Don't Mind Him-- Lee Bells

            Lee Bells is a 46 year old father of four, has taught high school English and History for over twenty years, and is also one half of Don’t Mind Us, an improvisational comedy duo that have been performing for longer than he has been teaching. The other half of Don’t Mind Us is Mark Schweighardt, who lives and works in Saskatoon. What improvised comedy, or an “improv” show consists of is a series of acts based on audience suggestions. For example, Mark and Lee will ask for three suggestions: a type of diversified farming, something that you’ve never done, and a last word. They will then confer for less than a minute, adorn themselves with goofy hats and plastic swords, and then deliver a hilarious performance. Mark and Lee grew up in Humboldt together, a year apart in school, and formed this business on their own. They have been performing together for over 25 years.

           Even though teaching is his day job, the jokes he makes on a daily basis reveal that comedy is Lee’s true passion.  Lee said his love of performing started at a young age. The very first shows that he ever put on was when he was in grade six, performing magic tricks. The next step was joining the school band as a percussionist. He said he always loved having an audience, and he realized in his high school drama productions that his real calling was making people laugh.

            After graduating from his high school in Humboldt, Lee pursued his interest in comedy. He began watching improv shows that the Saskatoon Soaps put on, and thought that that was something he could do. He auditioned for the group along with Mark Schweighardt, and the second year they tried out, they made it in. It was performing with the Saskatoon Soaps that Lee and Mark started to learn improv skills through workshops and experience. Halfway through their first year with the Soaps, Mark and Lee had the idea that they could become a smaller comedy group. The original sketch group comprised of three people: Lee, Mark, and Rob Scott, another individual from their hometown. A year passed, and Mark and Lee decided to go forward with their two-man show.

            Don’t Mind Us Comedy was formed by two eager young guys in their early 20s. For the first several years the pair didn't use microphones. Instead they projected their voices when performing in large rooms.

            “That was good, because it gave our performance more energy, but it wasn’t possible to be heard in some venues. So once we went to microphones, it was easier because we could reach everybody, but I noticed that it lowered the energy.”

As Lee and Mark grew more experienced, aspects of the show changed over the years.

            “We went from a very open show, based purely on suggestions, with a...wild format to a show that has set jokes and set ways to solicit suggestions from the audience. The format of the show has changed quite a bit,” Lee said, when asked about their set list. He chuckled. “For some reason, for the first several years, we would do a couple scenes in a row and ask for the same two things in each scene. We would do three different versions of one scene. We would do a sport or leisure activity, then a location, and then we would do the same thing again. It took us years and years to figure out that that was stupid.” The men agree that the road to becoming professional entertainers was full of “little realizations like that.”

            Lee and Mark’s partnership in this business has lasted over 25 years. For two men that both have other jobs and families, that’s a long time to stay committed. One would think they would lose interest, or that life would get in the way.

            “As for us not losing interest in it, it’s an excellent creative outlet for both of us,” Lee said. “We both like being onstage, getting attention, and being laughed at. There’s a natural adrenaline rush or buzz that we never get tired of.” Mark and Lee are fortunate enough to have a strong partnership, and have never suffered a fallout that damaged their career. “We do have egos, but not large enough egos that it holds us back from getting along. I think the strength of the partnership for us, as a team, has done a lot for making it last.”

            As much as improv comedy is a creative endeavor,  there is a strong business background to any thriving entertainer.

            “We have a strong passion for being creative...but equally we have a strong passion for running it like a business. A lot of artistic endeavors we’ve found, over the years, people that run them aren't necessarily as focused in thinking about the bottom line in making it work,” Lee explained. “I find the digital marketing side almost as fun, in a different way, as actually performing. So I think that keeps us healthy in terms of a viable business.”

            Not every artistic venture makes it in the business world. Since Don’t Mind Us is run by Lee and Mark, they are responsible for both the comedy and the marketing. What does that mean, for them? It means that performing well and keeping their business thriving is a balance. On one hand, they stay true to their improvising so that every show is authentic. “However, as you raise your fee and your responsibility to make people laugh gets stronger, you have to rely on material that will make your audience laugh,” Lee explained.

