Baroness von Sketch comedian Carolyn Taylor on life at the cottage and her new figure skating series

Carolyn Taylor holding up skates and wearing a red hat Photo courtesy of Matt Barnes

Cottagers will know comedian Carolyn Taylor from her hilarious—and hilariously accurate—skits about lake life on the sketch comedy program Baroness von Sketch Show. She’s back with I Have Nothing, a six-part docu-comedy series now streaming on Crave. The show follows Carolyn as she attempts to choreograph a full-length pairs figure skating routine to Whitney Houston’s 1992 iconic hit song, “I Have Nothing.” It’s a hilarious and heartwarming look at the niche world of skating, featuring some of the biggest legends of the sport, including Kurt Browning, Katarina Gordeeva, David Pelletier, and Katarina Witt. Cottage Life magazine editor Michelle Kelly sat down with Carolyn to chat about life at the cottage, on the ice, and on TV. 

Michelle Kelly (MK): So, I have to tell you, the number of times that someone has asked me what I do for a living, and I’ve said I work at Cottage Life, only to be quoted back bits from your “We’re at the cottage” skit. So many times! That sketch really went far and wide. Where did the idea for it come from? 

Carolyn Taylor (CT):We’re at the cottage” came from a personal experience. You know when you invite your friends up and sometimes there’s that random extra friend who comes? It was that. And there was a moment when one of them wanted to smoke a joint and the other one didn’t. And I think we probably all said “We’re at the cottage!,” like we were getting the person who doesn’t normally do that kind of thing—drink at noon or whatever—to get on board. And so that just stayed in my head because you always hear that up north. “It’s noon somewhere!” Everyone makes that same joke, and they’ve been making it for decades. So those things started kicking around in my head and kinda had to get out. I realized those tropes are just part of cottage life. That sketch is for anyone who has ever been to a cottage or ever wondered about what happens at one. 

MK: I admit to having made that joke myself from time to time. The other cottage sketch is “Cottage Rules.”  I watched it again recently and had such a laugh—I actually wondered if you made it after reading one of our issues because we say all the same stuff about cottage maintenance, about the septic system, keeping ants at bay, and all sorts of other things. We try not to be the safety police, because it’s easy to do that—as your sketch proves! 

CT: Right! That sketch was written by Jenn Goodhue, and I think I improvised a whole bunch of the end. We sort of just started asking, okay, what are all the things? You tell your guests that you’re all coming up to have a good time, but, my God, there are so many things you have to think about! Like, can you just not put your towels on the railing? Because it is going to rot the wood. And if you could just turn off the light in your bedroom because the electricity prices are really expensive? And don’t flush. It’s the same at my cottage! I think of my place almost like it’s an old lady, it just needs a lot of care.

MK: Ha! I like that way of thinking about it.

CT: We also did a winter cottage sketch. It was about someone who works at a law firm or something, and he’s invited by a partner up to the cottage, but it turns out the cottage hasn’t been winterized. He says, “Don’t worry, the place will warm up in 24 hours!” and, “Don’t mind the mouse shit!” and, “We’ll all be sleeping on mattresses in the living room, close to the fire, it will be great!” And, “You’re going to poop in a bag because there’s no running water!” All that stuff.

MK: Like you’re saying all those things to be ridiculous but, in fact, it’s accurate. It’s not really a joke, it’s how it actually is.

CT: That’s right! 

MK: Well, except for maybe the poop in the bag. So, tell me about your “old lady” cottage. 

CT: My friend Andrea and I bought it together in 2010. We had both been wanting to buy a place for a while. We love being in nature and had gone to friends’ cottages and family cottages. We’d known each other for years, but we weren’t super close friends. One of our friends who did have a cottage said, “You two should really talk.” I liked the idea because economically neither of us could do it on our own. And so we talked. 

MK: It’s a big decision to go in on a cottage with someone. 

CT: Definitely, we had to be really sure. Before doing it we asked each other a lot of questions: are you a speedboat or a canoe type? Are you a white leather sofa type, or a “I spilled a drink on the brown couch, and it doesn’t matter” kind of person? We both fell into the canoe/spill-the-wine camp.

