In an entertainment era dominated by ‘content,’ I Have Nothing is an unforgettable new Crave Original comedy docuseries from Canadian comedian and now figure skating choreographer Carolyn Taylor.
Taylor, best known for creating the Baroness Von Sketch Show, has had one persistent dream since 1992. I Have Nothing stems from a fan-favourite bit in her stand-up routine where Taylor declares that she “has been burdened with this vision” to choreograph the world’s best pairs figure skating routine to Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing,” of which the show takes its title. Now, the time has finally come for her to unburden herself and turn her dream into a reality.
For context, Taylor has been obsessed with figure skating since she watched Katarina Witt’s gold medal performance at the 1988 Calgary Olympics. Most people leave their childhood dreams in the past, but not Taylor. I Have Nothing documents Taylor on her hysterical and challenging hero’s journey as she finally brings her vision to life. However, there are many obstacles in her way – a lack of skaters to perform the routine, acquiring legal rights to Houston’s hit song, and Taylor’s lack of actual skating expertise.
I Have Nothing shares similar characteristics to another recent absurd docuseries from fellow Canadian comic Nathan Fielder. Like with The Rehearsal, the concept might be difficult for some to grasp because Taylor treats this endeavour as life or death, just as Fielder does in The Rehearsal. That, combined with how farcical the situation is, makes it hard to tell where the joke ends and reality begins, but the show is all the more compelling for it.
The Hero’s Journey is a big theme throughout the series; in the first episode, Taylor’s friend and fellow comedian Mae Martin excitedly exclaims that Taylor is about to embark on one herself. It is a frequently-used structural device in narrative storytelling where an everyday person embarks on an adventure and, when they return, is completely changed, usually for the better. Carolyn is the ordinary person in this story, entering a world she knows nothing about to try and achieve her lifelong dream. By the time her journey ends, there’s no doubt Carolyn is forever changed.
The worlds of stand-up comedy and competitive figure skating are vastly different, which becomes quite evident as soon as Taylor secures Olympic legends Ekaterina Gordeeva and David Pelletier to perform her yet-to-be choreographed show-stopping skate routine. When the three start their work together, there’s obvious tension between them. Gordeeva and Pelletier express frustration with Taylor’s insufficient skating experience. As a comedian, Taylor’s improvisational sensibilities hinder her ability to be specific, which is crucial when choreographing a complex skating routine. With the help of her mentor, Sandra Bezic, Taylor is eventually able to communicate her vision in a way that translates to professional skaters. The three eventually form a heart-warming coach/athlete relationship.
Taylor isn’t the only one that evolves over the course of the series. Gordeeva and Pelletier are initially doubtful of Carolyn’s methods, but the reserved couple learn that, while it may be unconventional in skating, there are benefits to enjoying the process of creating art and allowing room for fun. It’s touching to watch two professional skaters fall back in love with their passion and grow closer together.
Surprisingly, I Have Nothing is one of the year’s most original and memorable shows. It’s a series full of heart, genuine laughs, and – in between the absurdity – provides fascinating commentary on the intersectionality between art and athleticism. Through the documentation of her profoundly personal hero’s journey, Carolyn Taylor has given the world a gift, and audiences should not take it for granted.
All six episodes of I Have Nothing are available to stream on Crave.