[AlKHallism: All photos link to either Naomi’s website, The National Theatre of the World website or Naomi’s IMDB page.]
From the Juiced-box and a group that Naomi approves of: The Be Good Tanyas – Littlest Birds
Wow, remember how y’all keep saying i’m funny but looks aren’t everything? Well, this time i’m in so far over my head that i’m tea bagging myself (and how do i get myself into these positions anyway?) because the woman i’m about to interview is not only funny, but she’s super intelligent and great at improv as well. Plus, she’s not even funny looking at all. i’ll say it again, how do i get myself into these positions?
Naomi Snieckus had a good part in Saw 3D, a part that was so good it was better than the entire freaking movie. Course the part in her hair was better than the whole freaking movie but there you go and if i didn’t like the movie, it certainly didn’t have anything to do with Naomi, who did a great job as an agent called Nina. Not only does Naomi / Nina get killed in a killer way, she does it with grace and style. Scared to death was i when i approached her for an interview but, just like her character in Saw 3D, she showed what she was made of.
i was drinking Iceberg Vodka (made with water harvested from icebergs, doncha know) in some truck stop way out in the Canadian wilderness when i accidentally stumbled out the back door while looking for the toilet and fell into a snowdrift higher than i was and deeper than the debt i’d downed on tab. i was stuck in the snowbank and freezing faster than a daiquiri but couldn’t feel a thing because of the vodka blanket when, suddenly, a hand reached down into the Canadian powder, grabbed me by my scruffy neck and pulled me back into the light of the full Canadian moon. Imagine my surprise when i saw my savior was none other than Naomi Snieckus, star of Saw 3D. “Babe,” i slurred between my Curaçao blue lips, “can i interview you for the Bar None? At least until the tips of my extremities start to get warm,” i added when i saw her hesitation. She pulled a mini bottle of Northern Lights whiskey from this little barrel she wore around her neck like a lucky charm and nodded her assent.
Al K Hall: So you live in Canada, right? How Canadian are you really?
Naomi Snieckus: I mean, are any of us REALLY Canadian? My father is Lithuanian and my mother is British, so I grew up playing weird egg games at Easter and putting sugar on my cooked carrots. Not so Canadian, eh?
Al K Hall: What makes you Canadian, then?
Naomi: I think the most Canadian thing about me is my love of the outdoors. Spending time at a cottage always re-grounds me to my Canadian roots.
Al K Hall: “Outdoors…grounds…roots…” Wow, you are good. Would you ever leave the Great White North if Hollywood wanted to snap up your mad talent?
Naomi: I would never turn down a great chance to do something fun in another part of the world, but I’ll always come home to Canada. I’ve driven across the country three times now and each time I’m reminded just how lucky we are to live in Canada!
Al K Hall: Yeah, not to mention hung mounties, Labatt Blue and all the snow you can eat. Speaking of lucky, do you have any scars, tats or nicknames?
Naomi: Yup…I have a tatoo of a scar, ’cause that’s what people call me in the ‘hood: “Scar”.
Al K Hall: That’s how you roll, eh? So, what’s your idea of a good time, Scar?
Naomi: You know, I have a pretty fun life. I get to do shows with the funniest guys in the world (Matt Baram and Ron Pederson and Chris Gibbs) that are all about making people laugh; then at the end of the day I come home to a house full of fun people, too.
Al K Hall: Hey, i’m a pretty fun guy. Wanna have some fun with me?
Naomi: My partner is Matt Baram—
Al K Hall: Dammit. Give me another mini bottle of Northern Lights, you Saint, you.
Naomi: — and we have two roommates: Ron Pederson and Naomi Wright— all artists, all fun to be around! One of my fave things to do is when some of our fabulous neighbours pop over spontaneously and we all make martinis till the wee hours of the morning!
Al K Hall: i hear that. Martinis and wee hours…course i get to the wee hours faster with beer. While we’re talking about martinis, what’s something I wouldn’t know about you until i get drunk with you?
Naomi: I speak French really really well—and I love you, man.
Al K Hall: Wow, the tips of my extremities are really starting to feel the warmth. Staying on top of that hot topic, tell me about your favorite vices.
Naomi: Work. I love working. I love our company “The National Theatre of the World” and seeing how far we can go with the projects we’re working on. I’m a bit addicted to my laptop…that and heroin…but I can say “no” to heroin ANY time.
Al K Hall: You know, you’re my heroine and i could never say ‘no’ to you, Lollypants. Can i call you ‘Lollypants’? [i can tell by her look that i absolutely cannot.] Oooh, sorry, Scar. Let’s talk about your down time. What’s your idea of a boring evening?
Naomi: Watching BAD reality TV shows while doing my taxes and cleaning up my hard drive…and eating plain toast.
