Maggie Cassella has always been a talker. It is a trait born out of necessity really. The youngest in an Italian family of six with three older brothers, it was pretty much talk or be talked over. Being born with original sin didn’t help much either. “Maybe,” she thought, “if I keep talking I won’t burn in hell.” What?
Then there was her first day at school-at the Jewish Community Centre-yes, apparently the Italian Catholic guilt wasn’t enough so off you go to spend your nursery school days at the JCC. Oy veyes mere!
Fast forward to university where that double degree in Philosophy and Women’s Studies put her on the fast track to high paying corporate gigs-wait no it didn’t-it put her at a private boarding school in Connecticut teaching philosophy and religion to kids who were, well, smarter than she was. Than she was? Than she? See what we mean?
Then of course the student loans were due and that private school teaching salary wasn’t leaving room for repayment of loans AND food so off she went to law school.
After almost ten years as a lawyer (okay, more like 8.5 – but after that hell it is only fair to round up) and dealing with cases involving people with AIDS (at the beginning of the plague years), trans issues around marriage (before anyone even THOUGHT of gay marriage, so if you were trans you would need to be divorced before you could get your surgery), and bringing the test case for gay adoption to Connecticut (they won, they lost, then Maggie quit and the other lawyers kept it up and lost some more, then the legislature came to their senses and changed the law), Maggie had enough and quit her job AND the country, resettling in Toronto.
Maggie’s comedy was a mix of rants and raves from the start (1988). Told “she should do stand up” by her eventual writing partner and often performing partner Lea DeLaria (OITNB) Maggie tapped into the unlimited supply of material available from just reading the paper (remember papers)! She settled in on her Because I Said So™ format of sit down comedy tearing through news topics from law, to entertainment, to technology, to religion, and finishing up with the things that just made her mental. She performed Because I Said So™ for 20 plus summers in Provincetown, as well as in a whole mess of other places in North America.
Eventually, Maggie landed on a full time job AND the love of her life (now her wife). Nice landing, we know. One of the original on-air talents on the national Canadian network STAR!, she parlayed that job into her own talk show called Because I Said So™. (You’ll note that funny trademark sign keeps popping up. We’re not sure why Maggie bothers. As you may recall, Universal released a movie with the same name and Ken “How-Long-Can-I-Ride-That-Jeopardy-Wave Jennings” wrote a book with the same title . Silly rabbits, trademarks are for kids.)
BISS, as it was referred to around the station, allowed Maggie to have some fun and interview some big time celebrities. She continues to do those interviews (even though BISS went bust) as a field producer during the Toronto International Film Festival for the syndicated US entertainment show, Extra. Over the years Maggie has had the privilege of interviewing comedy legends such as Phyllis Diller, Bea Arthur, Joan Rivers, and industry peeps such as William H. Macy, JJ Abrams, Stephen King, James Franco, Juliette Binoche, Robert Downey Jr., Laura Linney, Eartha Kitt, k.d. Lang, and too many others to list here.
In the meantime and in between time, Maggie wrote a book and two screenplays with Lea (the book got published-hey, one out of three isn’t bad). She, Kate Rigg, and Lea co-wrote the 2015 and 2016 Obie Awards and in 2016 she appeared on stage in the opening number and as a presenter as well. Maggie has also written (alone and with others) for countless publications and TV networks.
Maggie has had a hand in radio since 1996 when she started doing daily bits for two US stations based in New Jersey. She’s been heard in Canada on CBC’s The Current, CFRB, AM640, 104.5 CHUM FM, and eventually landed “The Maggie Cassella Show” a drive home show she hosted on 103.9 ProudFM.
Maggie developed, co-produced co-wrote, and hosted six episodes of The Vent!, a thirty-minute show focusing on one topic from a variety of angles which aired on OUTTv. (Think social commentary without the finger wag). She co-owned a live performance venue “The Flying Beaver Pubaret™” where Maggie produced up to 7 live shows until it’s untimely demise by fire in February of 2015.
In 2016 Maggie partnered with Katie Ford (Miss Congeniality, Desperate Housewives, Family Ties, Prayers for Bobby) to form Ford Cassella Productions. FCP is a start-up by two start-up gals developing a web hub format (streaming + social) to serve underserved communities world-wide. Their first endeavour is the We’re Funny That Way web hub featuring queer cabaret performers from all over the world. In 2017 FCPalso re-launched the We’re Funny That Way Festival. The festival, founded by Maggie in 1996, has raised close to half a million dollars for queer charities across Canada while simultaneously showcasing amazing queer talent (werefunnythatway.org).
FCP now also produces the monthly We’re Funny That Way Cabaret showcasing the magically diverse (in every sense of the word) Toronto queer cabaret community.
Maggie continues to host and perform live stand-up, auditions for other peeps TV and films, and, in her spare time, is writing a book of all the funny shiz from all the funny years.
Maggie is represented by Penny Noble of the Noble, Caplan, Abrams talent Agency in Toronto, Ontario.