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Inside Eve Parker Finley's one-woman show of laughs, strings and wit

·5 min read
Inside Eve Parker Finley's one-woman show of laughs, strings and wit
Eve Parker Finley has a running list of comedy sketch ideas on her phone. Her videos have gone viral by translating moments from her personal life into social media content. (Fenn Mayes/CBC - image credit)
Eve Parker Finley has a running list of comedy sketch ideas on her phone. Her videos have gone viral by translating moments from her personal life into social media content. (Fenn Mayes/CBC - image credit)

Eve Parker Finley flips the blue-haired wig over her shoulder and winks.

Montreal's social media sensation is in her one-room apartment that doubles as a content factory. Green vines and strings of doodads reach across the ceilings and walls. Cables are tangled on the floor like a pile of spaghetti.

There's one window in the whole place and Eve's makeshift music and film studio forms a semicircle around the sun spot. She leans forward in an ergonomic chair and flicks the ring light on.

This is where the magic happens.

Going viral

When the pandemic pushed Eve into self-isolation, like other millennials bored at home, she downloaded TikTok. It was addicting. The bulk of the videos are a few dozen seconds long, made by anyone with a smartphone. The pace is quick and punchy. The content — notoriously raw and raucous — ranges from dance challenges to political commentary, from adorable toddlers to one-person skits.

Last fall, Eve decided to give the comedy corner of TikTok a go. She uploaded videos about cringey first dates, awkward COVID-19 conversations and local codes of conduct in her queer community.

Fast-forward seven months, Eve told CBC's Our Montreal that it's rare she can walk down Plaza St. Hubert without murmurs and calls of praise. "Look, a famous person," whispers a group of young women. "Eve! Thank you, I love what you're doing!" shouts a passerby.

A small-town girl

A classically trained violinist first and foremost, and a familiar face in Montreal's indie music scene, Eve had only dabbled — "once, secretly, at an open mic stand-up show" — in comedy before the pandemic.

Originally from Campbellford, Ont., a small town known for its co-op cheese curd factory, teenage Eve felt the pull of Arcade Fire's string anthems and Grimes's electro-synth mixtapes.

Fenn Mayes/CBC
Fenn Mayes/CBC

A decade ago, she moved to the big city to pursue a degree in sociology at McGill University. During her studies, she volunteered in equity outreach programs running workshops for first-years on the pluralities of gender and sexuality.

In 2016, Eve established herself in the local music scene with her first album anchored in violin loops — the sensitive yet serious Something Other Than under her previous moniker Lonely Boa. As she continued to grow as a musician, her sound transformed into what she now describes as "Robyn meets Enya meets Tchaikovsky."

Fenn Mayes/CBC
Fenn Mayes/CBC

The majority of Eve's TikToks are short skits in which she plays two characters in clap-back dialogue. She keeps a running list of sketch ideas on her phone, adding to it while she's out for walks — focusing a lot of her content on hyperlocal culture.

Whether it's a rude queer dance party coat-check interaction, co-facilitators competing in the anti-oppression Olympics or a broke anglophone asking for a recommendation at the SAQ, Eve's characters are ripe with attitude, sarcasm and irony.

Eve says it's freeing to create short pieces. Unlike the long process of composing her albums, she can bang out multiple sketches in an evening. And once she posts them, followers consume the videos in seconds.

The comedic angle she cultivated arose because she saw a gap in content. Comedy targeting younger audiences, she argues, fails to parody the experiences of herself and her friends.

"People are tired of seeing a pristine, perfect image because we all know that's not real," she says.

By making videos for young, queer people, Eve expanded her network in Montreal and beyond — connecting with trans kids in rural towns across Canada, for example.

Troll Songs

As her page picked up likes, jumping from 50 to 1,000 followers in a flash and now sitting at 24,000 and nearly 2 million likes, so did the uptick of transmisogynistic comments.

Unbeknownst to the trollers, they'd just given Eve free material.

"The function of those comments is to bully people off internet spaces," she says. "So I took back control."

She turned the hateful words into jingles. The Troll Songs were born.

"Why is a ... transgender ... playing saxophone?" she sings with laughter following. "It's such a hit. It's so random."

Keeping cool

Eve continues humming as she cracks open a beer and heads over to the upright piano. Her fingers glide along the keys, the neon pink light reflecting off her fingernails. Her head sways from side to side as she experiments with chord progressions.

Fenn Mayes/CBC
Fenn Mayes/CBC

This month, Eve ranked top five in multiple categories of Cult MTL's Best of MTL list. Along with landing in the best TikTok and Instagram categories, she's been crowned second-best-dressed (which she finds hilarious), with Céline Dion clinching the top spot.

"Now I feel this pressure to look cool all the time."

She sighs.

Expectations have come with fame. And fans can cross boundaries quickly, she admits. Some DM pictures of their children, others ask her how to come out to their parents during her live streams.

"I'm not a support worker," she says. "I'm not holding space for anyone else to learn."

That was her old job. Her aim now is to challenge the idea that marginalized people have to be educational and nice.

"I reserve the right to be snarky," she says.

Fenn Mayes/CBC
Fenn Mayes/CBC

Summer high

The Montreal influencer has a busy summer ahead. She's currently in a rural residency northwest of Montreal through the Phi Centre. During her two weeks with them, she'll get to master her upcoming album and collaborate with other creators.

On July 2, her single Icarus — a song that retells the Greek myth about a boy with wax wings who flies too close to the sun — will be released. Eve says Icarus was right in aiming so high — "ambition isn't a bad thing."

Where he got it wrong, she says, was going by himself.

Eve flicks the ring light off.

"Fly high, but don't fly alone."

WATCH | Eve talks about combining music and comedy on Our Montreal:

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