How I Made It

Courtney Gilmour, Comedian

Courtney Gilmour is a stand-up comedian who has performed everywhere from a Popeye's parking lot to massive theatres. She shot to stardom after winning the Homegrown Comics Competition at Just for Laughs in Montreal last year. Here, she tells FLARE how she made it

Courtney Gilmour wears black lace top

Courtney Gilmour; @courtgilmour

Where did you go to school and what did you study?

University of Windsor, with a double major in English literature and linguistics, and communication media studies. I thought I might want to be a professor. 

What’s the worst gig you’ve ever done solely for money? 

I did a corporate show once in a hotel boardroom at 9 a.m. and for a company that wanted 30 minutes of clean comedy. It actually wasn’t terrible but it was too early in the morning for stand-up, and we stood in front of this enormous window with the sun beating down on us and a long table of people looking at us like we were pitching them an infomercial product.

What was your BIG break? How did you land it?

I’ll always remember my phone lighting up with “Just For Laughs” on the screen and the director of the fest on the other end telling me I got in. Such an incredible feeling. And then winning the Just for Laugh’s Homegrown Comics competition [which celebrates the best up-and-coming Canadian comics]! That was last summer, and I don’t think I’ve stopped reeling. Since then I feel fortunate to have had a stellar year with so many cool opportunities that came from Homegrown.

What would you say has been your biggest fail, career-wise, to date? How did you bounce back?

I don’t like qualifying failures or measuring them on some kind of linear scale. I will say, though, that I have certainly cracked under stress and felt like I should quit comedy. When that happens, I remind myself that a lot of the self-judgement comes from caring too much what people think of me. This is an up-and-down job, so being mindful of all the times I’ve done extremely well helps me come back from the storm clouds.

Name one piece of career advice you always give.

You deserve to do exactly what you’re doing, and you deserve to feel happy doing it, and you deserve to make money.

Who are your three favourite social media follows from your industry? What do you love about them?

Tig Notaro lets other comedians take over her Twitter account and it’s a cool way to discover up-and-coming talent.

Myk Kaplan is hilarious and also posts daily and nightly affirmations which are fantastic.

And I highly recommend following comedian Steven Risk, everything you need to know about him is in the first few scrolls.

How would you describe your industry in terms of representation and inclusivity?

Booming. People who represent unique voices are getting a turn to be extra loud and it’s extraordinary to see. Chanty Marostica is a trans comedian in Toronto who is doing groundbreaking things for our community, and they’ve also helped me in my own personal journey and career path.

What’s the most pressing issue facing women in your industry right now? What would fix it?

Well, we’re weaving in and out of some especially emotionally turbulent times right now and I think one of the best things we can do is be compassionate with each other. We are all doing our best to take up space in meaningful ways and I think using our stories to be funny is so powerful.

Have you ever disclosed your salary to a colleague in the name of transparency? Why or why not?

This is my first year being a full-time comedian so I’m still figuring out the money variables, but generally I don’t really talk about it with my colleagues beyond recommending certain bookings based on higher pay.

Have you ever asked for a raise? If so, how did you phrase it and did you get it? If not, why not?

Yes! I’ve become a lot more comfortable with verbalizing my needs as a performer. Most of the time people just don’t fully understand pricing in comedy, they don’t know what you’re worth. You have to tell them. I’m as tactful as I can be while breaking down what exactly they will be getting from me and why it deserves more than $50 and a free lunch.

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