            Having an infectious, good sense of humour is partly natural, but in the case of their comedy duo, a lot of it is experience. “After 25 years, we’ve encountered almost every kind of difficult, horrible situation from environment to crowd to other situations!”

            Lee will describe himself as computer-savvy; he is the one who works on their website and their Facebook page. But he admitted that the secret to getting bookings is to take a more old-fashioned approach.

            “Word of mouth is always the most important part of marketing. So, if you do a good show, you’re going to get another show.” He smiled. “We’ve gotten much better at dealing with that. We were pretty, you know, lax when it happened in the early days. Now we’re trying to pay more conscious attention to it.”

            One of Mark and Lee’s greatest successes of their career is the Wedding M.C. Joke Book. It’s one of the only books out there with good, clean jokes on how to be a memorable M.C. at a wedding.

            However, despite his success as a professional comedian, the bulk of his work life is spent teaching. Pursuing any creative pastime can change the way your life goes. For instance, would he have been able to give up comedy? Or would he have been able to give up teaching?

            “You always ask yourself the question—if you had pursued comedy full time, where would you have ended up now? Right?... As a teacher—if I hadn’t had improv comedy, I often ask myself, would I have been a principal for many years by now? Would I have pursued that, you know, as a thing to do within your career?

            But I’ve always found that doing comedy is the best creative outlet for me, even more so than teaching. So I don’t think I could have done without it. If I didn’t start a family and look at those responsibilities when I did, I might have considered the life of pursuing a comedian which would have been more travel, etc. But I’ve always been a somewhat conservative person, so that would have been a little too wild and crazy for me. I probably prefer to be a little more grounded. But I’ll always have that question, especially now that I’m 46 years old: if I had pursued that comedy full time—even as a stand-up, which I did before I was an improviser—how far would I have gone? Would I be a household name? Would I be obscure?”

            This same kind of reflection wouldn’t be unheard of for many performers in a similar situation. Which leads to the question of what ‘show business’ really is. It’s a dream many have, but few make it a full-time career. So what constitutes show biz?

            “In the old days, they used to differentiate us from other artistic endeavors,” Lee said, speaking for comedians. “We were entertainers, or performers, as opposed to artists. But we do have skills in improv comedy, and we do have skills in making people laugh. But since we do it for money, I still think of it as an entertainer-performer. And I don’t mean that in a lesser way, I think we’re still professional. But I still think we focus on using our artistic skills to bring about a result for an audience and get paid for it. Anybody who gets up in front of a stage and makes people enjoy what they do, we’re all similar to that. But, um, you know, a DJ who plays music, a band who plays music, a cowboy poet that I’ve seen before...”

            I asked Lee how he used his admirable skills in performing and presenting in his classroom at school. “Well...” he said, “I don’t know if I have the right theory, but the way it works for me is, I think that it’s hard to pay attention to something without being interested. And my personal skill in getting people to be interested or to get their attention is through using humor.”

            With both Lee and Mark's imminent retirements, both will have ample amounts of free time on their hands in the next few years. I asked what this meant for the future of Don’t Mind Us.

            “Interestingly enough, when you are a teacher, you believe in learning, and having people become educated. And, after 25 years of doing this, Mark and I took a course to further our career and work on the marketing angle for things. It’s interesting how you can always learn something about what you’re doing, whether it be your craft, or learning business skills, etc.” 

            As for the retirement years? “It would be nice to have more time to spend on the comedy business,” Lee admits. “The most immediate goal that Mark and I have that we would share is to branch out into, like, speaking, or presenting day sessions at conventions, that kind of thing. Obviously we would use humor, but we would also have more of a message based on what we’ve learned. Because by then we’ll have been doing this for 30 years or more, so we’ll have experience in what it takes to be a team, to work together, and what it takes to entertain.”

Want to see more comedy? 
-Go to Facebook and like DMU's page
-Follow Mark and Lee on Vine
-Follow @bellsman on Twitter


Cory Monteith

Someone told me that the guy off of "Glee" was dead the other night. In that same, tactless tone, actually. I was at a campfire with the rock n' roll type of people, and they all scoffed at the news. 