Al K Hall: Yeah, taxes suck. That’s why i stopped doing them. What do you guys like to do to escape the drudgery?
Naomi: We have two great dogs that we love taking to the beaches or high park. I also love meeting friends for coffee—long coffee chats, nothing better! But mostly we’re at our computers somewhere in the house; sometimes it looks like we’re playing an intense game of Battleship!
Al K Hall: “Battleship”. Damn, you are good. Now, tell me something i don’t know.
Naomi: My father won the order of Lithuania for his contribution in organic chemistry. I had a teacher that told me I would have trouble being an actress cause he thought I was dyslexic. Second City wouldn’t see me for an audition so I crashed them!
Al K Hall: You rock it the hard way, babe. How did that happen?
Naomi: I was living in Vancouver at the time and had planned to visit Toronto around the time of the auditions. I waited and waited and at 5pm the day before, I realized that they hadn’t called me and weren’t going to see me for the auditions. It was one of those moments in your career when you just shake your head and think, “God, what do I have to do?” So the next day I went down and crashed the auditions. I couldn’t stay for the call backs as I was leaving for Van the next day, but as I left the building Carlie Baxter, one of the producers, ran after me and said, “They’re really interested—great job.” It was pretty exciting! Then I waited in Vancouver forEVER till I got the phone call saying, “We’d like to offer you a place in the National Touring Company.” That was a big day!
Al K Hall: Damn, i bet. That puts you in the same league as John Belushi, John Candy and Mike Meyers!
Naomi: It’s always been a dream of mine to work at Second City and I grew up watching SCTV. I consider myself really lucky to be included in a family like Second City. I still am in awe that I get to be part of a legacy that includes Eugene Levy, Catherine Ohara, Martin Short, Tina Fey, Steve Carrell… Amazing! Second City just celebrated 50 years and we went to this amazing weekend in Chicago where all my heroes were gathered. It blew my mind that I got to be included in that! Now, after 5 shows that I wrote and performed, I’ve done corporate work with them and just finished directing the National Touring Company.
[Musical Interlude and one of Naomi’s shout-outs with a cool freaking name: Ron Sexsmith – Secret Heart]
Al K Hall: Babe! That means you pro’lly know “Robin” from How I Met Your Mother. Because she’s Canadian, too. [AlKHallism: the actress who plays ‘Robin’ is Cobie Smulders, born in British Columbia to a Dutch father and British mother.] Seriously.
Al K Hall: Augh! Whatever Amanda told you was a lie. Especially that part about the llama and the love bite around the general vicinity of my groin. But enough about my hobbies. How’d it work out that you got the role of “Nina”, the agent in Saw 3D?
Naomi: Really, I think I screamed the loudest until they gave it to me. I haven’t done anything like that movie before. I guess I knew what it was like to make something funnier, so I applied the same thing to making something grosser.
Al K Hall: Where was the shoot? Did they put you up in a nice hotel? More importantly, did you get free booze?
Naomi: The shoot was in a very glamorous studio in the East End. Jean-Claude Van Damme was wondering around all the time, and they fed us caviar daily.
Al K Hall: Caviar? East end? Van Damme? Really?
Naomi: No. Truthfully, I took a cab every day and they made me eat blood for lunch.
Al K Hall: Mmmm, blood. Sounds like Twilight. Which reminds me, and be honest now, before you got the part, how many of the Saw‘s did you see?
Naomi: Honestly? Before I did Saw 3D, I saw 1/8th of the first one.
Al K Hall: And now?
Naomi: And now I’ve seen one and one eighth! They freak me out…I love sleep and those images are creepy, hard to shake.
Al K Hall: How does one prepare for a role like “Nina”? Did you ask your friends to do scary things to you for hours or what?
Naomi: YES! I asked Matt to every once in a while to creep up on me, grab me and lock me in the closet for a couple of days. It was fun, at first, but then I think he started liking it too much. When it went on even after I’d stopped shooting …that got a bit weird.
Al K Hall: Did you see the movie in the theater?
Naomi: I did! I saw it with Matt but missed the first 20 minutes ’cause my eyes were shut and my ears were plugged. I just watched Matt’s expression for what the gross parts were.
Al K Hall: What did you think about the movie in general?
Naomi: It seemed the full house liked it. I mean, no one threw up, so it wasn’t that scary.
Al K Hall: Before Saw 3D, you did tons of TV shows and shorts in Canada, from The Ron James Show to Little Mosque on the Prairie. Is there anything you’re especially proud of that we here in the Bar None should know about?
Naomi: I’m really proud of most of the stuff I do ’cause I get to work with great teams of people – is that corny?
Al K Hall: Yeah, kinda. If ‘kinda’ means ‘a lot’.
