For some performers, they know immediately which area of performance they want to hone in on: film, theatre, or chasing after thousands of hits on Youtube. For Canadian actress, comedian, writer, and life coach Jessica Holmes, she knew she wanted to experience all of them.
Holmes has always been funny, but it wasn’t until she grew up and moved away from home that she knew that being funny needed to become her career—and that she’d get her laughs in any way she could. It’s likely this drive to succeed that has led her to explore comedy in all different forms. Holmes spent seven years on the award-winning CBC show The Royal Canadian Air Farce and in 2002, landed her own sketch comedy show appropriately named The Holmes Show. She’s opened for popular comedians such as Ellen DeGeneres, Jerry Seinfeld, and Leslie Nielsen, and has hosted events for Deepak Chopra, Tony Robbins, and Oprah Winfrey. Nowadays, she’s more on the go than ever before: she’s hosting the Love Her series in several Canadian cities this spring, has multiple other live performances scheduled this year, a comedy special in the works, and a book on depression ready to hit the shelves in 2017. Jessica Holmes is always on the go, looking for laughs wherever she can.
In the midst of her busy schedule, Holmes sat down with The Hudsucker to talk about her past gigs, her motivation, and all things comedy.
The Hudsucker: How did you get into performing? What took it from an interest to something you wanted to pursue professionally?
Jessica Holmes: When I was ten, I started a comedy journal. Just taking notes on people, phrases, or situations that made me laugh. At the time, I didn’t know what I wanted to do with them; I just knew that I didn’t want them to fade away.
The Hudsucker: What is it about comedy that drew you towards it?
Holmes: I grew up in a funny family—people pranking each other with dog biscuits hidden in a sandwich or wet socks put in the freezer in odd shapes. I liked being an observer, just sitting quietly in the corner and watching my big, funny family. When I moved away from home, I thought, “Okay, now it’s my job to keep people laughing.”
The Hudsucker: You spent seven years on The Royal Canadian Air Farce. What did you learn from working on that show that you’ve taken with you in your career?
Holmes: I played characters I never would have dreamed of: Michael Jackson, Bindi Irwin, Feminem. It was exciting to take such risks. But more than that, the producers Don [Ferguson] and Roger [Abbott] were real class acts. They took care of sick employees and showed great loyalty to any of the cast and crew going through a tough time, even letting me bring my babies to work! I usually work alone as a comedian and motivational speaker, but when I do get to work with others, I try to be as gracious as they were.
The Hudsucker: Since then, you’ve had your own show, stints on other famous comedy specials, and have gotten into hosting and stand-up. How do you stay so motivated? What pushes you to tackle each new career challenge?
Holmes: Although I loved being on a series, it’s a lot of hours to put in considering my kids are 7 and 9, so my biggest challenge is trying to be creatively fulfilled and pay the mortgage without putting in so many hours. It means I have a very piece-meal career: never really landing anywhere, but being grateful for every gig whether it’s a glamorous evening opening for Russell Peters or a performing at a bar full of drunk cell phone addicts. It’s challenging, but I wouldn’t change it!
The Hudsucker: What can you tell us about the Love Her events that you’re hosting this year? What should audiences expect from the evenings?
Holmes: Love Her is a fundraising campaign for Ovarian Cancer, the deadliest of women’s cancers. It’s the most fun, fru-fru night with a fashion show, comedy and celebrity guests. I’m grateful that I’ve gotten to host it for four years in three different cities, and every year I get a little looser and more engaged with the crowd.
The Hudsucker: You have a book on depression set to come out within the next year. What about depression specifically made you want to explore that as a topic?
Holmes: What makes me want to share the story about my depression is that it snuck up on me and I was miserable for two years before getting diagnosed. When I was depressed, I kept making excuses for my temper and my sadness. “I’m just not getting enough sleep.” “I’m just anemic.” “It’s just my career making me anxious.” I’m better now and really grateful for every day that I wake up feeling like myself. I don’t want anyone else to suffer without getting help.
The Hudsucker: You’ve also gotten into life coaching, health, and psychology. What inspired you to delve into that particular aspect of life? How does that connect to your career in comedy?
Holmes: When I was depressed, I got used to setting the bar really low. Now that I’m back to feeling like myself, I’m committed to living purposefully. Since I was making changes and seeing great results in my life, I figured, “Why not share it on stage ? I’ve already got the audience.” So now when I do comedy, I try to throw in some motivation and coaching. Nothing preachy—just honesty. That’s what my “Healthy 5” videos are about—putting five healthy minutes of exercise or eating into your day to wake up your motivation!
The Hudsucker: What’s on your bucket list that you haven’t yet experienced?
Holmes: My career has taken me to places like Tanzania and Honduras. I’m all about Costa Rica now and looking for any excuse to go there! I love nature, and walking in a forest is the closest I get to meditation.
The Hudsucker: Who would you like to work with in the future?
Holmes: I’m grateful to say I’ve worked with my heroes: Leslie Nielsen, Jerry Seinfeld, and John Ritter. I regret that I never got to work with Joan Rivers, but fingers crossed I’ll work with Amy Schumer some day.
The Hudsucker: What else is on the horizon for you this year?
Holmes: I’m headlining a festival in Calgary later this year, and performing across Canada to raise awareness for mental health. I just keep saying yes when the phone rings!
For more information on the Love Her events, check out their website.