Remembering Candy Palmater through her posthumous memoir, Running Down a Dream

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The Next Chapter7:28Meg MacKay reviews Candy Palmater’s memoir

Comedian Meg MacKay reviews Running Down a Dream: A Memoir by Candy Palmater

Beloved comedian, author and entertainer Candy Palmater died unexpectedly on Christmas Day last year at the age of 53. A book lover and collector, Palmater was a regular columnist on The Next Chapter.

Palamater was a member of the Ugpi’ganjig Mi’kmaw First Nation in northern New Brunswick formerly called Eel River Bar. She left her career as a lawyer to become an entertainer, and she never looked back. She hosted The Candy Show on APTN, The Candy Palmater Show on CBC Radio One and she was a regular on CTV’s The Social. In 2017, she defended The Break by Katherine Vermette on Canada Reads.

Her memoir, Running Down a Dream, was published posthumously this fall. This book is Palmater’s story about the highs, the lows, the gut instincts and the pitfalls that led her to live a unique, multi-hyphenate life, often exceeding expectations and finding success through self-belief and community support. She described herself as “a queer Mi’kmaw lawyer-turned-comic raised by bikers in rural New Brunswick” and found major success across mediums and careers. 

Palmater was an early mentor to Meg MacKay. Originally from P.E.I., MacKay is a queer comedian and writer of L’nuk and Scottish ancestry who has written for Baroness von Sketch Show and This Hour Has 22 minutes

MacKay spoke to Shelagh Rogers about her memories of Palmater and the lasting impact of the memoir, Running Down a Dream.

Shelagh Rogers: How did you come to know Candy?

Meg Mackay: My first memory of Candy was when I did this open mic for a comedy festival in Halifax where you’re basically auditioning to be on the festival. I bombed in a way that was so tragic. It was probably one of the worst sets I’ve ever done. Candy came up to me afterward and purposely pulled me aside. 

She said something like, “As a queer person, it’s important that your voice be out there. Keep working at it. One day, you’ll look back on this day and you’ll laugh.”

WATCH | Candy Palmater talks about finding success in a competitive business:

Comedian Candy Palmater talks about finding success in a competitive business.

Shelagh Rogers: You learn in in her memoir that she bombed when she first went out and tried it, too.

Meg MacKay: It was heartening to know someone because when I saw her perform, she was already so far into her career and so magnetic on stage. To know that she started truly from the bottom like I did, it was great. There’s a lot of laughs in this book. 

Shelagh Rogers: Her humour is there. Her spirit is there, and I know she really did feel that she was meant to be on the stage. I think the title of the book Running Down a Dream is taken from a Tom Petty song. I just remember how much Candy loved rock music and she loved it from, I think, the first time she heard music. What do you learn about her passions in her memoir?

Shelagh Rogers: What do you learn about her passions in her memoir?

Meg MacKay: She knew what she wanted and she knew how to go out and get it.

Shelagh Rogers: That always amazed me. She really embraced her dream of performing and entertaining a little later than many people in the industry, but she really stuck to it and she worked really hard. Can you identify where that drive and confidence came from?

Shelagh Rogers: Can you identify where that drive and confidence came from?

Meg MacKay: I think it comes from the way she was raised in her community and her family. She comes from a long line of strong women who are sure of themselves.

She was definitely the sort of person who fought her way up the ladder towards success but didn’t step on anyone’s head to get up. She reached down and pulled people up with her.

Shelagh Rogers: I remember Candy at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission gathering in Halifax in fall of 2011. And this is the day after hearing residential school survivors share their testimonies. There was sort of a feast afterwards and then Candy was the entertainment. She got everybody to get up and do the grouse dance. It was amazing. 

If there was any ice in the room, she broke it. She was just able to lift [people’s energy] up high.

Meg MacKay: She was definitely the sort of person who fought her way up the ladder towards success but didn’t step on anyone’s head to get up. She reached down and pulled people up with her.

LISTEN | Candy Palmater remembered on Information Morning:

8:54Candy Palmater remembered

A Mi’kmaw First Nation in northern NB is paying tribute to a member of their community. Former lawyer turned comedian, TV and radio personality Candy Palmater died last weekend. Sacha LaBillois is chief of Ugpi’ganjig, formerly Eel River Bar First Nation and she speaks with host Vanessa Blanch about Palmater’s connection to the community.

Shelagh Rogers: Her memoir is bookended by a forward and an afterward by her widow, Denise. What did you feel after reading those sections? 

Meg MacKay: Denise and Candy were everything to each other. My heart aches for her. The honesty with which Denise talks about Candy’s last moments on Earth and at the end, she writes about what it was like to read the memoir and her feelings about it afterward, it breaks your heart, especially because the message of the book is such a message of hope and her excitement about life and her future. 

A loss that large doesn’t go away really, but I hope this helped in processing some parts of it.

A loss that large doesn’t go away really, but I hope this helped in processing some parts of it.

Shelagh Rogers: There were three major truths in her life that she looks at throughout the memoir. Can you read them for us?

Meg MacKay: ‘There are three major truths in life that I will explore and revisit all through this book. They are true for me, and I believe they are true for you, as well. 

Number one: it’s never too late. 

Number two: you will fail. 

And number three: you are enough.’

Shelagh Rogers: Those were her messages, that’s for sure.

Candy Palmater was a comedian, actor and author. She died on Dec. 25, 2021 at the age of 53. (Submitted by Candy Palmater)

Comments have been edited for length and clarity. 



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