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An artist’s life can be a wild ride

A career in the arts comes with ups and downs that could dwarf even the biggest roller coasters at Disney World. Abby Stonehouse is a comedian from the Valley who is all over the Montreal standup comedy scene, and she has been feeling those ups and downs recently in spite of her success.

Stonehouse runs a production company called Comedy on Demand, which started as backyard shows during COVID lockdown. She also hosts two podcasts, House of Stone and A Horrific Evening with Abby and Fernando. “I have a big passion for standup; that’s number one. But since starting the podcast, that’s number two,” she shares.

The comedy scene in Montreal was shocked this year at the cancellation of the Just For Laughs comedy festival. “A lot of us have a lot of dreams wrapped up in the Just for Laughs festival,” Stonehouse says. For so many local comedians, it was the event of the year; “All year round, we’re writing material, we’re getting stage time, just for the hope that we get an audition for Just for Laughs.” Montreal is a hotspot for comedy in North America, and the festival brought in comedians from around the world. However, its cancellation puts the state of performing arts into perspective for Stonehouse; if an international comedy festival is “short on money, I shouldn’t feel so bad.” She emphasizes that even without the festival, there is still standup comedy happening every night in Montreal and folks can still support their local comedians.

She says she feels extremely lucky to have been able to focus on her comedy career in recent years. But with inflation and cost of living increases, she decided to take a part-time job as a coordinator at The Hive, a free meal program that runs out of Concordia University’s Loyola campus. This organization serves free vegan breakfast and lunch to up to 200 students every weekday.

 

Abby Stonehouse can be found performing standup comedy all over Montreal every single week PHOTO provided

 

Stonehouse was a psychology student at Concordia and often enjoyed the Hive’s lunch. This experience, together with her background working for nonprofit organizations, meant she was interested in being involved with the program. Her job consists of a little bit of everything; she organizes stock, does pickups at local food banks, helps with service, and more. She is so impressed with the team there and how they often make meals for 200 people using extremely limited stock. When costs permit, they also try to source their food locally.

Access to food can be a huge barrier for students, as high living costs often mean that students have to choose between paying for food or rent. Stonehouse says, “This program, more so than ever, is really important. I saw a stat that’s associated with The Hive website that said if someone doesn’t have to worry about if their bellies are full, they can focus and do better academically.”

Stonehouse is still performing constantly, running her production company, and hosting her podcasts while working at The Hive. “This is the life of an artist! I was very fortunate to be able to focus on just my art for a while. And then that goes up and down. So, I always identify with being a ‘struggling artist’,” she shares. She is grateful for the opportunities she has, regardless of how busy she is navigating it all. She also hopes to be back in the Valley for a local show at some point this summer.

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