For a crazy person, Nikki Payne is incredibly sane. At heart, she's a grounded, affable, salt-of-the-earth east coaster who's easy to talk to, and humble despite her success in one of the hardest gigs going — that of the stand up comic. She could be living in a Toronto condo and rubbing shoulders with the cream of Canadian comedy, but instead chose to live in small town New Brunswick with her Yorkie, Emilio Estevez, punching jokes into her laptop while kicking back in a recliner.
"All I need is an airport and an Internet connection and I can work anywhere," she told Pique in her familiar lisp — the result of being born with a cleft palate. It's just one of the personal things she incorporates into her routine, along with everything else going on in her life — like her decision to move to New Brunswick, her "Crazy Dog Lady" blog or the fact she recently donated one of her kidneys to her father.
While it seems like she's making it up as she goes, a lot of hard work goes into her performances.
"I'm not the fastest writer in the world so I really have to concentrate on that," she said. "I have to sit my butt down every day and write really terrible jokes until I write one that's good and then, yeah, comedy."
If you've ever seen her shows — and her routines have been featured everywhere from the television show Last Comic Standing to stand-up shows on the Comedy Network — she's also fast on her feet and not afraid to venture off the script. And though she makes it look easy, she had to learn that skill as well — aided by a stint with the Second City improv company in Toronto.
In fact, comedy was the last thing she imagined herself doing growing up, although being surrounded by the funny, self-deprecating underdogs from her home in Lower Sackville, Nova Scotia is a huge influence.
"It's a town that mostly grew out of convenience because it's close to the city (Halifax), but its roots are as a rural, small town. That's what I like about it, it's a bedroom community but it's never really lost that backwoods hickness."
She's currently writing some short stories based on her life, and many of her tales feature Lower Sackville. One of her favourite stories is about the annual Sackville Winter Carnival, where the town was divided into seven teams, each one named after one of the Snow White's seven dwarves.
"I lived in the Grumpy section, and you competed in all kinds of things like jam jar curling and chuckwagon races, but without the horses — you went to the rink and people pulled the mini chuckwagon around while someone sat on the back and tried not to fall off. There was a beard growing competition where the top lady or gentleman would face off — that kind of thing," she said.