set in a post apocalyptic world (a theme Alex is familiar with) in which the main character Aydin searches for solace. While maintaining a heavy workload of filming in his homeland of Canada, MacPherson hears the sirens beckoning from Hollywood. He reveals, “As much as I love Canada, and Toronto specifically, Los Angeles has been calling to me for a while. There’s something about the Hollywood dream that calls to all actors. I visited LA a few times over the last few years, originally thinking that I wouldn’t love the city, but would have to learn to at least accept it; the funny thing is, after my first visit I absolutely fell in love with it. That and every fiber of my being was screaming out that I had to get there. To this day I have a strong intuitive notion that my next chapter in film will occur in LA. Whether Toronto has a ton of projects shooting or not, there is still something about LA that Canada doesn’t have, when it comes to the entertainment world. As an actor and screenwriter, Los Angeles’s appeal is paramount. I’m also really lucky to have become close with a number of LA-based directors and producers. I am super excited to have a bunch of projects lined up already. It is one thing to want to get to LA as an actor, but it’s another thing altogether to have LA film people want to work with you. It’s like something out of a dream. What a life!”
It’s almost a certainty that anything which includes the phrase “polyamorous love triangle” will not end well. That’s the plot and the point to the film WANDA by the Canadian comedy troupe Tony Ho. Tony Ho is definitely a “they” and not a “he” but one of the stars of the film, Adam Niebergall, plays a man who is about as “he” as possible. Niebergalls’ character in WANDA is rough, tough, and definitely enjoys the company of other men; meaning all things masculine are on his agenda. That’s an odd character for a love triangle involving a woman named Wanda; even more odd that the character Wanda never makes an appearance in the comedy film. It’s one of the many not so obvious factors that makes WANDA surprising and unexpected. It’s the story of a situation you never want to be in leading to even more situations that you don’t want to be in; interacting with people you definitely don’t want to be involved with. If Stephen King wrote a romantic comedy after an evening playing the board game Clue, it would be WANDA. Uncomfortably funny in a way that makes you think about your own motivations in a relationship as well as the true motives of others, WANDA showcases Niebergall’s abilities as seen in his previous work in shows such as TV’s Man Seeking Woman, TrueDating Stories, and films like JAPAN, Lottery, and Friend.
Taking the comedic approach, Tony Ho’s WANDA deals with the subject of an ex who just won’t leave you alone. Adam [Niebergall] and Roger [Bainbridge] clash with their lover’s ex-boyfriend who just can’t seem to get used to the idea that his [Miguel] relationship with Wanda is actually over. Niebesrgall’s namesake character Adam is tough and thuggish. He is openly aggressive and quickly provoked although a tender side does sometimes present itself. More than anyone else in the film, he wants to be done with Miguel. There is often the sense that Adam is on the verge of violence and a fair part of the action sees him on the precipice of (seemingly) becoming violent. He is the sleeping bear that we expect to get poked with a stick. The character couldn’t be further from the actor’s real-life disposition, although he often acquiesces to roles of this type. Adam confirms, “I was cast as Adam in WANDA because I naturally play weird bullies that have odd ways of speaking. Maybe it is something about my appearance or maybe a secret side of my personality that even I am not aware of but, it is fun to play characters that do things you wouldn’t ever find yourself doing. It’s a catharsis. I get to play and do weird things. I often find a weird way of talking. Sometimes I make up a language but say it with extreme confidence as if everyone who is imposing, powerful, or cool talks this way; which of course, they don’t!”
The plot of the movie shows Bainbridge as the well spoken, level-headed member of the triangle which includes Adam and Wanda. He is also the man of whom Miguel is most suspicious of in regards to “stealing” Wanda away from him. Miguel, overcome with jealousy, decides to poison Roger to remove him as an impediment to Wanda. The three main actors in the film are actually members of the Toronto comedy group known as Tony Ho. Tony Ho has spent years crafting their approach to live comedy and have most recently transferred the chemistry they created to the screen. Niebergall no doubt did his homework in sketch comedy (winning a Canadian Comedy Award in 2015 and was a member of sketch group Get Some which won Toronto Sketchfest Best of Fest that same year as well as Montreal Sketchfest in 2016) onstage and then transferred this to his approach in film. Miguel (Rivas) considers Niebergall’s portrayal a major achievement noting, “It’s surprising how convincing his tough guy character is. I know he’s played a macho guy in a few things actually, but he is so unlike that in real life; it kind of surprises you. You throw a neck tattoo on the guy and he becomes vicious! I’ve heard somewhere that more gentle mannered people play tough guys well because they have such an outsider’s perspective of it. It gives them an outlet for their pent up energy. Adam’s portrayal of that character in that movie is gold to me.” Rivas goes on to credit the success of WANDA in great part to Adam’s delivery stating, “It speaks to how important he is to our process. I guarantee we couldn’t have gotten lines like the “It sounds complicated but it’s strictly jungle” out of anybody else. It doesn’t work without him. He brings a really unique energy to that role that drives the whole scene.”
