George Brown student Susannah Kiernan finds community in comedy
Working in the arts involves a long and difficult road, according to Susannah Kiernan. But it’s these challenges and the tight-knit community of the comedy scene that encourage Kiernan as she performs on the stage and screen.
Kiernan, who is a fashion management student at George Brown, has been acting and making people laugh for 20 years. Having trained extensively in Canada and the United States, Kiernan said acting became a “natural revolution” for her after taking her first acting class at eight-years-old, followed by singing and musical theatre lessons.
“I started doing comedy back in high school,” said Kiernan. “I took drama in high school and then we started our improv team, and that’s sort of how we started; we did improv Olympics and theatre sports.”
When Kiernan is not on the screen in projects like Muscle Confusion and Balls Anonymous, the comedian is also part of a sketch-comedy troupe with Chelsea Larkin called the L’il Rasgals.
When Kiernan first met Larkin she walked up to her and said “hey, we’re supposed to be friends.” Later that night, they formed their group and a week later they got together for the first writing meeting.
“We are comedy soulmates,” said Kiernan. “We have the exact same sense of humour, the same writing process, very similar backgrounds, and have taken similar acting classes and education. It just worked out perfectly.”
In 2015, L’il Rasgals was nominated for Best Sketch Troupe by NOW Magazine. The sketch-comedy duo is featured this year as part of the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival, with a show on March 11 at the Comedy Bar.
Recently, the organization Women in Comedy has gone public with accounts of women comics facing sexual harassment and exclusion from show lineups. While not downplaying the experiences of other women in comedy, Kiernan counts herself as fortunate.
“We’ve been really lucky in that we’ve had really great experiences, and haven’t experienced much sexism or prejudice but we do see it all the time, even if it’s not within our own community,” said Kiernan. “It’s a widespread issue, which I’m happy is getting more attention now and will continue to until one day when it’s not an issue at all.”
For Kiernan, being true to yourself is a good way for aspiring actresses, comedians, and singers to survive the fierce competition of show business.
“The one thing that you can bring to the table that no one else can is that very fact that you are you and no one else coming in to do a show is going to be you or like you,” said Kiernan. “If you can stay true to yourself and work really hard, then you’ll get to show the world something that they won’t see anywhere else, and that makes you, your show, and your material really special.”