The Tim Sims Encouragement Award

Jeff | Uncategorized | Friday, January 9th, 2009

After writing about my top ten bombs, I figured I should vindicate myself by writing about one of my achievements, just so you don’t get the impression that I shit the bed every night. The following is my story about winning the Tim Sims Encouragement Award in 2005. Included in this story are tales of strippers, thievery, accomplishment and even a Wayne Gretzky anecdote. I hope you enjoy it. First though, here’s a brief explanation of the origins of the Tim Sims Encouragement Award and how the winner is determined.

Tim Sims was a Toronto comedian who passed away in 1995. In 1997, The Tim Sims Encouragement Award was established in his honour. Every year, a young and upcoming comedian is awarded the Tim Sims Encouragement Award along with a cash prize which increases on a yearly basis (it was $3,500 in 2005) and their own short film produced by the Comedy Network. The whole process is headed up by Tim Sims widow, Lindsay Leese, who also presents the award to the winner.

Every September, 20 or so Toronto area comedians, who have been performing for roughly two years, are selected to perform a four minute set at the “Fresh Meat” showcase. A panel of judges then selects the five nominees for that year’s Tim Sims Encouragement Award. The five nominees then perform a 15 minute set at a second showcase, which is held about three weeks later. The nominees then hand in a submission package comprised of a letter of recommendation, a tape of some of their other comedic performances and any press that they may have received. The jury then meets about one week after the second showcase and determines a winner. The winner of that year’s Tim Sims Encouragement Award is then announced at the end of the Cream of Comedy, which is a Comedy Network special where all five nominees perform.

I started to perform comedy in 2003, and was a little disappointed when I was left off the Fresh Meat showcase in 2004. Being left off the showcase turned out to be a blessing in disguise though as improved greatly over the next year and was more than ready when the 2005 Fresh Meat Showcase rolled around. I had a dynamite set at the showcase and the following Sunday, Lindsay Leese phoned to inform me that I had been nominated for the 2005 Tim Sims Encouragement Award.

About a week after being nominated, I headed down to the CTV studios to film the intro video that would be played before my set at the Cream of Comedy television taping. The intro video was supposed be about how I generated my stand-up material. I had just written a bit about how awkward lap dances can be, so I suggested it for the intro video. (The inspiration for the joke came on my 21st birthday when an uninspired Russian stripper took a break from giving me a lap dance to change her ringtone. Swear to God.) When I showed up at the CTV studios I was shocked to see that they’d constructed a sleazy strip club VIP room complete with a smoke machine and an actual stripper. Teddy Wilson, the host of Fresh Meat, who had supposedly “cast” the stripper tried to convince me that this woman was a legitimate actress but the sizable bruise on her ass lead me to believe otherwise. I was incredibly nervous about the video as I had never acted on camera before. Luckily, the stripper and I had incredible chemistry together, in that we had no chemistry whatsoever. I was just as uncomfortable during the video shoot as I was the night of my 21st birthday, so I really didn’t have to stretch my acting muscles much. The video turned out great.

The Tim Sims also generated some press for me for the first time in my career. Now Magazine, The Toronto Star and The Toronto Sun all featured stories about the upcoming Cream of Comedy taping. Even my hometown newspaper, The Acton Tanner, ran a two paragraph article about me in which I credited all my comedic success to my high school “Improve” club teacher Mrs. Ross. Almost all of the press was favourable, with the exception of one sour journalist who warned “These comedians wont make you forget about Jim Carrey, or even Hockey Night In Canada’s Ron MacLean for that matter.” Now Jim Carrey I’m not, but I think I can come up with wittier barbs than “You can call him Cherry, you can call him Grapes, just don’t call him a fruit! Leafs-Sabres second period coming up.”

I even did my first television interview with some poptart from SUN TV who asked me,
“So what’s your best funny?”
“Ugh?” came my confused response.
“You know, a funny, like a joke.”
“Oh Um…Well a lot of my material’s personal you know.”
“Uh huh. So give us one of your best funnies!”
“Um Ugh…” I stumbled for a good ten seconds before a shitty self-deprecating joke popped into my head.
“Um, in high school I looked like an acne-riddled toilet brush.” I then faked laughed at my own terrible joke hoping that Poptart would do the same.
“Oh that’s sad. Well good luck in the contest.”

Truly, a television debut for the ages.

Also nominated for the Tim Sims Encouragement Award that year were Pat Thornton, Bob Kerr, Kathleen Phillips and Mack Lawrenz, all of whom are incredibly talented people. Yes, we were quite a powerhouse group despite the fact that none of us were as funny as Ron MacLean and that our Cream of Comedy special is currently rated a 3.1/10 on, a full .2 points lower than the Hulk Hogan movie “No Holds Barred.”

After another strong set at the second showcase I handed in my submission package, (which included a beautifully penned letter of recommendation from Linda Ellis) and stressed out for a month until the Cream of Comedy taping which took place on November 18th 2005.