Roger Bainbridge, one of the writer’s and stars of the film affirms, “Adam was very central to the concept of Wanda. It was largely conceived based on how funny and interesting we thought it would be to see Adam charge into an apartment unannounced like an aggressive wild animal, and then have the audience follow along with Miguel trying to milk him for information as to what exactly is going on. The mysterious nature of why Adam is there grabs the attention of the audience immediately. His performance of this character is so amusingly menacing and it helps to establish a mood which is somehow both ominous and silly. Adam’s odd vernacular comes off so strange when he plays a tough guy, which is hilarious. I think it also works to show his range as an actor without losing his recognizable quality.”
Although still incredibly active as a writer and performer in the Canadian sketch comedy scene, Adam Niebergall is steadily appearing in television (as in the aforementioned Man Seeking Woman). His range and ability to draw empathy from audiences, as well as his comedic timing and writing skills are preparing him to become yet another of the well known Canadian comedic faces which includes greats like; John Candy, Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Seth Rogen, Dan Akroyd, Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Tommy Chong, and Samantha Bee, and so many others.
Pablo Bendr walks down the stairs at LA’s Greek Theater after performing to a crowd of over 6,000 fans. This well known DJ makes his way to the car and heads directly to the studio where he will spend the night overseeing beats and melodies. He has just shared the stage with La Ley, one of the most popular Latin rock bands of all time (with multiple Grammy awards to their name), but Bendr is driven to be just as successful at his day job as a music producer as he has become at his “rockstar” gig as one of LA’s most in demand DJs. While others are content to bask in the fame of the moment, Pablo is committed to making his own hits to enable him to maintain a thriving career for many years to come. Bendr is highly different from the majority of DJs in the fact that he began his musical endeavors as a classically trained pianist, competing and playing concerts in his home country of Chile. The commitment and discipline he learned on the keyboards not only allowed him to compose his own music in the electronic world but also transferred over to his work ethic as a producer. While most of his peers are seeing the throngs of adoring fans, Bendr is seeing the future and his music’s place in it, as well as his ability to assist other artists in furthering their own careers. This duplicitous nature of Pablo’s career serves to make him even more sought out in the US music scene. A couple of nights after the Greek show finds him in San Diego playing for a smaller but equally energetic crowd of 1,200 Bendr gives the audience no less of himself and his abilities than he did at the Greek show, a level of energy matched in the studio again that night.
While Pablo is disproving the stereotype of the DJ who parties all night and sleep all day, he is also comfortable contrasting the idea that music producers are not adept performers. Producers such as the great Quincy Jones are too often overlooked when the public considers the person behind the hits; Pablo is working furiously to give producers/performers the notoriety he feels they so accurately deserve. He confirms, “There are a handful of us [DJs] that are producers. We have a dual job. We spend hours in the studio creating our own songs and then play them during our DJ set. Production is a big part of the equation that people are not always familiar with. Many people think that all a DJs does is push buttons, twist knobs, and clap their hands. While that might be true for some people in the profession, in my case, I am in the studio creating my own tracks. It would be accurate to say that DJing is the social part of my career while being a producer is the serious side of it.” Bendr is so “seriously” adept at music production that he has worked with some of the icons of the music industry here in the US, like Robert Margouleff. The Grammy award-winning Margouleff was co-producer on many of Stevie Wonders most legendary albums including; Innervisions, Fullfillingness’ First Finale, Talking Book, and Music of MyMind. Robert makes note of Bendr’s talent stating, “I have been working with Pablo Bendr as a music composer and music producer since 2015. He brings a high degree of professionalism to every project he works on. He is intelligent, sensitive, talented, and a productive professional in our music industry.”
