Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss Cinema Guzzo’s plans to show the Pope’s visit to Quebec at all of its Montreal-area theatres, rising heat levels and fires around the world and more on this year’s Just for Laughs Festival.
The Real Rick Mercer
Rick Mercer is a Canadian legend and one of the few multitalented entertainers Canada has to offer. He’s written books, given political rants on TV, acted in movies, hosted comedy specials, and narrated documentaries. So of course, of all the days to have a phone call with one of my heroes, it had to be on the day that both the Rogers and Fido networks were down. It was therefore a massive relief to find that Rick Mercer quickly agreed to meet via Zoom instead.
Mercer was not what I was expecting. Despite his notoriety, he was down to earth and friendly, speaking to me from his shed where he says he does most of his writing, and where he spent the pandemic writing his book, Talking to Canadians, that came out last November. I opened with a question I am sure Mercer gets all the time, which is what he thinks of the current state of Canadian politics.
Mercer laughed, admitting that he’s less interested in Canadian politics than he’s ever been because he finds it so distasteful. As to whether it’s due to how politics has changed or he has, he’s unsure.
“I’ve always been an avid political watcher and still am, except I just find myself saying ‘a pox on all their houses’ more than I ever did before.”
He says he finds he has a hard time pointing to current individuals in Canadian politics that he admires and it makes him happy to be temporarily out of the opinion business to the extent that he used to be. Though known for his political rants, Mercer does not consider himself to be an angry person. When I ask him about it, he smiles and said that while his Twitter bio says “Anger is my Cardio” and he was once an angry young man, in his latest book he explains that he’s not an angry middle aged man.
“Obviously things can make me angry, make me upset, I would have to be dead inside not to, but no, thankfully I go through most of my day in a non-angry state.”
Given how long Rick Mercer has been doing political comedy and satire, I was dying to know about the politicians he’s worked with over the years. He says the politician he most enjoyed working with was former Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, something I was not expecting. He says Chrétien had great comedic timing and was genuinely funny and that working with him was like working with a pro.
In terms of which politician gave him the most material, he says Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper was his muse for a long time because his government and cabinet infuriated him so much that he was inspired to write about them.
Of all the roles Mercer has played throughout his career, he considers himself a writer first. He spoke of how the pandemic was great for him because working on Talking to Canadians was the first time he’s done something without a deadline.
“When all the gigs went away, all the jobs went away I was kind of adrift… the book gave me –I won’t say purpose –but it gave me a job to do and deadlines to meet and somewhere to go every day, which is my shed.”
In addition to writing, Mercer loves hosting, speaking fondly of how much he loves touring and how much fun he has. He speaks of the big beautiful venues he gets work in and the talent has the privilege of introducing, saying that though he’s middle aged, he’s not exhausted by it all.
I asked Mercer which up and coming political comedian he admires and he admits that he doesn’t consume much political comedy out of concern that they would influence his work, creating the risk of overlapping material at a show. Of the comedians he has toured with, he speaks highly of Ivan Decker, whom he says he will always watch.
In terms of whether Rick Mercer considers himself to be the Canadian legend he is described as, his immediate response was “Oh God no!” followed by a sheepish smile. He blames the description on publicists, calling the label silly.
Of all the awards he has received over the years, one of the two most dear to him is the Order of Canada, which he was “honoured and amazed” to receive, as he never imagined getting that call. He also mentions receiving the key to the City of his home town of Outer Cove Middle Cove Logy Bay, Newfoundland, because the ceremony took place in the primary school of the community he grew up in and that the award itself – a piece of glass with a small key in it- is currently at his parents’ house.
As to what Mercer is looking forward to in the future he speaks highly of Montreal and the Just for Laughs Festival, saying that while he’s never lived here, he loves our city and doesn’t know anyone who doesn’t. After the festival, he plans to start writing another book.
Rick Mercer is hosting Comedy Night in Canada on July 29th, 2022 at L’Olympia. Tickets available through hahaha.com Check it out.
