My name is Joanne Baker, but I go by Joey and sometimes Puff Mama. Years ago I went on a quiet mission that became a public obsession to help protect our freedoms, among them cannabis liberation, protecting our freedom of speech, and access to healthy food and truthful information. You see, I got this wierd notion in my head somewhere, ‘My body – my rights’, and that’s spilled out into all kinds of catagories. So that being said I try to live my life without shame or worry, as long as I don’t harm other beings and the planet.
I got the nickname Puff Mama a long time ago in a stupid drinking contest, and after way too many shots I started rolling a joint, which I ended up smoking by myself in the alley because the others were too wasted. After years of working in bars, you often get caught up in a habit of drinking after shift and smoking weed in the back of the restaurant. It’s hard work putting on a good party or feeding people, and that’s not a joke. Anyone who’s worked in restaurants or entertainment knows what I’m talking about. Its a high energy, high stress environment even in the classiest of places, most of the industry is hooked on something, even if its just coffee and cigarettes. I just thank the powers that be I never touched cocaine, that would have been the end of this gal!
Long story short and many years later, cannabis has kept me from being a possible alcoholic and definately saved me from depression. Or maybe it was good friends and parenting, who knows? I will never forget the day however, when I was about 25 and I didn’t have any beer in the fridge but had a fresh bag of weed. I decided to head down to the beach and smoke it all by myself and hang out with my dog. The sky was so beautiful and the water so nice on my toes. On the way back I became sober and very hungry. I ate a ton of food, put on a movie and cuddled up with my dog. I realized that night if I had drank the day away I would have lost the day and possible the next, I wouldn’t have eaten much and my dog would have just curled up on the couch for the day instead of coming to the beach with me. I pretty much decided to switch to cannabis as my recreational thing and from there the path was carved. Little did I know then I was actually using it medicinally.
After an attempt at running a small retail shop in Cabbagetown, (that’s another story), I got a job waitressing at a comedy club in 1999 where I met some of the comics I know to this day. I started putting on my own comedy shows around then by renting halls and spaces around the city. Then one day, after 4 years of this, I realized the rents I was spending all over the place added up to about what rent would be on one place, so I hunted for a place where I could do more than one thing. I found the place I wanted and put down the deposit. It was a shop in the front with a small toking lounge in the back. It had a small loading area in the back for when I went to festivals to vend. It was in Riverside which was nice and quiet and easy to get to. We are down the street now, still in Riverside in the location we’ve been for 8 years now! We love this hood and more people are discovering it every day.
If you build it they will come – no truer words were said, the trick is getting them to come in the way you want so you dont get trampled! People love comedy and people love pot, and the last thing I wanted to be doing was a mediocre open mic situation. Tailoring the shows and the audience to match while trying to explain to people why you don’t want to open as a vapor lounge has been a bit of a task. Why I feel that if we do that then the audience changes, they are no longer here for just the shows. The the shows will cheapen if the audience isn’t there for solely that. The fact that I let people smoke weed here is not a given, it’s a priviledge. Having kickass shows is not just a priviledge it’s a definite given, that I will deliver every time … I refuse to let comedy take the supporting role here. Comedy is first. We target top comedians. Its sometimes expensive flying people in, and sometimes we lose money, but its worth it when I see a room full of people really getting a good experience. Screw the TV, the radio, most of the internet and anything prerecorded. Live performance can’t be beat!
That being said, I feel that we have established that notion very well in the past 8 years. Plus the neighbourhood has changed from kind of a ghetto with a lot of abandoned buildings to thriving kinda hipster neighbourhood. The food is the best and the shops are all independant owned, great products and still well priced.
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