Hearkening back to the story of his beginning days in music, Bendr begins most of his compositions on piano. While seeking inspiration at the keys, cup of coffee in hand, Pablo discovers the melodies that will be the center of his compositions. After creating the beats to accompany these, the process follows a direction which is unusual for most DJ/Music Producers. Pablo reveals, “I’ll spend a few weeks getting all of the sounds the way I like them on synths but then I bring in the vocals. My style is electronic but with a lot of pop elements. I add vocals to almost all of my tracks. This involves recording a live singer, editing the vocals, and mixing them in with the song. Vocals are not always present in dance music. I feel that this extra step in my music makes it stand out. A lot of electronic artist/producers don’t go to this place.” This emphasis on vocals has not only resulted in Pablo developing his own sound and style but has also led to many artists seeking out his talents to produce and remix their work. Pablo recently did a remix for female pop artist D’Lannie as well as an original track with vocals from one of the members of the Glee cast. Many well known vocalists have become increasingly interested in Bendr’s style. Beto Cuevas is the lead singer of world-renowned, multi-Grammy award winning Chilean rock band La Ley, boasting more than 25 years of music trajectory and countless performances across the map. To this date, the group has released 10 albums and is currently signed to Warner Bros. Records. La Ley and Beto Cuevas are considered by many to be one of the most successful Latin rock bands in history to date, encompassing an immense following of fans from all across the Americas, Europe, and beyond. After winning 2 Latin Grammys, 2 MTV awards as “Best Latin Rock band”, the group triumphantly conquered global recognition after winning a World Grammy in 2001 as “Best Alternative Rock Band”. Beto declares, “Pablo is immensely talented as a music producer in the electronic dance genre. He is able to simultaneously create a captivating melodic storyline while also maintaining a strong dance beat. In an era with so many rising EDM artists, he definitely stands out among the crowd. He brings to the table a unique sound that leaves an impact both lyrically and melodically.” Bendr is achieving success with composing and producing his own music as well. Chile’s Radio Carolina (one of the country’s most popular and established radio stations) has placed Bendr’s song “Couldn’t You Be Mine” in rotation.
There are many items on Pablo’s goals for the future; continued growth as an artist and producer, recurrent gigs, but most notably…working with some of the artists he has always admired. He notes, “I want to keep improving my production and crafting my sound. Some of the artists I most admire are Eric Prydz, Avicii, Calvin Harris and the Swedish House Mafia guys, and I’d love to be able to collaborate with them someday”.They are all amazing House producers with a strong pop component to their work- which is my style. There’s so much I’d love to learn from them, and I feel that we could make a good track together. When it comes to singers, I’d love to be able to write a song with Emma Hewitt or Christina Novelli. In my opinion, they are the best voices in the EDM world today, and are both insanely talented. Their voices just pop out from the speakers and penetrate directly into your skin, giving you the chills. I can never hear enough Hewitt or Novelli in a song.
Delivering a punch line is hard work. Saying things in the right way to provoke laughter is not easy. Comedic actors definitely have their work cut out for them. That being said, writing something that makes people laugh can be even harder. Ottawa born and Toronto based comedic actor and writer Adam Niebergall knows this better than most.
After discovering a passion for acting in high school drama classes and the improv team, Niebergall continued his dramatic studies at Queen’s University. After graduating and moving to Toronto, he took writing classes at the world-renown Second City.
“I got into writing because I was really inspired by what people around Toronto were doing with comedy and I wanted to find out what my point of view would produce compared to theirs. People like David Dineen Porter, who lives in LA now, working as a writer on The Late Late Show, or Tom Henry and Chris Locke, who are both stand ups in Toronto, were inspirations,” said Niebergall.
Niebergall also formed a close friendship with Roger Bainbridge and the two formed the sketch comedy group Tony Ho.
“I especially loved Roger’s writing, obviously I’m such a weird fan boy of my friend Roger, but he really made unique stuff and had great ideas and I wanted my writing to be my own version of that,” he said.
Niebergall is now an award-winning writer and actor after winning a Canadian Comedy Award in 2015 as a member of sketch troupe Get Some. Get Some also won Toronto Sketchfest Best of the Fest that year, as well as Best of Fest at Montreal Sketchfest in 2016.
“For me, my writing surprises me. Whenever I feel like I’m really getting somewhere with my writing I feel this sort of meditative quality of peace, and I’m pleasantly baffled at having no idea where it came from. You live your everyday life as yourself and you know who you are, but at least for me, when I write I feel like ‘…who the hell am I? I didn’t know that stuff was in there’. I like that feeling a lot,” he described. “What I like about writing comedy is making really complicated emotions. I love the idea of making someone laugh but also feel something else. It’s such a neat idea to me that someone can laugh and feel sad at the same time, or that you can laugh and feel confused at the same time. I want to write comedy that you might think about later. Either there was a visual or a joke or a concept that stayed with you and you can’t shake it and hopefully it makes you feel weird.”
