On the outskirts of Gastown as I scout a quiet location for us to talk, Katie Burrell is coming out of a post-work spin class. I spot her across the street pushing her 90's-purple commuter bike (befittingly named Lil' Purpz). Despite her humble Vancouver Island upbringings, and time spent in the interior mountains of BC, she plays the part of city-girl well. Don't be fooled though, this poli-sci major may work an office job by day, but she is a dynamo by night on the Vancouver comedy circuit.
It's just a little crush...
"It's embarrassing but I started stand-up comedy because of a crush. I was in my second year at McGill University in Montreal, and there was this guy, Rupert Common, who was into stand-up. I went to one of his shows, totally thinking we were on a date (we were not). I think I thought that if I was a cool stand-up comedian girl he would obviously date me, because when you’re 19, the two are completely correlated on the x/y axis of getting boyfriends. I told him I was going to do stand-up, and he was just like, "no you won't. You'll write about what you think is funny for a year before you ever get on a stage and then all the stuff you wrote will suck for another year, 100 percent." I was like, "okay, I don’t think we’re going to date."
Some friends were doing this new-age dance show and asked me if I would do a half-time act. I ended up doing a fifteen minute set which is so obscene for a first set ever. Usually you would do like, a two minute set, and look like a complete idiot, but I ended up looking like an idiot for fifteen minutes instead of two. I was rambling like a motherfucker.
There was this magazine at McGill called The Red Herring. Rupert, Dave McLean, Jacob Samuel, Zoe Daniels, Duncan Links and David Groves (all who still do comedy) were involved and we started doing fundraiser shows for it. It was pretty hilarious but pretty hack.
In 2012 I was living in Vancouver and did some real shows and realized that it was this whole thing to bite off, like art style, craft shit. It all completely overwhelmed me and so I was like, fuck it, and moved to Revelstoke. I just needed to grow up.
I started doing the morning show for the local radio station in Revelstoke, Stoke FM, with Scott Duke. We would just riff on the news and local gossip and it reminded me about improvising and comedy and I was like, "let’s do a fundraiser for the radio station, a comedy show." As soon as I said it my knees went weak and I was like, fuck.
I called Dave McLean in Vancouver and was able to get some guys from Vancouver to come up (Kyle Bottom, Jon Baum and Rupert). So this comedy fest happened and I did a set at it and was totally invigorated. Kyle said to let him know if I wanted to do a spot in Vancouver sometime, and I was all chill, but in my head was like, "oh no."
I kept doing the morning show, did some traveling, then I had this crazy ski crash where I blew my shoulder apart and fucked some ribs up.
My realization after that crash and during the rehab was that Revelstoke was not my plan A. My plan A was to create, perform, and I was hiding out from it. During that rehab process I was so lost and I was still trying to deny myself this like, personal truth, and eventually I was just like, fine, universe. I get it.
I flew to Toronto to do open mics there, and in Montreal and New York – the logic behind that was that I wanted to scare myself so completely that I was crippled into doing stand-up again, because then it wouldn’t seem so terrifying anymore. After New York, I came to Vancouver and Jon Baum helped me get on a few shows, and I was blown away by the comedy scene here and how welcoming everyone was.
The most important thing I've learned lately is about acting with grace. That stems from trying not to talk too much shit. I'm a secret bitch, like, I'm such a closet bitch. I'm also learning how to say no, that's a big one.
We all have a gift, but I think that sometimes people aren't accessing theirs because they're afraid of it, can't come to terms with it, or be present with it. It feels crazy sometimes to step into the fullest expression of yourself, because humility is at war with you at the same time, and it's like, "who the fuck am I," and ultimately, who the fuck are you? Who the fuck is anyone?
Perspective On Fear
If anything, living in Revelstoke has given me perspective on fear, as I never get on stage and think I'm going to die. My friends were always making me ski off the scariest shit and getting on stage is so not life threatening, I'm not going to die. Now that's kind of like my mantra, I actually tell myself, "you're not going to die," before going on stage."
Interviewed and photographed by Tianna Grey on 09.10.2015