What does a comedian do without their stage, according to Kate Hammer?

Checking in on your friendly neighbourhood comedian

“I love lying about traffic, for sure. Anything car-related.”

Kate Hammer gives  good advice. At 28, Hammer is a well-known stand-up comic, writer and performer in Montreal, who most notably wrote the sellout show The Peers which ran at Montreal’s 2019 Fringe Festival. Hammer’s been active, of course, until COVID-19 hit last winter. Since then, fans and concerned members of society can’t help but wonder: what have all these comics been doing without a stage and mic?

“My name is Kate Hammer, and it has been seven days since someone last came into my face and screamed ‘It’s Hammer time!’”

Hammer captured an audience last year in New York City with this introduction, followed by some lunging on stage. Clearly, they did theatre as a kid.

Known for their ambition and busy schedule, Hammer has a new perspective on work these days.

“Instead of saying yes to every show or trying to do as many shows as possible, take a step back,” Hammer says. “It’s that mindset of working smarter versus working a lot.”

This change of pace is big for Hammer, who grew up on a Lutheran farm in Stratford, Ontario that preached, “Eat whatever you want. Talk straight to God.” That, compounded with a strict farmer’s work ethic, “You can’t say no if you don’t feel well. Your livelihood depends on it.” Hammer is all about eating pudding, keeping your word, and investing in your dreams.

The “work smarter” attitude serves Hammer in their burgeoning career, as they recount doing three shows in one night during a snowstorm.

It’s like a big sense of just doing it, no matter how you feel.”

On the snowstorm occasion, Hammer leaned on their tried and true excuse for being late: traffic.

These days, Hammer’s beginning a master’s degree in TV Writing at Glasgow Caledonian University, and to that end, has moved and reshaped the direction of their life. Hammer studied Creative Writing at Concordia University, where they ran Concordia’s first comedy journal, The Hindwing Press, and created and hosted a monthly comedy show called INFEMOUS that aimed to create space for non-binary and female-identifying comedians in the stand-up community.

A lot of change came with Hammer’s shift in perspective towards working smart. With a focus on vulnerability, they see the obstacles that come from identifying as an artist, versus not. It can be hard when you haven’t accomplished your big project yet, or when you face scrutiny and constantly feel like you have to prove your chops. This insecurity is commonly known as imposter syndrome, and many artists come head-to-head with it at some point. Hammer’s tackling it head-on: “You’re not like an emerging or aspiring writer,” they continue. “If you’re writing, you’re a writer.”

The comedy scene has also changed recently. Online streaming services are investing a lot in comedy specials, with multi-million-dollar payouts for the first-tier talent, and five-figures for those second-tier comedians. Meanwhile, live comedy is no longer available with COVID-19 measures in place indefinitely. Alone, each of these changes would impact a comedian’s ability to “work smart.” Together, they’ve shifted the comedy world entirely.

Some artists adapted their stand-up structure to accommodate digital sets, like a Zoom game show or a podcast. Others, like Hammer, zeroed in on their writing aspirations.

“I think sussing out where you think your market is going,” Hammer says, “it’s always the smart move.”

Working smart can be difficult to do when your upbringing set the standard for a hard work ethic, like Hammer.

“I think the biggest thing is being forgiving to yourself, because working eight hours is bullshit. No one can work eight hours productively in a day.”

“One thing that can be helpful is to know when you are most efficient and when you need … higher level concentration,” says Montreal-based psychologist, Dr. Jade-Isis Lefebvre. This tactic helps maximize productivity so you don’t have to work too hard, but instead lean on your body’s natural rhythm to guide your workflow. Dr. Lefebvre believes a key determinant for success involves “tailoring your schedule as much as possible to … when you’re at your highest performance, when you’re the most energized.”

Instead of eight hours of unproductive work a day throughout the pandemic, Hammer is doubling down on self-care, and they want everyone to engage in it, too.

“It can just be hard to remember to do good things for yourself,” Hammer says. “I think that’s the biggest weird thing about this kind of collective rut, depression, sense of self-loss, sense of world-loss.”

By going outside a bit, getting into cooking, and taking care of plants, Hammer creates space for “little ways of meditating without actually meditating” with all the extra time left over from working smart.

Dr. Lefebvre agrees. “Creative endeavours are really good for building mindfulness, for expressing yourself, for understanding yourself, and getting more insight.” She wholly endorses the practice as a viable way to manage stress through these difficult times.

But most importantly, Hammer wants to make you laugh, especially as we’re living through a global pandemic. Joking is an important way to process what’s going on personally and collectively. That said, it’s important to consider the impact of your jokes. You have to ask yourself, “Where’s this coming from and what’s your point with it?” says Hammer.

“So what’s funny about the pandemic? Literally nothing,” Hammer says. “But everything around the pandemic, what’s happening with our actions and reactions, this shift in human behaviour and our needs — that’s hilarious.”


Feature photo by Jeremy Cabrera


Montrealers face their worst nightmare: construction under the snow.

Twenty centimetres of snow made traffic worse than usual last week in Montreal.

Concordia students depend heavily on the 105 bus to get to and from the Loyola campus. When it begins to snow, their usual method of transit gets way more complicated. On Nov. 11 and 12, Montreal received 20 centimetres of snow.

