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Hogtown Stories is a series of portraits and short stories about Torontonians by Jeremy Korn, a photographer and urban planner. Find more photos of Jess and past stories at

Jess Beaulieu

Roncesvalles was kind of where I grew up. I lived in Etobicoke, but I went to St. Vincent de Paul Catholic Elementary School in the neighbourhood. My mom was a teacher there.

My friends and I would always go to Joe's to buy candy and to Aris Place for fries and gravy. We felt so grown up, eating burgers at Aris on our lunch breaks. Sometimes it was even with boys or girls we liked. That's what we thought adults did.

I wanted to grow up quickly. And I wanted to kiss people. A lot. My first kiss was in elementary school. While playing spin the bottle.

Toronto comedian Jess Beaulieu (Jeremey Korn for the Globe and Mail)

We didn’t talk about sex at all, even though we were all wondering what was happening with our bodies. It all felt pretty sinful. And since my family was also religious, I wasn’t comfortable talking about that stuff at home either. I wanted to have mature experiences, but I didn’t know how to go about it.

That shame I felt as a kid has made me the person and the comedian I am today. Now that I’m an adult, I’m very open about my sexual experiences. In fact, that’s a big part of my comedy. I can be really candid with a room full of strangers, but I still find it hard to talk to my mom about it.

Sometimes she comes to watch me do stand-up and it’s basically always a shock for her.

Jess Beaulieu is a comedian. Her podcast, The Crimson Wave, is available on iTunes.

This interview has been edited and condensed.