Mandy-Lynn Donovan on comedy, polar plunges, and more

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Mandy-Lynn Donovan is a community leader, mature student, and, as she refers to herself, a “wantrepreneur.” This weekend, she is working with Local 107.3 on a Polar Plunge Fundraiser to raise money for the campus radio station. The cost to participate is $10 or by donation for those who wish simply to observe. The dip takes place Saturday, January 28 at 1pm in the Irving Nature Park with tickets available at the radio station or at the event itself.

In addition to organizing events and hosting her radio program “Tuning in with Mandy-Lynn,” Donovan is a also a comedian working in Saint John. In this interview conducted in early January, she discusses her role in comedy, her influences, how she got started, and other future projects she is working on.

The Baron: Tell me about how you got into comedy.

Mandy-Lynn Donovan: All my life, people told me I was funny, and I thought that after going to a few comedy shows last year and speaking with my good friend James Mullinger to try comedy. Enough people said “you should try it!” So I did my first show in June and then I decided I wanted to do more shows so I just started making and creating my own shows in Saint John and Fredericton.

B: You mentioned you’re good friends with James Mullinger. Was he the one who finally convinced you to do it after many people pestered you?

D: No, but he has helped guide me. Our ongoing joke is that he is my “Celebrity Crush Mentor.” That’s because whenever you meet somebody who you stalk and are obsessed with, you never get to touch them or you never get to see them so for me, after seeing some of his shows and after coming on my radio show and then doing my Comedy for a Cause show, it was kind of emotional. Because even after meeting him a million times and talking to him a million times, being able to introduce him at my show and call out onto the stage someone who means so much to me was extremely emotional for me.

So, to answer your actual question, I basically got started by people telling me I’m funny and I eventually thought “might as well try it!” I mean, I laugh at my own jokes so even if no one else does, I’m going to be having a good time.

B: Clearly James Mullinger as an inspiration. Do you have any other comedic inspirations?

D: Mainly, Louis C.K. I mean, I am obsessed with him. He is hilarious! He is really really really funny. But we also have a lot of really good local talent here around the city. My friend, Steve Barnes, is opening up Yuk Yuks which is going to bring more comedy. Tom Ford hosts his show at the R Bar which promotes a lot of new people to try comedy which is great. Mark Brunet and Deedee Lambert out in the Valley, they do a lot of comedy shows and they just did one with the CBC. Mark is a really hard worker and is a really great guy. We’re really lucky. The comedy scene in Saint John has exploded and grown.

B: You talked a bit about how you got started, but was there a specific moment that you decided to go on stage?

I thought about it for a long time. After the first Comedy Bootcamp came about last year but I was too shy and nervous to do it then. I was doubting myself and thought there was no way I could go do a TV series for something I have never tried before, although now I think I absolutely should have tried it. So it was in May [2016] that I finally decided I wanted to try it. So I talked to James and he told me a good place to start was to call around and get some local shows to get better and stronger.

B: It’s pretty cool that Comedy Bootcamp was intimidating to you last year but this year, you are a part of it.

D: I am! I am one of the final 9 finalists in New Brunswick. Winners get the chance to open for James Mullinger, which I’ve done, but it’s great because you get to be on TV and more people will get to know your work. I mean, not everyone knows who Mandy-Lynn is yet! Like what’s up with that?!

B: How do you come up with a bit and how do you know when it’s ready to be put on stage?

D: So, the thing about comedy is that it is a very vulnerable thing and that’s why many people are hesitant to try it. When you go up, people are absolutely either going to laugh or they’re not and it’s involuntary. So, I use a lot of comedy drawing from my own life, my own circumstance, and my own events or just a funny thing I think of. Something that sounds so fun and outrageous are the things that people laugh the most about. Or, the most inappropriate thoughts or ideas. I like to play on that with people. I really like awkward situations. Cringe comedy is my absolute favourite.

B: Would you rather perform for a large stadium crowd or a smaller crowd?

D: Bigger crowd for sure. Either way you give it your 110%, but when it’s a large crowd it’s more likely at least someone will laugh! Although I do feel more relaxed when I’m performing for a smaller crowd. I can be more intimate which is nice, but a bigger crowd is better for the laughs.

B: Are there any demographics that are harder to entertain?

D: There really aren’t. I would be comfortable performing for anyone. It’s interesting, though. The first time I emceed an event, the crowd was much younger than I’m used to so I had to think about other stuff. Your jokes kind of cater to your audience. Like, you’re not gonna go to a bar uptown and tell a joke about being a mature student and how it took you a year to figure out how to rent an ebook. You have to understand your audience in order to make them laugh.

B: Do you have any advice for people who want to start out in comedy?

D: Saint John has a really great atmosphere. It is very welcoming to local talent. I am all about Grow Saint John, I am all about people coming in and trying it. If anyone is interested they should. All you have to do is reach out to somebody in comedy. Any of the local comedians would be more than happy. We love new people coming in, we think that it’s great. And it’s great to see that we have a good amount of females now that are doing more comedy. So I think anyone who is interested absolutely should try it. If you have a funny joke or if you’ve been told you’re funny before. Maybe you’re shy, but you should anyway. You should absolutely always try to do the things you are passionate about.

B: You are doing so much! What projects are you most excited about?

D: I am working on a book right now that I’ve been working on since October. It doesn’t have a title yet, but I only have four chapters left to write. I’m looking to self-publish it in June at the latest. It’s basically just a compilation of stories, interviews, weird moments, stuff that I find funny, stuff that may not be relevant to anyone at all, stuff that makes me laugh and makes me smile. It’s basically about me being a wantrepreneur and figuring it out and finding out what I’m good at. Because I’m still figuring it out, I still don’t know. It has lots about my past relationships to my children to crazy, silly, stupid stories.

Interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.