“I almost died yesterday,” said Huda Hafez, a student at Concordia University. “There was a big pile of snow covering the sidewalk, and I didn’t know where the sidewalk ended and the road started. So, I was actually standing in the bus’s way and the driver looked so angry, and he was going really fast.”

With snow, buses struggle to respect regular schedules in NDG, in Saint-Laurent, and almost everywhere in Montreal, according to public transit users.

Three construction projects on Côte-Vertu Boulevard in Saint-Laurent have been making traffic unbearable for most people in the area since April. Now that it has snowed, it’s making it even worse.

Although the three projects’ are meant to speed up public transit, the work will continue adversely affecting residents and workers until Dec. 15.

“The first project, at the Côte-Vertu metro station, consists of changing the permeability membrane to prevent water from getting in,” said Aref Salem, city councillor and vice-chair of the Commission sur le transport et les travaux publics. This project was complete by the beginning of last week.

The second project is the service rapide par bus (SRB), which is a 24/7 reserved bus lane.

“The whole point of the SRB between Côte-Vertu and Sauvé [stations] is to speed up buses, especially the 121. It has around 40,000 users every day, and we want to help them save time,” said Salem.

The third project is under the Montpellier REM train station viaduct and consists of changing the pillars.

“We want to strengthen the bridge to support new trains and a closed station so people can’t get access to the train without a valid ticket,” said Salem. Passengers will have to scan their tickets before entering the station.

Daily commuters of Côte-Vertu Boulevard are complaining the projects are causing traffic and the snow is making transport unbearable.

“I just want them to finish with all the construction,” said Maryam Bairouk, a resident near Côte-Vertu Boulevard. “I had a car accident a few weeks ago at the Jules-Poitras and Côte-Vertu light. A car was reversing because they were stuck in the intersection, and they smashed into my car.”

These projects are also affecting public transit users.

HEC student Annie Marcel said that before it snowed, the only annoyance was the detour the bus had to take near the metro. She said she’s glad this project ended before the snowstorm, but that the snow alone is a struggle.

“I had to wait over 10 minutes for the 121 to show up when it was only three minutes away. It was stuck at the same light for five minutes,” Marcel said.

Demix Construction, a division of CRH Canada Group Inc., is the contracting company of these projects.

Though The Concordian tried to reach the company, engineer and project manager Marco Pelle said the STM asked to redirect journalists’ questions to them, who also refused to comment.

These projects are expected to end by Dec. 15, and the SRB should be operational starting January 2020.


Feature photo by Britanny Clarke


New St-Jacques St. exit ramp raises concerns

Shuttle buses use the St-Jacques exit ramp to ferry students between ConU’s two campuses. Photo by Madelayne Hajek

The newly reopened St-Jacques exit ramp off the westbound Ville-Marie Expressway , which is extremely curvy and potentially dangerous, is raising concerns for Concordia University’s students and staff.

“You enter the ramp quite violently when you’re doing 70 kilometres or more on the highway so it’s scary when you see that curve,” said Mathew Pizzanelli, a Concordia student who uses the ramp to get to the Loyola campus. “Suddenly you realize that you have to reduce your speed significantly.”

The St-Jacques St. exit reopened in late August after its reconstruction to make way for a vehicle entrance for the McGill University Health Centre super hospital, which is in the process of being built. The exit has been closed since February.

According to an article published in The Gazette, the new ramp is not a typical loop normally used for exit ramps but a reverse curve which forces drivers to take a steep right, a steep left followed by another right.

Concordia University’s shuttle bus service that transports students from the downtown campus to the Loyola campus in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce uses this exit daily. According to university spokesperson Chris Mota, Concordia has not received complaints from students or bus drivers about the new ramp, although shuttle bus driver Vince Torchia immediately noticed the potential dangers of driving too fast.

“It’s a big difference from the old one,” said Torchia. “As soon as you get there you really, really have to slow down or you can hit the wall.”

Yet, the main purpose of the ramp is to force cars merging onto St-Jacques St. to reduce their speed.

“It was a request by the City of Montreal,” said Caroline Larose, spokesperson for Transport Québec. “They wanted drivers to slow down before entering a residential area.”

While it is understandable that the city would want vehicles to slow down, Luis Amador, a Concordia University civil engineering assistant professor, believes this is an inappropriate measure.

“What do you do when you’re back on a street that is straight, if these curves have forced you to slow down? You will accelerate again, so it’s not going to help,” said Amador. “If they want vehicles to slow down on St-Jacques, they need to bring proper measures on St-Jacques.”

Amador suggested placing little poles or markers on the side of the road to give drivers the sensation of going faster than they actually are and said widening the sidewalks to produce more narrow lanes will force drivers to slow down when approaching the intersection.

He also explained that drivers only have about six seconds from the time they see the 45 kilometre speed limit sign that also indicates a curve. It then takes about three seconds to react.

“You see the sign indicating 45, you decide to slow down, you take the foot off the gas, and three seconds after you are on the curve,” said Amador.

This becomes more of a problem when drivers may miss the road signs due to poor visibility because of blowing snow, hail or fog. However, Amador emphasizes that the ramp is still under construction and more signs may be added.

Transport Québec hasn’t reported any accidents, though it’s been open for two months and typically accidents are looked at over a three-year period.

Amador advised caution to all drivers, including the Concordia shuttle bus, and encouraged those taking the ramp to fully follow the curves.

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