For some a career path becomes a blueprint that an individual follows right from a young age, while others can take a different direction into a specific industry.
For proud Torontonian, Jen Sakato, her path to the comedy stage was both a little offbeat and came a little later in her life than most aspiring comedians.
Sakato was born and raised in the west end of Toronto. While reminiscing about growing up, Sakato laughed, as she refers to herself as let’s just say, ‘well behaved.’ In her teen years, she was quite music focused, with an emphasis on non-mainstream genres, as Sakato enjoyed punk and hardcore music. Sakato made a point of mentioning that she enjoyed funny things, but never thought about actually doing stand-up comedy.
Her official foray didn’t come at an open mic, like most standup comics, but at a friend’s wedding. “A friend of mine, who is a bit of a hippie, decided as part of the entertainment at her wedding she would have a talent show,” Sakato explained. “Before the big day, a bunch of my friends had encouraged me to go up. Keep in mind, I didn’t just do it on a whim. I was prepared and parts of my jokes were more of a cornball nature and involved making some funny one liners about her British husband. Overall, my first experience was fun and I got a really good reaction from the room of attendees.”
After her unconventional debut in stand-up comedy, Sakato waited almost a year before taking the plunge at her first open mic.
“When you are getting started in comedy there is no real mystery to it,” Sakato said. “You arrive at an open mic and you put your name on a piece of paper at 11 p.m. at night and boom you are guaranteed a spot. When I was starting out for whatever reason, it did take me a while to realize that.”
Sakato has been doing stand-up comedy for close to seven years, she laughed and interjected that she has quit a couple times and has come crawling back to joke-telling. When put on the spot to describe her comedic style, Sakato said, “it is a mix of observational, add in some crankiness and overall she can come across as a sourpuss making her way through life.”
All comedians have those moments on stage when they feel their performance might be coming off the rails. They will then look to regain control of their comedic set with their ‘go to’ material. For Sakato, she discussed how she has a bad habit of doing some crowd interaction or engaging directly with her audience. And she is openly honest when admitting that it hasn’t always produced the best results.
“If I need a full go to when I’m on stage, just introducing who I am and my ethnic background always seems to work,” Sakato said. “When scanning the room I can see the looks from people, trying to size me up and figure out my background. It seems to be a good ice-breaker to do an introduction and let people know that I am both East Asian and White. After that I always make a joke from it and ask if there are any further questions and we just move on.”
The Dozen Album
In 2020, Sakato made her own 22 minute comedy album titled “The Dozen,” which is a tribute to her love of donuts. The EP album has 12 tracks and was produced by Howl and Roar Records. It was recorded over two nights at The Ossington with labelmate Gavin Stephens, also working on his album “All Inclusive Coma.”
For Sakato, she began planning the album cover at the start of the pandemic when rules were implemented about social distancing. With the different health and safety restrictions in place across Canada, photography was not an option.
The next choice was an illustrated cover. After some brainstorming, Sakato realized that she used to love staring at illustrated album covers growing up and was stoked to do one for herself. Then she formulated a plan to reach out to Rodger Beck, a creative illustrator in Toronto. “He does a lot of satirical stuff and was so fun to work with.
It was his idea to have me à la Tony Montana with piles of donuts and icing sugar around me. The TV monitors with images of various stages of donut-making is me watching over my dominion. Or maybe I’m just a perv for them dirty do’s.”
‘Who Let the Dogs Out’
Besides performing, Sakato is currently an entrepreneur that co-runs her own dog walking business with her husband and comedian, Patrick Hakeem, when not on stage, Their company name, a true play on the words called “We Will Walk You” utilizing some creativity and homage to the classic Queen song “We Will Rock You.”
In the future, Sakato is looking into other endeavours that she can remain close to home and during challenging times be considered a little more pandemic proof.
Currently, she is beginning to pursue opportunities in voice over work, along with animation voice work.
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