Despite his success, Niebergall still acknowledges the challenges that writing can bring. He believes there are two challenges that all writers need to overcome.
“You have to maintain your confidence when you’re stuck with something and you have to try and figure out how to fix it or you feel unmotivated and you can’t think of what to write,” he said. “You also have to let go of things you love when you’re writing something. Often the kernel of an idea that got you so excited to write something is ultimately expendable when you’re nearing the final product or it doesn’t work anymore and you have to get rid of it. It’s really hard to do for me. I feel like it happens almost every time for me so I’m getting used to it.”
Niebergall definitely overcomes these challenges. Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll, a producer and writer who has worked with Niebergall, describes working with him as working in a “joke factory.”
“Adam’s a complete dream to have on the production team, and brings a creative drive to the process, that not only makes everyone around him work hard, it gives us all a trust in one another. Adam not only works well professionally and with full attention to detail, he also makes sure we work efficiently,” said Fernandez-Stoll. “I’m thankful to know such a good writer, actor and all around great guy.”
Daniel Beirne, an actor, writer, and producer known for the award-winning television show Fargo, has known Niebergall since high school, and describes him as a pleasure to work with.
“Adam is a joy to have on set, both with his humor and his ease of performance. Adam comes prepared, and is always ready even after long hours of work and waiting. Adam makes other actors feel at ease thanks to his ability to make them laugh and feel comfortable, and by extension increases the overall workplace atmosphere to one of joy. Adam brings thoughts and ideas to his characters and process that strengthen the project as a whole, often in unexpected ways,” said Beirne. “His surprising approach, although often quite funny, comes from a very honest place, and it makes for extremely compelling viewing. Adam is naturally unique, and he uses his craft to enhance that uniqueness, to bring about a singular performer, who will go far.”
Niebergall’s writing credits now extend to two comedic short films Japan and Wanda that were both nominated Canadian Comedy Awards. Japan was also selected for LA Comedy Shorts Fi Festival and won the Laugh Sabbath film festival at NXNE in 2014.
“Making Japan and Wanda were both very hard work really taxing because we wanted to make spotless, professional impressive looking movies with almost no budget at all,” he described. “Luckily we had great help. Henry Sansom was a miracle for us because he had unbelievable camera equipment and he was willing to work with a really small crew to shoot them both. Same goes for Rodrigo Fernandez-Stoll. He helped us produce both movies and we couldn’t have done it without him. Also Morgan Waters and Tim Moore who have cut our movies beautifully for us.”
Despite all of his success, Niebergall still finds the criteria for great writing to be mysterious.
“I wish I could make a formula or something. My process changes all the time. I know that I really get going when I feel like I’m making the weirdest possible idea I can write that still feels honest somehow or relatable. I’m inspired to be so damn weird but still really engage your interest,” he concluded.
Teddy Fan is a multitalented musician who’s been playing the guitar since he was twelve years old. Since graduating from the Musicians Institute, he’s toured with hit artists all around the U.S., assisted and taught both teachers and students at his Alma matter, as well as pulled from his creative mind to begin writing his own, original songs and music.
Presently, Fan is alternately touring throughout the country with two rising artists, YouTube persona Jason Chen and the hit country-pop musician Christine Huff.
Just this week, I had the opportunity to catch and sit down with Chen during a rare, free moment of his time to get the latest information regarding his career, all outlined in our exclusive interview below.
Where are you from originally and where are you currently located?
TF: I’m from Hong Kong. I’m currently living in Los Angeles, California.
What prompted you to get involved with music early on in your life? What made you want to pursue a career in it? TF: To me, music is my dream. When I was a kid, I always watched all kinds of rock performance videos. I wished that one day I could play on stage, too. I guess I made my decision when I was 13 years old. I knew it was the only thing I want to do.
Who inspired you early on? Are their any musicians that you look up to? TF: After I came to US, I met a lot of great teacher who gave me so many opportunities. Two in particular, Katsuya and Adrian are both my mentors and teachers. They’ve helped me a lot.
After you graduated from the Musician Institute, the school hired you as a Teaching Assistant (TA). What did your job as a TA entail? What were you responsible for as far as assisting students and teachers went? TF: As a TA, my job is to provide a professional session of guitar playing for the entire class. For example, when drum students are in a performance class, they will need a bass player and guitar player to play with, and that’s where I come in. All of the TAs are well trained for each style of music as well as reading sign charts, so any of us can fill in to any class at any time.