However, I was shocked. "Which guy?" I asked.

"I don't know," the girl said. "The gay one."

My thoughts immediately went to the character of Kurt, who is very openly gay. But then the girl showed me her phone screen, and a picture of Cory Monteith. My mouth dropped open. Because whether or not you like Glee, the death of a well-known actor still can rattle you. 

Cory's character, Finn Hudson, was the star of Glee. In light of his death...I don't really know how the show can progress without him. 

It's weird when somebody famous dies. When someone close to you passes away, the people that know them are genuinely sad. They send cards to the family. They bring food, because the death of a loved one apparently renders everyone unable to cook or order takeout. They go to the funeral and pay their respects.

But when somebody like Cory Monteith dies? A young, popular, actor that appeals to teenagers?

The world is talking about it.

Hours afterwards, there were news sites that were flooded with traffic-- people always want to read something official, to verify that this is the truth. The day after his death, there were an abundance of social media posts dedicated to him. Facebook pages saying "R.I.P. Cory". Tweets from celebrities, groups, and random people expressing their sorrow and their love. I even saw a young girl I know that I go to school with put up a photo on Pinterest, with the caption underneath "R.I.P. Cory, only the good die young. Puck said it himself."


I wanted to comment beneath it and say "Actually, kiddo, Puck sang that song on Glee once. Billy Joel wrote it. PUCK ISN'T A PERSON-- he is a character. Chill."

This post is coming out in a very insensitive tone... That wasn't the purpose. Grieving or expressing thoughts doesn't bother me. What bothers me is how everyone seems to proclaim "we love you" or "we will miss you" when the only thing they will be missing is his character on a TV show. Is that wrong? Well... maybe not exactly. I enjoyed the character of Finn Hudson, back in the day. He was a good actor, and a good singer. But it seems selfish to say that you're grieving when this young man has family members and friends that will truly be changed forever from this. 

Basically, what I mean to say is, if you're a regular civilian like myself, don't express the depth of your pain from the loss of an actor like he was your close intimate friend. Mostly, don't express it on something like Facebook. Social media grief seems so much lesser than the real thing, to me. 

I know I acknowledged the fact, though. Because even though I'm not a huge fan of Glee, it is sad to hear that he died. I liked Cory Monteith-- he was Canadian, like me. I liked him because he was not your typical male actor, he had a unique look and a unique voice. 

I did read a news article about his death. He died alone, in a hotel in Vancouver. He was 31. 

(At least he skipped the 27 Club...)

I also feel sorry for his girlfriend, Lea Michele. It's hard enough to grieve over your boyfriend-- it would be even harder to do so with the entire world watching you.

I was sorry to hear about his death. I hope that if they continue with the Glee show, they find a way to pay tribute to him somehow. He was a big part of what made Glee popular, so I hope they don't just write him off in a dumb way. I think that if someone put so much heart into a TV show as he did, he deserves a fair acknowledgement. 


crawling on back to you

What? What's this?

A blog? What's that?

jckandy? Dafuq?

Another infamous, long-awaited (maybe not) return by the one and only JAECY BELLS.

Just like many people, I have that endearing quality of taking up a hobby with full force before losing interest and discarding it. Sort of like dogs do, with their chew toys, when they realize that nobody cares that they have it.

What brought on this round of blogging? Well, ladies and gentlemen, several things.

1. Recent months (more like a year and a half) have seen a decline in my writing. I haven't been writing stories. I haven't written many poems or songs. I haven't been journaling. The idea here is that with an AUDIENCE awaiting (we shall see) it will be easier.

2. I am at that place in your life where adults ask you "What are you doing after high school?" and I used to use witty answers such as "get knocked up and married" or "take off to Europe and busk on street corners" but they stopped being funny when I considered the reality of keeping my job at Subway until I'm seventy-nine years old.

Now, here is what I think about choosing a career that you will do the rest of your life. It should be something that you a)enjoy and b) are actually good at. I mean, sure. You can practice something to gain skill-- like me playing volleyball. Believe me, I'm no natural athlete. And sure, I enjoy the sport, and I have built myself into a respectable player. But will I ever be as good as the players on my team that don't even have to think about the mechanics of it? The players that just effortlessly dig up back row hits, lunging and diving, and don't even have to worry about fitting into their tiny spandex shorts? Well, no.