On the day of the Cream of Comedy television taping, the nominees were put through a tedious rehearsal during which we had to perform our entire set word-for-word to an empty theatre, while the crew was setting up the stage. The five of us sped through our acts to an uncomfortable silence that was broken up only occasionally by sound of a lighting guy farting. Needless to say, I don’t think any of us were with filled with confidence following that rehearsal. Later, the nominees and crew went out for dinner at Gretzky’s. The food was good but I’ve had a tainted view about Gretzky’s ever since my buddy Matt Duncan revealed to me a tragic story from his childhood. Apparently, when Matt was a kid he was eating at Gretzky’s when he spotted the Great One himself chowing down on some grub at a nearby table. Matt’s mom then delicately approached #99 and asked him if he’d sign an autograph for her son.

“Not while I’m eating my fries.” Wayne Gretzky scolded.

The Great One then left about five minutes later, without signing anything.

After dinner, the five nominees snuck into the greenroom at The Second City and waited for the show to begin. Occasionally I would peak my head out to see a swarm of friends and family members showing up to the theatre. Everyone was there; my mom and stepdad were there. My roommate Dave was there. My cousin Luke was there. My cousin Trav was there, despite the fact that the meathead had almost gotten himself kicked out of the Fresh Meat showcase for constructing a beer-amid at the front of stage during the show. After host Jon Dore kicked off the Cream of Comedy and Pat Thornton had a great set, I was introduced as “a kid with a fake ID and real talent” (which made no sense as I was 21 at the time) and then hit the stage for my first-ever televised stand-up appearance. The set ended up going pretty well, it certainly wasn’t my best performance but it was far from my worst. (“Great job Jeremy!”) I then sat down backstage until all of the other acts had finished performing. Eventually, the five of us were signalled to come to the backstage area for the award announcement. I remember staring down at the floor and shaking with anticipation when Lindsay Leese announced “The Winner of the 2005 Tim Sims Encouragement Award is Jeff McEnery!” With that I ran onstage and went to shake Lindsay Leese’s hand as we’d been repeatedly told to do so during the afternoon rehearsal. Lindsay had other ideas however, and when she went in for an impromptu hug the two of us collided and I ended up head butting her and partially breaking the award in the process. My one moment to look cool and I blow it. Unfazed, I gave my acceptance speech and was then serenaded by Jon Dore to close out the 2005 Cream of Comedy special. (Which is, once again, rated a 3.1 on, alongside Police Academy 6: City Under Siege)

The fun didn’t stop there though as after the show I was congratulated by my friends, family and fellow nominees. I’ll always remember how complimentary Bob Kerr was to me, telling me that he thought I deserved the award, even though Bob arguably had a better set than me that night. (Thanks Bob that meant a lot.) Unbelievably, this sentimental moment was eclipsed only minutes later when my cousin Luke smacked me on the back and told me “Fuckin’ right bud. I went out to take a piss and when I came back you were on stage with that chick holding up the award and I was like, fuck he must’ve won the fuckin’ thing.” My cousin Elaine then asked me to sign her Cream of Comedy poster, so I placed my award on the side of the stage and scribbled down my autograph. When I turned back to retrieve my award however, it was nowhere to be found. I mean it just disappeared into thin air. So I spent the next half hour accepting kudos and pretending to know where my damn award was. Finally, after the crowd thinned out, I confessed to Lindsay Leese that I’d lost the award. “Oh Jeff” Lindsay sighed. Poor Lindsay Leese, it hadn’t even been an hour since she’d announced that I’d won, and in that time I’d already head butted her, broke the award and then lost it all together. Lindsay and I searched the entire Second City Theatre before finally giving up. “Well, let me know if you find it.” A somewhat perturbed Lindsay Leese stated. With that I hopped on the streetcar and headed home.

Once I was back at my apartment I phoned my Nanny and then listened to a message my cousin Trav had left me. In the message, Trav explained that he couldn’t stick around after the show because he had to give some girl he dated for about 8 minutes a ride home, but that he was happy for me and was very proud of me. I was so touched by this uncharacteristically “faggoty” message from my meathead cousin that I saved it on my phone for about two weeks and listened to it over and over again. As I sat down to watch SportsCentre, my slightly inebriated roommate barged through the door holding my award. “You found it!” I gullibly exclaimed. Dave burst out laughing of course, and then explained that when I’d placed my award on the stage he’d scooped it up and smuggled it out of the Second City under his coat. From there, Dave, along with my buddies Adam Kennedy and the Gretzky-snubbed Matt Duncan went out drinking with the award as if they were the ones who’d accomplished something. When I told Dave that I’d spent an hour looking for it and that I was pretty sure that Lindsay Leese was now pissed at me, the prick laughed even harder.

“I hate you, you son of a bitch.” I said, with a smile on my face.
“C’mon it’ll make for a good story. And I did the dishes today.” Dave reasoned.
“Fine. But you owe me a hot chocolate.”

The two of us then walked about 18 blocks along the chilly Lakeshore to the nearest Tim Hortons. That was my big after party. No bars, no drinking, not even an uninspired lap dance, I just walked to Tim Horton’s at 2 in the morning with my asshole prankster roommate.

It was the best day of my life.


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