MK: Sort of like, are you a wet-bathing-suit-on-the-couch type?

CT: Well, she doesn’t like that so I don’t do that. But we did agree on most things. We might occasionally run into stumbling blocks, but we’re both very conscious of the other. We have a rule that we don’t throw anything out unless we’ve both said it’s okay. So, for example, there’s this weird, small duck that was left by the previous owners. If I ask to get rid of that, and she says, “No, I still love the duck,” the duck stays. And then, seven years later, both of us might be ready to let go of the duck, so it goes. We’ve kept all of the decor of the previous owners who’d lived there for 50 years.

MK: I can see the duck in my mind’s eye. How long have you been there? 

CT: 13 years now.

MK: Do you see yourself keeping it forever? 

CT: When we bought it, we’re like this is not an investment to make money. We’re not looking to flip it. We got it because we like the feeling of floating in the water. That’s why we’re there. It’s a very simple place, not fancy, but it has a big window, and it’s right on the lake. So it’s a dream, it’s just a dream.

MK: Obviously, you have the right attitude. I want to ask you about your new show, I Have Nothing. I just loved it. You’ve made something really wonderful and joyful. It sort of starts as a joke but then it morphs into something authentic and so relatable.

CT: Thank you! As a comedian, sometimes it’s like, is it okay for there to be earnest moments? But there was something that just wanted to come out in this series. And so sometimes there’s a departure from comedy, and there are big feelings and triumphs and fears and everything to go through. I’m so glad it resonated.

From left to right, Sandra Bezic, Carolyn Taylor, Kurt Browning on the ice
From left to right: Sandra Bezic, Carolyn Taylor, and Kurt Browning. Photo courtesy of Matt Barnes

MK: It felt completely authentic and really funny too. A great combo. And you got Ekaterina Gordeeva [1988 and 1994 Olympic champion with her partner, the late Sergei Grinkov] to skate for you! I mean, she really is the GOAT.

CT: She’s the GOAT. I still can’t shake having seen them in the Calgary Olympics in 1988. They were the most perfect pair I’d ever seen, and she was only two years older than me. So I was like, wow, my contemporary. And I was asking, “Who is this person? Who does not fail, does not make a mistake?” You could count on them to be absolutely effortless. So yeah, reconciling that with the present day is very hard. It was hard for my brain to say, “How is she doing this with me?”

MK: What was it like being a beginner skater and being out on the ice with the all-time greats? Sandra Bezic, for example, the Canadian choreographer who plays your mentor on the show—she is another legend in the sport. 

CT: Yes! 

MK: I wondered if perhaps she might be nervous about you coming across as making fun of the culture. Did you sense any of that hesitation from her at first? 

CT: I mean, when I first met her over Zoom, I think she was hesitant, but she didn’t express those worries to me. But then she saw my genuine interest in doing this. I assured her, and all of the skaters, that if anyone was gonna look like the buffoon, the dumb, naive, ridiculous one, it was me! I’ll be the unhinged one. You’re all going to look good. The joke is never on them.

MK: Right.

CT: Sandra didn’t want it to be a joke obviously, but she was sort of explicit about that in episode one when we’re first talking when she says to me, “This is no longer a joke, if I’m going to call Katia Gordeeva and David Pelletier [both Olympic gold medalist pair skaters], there’s no messing around.” She was serious. And so, as a comedian, that’s terrifying because they’re like, right, I can’t just engineer some jokes and kind of fake it. I have to do it well, and I have to make sure they have a routine to perform, and that it’s good, and that they look good, and they’re having fun, and well, it was a sobering moment. It was like, okay, I can’t lean on comedy.

MK: Yeah, you can’t joke your way out of it. Okay, I have one more question. Are you going to be into skating now? 

CT: Yeah, I’ve got the bug! Doing the show did ignite something, and I’d love to choreograph again. Sandra was like, “No, you’ve got to do it again, I’ll team up with you and collaborate on a show,” or something like that. 

Michelle Kelly: I feel like you’re now going to be the darling of the skating world. 

Carolyn Taylor: I’m in!

I Have Nothing is now streaming on Crave. 

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