I have tons of things that I like to do. I like art stuff, in a nutshell. I like playing piano and singing. I like editing videos. I like designing posters or graphic things. But the one thing that I believe that I both truly love, and am truly good at, is writing.

So, here's the problem. When "becoming a writer" is your answer to the career counselor's primary question, you have to be prepared to have some backup plans. Because being a writer, in a teacher (or parents') eyes is roughly akin to buying a one-way ticket to Hollywood and becoming a famous actor.

(in my defense, writing is respectable-- I could have told my parents I want to be a rock star.)

So, how will a blog help my plan to be a writer? It gives me practice. And it gives me a name on the Internet. So there. That is my reason.

3. It's summer time, and since my job as a Subway sandwich artist doesn't occupy my every waking moment... I'm bored. I need a creative pursuit.


It was interesting, unearthing this blog from the Matrix of Internet code. I went through my profile, cringing at the things my younger self had put as my interests.

As you bloggers will know, there's a spot to put your favorite books. Guess what my first four spots were taken up by? OH WAIT-- "Twilight". "New Moon." "Eclipse". "Breaking Dawn."

That's embarrassing.

It took my seventh-grade self an awkwardly long time to come to terms with the realization that those books were not respectable literature. I mean, Steph Meyer certainly caused a vampire sensation. Hats off to her-- those were the first vampire stories I had ever read, and the concept was fascinating (to the thirteen-year-old brain.) But, sadly, the writing just wasn't up to snuff. And, really, there was some unbelievable teenage bullshit.

I'm sorry, but eighteen-year-old couples (I guess the glittery vampire was like ninety, but whatevs) don't have that much RESTRAINT. I know Edward was a positive saint and everything, with all his limited touching of his girlfriend, but to make a love story believable, there has to be a little physical action in there.

Like sex. Sorry to be vulgar, but it's 2013. It's just not very believable, otherwise.


For my music taste, I had something like three artists listed-- The Phantom of the Opera was number one.


JAECY. Okay, I went through a tiny obsession with that dark musical. And yes, I think Andrew Lloyd Webber wrote some riveting music there. And yes, I would go to see the musical again. But was that honestly all I listened to back in the day? That's strange to think about.

I'm much more musical than I used to be-- I joined Band in high school (yes, mega-band-geek) and I made some friends of the rock n' roll variety. So now I listen to old music, but it's because I like it. I used to never know what to listen to-- I would ask people to make me playlists of what was "cool" music, because I never knew. Now, I just listen to what I enjoy. Sometimes it's eighties rock ballads, sometimes it's obscure jazz from a local artist, sometimes it's the Grease soundtrack. I listen to what I love now, and even though people occasionally groan when I put on my "stoner music" I don't care because it's what I like.

People grow. People change. I'm a lot more comfortable with myself than I was the last time I avidly blogged.

Now, I am seventeen years old. I drive a 1990 Oldsmobile Cutlass. I sing in front of crowds. I'm the president of the Student Council in my school. I'm a published poet. All I want out of life is to make a living out of writing.




A Blank Page

That's kind of what New Years is about, isn't it? A fresh start. A new book. A blank page.

I just read on Steph's blog how she loves blank calendars, and I must say I agree. I don't know how many people actually bother to write in notebooks anymore, but for those of you who understand, is it not a thrill to crack the spine of a brand-new book? When the creamy pages are fresh and beautiful and there is no limit to your creativity. I keep personal journals, and every time I start a new one it feels like such a big deal. I practically plot out my first entry before carefully handwriting it. Of course, once you get farther in your handwriting grows sloppier, until your notebook is like an old friend. However, it's the kind of friend you feel comfortable getting angry at. This is when you scribble and scratch things out and long for a new book. :-)

I love fresh starts, but I must say, it never feels like January is much of a fresh start. For me, it's September. New school year, new supplies, new clothes, etc. January is just kind of blah. But I never fail to write New Years resolutions. I am ashamed to say that I'm pretty sure I've never thought of a truly unique one, they're pretty much the same as any other person on this earth. Here are some of the favorites...