Naomi: Seriously, from TV, to film, to commercials to theatre—to me, that’s what it’s all about—working with folks that you like, that are passionate about their work and that like to have fun! On Ron James I got to do a bunch of different characters, which was really fun and same as Little Mosque…, though a different kind of character.
Al K Hall: i got a really big kick out of that one series with that one hot chick, Erin Karpluk. What is it about Canadian cold that makes Canadian women so smokin’, anyway? Oh yeah, Being Erica, that’s the series i’m babbling about.
Naomi: The character “Vair” that Jessie Gabe wrote for me for the Being Erica webisodes —that’s tons of fun cause she writes it with me in mind and we have fun tweaking the dialogue. I also just worked with Gerry Dee on his new pilot TV show for CBC that is called Mr.D. Hope CBC picks it up! That was a great time working with that guy (he’s one of my favorite stand ups – you have to check him out on Youtube), so fingers crossed you’ll all see more of it! But I’ll tell you, the thing I’m most proud of is our company, because we created it from nothing and every time we get an award (CCA for best improv troupe 2009 and 2010) or whenever we get press I feel really proud of our work. Working with Matt and Ron—that’s a pretty great job!
Al K Hall: You think that’s good, you should try being an alcoholic writer—smell the victory, man. You’ve also got some upcoming roles, like the lead in Boss of Me, which is a short. How short is it?
Naomi: It’s a short short — we’ve worked with these guys at 83 Pictures before…they’re awesome. Keep your eye on that team—they’re gonna make something amazing!
Al K Hall: Saving the best for last, you star in a TV series that has the coolest name ever invented by a human being anywhere in the history of human beings of all time: The Drunk and on Drugs Happy Funtime Hour. Where do i sign up to be a member of the cast? Seriously, i play drunk. A lot. Don’t you need an extra something?
Naomi: Okay, you know that’s just the name, it’s not how we lived on set, right? Like Corner Gas isn’t about a gas station and Little Mosque on the Prairie has nothing to do with a mosque. Ooooh, wait a second….
[Another of Naomi’s favorites: The Human Statues – The Carol That I Know]
Al K Hall: And what’s your part in this series of the Gods?
Naomi: My role was playing Amy Sedaris’ assistant. She’s one of my favorites — god, she is FUNNY and weird and surprising. Every take we did, she would surprise me. It was a bit of a dream gig hanging out with her. She has a new wacky craft book too—she’s always got something going that is interesting! Not sure what the plans are for that show yet so stay tuned…and stay drunk.
Al K Hall: From your mouth to…my mouth. Uhm, or whatever. Let’s just move on, shall we? Apart from star of the screen, you’re also a light on the stage, and pretty freaking bright, too. You belong to something called The National Theater of the World. What’s up with that?
Naomi: We have two shows. Our first show is “Impromptu Splendor” and that’s a monthly show at Theatre Passe Muraille where we improvise full plays in the style of playwrights. I love this show. We get to do real, truthful acting, but funny stuff too and we make it all up based on an audience suggestion. It really marries two of my favorite things: theatre and improv.
Al K Hall: What? No puppets!?
Naomi: Our other show is “The Carnegie Hall Show”. That’s more of a variety show with improvised bits, but then we have guests that come in and sing, or dance or…do puppet stuff. [Insert ‘Woot’ here.] Or hula hoops. You never know what you’re gonna get. It’s a great show we do at the Bread and Circus every Wednesday night and it’s guaranteed laughs!
Al K Hall: You sold me. What does it take to see one of these shows? Where and when and how much?
Naomi: It takes movement—the movement that would get a body down to a spot in Toronto! The Impromptu Splendor is the last Sunday of every month, and costs $12 at the Theatre Passe Muraille, 16 Ryerson Avenue. There’s a free reading of work by the featured playwrite at 7:30, followed by a discussion. The show starts at 9 and at 10 there’s the opening / closing night party!
Al K Hall: Woot again!
Naomi: The Carnegie Hall Show is every Wednesday night at the Bread and Circus, starting at 9pm. PWYC – variety, music and laughs!
Al K Hall: i get the idea behind improv but what exactly happens in your shows? Do like members of the audience scream out things like “Duck”, “Fig”, “Tinsel”, “Constipation”, “Canada Day” and you have to act like a tinsel wearing constipated duck eating a fig on Canada Day or what?
Naomi: Yup. Exactly. You’ve obviously done improv before.
Al K Hall: You’ve obviously been talking to people about my sex life. But hell, you’ve won awards and everything! Like the Canadian Comedy Award (is it true the trophy is called a “CaCA”?) for Best Female Improviser. How cool is that!
Naomi: I did not know it was called the CaCA, but I doubt I’ll be referring to it that way.
Al K Hall: Your call. Did you have an acceptance speech already planned?
