Toronto’s comedy scene continues to produce some of the top young stand up comedians in the industry. Steph Tolev, K Trevor Wilson and Nathan Macintosh all got their start in Canada’s largest city. Toronto is also home to a smaller, but equally talented sketch community.
Kaitlin Loftus and Laura Danowski are Cheap Smokes; A self-described raunchy sketch comedy duo that have been featured on the Trailer Park Boys and are regular contributors to SwearNet. Their debut album, Idiott’s came out today on Comedy Records. You can order Idiott’s now on iTunes and Google Play.
Loftus and Danowski now reside in Los Angeles, a move that was inspired by a chance conversation with Charlie Day. The duo have gone all-in on their comedy dream and recently spoke with the Interrobang about leaving Toronto for Los Angeles and the differences between performing sketch comedy in the two cities.
The Interrobang: When did Cheap Smokes come together?
Laura Danowski: We started 9 years ago while taking the Comedy Program at Humber College. I was living with a friend and he had invited Kaitlin over. He was running late so I invited her in and made her some tea and we hit it off. I microwaved her tea…which is not a weird thing to me dammit!
Kaitlin Loftus: Laura is right, she microwaved me some tea. I didn’t say anything at the time, but who the hell does that? BOIL the water in a kettle like an adult. Anyways, we became instant friends and started writing dumb sketches together in her windowless basement apartment in Etobicoke.
The Interrobang: How would you describe the Toronto sketch comedy scene?
Danowski: Performing in Toronto was a little rough at the start. We were so scared and didn’t really know what we were doing.
Loftus: The Toronto comedy scene, I will argue, is one of the best in North America. People in Toronto do comedy because they love it, not because they are trying to be famous. And that makes the comics more daring and fearless with their comedy, which is so much more interesting to watch. Crowds in Toronto are tough, they don’t laugh so easily so you have to be really damn good to do well in that city. Once you’re good in Toronto though, you’re amazing everywhere else you go.
The Interrobang: What inspired the move to Los Angeles?
Loftus: We always had dreams to move to New York or LA, but by the strangest stroke of luck ever, Charlie Day was filming Pacific Rim in Toronto and my friends (who I love forever) brought him to our show. We were doing a forty-five minute set of brand new material that night and Laura was on crutches. Safe to say the odds were against us. But we ended up doing well and Charlie stayed and drank beer with us and genuinely told us we should move to LA. The next morning we started planning and saving and a year later we moved.
The Interrobang: How did the move from Toronto to Los Angeles go?
Danowski: We decided to drive to LA for a once in a lifetime road trip. We left a year exactly from the Charlie Day night.
Loftus: We drove across the U.S. in my two-door Honda Civic.
Danowski: Our plan was to go there with 6000 dollars each and easily find a place with jobs. Boy, were we wrong. We had an AIR BNB we were going to stay in until we found a place. When we arrived we got screwed over with our AIR BNB and couldn’t live in it. We would drive around going from coffee shop to coffee shop with our computers looking for a place to live. It was Kaitlin’s birthday one weekend and we were homeless. We decided to drive to Vegas and we stayed in the grossest hotel for 20 dollars each. We had no clue you could drink for free in the casinos until the day we left…we were so upset with ourselves.
Loftus: We were pretty naïve on finding an apartment et cetera….let’s just say we slept in my car more than we’d like to admit. We definitely should have planned better, but it definitely brought us closer as friends…literally…because we were sharing a mattress.
The Interrobang: What are the biggest differences between performing sketch in Toronto and performing in LA?
Danowski: Performing sketch comedy here in LA is a bit different than in Toronto. There are way, WAY more people trying to make it in this field. You feel like a very small fish in a large pond, but you just need to be confident. We started to change our sketch act to more of a duo act so we would get more stage time. There are more stand up shows than sketch shows in L.A., so we changed our act to interact with the audience more.
Loftus: We started doing our sketch comedy on stand up shows. In Toronto, we were sketch performers and would pretty much only do sketch comedy shows. It was a challenge for us to change our act so that we could be a lot more loose and improvise more and involve the audience and not be “too sketchy”…if that makes sense. In the end, it was a great decision for us because we opened up a whole new avenue of performing. And it made us better improvisers. It’s been fun to be known as “something different” on every stand up show we do. But people either love us or hate us, there’s not really a middle ground.
The Interrobang: How did you start working with the Trailer Park Boys?
Danowski: The Trailer Park Boys PR lady, Sheila , found our YouTube channel from a mutual friend of mine in Toronto. She knew the boys were looking to have more females involved with their online channel, SwearNet, so she showed the boys our YouTube channel and they really liked what they saw.
She scheduled for us to meet with them in LA when they were performing at the Orpheum Theatre. We all got along so well and we partied with them until 4am on their tour bus. It was one of the greatest nights of our lives. We didn’t hear from them for a few months and weren’t sure what was happening. We got a call one day from Sheila while driving saying that the boys wrote us in on Season 10 as Julian’s slutty girlfriends and if that was okay. We had to pull the car over to scream and dance we were so happy.
Loftus: Laura nailed that answer. Except the part that we chugged two Mike’s Hard Lemonades after we found out because that’s all they had at the gas station.
The Interrobang: What’s coming up next for Cheap Smokes?
Danowski: We have lots of projects happening, just a lot of waiting around to hear about things.
Loftus: That’s the thing about this business, one week you’re eating Ben & Jerry’s sobbing on the couch watching re-runs of The Bachelor (Sean’s season), or you’re so busy you don’t know how you’ll possibly get everything done. Hopefully our lives start becoming more consistent with the latter. We’re always movin’ and groovin’…is that a saying? I recently finished a short film that I wrote and directed that’s going to be submitted in the festival circuit.
Danowski: We are putting out Cheap Smokes videos bi-weekly for our YouTube Channel and doing a lot of live shows. I just wrote a Children’s book called Laura D and Her Veggies. It’s about what vegetables make you fart so kids will want to eat them. It is very high-brow and I’m very proud. You can find my book on Amazon.
Loftus: One more story: We lived with a roommate for a while and he would take the LONGEST showers in the morning. Anyways, this particular morning Laura had to take a dump so badly that she ended up pooping in a Jon’s grocery bag in the kitchen and Febreze’d her way all the way to the dumpster to throw it out. When she told me I wasn’t fazed a bit…Typical Cheap Smokes morning.