Canadian born and bred, Carla Collins has dabbled in radio, television, films, theater, and stand-up comedy for nearly 30 years all over the globe. Since 2008, she has called the U.S. her home but continues her globe-trotting ways bringing laughter to audiences far and wide. Most recently, she will perform at 6 p.m. on June 24 in a streamed fund-raiser for Whitefire Theatre in Los Angeles. Despite the limitations imposed by COVID-19, Carla remains a bundle of focused energy: “I’ve got to stay in the march of life.” She took time from her busy schedule to interview on June 20, 2020.
How did you get into comedy in the first place? Did you always want to make people laugh?
Carla Collins: I grew up in a very funny family. My family members were teachers and writers, but I’m the only one who’s into performing. I started dance classes before I was even 3 years old. Ever since I was in the sixth grade and entered a public speaking competition, I always wanted to entertain. I love comedy from the Three Stooges to Oscar Wilde to Mel Brooks and everything in between.
When I first tried comedy, I found it was a hostile environment for a young woman, so I went in other directions. In 2012, I got back into comedy. My style is to speak quickly and play with language and the audience. I try to combine Robin Williams and George Carlin, who do tricks with words and go off on rants. But there is a part of my comedy that is passionate social commentary, and for that I like Richard Pryor and Dave Chappelle. I love Carol Burnett and Joan Rivers too because I enjoy punching up and poking fun at celebrities. I do a rapid-fire stand-up with doses of intelligence and goofiness. Sometimes I make remote literary references, and pop culture is my playground. My comedy is edgy but also uplifting.
Is there a difference between Canadian and American audiences? Do they find different things funny? Which is easier to laugh?
CC: Americans are more effusive with laughter. I guess it all depends on the type of humor. Often Canadian audiences are more politically correct – but even that depends on the area of Canada. For example, Montreal and the East coast of Canada love sexual humor. Jokes about celebrities just don’t catch on. In LA, they love celebrity humor and pop culture. The West coast of the U.S. is more laid back that the East coast. New Yorkers live to work, but here they work to live. I like to incorporate local jokes from each different area of both countries.
I see that you are doing a benefit performance for the Whitefire Theatre in Los Angeles. How did you get involved with the Whitefire?
CC: I’ve known Bryan Rasmussen, Whitefire’s CEO, for a long time. Around 2007, I was going back and forth between Canada and the States. Bryan heard about my solo show and contacted me by email. He said the Whitefire Theatre specialized in my kind of show. Once I moved to LA, I did comedy shows at the theatre along with Hollywood shorts like “Murder, Anyone?” and Christmas shows at the Whitefire.
Since then, I’ve developed a lot of material. In 2016, I hosted and performed at the Whitefire’s thirty-five year celebration for New Years. I can hardly wait to do the benefit for them. Fifty percent of the proceeds will go to the Whitefire when I perform on June 24. It will be live-streamed, but there will of course be no audience. Naturally, I prefer to perform in front of actual humans. I love the rhythm of laughter, the feelings of immediate gratification, and the warmth of the audience. Fortunately my background in radio helps with performing sans crowd. Since it’s not possible right now to have an audience in the theater, I’ll just enjoy myself, try to make the crew laugh, and interact with the viewers during the Q and A portion following the show. Drinking wine during the show helps!
I always see LA as the most casual place in the world. In LA, people like to stay at home in their pajamas. After you buy some tickets to the show, you can be on the couch at home and just lay there. You don’t have to get all dressed up, and you can enjoy it without going out and fighting traffic. Besides that, my outfit is fabulous. It’s ridiculous, and it’s spectacular. My outfit by designer Jorge del Busto is worth the price of admission!
I understand that one of your specialties is comedic meditation. Can you tell us something about that?
CC: I created comedic meditation. It combines comedy and spirituality, two of my passions. I am fascinated by all things spiritual, but I like to make fun out of them too. I actually performed at the Kabala Center a while back. Here’s how it works: I make people laugh for 30 or 40 minutes with my standup. Then I take them through a relaxing, authentic guided meditation. It’s the real deal, not a parody meditation. With both laughter and meditation, the brain produces the same gamma state – so they work very well together. Seems like almost everyone in LA claims to be a guru. I simply find meditation beneficial on so many levels, especially with everything we’re going through now. Once everyone is laughing – and maybe having a drink if they like – they can more easily get out of their own heads and settle into a relaxed state. It takes the preciousness and intimidation out of meditation, so it’s perfect for newcomers and veteran meditators. It really works!
Comedic meditation is my baby. It’s something different, and people will be watching it from the comfort of their home. It’s really an ideal show to watch at home because you can roll over when it’s done and go to sleep. I’ll get to see how it works. Right now, we all need comedic meditation; we need to laugh and relax now more than ever.
I heard that you also do some writing. Tell us about your book.
CC: It’s a self-help comedic book called “Angels, Vampires, and Douche Bags.” It came out in 2010. I divide the world – people, places and things – into three categories. There are the angels, who do good and help everyone in the best way. Then there are the vampires who suck the life from you. I guess you can imagine what the douche bags are. Of course, we should all work on the angel part. I’m working on another book right now. And, of course, I write my own shows. I do all my own writing and stunts!
SHELTER AT ‘OM will be streamed on Wednesday, June 24, at 6 p.m. PST. Tickets are $9.99 with a $2.24 service fee. For information and tickets, call the Whitefire Theatre at 818-687-8559 or go online.