Naomi: I didn’t have a speech. I forgot, to be honest. Also, I thought the awards started at 8pm, but it was 730pm and we were almost late—I had to take my curlers out in the cab. But, I had in my heart what I wanted to say and that was something like: I’m the luckiest gal in the world—I get to make people laugh as my job! And, at the end of the day, I get to come home to the funniest man in the world – Matt Baram.
Al K Hall: That’s so sweet! [i brush away a tear.] Don’t worry, it’s not me, it’s the vodka crying. Hey, if this interview gets over a hundred hits will you thank me?
Naomi: For you…if this article gets 100 hits, you will definitely get a shout out in my status line.
Al K Hall: Cool, that’s almost as good, right?
Naomi: It’s the best I can do right now.
Al K Hall: Status line it is, then. i also read you’re a writer and working on something called Unrelated…
Naomi: I’ve always got a bunch of projects going—keeps me creative. One of them is a TV show I’m working on with Breakthrough films called Unrelated, with Jessie Gabe and Linsey Stewart. Matt and I have some TV ideas that we are pitching… I think that’s just the way life is now, you have to always be ready to pitch ideas.
Al K Hall: Exactly. So what do you say…you, me, a fifth of Jack Black, a quart of maple syrup and 2 rolls of quarters? No? Don’t worry, if you don’t scratch me, i go away eventually. But can you blame me? You’re an actor / writer / improviser / voice-over artist / director / teacher and drop dead gorgeous young lady. Seriously, don’t you think that’s too much talent for any one person to possess? Maybe you could share it with those of us who are less fortunate. There are talentless children in Yeaman, you know.
Naomi: Yes, it’s too much, but I’m collecting talents. If I save 4 more box tops I get the talent of taxidermy…pretty excited about that one.
Al K Hall: Oh, I don’t know. i’ve stuffed a lot of things in my day and the fun all depends on if charges are filed or not. In all the minutes of exhausting research i did while watching Machete did i blow over anything too quickly?
Naomi: You know that’s not me with the foo manchu mustache right?
Al K Hall: Sure, but that was you naked beneath the nun’s bad habit, right? While i try to remember, what message do you have for your many fans?
Naomi: Stick together. There’s not a lot of you, but united we stand and divided we fall.
Al K Hall: There are more than you realize, i bet. Have you checked out the action on your IMDB board? But don’t check it right now because it’s time for the Bar None Questionnaire. Don’t worry, close your eyes, hold on tight and it’ll be over before you know it. What’s your favorite alcoholic drink, Scar?
Naomi: Depending on the time of day. Early cocktail hour (before noon!): Caesar with horseradish, apres 5pm: lychee martini!
Al K Hall: With that all day drinking you got goin’ on, when was the last time you had a hangover?
Naomi: Oh god, I hate hangovers so much so it’s been a while. I hate that feeling of waking up and feeling so cruddy and thinking “WHO DID THIS TO ME” and then sadly realizing, I did this to me.
Al K Hall: Yeah, welcome to my world. Do you smoke? How many cigarettes a day?
Naomi: No smoking from me, unless it’s when I cook, then three a day.
Al K Hall: What’s your favorite swear word?
Naomi: I’m a big fan of “Fuck” unless it’s over used. There was a late night Second City improv set that we challenged each other to come up with the worst name to call someone. I thought “cuntbucket” was good…still do. Don’t use it a lot, mind you.
Al K Hall: “Cuntbucket”. That just became my new favorite word. You’re a genius. Finally, what’s your favorite thing about me, Al K Hall?
Naomi: I don’t know much about you…I like so much about you, Al K. Though I would like you better if your name was something like …mmmm “Paul”. It’s a good name – solid.
Al K Hall: Are you kidding me? Anything but “Paul”‘. “Paul”‘s a sucker and a schmuck. “Paul” will apologize for bumping into you. “Paul” will pay for your drinks and only realize a couple days later people just pretended to like him for the free booze. If you sleep with “Paul”, he’ll weep afterwards and follow you everywhere for a week. Trust me on this one, it’s much better to be Al K Hall.
[Outro on the Juiced-box and another request by Naomi: Colleen and Paul – A Home in the Top Boughs]
And that’s all she wrote, literally. Let me take a minute to point out i’ve never had the pleasure of being rescued by Naomi Sniekus and she probably doesn’t even own a barrel necklace stocked with mini bottles of Canadian whisky. This whole thing was done over the internet and, per usual, i changed some of my crap to make the interview flow and appear as though we’d met, but i didn’t change any of her answers.
All that’s left of me is to thank Naomi Snieckus for her endless patience while putting up with my shenani-gins and for making this interview so much of a pleasure. Her good mood and great answers are part of what makes tending bar here in the Bar None such a joy. i appreciate her opening up and sharing some of her secret parts that make her so special. Thank you again, Naomi.
David Leyes photography: www.davidleyes.com
Albert Lee Media: albertleemedia.com