by Jake Pesaruk

Make Em’ Laugh: Knocking Boots 

Despite the confusion, fatigue and spirit-flaying isolation of the last year, many creatives pivoted towards innovation – and leave it to the jesters to relentlessly pry out a laugh when there were none to be found. 

With re-openings and vaccines on the horizon (fingers-fucking-crossed), comedians are just as eager to get back to their scheduled yucks as we are keen to take the sting out of an open-mic comedy night with a few sanitized pints. 

Shirley Gnome, a B.C.-based singer, songwriter and comedian, recently received a Juno nomination surrounding her quarantine exploits. 

Decoxification, an album inspired by the imposed abstinence Gnome endured during quarantine, has been met with critical acclaim. Yet, while everyone was finding the measurements for their perfect sourdough, Gnome was measuring out equal parts willpower, motivation and guts, after her industry was dealt a horrific blow by the current pandemic. 

“I allowed myself to be emotional about it, and it cleared up a lot of space, if that makes any sense. It was an abstract thing… I started rebuilding from an emotional place in my life. So once I had gone through that, I was like, ‘okay” I can still record music,” Gnome says regarding her march out of quarantine gloom. 

Gnome’s album came from a place of emotional endurance. Yet, it was also the byproduct of the collective horniness experienced by a nation and the government boobery that surrounded it. 

“I found that the lack of information surrounding sex and dating amidst the pandemic was just sad. Most information I could find that was candid and accurate was from sex worker collectives. Meanwhile, the way the government talked about sex was indicative of a general problem of sex still being so taboo. I can’t believe it’s something that is still so tip-toed around; I mean, every person you see is the byproduct of a ‘fuck’ of some kind,” says Gnome. 

While Gnome was taking potshots at the federal government’s quaker-like approach to sex, she didn’t aim for any specific target, more so the general lunacy. 

“I feel like in the way that I approach comedy, I’m a lot more implicit when I take a political stance. I strive not to be super pedantic, so I’m a bit more of a cheeky chaotic person. I like to be a jester in the court.”

With her tours cancelled and confinement creeping in, Gnome even took a gamble on the altar that many worship — TikTok. 

“I finally caved, after so many people told me to join TikTok… I’ve never really had luck on social media and don’t have a huge following; most people know me from live shows. So initially, I thought it wasn’t going to work, and then it just took off,” says Gnome with lingering surprise. 

Within her first month on TikTok, Gnome’s videos were a hit. 

“Potentially, within that first month of being on the platform, I made more fans than I would have if I toured last year. It’s kinda sad, but hey, it’s true!” Gnome says in an endearingly self-aware chuckle. 

Like many of us in isolation, Gnome had time to think. This gave her ample opportunity to marinate on her decade in performance and how to fine-tune what she had learned. 

“It was a point to reflect on 11 years of performing. I think I sorted out some priorities during that time, like less touring, more recording and personally spending a lot of time with myself, so the album, it’s about being alone. The year I had spent working on the album was without any dating or sex; I decided to be purposefully single and not extend my energy into that world. It really did prepare me for so much of the solitude I was going to experience.”

As for what helped Gnome maintain sanity in her isolated creative whirlwind — gratitude.

“Gratitude gets a bad wrap because it’s packaged to sell yoga classes, but at the heart and base of it, it’s about being grateful for the good things you got; it does good things for your brain.”