"I resolve to quit eating junk food and be a healthier person." That one lasts usually a week before the first slipup, maybe a month or two before it's completely forgotten.

"I resolve to work out and hit the gym." Either you don't have 'time' to get there, or you get to the gym, run for twenty minutes, and collapse and can't go on.

"I resolve to get better marks in school." Applying only to students. Luckily, January is the month we write our final exams. Those will likely drag DOWN my mark.

Anyways, those go on and on. It's embarrassing, how little people change. It's not like I'm guilt-free, either. I've had those goals, or very similar ones, pretty much every year since I grew up and my grade one teacher didn't make us draw pictures of our resolutions. Which, at six, were generally resolutions like making your bed every morning or keeping your room clean.

I didn't bother resolving to write on my blog more often. It's here when I need it. Although I did have the idea to put more photos on here, which is something I've been doing way more often than writing these days.

Anyways, don't be ashamed of your cliche resolutions. It's all in good taste.

Happy New Years!



Google informed me today that it is Freddie Mercury's 65th birthday.

I've always found that strange, to be honest. Not Freddie Mercury (although he was a bit of an oddball) but how Google will put stuff like "Van Gogh's 300th Birthday" or whatever. I mean, they're dead. They're not celebrating the date of their birth any longer. It would have been their birthday. This would have been Freddie's birthday, but it's not. So why do people keep saying happy birthday?

I'm not saying I don't want him to be remembered. The opposite, actually. I think he is amazing. He is one of my greatest inspirations for pianist/singers. I love Queen, I love their music, and I love watching their performances because he's such a good performer.

I think it's so sad he died at 45. I know he was gay. I know he contracted AIDS. I know he wasn't a saint, how a lot of people make out dead people to be. (i.e. John Lennon was an amazing musician but he did a shit ton of drugs. That's not incredibly saintlike.) I still don't think anyone deserves to die like that. I just read a very long account of his death on the internet, written by his last boyfriend or something. It could have all been total bullshit, maybe it wasn't. But it was still sad.

(I had a thought. My other greatest inspiration for pianist/singers is Elton John. Can gay men just tickle the ivories better than anybody else? Or should I be concerned with my love for gay guys? Interesting.)

Anyways, Happy Birthday Freddie. You would have been sixty five today. I don't know what you'd be doing, if you would have reunion tours like some bands, or write new music, or release a solo album or something. Maybe your voice would slowly deteriorate, so you can't even sing the songs you used to.

I wonder if it's better for an artist's fame to die young, before the world can see you wither away like a human and watch as your body breaks down and your voice shrinks. They seem to be remembered better that way.


Digging Down Deep for Motivation

Well, well, well. If my calculations are correct, I last posted November 10th.



That's pathetic.

That's just downright embarrassing.

I don't even know why I even came out and admitted this.

But the truly tear-jerking, shoulder-shaking, sob-worthy sadness of this whole post is that I'm only doing it because I happened to make a deal with Monica.

The hour groweth late, so I shall quickly skim through my brains for the summer activities that have been happening to me lately.

  1. Harry Potter.
         For those of you who are not Harry Potter fans, please leave. Just exit my blog, right now, and crawl into a small dark hole. But bring a small reading light and the boxed book set, so that when you return I can happily welcome you back.

       For those of you who have stuck with Harry and his pals to the very end... who attended the movie showings in full costume... my kindred souls... I salute you.

         For normal people, who most likely fall somewhere in the middle, stay cool.

        Isn't it strange to think it's all over? JK Rowling's legacy has not been a passing phase, a fleeting obsession that was cool for a while but then faded (*cough* *cough* Twilight.) It's been spread out over a decade, and it's readable whether you're six or thirty six-- it's not too childish, it's not too hard. And it deals with STUFF, not necessarily KISSING AND ROMANCE AND SUCH, but deeper love. (And, obviously, I enjoy books with kissing. I enjoy movies with kissing. It's just a good thing.) It makes it more accessible, you know? I mean, I read The Philosopher's Stone when I was but a wee lass of six years old. I think I read it with my mom over the course of months, and then one day I climbed a tree and finished the last quarter myself because I couldn't wait longer.

