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I Have Nothing Goes For Gold And Sticks The Landing

Carolyn Taylor swaps the stand-up stage for the skating rink in this heartfelt miniseries. 

by Maggie McPhee

It started with a dream. Whitney Houston’s “I Have Nothing” came on the radio in Carolyn Taylor’s car. She immediately envisioned triple axels, salchows, and throw jumps — a pairs routine performed by the figure skating stars of Calgary’s 1988 Olympics. There were only a few foreseeable obstacles. She’s not a choreographer, she knows no Olympians, she doesn’t have rights to the song, and she can’t skate. 

But the dream stuck. Eventually she brought her routine to the stand-up stage, flailing about in her Blundstones like a madwoman. Great comedy, but was it really a joke? Flash forward to the pandemic. With an abundance of time to plan the project after the award-winning Baroness Von Sketch Show, Taylor spent hours contemplating hypothetical situations with close friend and guest star Mae Martin. But they kept returning to that same what if… 

“I don’t know how we got greenlit,” says Taylor, “I guess, is it that cliche, the right idea at the right time?” Somehow she found producers, broadcasters, and a crew who believed in the project. Fellow figure skating fanatics. “They were so into it. We had a bunch of crazed enthusiasts just behind us saying, yeah, let’s go for it,” she says. “I don’t know how that happened, how those needles and haystacks or whatever metaphor, how it all came together, but it did.”

We should thank our lucky stars the pieces fell into place. I Have Nothing is a masterpiece. The unscripted docu-comedy follows Taylor as she pursues that quixotic goal: to choreograph Olympic gold medalists in a full-length couples routine to Houston’s 1992 hit. A dream backed by real money and real craftspeople, who took a leap of faith knowing if they tumbled, it would still make great television. 

Every beat of this six episode mini-series will stun you. Each unsuspecting personality roped into Taylor’s hairbrained scheme ends up on the other side with new friendships and beautiful memories. Taylor and her team opened themselves up to the unknown, and the unknown rewarded them in kind. “We went in with open hearts,” she says. “I can certainly be cynical about stuff, but I didn’t want to be cynical about this. I really was like, this is a joyous, bizarre thing. And I’ll take the responsibility. If anyone’s gonna look bad, it’ll be me.”

Carolyn Taylor and Mae Martin star in I Have Nothing.

Along the way, one of the talking heads describes Taylor as a contradiction. The same could just as well be said about her show. I Have Nothing balances between the grandiose and the grounded, between fantasy and reality, and between comedy and sincerity. The crew referred to the two polarities as ‘state’ and ‘church.’ 

“It was like there’s two realities. Sometimes it’s like I’m making the show and I’m someone who understands the limitations of television and that was state,” Taylor explains. “And then church was just the person’s like no this has to happen and it’s gonna happen and this is what we’re doing. I would joke with the crew: I’m like okay, so in this meeting if I seem unhinged, I’m just leaning into that, I’m just playing that. But the division of fake me and real me started to actually blend. I really did lose the critical distance and allowed myself to go into the experience, which is a trip.” 

Taylor enlisted herself for a real-life Truman Show experiment. “What is time? What is age? What is reality and what is fantasy? I don’t know what’s real, I really don’t know anymore,” she admits.

But this experiment has utopic results. It showcases the unbridled joy of people coming together to work towards something, even if that something is just one person’s stubborn vision. I Have Nothing proves that with the right conditions, television can be a sanctuary for our dreams.

I Have Nothing is streaming now on Crave TV | Trailer