Is TA-ing, or just teaching in general, still something you do from time to time? TF: Other then school stuff, I also do a lot of session work like recording, band events, and songwriting and arranging jobs. I have a few artists who always ask me to okay music for them, and I also do a lot of recording for Katsuya. I’m in an event band, which plays at weddings, company events and different kinds of festivals.
In addition to collaborating with professors and students, you’ve also collaborated with sever other independent artists as well as groups. Who are some of the well-known musicians that you’ve worked with? TF: The most well known musician that I have worked with is Jason Chen. Jason is a famous YouTube singer with over 1,300,000 followers.
You’ve toured with both Jason Chen and Christine Huff separately as their guitarist. What’s life like on tour? TF: It’s like my dream come true. I never thought I’d be doing it this early on in my career. I’m getting paid to play music and travel around the U.S., how amazing is that!? It’s a lot of fun to travel and meet with fans. Thought, it is also really tiring to travel by plane or car for sometimes 7-8 hours a day, everyday.
How has being able to tour and introduce new audiences to your music impacted your career as a guitarist? TF: It’s had such a big impact on my life. It feels like my career is finally growing to a new level. I have more followers and fans, and more people are listening to my music. I feel like being a successful musician is no longer just a dream, I’m actively doing it and it’s been a long journey already!
Do you ever get nervous before performing in front of a large, live audience? If so, how do you combat that feeling? TF: After all kinds of past performances and experience, I don’t get nervous on stage anymore. I feel more excitement and energy! Of course, the first time I go on a big stage, I feel so nervous and crazy. At that time, I always keep telling myself that I can do it and to just enjoy the stage.
With Jason, the two of you perform both cover songs as well as some of his originals, and with Christine, it’s mostly country-pop. Is there a specific genre of music, or even a few songs, that you enjoy playing the most? TF: I was born with a love of rock music. I like to play rock songs with a guitar solo! For Christine, I like to play “Country Breakup Song” because it is a rock country song and it has a long guitar solo at the end. For Jason, we both really enjoy playing “Umbrella” by Rihanna. We love this song and it is a song that everyone can sing together, so we like to perform it for our audiences.
When it comes to music, you’re multitalented. Not only do you play guitar, but you also dabble with singing, songwriting and song arranging. How often do you write and play your own music? TF: I try to write everyday. I have my schedule made up for each day of the week, and I try to keep doing everything at least once a day. That helps me keep myself on track and to prevent lazy days. Practicing my original songs is a part of my schedule. I always prepare before gigs happen. So I always practice my own music.
For those who don’t know, what goes into the process of arranging a song TF: Arranging a song just like putting clothes on a person. First, you finish a melody with the basic chord. Then, you need to think about what else you need in order to make the song sound beautiful. Usually, the drums, guitar, bass and keyboard are the basic elements of a song. However, nowadays, we also put a lot of electric sounds in songs, too. It all depends on the song and your personal taste of music. To sum up, arranging just like trying to pick the right clothes for a person, and trying to make him or her look great in doing so.
In your opinion, what are some of the most important qualities a musician can possess? TF: To me, it’s being hardworking and humble. Also, as a musician, you have to keep learning, as always something to be learned. Keeping open mind to all styles of music is additionally important. To me, it’s important to branch out and not just learn what I like.
How do you tie these characteristics into your own practice? TF: I always try to find some new music to listen and practice, which refreshes my mind and keeps practicing fun. Of course, I also have some basic technique practices that continued to do everyday. Also, I don’t give up and I trust the process.
Outside of playing the guitar and writing music, what else takes up your time? What are some of your personal hobbies and interests? TF: I like go to the gym and work on my body. I am also a gamer; I like playing Xbox when I have free time. One hobby that I need stop doing so much is basketball. Since I’m guitarist, I need avoid anything that may hurt my hands, so I give up a lot of basketball time, which makes me sad because I love basketball!
What are some of your future goals specifically pertaining to your career in music
TF: Becoming a Singer-Songwriter is my final goal. I hope to one day be able to make a living by performing my own music, and spend every day in a studio and writing new songs. Of course, I want my own studio and team too!
When and where can fans see you perform live in the future? TF: Christine Huff and I have a show coming up on August 27, 2016 at Bar Lubitsch. For more information please keep an eye on my Facebook page.