       And then, before you know it, the seventh book is out, and we made my dad buy three copies so nobody had to wait to read it first. And I read the 700+ page book in about eight straight hours, crying in the right parts, smiling in others, biting my fingernails for most-- and then the books were done. It was a perfect ending.

      But it was okay, because the movies were there. We had those to look forwards to. Personally, I've had July 15th booked off my calendar since I left the theater of Deathly Hallows Part I. And now it's all over.

      Now, I may or may not have had PMS and/or was overtired that day, but did I ever cry. Some people claim to not cry at movies. Ha. A friend of mine said via Facebook "OMG I cried three times!" And I'm thinking, "I wish. I started crying, and then just kept going." But it was okay, because when you leave the theater hiccuping with your makeup smeared around your eyes, going to the bathroom to try to make your face less red and blow your nose, you're not alone. All those dedicated Potterwatchers are there for you.

       And in case your wondering, I used my fluffy hair to my advantage and dressed up as Bellatrix Lestrange to attend the midnight premiere.

       2. Stephen King
          I am an avid reader (further classified as "bookworm" or "nerd") and have recently discovered the wonders of good old Steve. I have been reading his novels this summer, and I also watched the Green Mile. (And I died in all its fantasocity.) "The Langoliers" and "The Body" are my favorite novellas. "Needful Things" and "Misery" are my favorite books. And for the record, don't read "Pet Sematary" and then proceed to obey your mom's wishes and get the water hose from outside when it's midnight and pitch black outside. I'm fairly certain it's bad for your blood pressure.

        ON THE SUBJECT OF BOOKS I recently read Paranormalcy (actually I finished it two hours ago) and was astounded, angry, and jealous. I was astounded that a book could make me that happy to read, and how much fun it was. I was angry it took me this long to read it, because I was denying myself of awesomeness. And, oh, jealous because I CAN'T WRITE LIKE THAT.

          Kiersten White: you rock. And I hate you a little for it. But I can't, because anyone who creates Evie has to be sweet.

          3. Work

           I have at last joined the leagues of the working class, and found that I have not been missing much. I am a Sandwich Artist at a restaurant called  Subway, which is situated in about every city and/or town across the globe, I have been realizing.

              Well, perhaps not in Africa. Or those other eastern places that don't eat real food like fries, or pizza, or even subs, but eat weird things like abalone (which sounds like lunch meat but is actually an endangered sea creature type object of a sort) and poisonous fish and weird plants and, I dunno, shark fins.

         It's a pretty sweet job, actually, because I work with some sweet teenagers and we have fun. And also, we get free Slushies and fountain drinks. And coffee. And half-price cookies, which sounds like a good idea until you get a slow day and consume half the pan. (I recommend White Chocolate Macadamia Nut, which have to come from heaven or someplace similar.)

        Technically, I guess that would make Heaven situated in our industrial freezer.

Moving on.

All I've been doing this summer is lazing around, doing a few creative things and feeling guilty when I don't do anything. And then I think, summer is meant for relaxing. You're recharging your batteries for school when things get busy.

And then I think, but since it's noon you could probably get out of bed.

I've taken some pictures, I've played my guitar and my tiny, adorable purple ukulele, and I've even blown the dust off an unfinished manuscript and been polishing that a bit.

Maybe I should just finish that damn thing, send it to a few publishers, and then forget about it. That would be nice.

All right. I'm not going to promise I'll be a regular blogger, because I suck at keeping those kind of promises. (Hence, the junk food I will never ever eat because it's bad for you and you don't need it and you can talk yourself out of it honestly it's not worth it oh okay just this once mmmmmmm). But on the other hand, I don't want to be the kind of blogger whose every other post is "Oh I'm so busy! I should write more often!"

I think the problem here, is that we need a MAKEOVER. Clean everything out. Start fresh. Make it pretty. Dust off the cobwebs.

Promises are easier to keep when they are pretty.


For Your Amusement

I decided that, since I have nothing to say, I would post some of my pictures. Some are edited, some are raw, but they were all taken by me.