Spotlight On: Jessica Holmes, Celebrated Comedian and Author
Jessica Holmes, a favourite on CBC TV’s Royal Canadian Air Farce, has brought the house down opening for giants such as Ellen DeGeneres, Leslie Nielsen, Jerry Seinfeld, and Oprah Winfrey. Her comedic high-jinks and crazy antics, topped with her unique knack for skewering celebrities (including Celine Dion and Britney Spears), are sure to amuse even the most straight-faced audiences. Her grace, bilingualism, and ability to react on the fly make her natural choice as an entertainer, emcee, or more. Jessica kindly allowed us to put her in the spotlight, and gave us–not surprisingly–some laughs in the process:
What inspired you to want to be a speaker?
I fell into speaking when Farah Perelmuter saw me doing comedy at a local club. Speaking was a miraculous world I didn’t know existed, since I was used to performing in bars for audiences of two, and getting paid in beer tickets, dodging the odd rubber chicken the emcee would throw on stage. But I immediately felt a connection with corporate speaking, particularly because I love getting the audience to be a part of the show. This is harder to do when a brawl breaks out three feet from the stage.
Any advice for aspiring speakers?
Get good BEFORE you get paid. And even when you’re a professional, keep learning, reading, and staying ahead of trends so that your talks are cutting-edge and useful.
What do you like to leave audiences with?
I love hearing “my cheeks hurt from laughing so much!!” I have also enjoyed branching out into motivational comedy–something I felt compelled to do after recovering from post-partum depression. Every time I belly laugh, I’m grateful for it. And I love sharing the message of chilling out and laughing through life’s hurdles.
How do you prepare before a talk? Any special rituals? A good luck talisman?
I become a hermit before I go on stage–I seem more like an introverted yogi than a comedian. I say a little prayer to God/The Universe/Oprah that my comedy and message will reach the people that need it most. Then I put on my drag queen-esque makeup, my adrenaline kicks in, and I go nuts on stage–a total 180.
Do you have an especially memorable event you can tell us about?
I love involving the audience in my performance. I once had a company president sing a duet with me called “Backwoods Love.” He was hysterical, and the audience loved to see him in such a different light!
Any funny or embarrassing situations you found yourself in as a speaker?
A few years ago I performed at a VERY small “boutique venue” with no green room. My dressing room was a public bathroom stall, and my dinner was served to me in that stall before the show. Women were coming in and out, using the bathroom, while I just sat in my stall, dinner tray on my lap, waiting the hours away until it was time to take the stage. Getting my game face on for showtime was an uphill battle!
Is there a charitable cause that you feel passionate about? Why?
I’m so grateful for my life and I feel a duty to give back. I’ve traveled with World Vision and Friends of Honduran Children as a Celebrity Ambassador, shooting videos to promote their cause. I turned a recent birthday into a fundraiser for the shelter Yellow Brick House, and was honoured when Speakers’ Spotlight made a generous donation!
If you had to choose a new career, what would it be?
Baker. I LOVE any combination of flour, butter, and sugar!
Best subject in school?
Best subject? Not so much. (Late bloomer alert!) But I was voted funniest girl in high school in the yearbook. I remembered thinking “that’s odd. Am I funny?”
Last book you read?
Me Before You, about a caregiver falling in love with her quadriplegic employer–a surprisingly funny book!
Last film you saw?
Since having kids (they’re now 5 and 6) I don’t have the attention span to get through a movie. But I’ve really enjoyed the first half hours of many, many films!
My husband, Wink Yahoo, from YTV’s Uh-Oh.