JFL: Jokes, Truth, & the Duty to Offend with Alonzo Bodden
This is officially the best summer in years. Restaurants are full, dance floors are back in business, and be still my heart, our festivals have returned. The Coachella of comedy, JFL is back for it’s 40th edition, and I found out that the comedians have missed us as much as we’ve missed them.
“I can speak for every comic involved and tell you we have missed the festival so much and we are going to be so glad to once again be invading your city with stupid questions, and with jokes, eating off food trucks and just hanging out seeing the City of Montreal. Can’t wait to get back.”
Alonzo Bodden is a Just for Laughs legend. He was one of the JFL New Faces in 1997, winner of Last Comic Standing in 2004, and this year he’s back to host Just For the Culture Show – formerly The Ethnic Show (“it changed its own pronoun,” he quips).
“The beauty of this is everyone’s bringing their own voice to the show. So when we say just for the culture, it’s not like you’re only going to be talking about your culture, you’re going to be talking about the world from your viewpoint. With the Americans, you know, my culture is both Black and American. So I have both involved. And the same thing with the Canadians, you know, Dave [Merheje] is going to be who he is, but he’s also going to be Muslim and he’s going to be Canadian… the only thing I can tell you about the show, it’s going to be funny, and it’s going to go long, because we all have something more to say than what they want us to say. We are going to have a fantastic time and we are going to be uncensored, we are not going to worry about ‘don’t say this, don’t say that’. The thing I’ve always said about the Ethnic show, and now the Culture Show, is we are people who should be at war and yet we are laughing, so join us. I will do my best as host to tie it together, but quite often I’m simply one of the audience members with the best seat in the house.”
Current affairs are a mainstay in Alonzo’s comedy, so it should be no surprise that he’s a news junkie who’s been doing his own podcast for over 10 years now.
“The podcast is called Who’s Paying Attention?, and it started because the news stopped paying attention…We don’t have a Walter Cronkite anymore, we don’t have an Edward Murrow, we don’t have somebody saying, wait a minute: this is ridiculous. They cover Marjorie Taylor Greene like she’s real news. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: the only reason Lauren Boebert is so angry is she thought she was crazy, and then Marjorie came along and she’s been out-crazied. Let’s not talk about Ted Cruz, but you guys could have kept him in Canada.”
I made it clear that we don’t want Cruz, and will not be accepting that return. Jokes aside, I ask how he manages to keep his head above the never-ending flow of bad news.
“I’ll be honest, I have to take breaks from the news. It will wear you out. The constant barrage of stupidity is beyond belief.”
Which is exactly why his latest tour is called Stupid Don’t Get Tired. With that in mind, I ask him where he finds hope.
“You know, it’s really tough…on my podcast whenever I have a guest in, I ask them ‘what’s the good news’, because we have to try to find some good news in this dumpster fire. My hope, honestly, is the youngest generation. I think they’re the ones who hopefully will take over and restore some form of sanity, Even that they’ve given up on though, you know, because they started with Generation X. Okay, when you start at X, it shows there’s no long range plan. Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z, what then? Oh, we’ll have destroyed it all by then.”
From looking forward to looking back, I asked Alonzo about the new mini-series he’s a part of called Right to Offend: The Black Comedy Revolution.
“I am so honored to be a part of that. It is such a brilliant documentary, going from vaudeville, and the minstrel and blackface era. right up into today with Dave Chappelle, and Chris Rock, and Tiffany Haddish and everyone in between. Dick Gregory, Richard Pryor, Wanda Sykes, Moms Mabley Whoopi Goldberg, so many brilliant voices in comedy over the years, and to be asked to be a part of that, to comment on that, and my history, it’s truly been phenomenal. They could have called it the duty to offend. We have to push buttons. And we do it unapologetically, because you can’t apologize for the truth. You can try to cancel us, you can do whatever you want to do. We are going to continually tell the truth…When I started, Somebody told me ‘listen, if 20% of the audience isn’t upset, then you’re not doing your job’, so I am okay with that. The truth hurts sometimes, but the other side of that, is there are people who are like ‘thank God for your voice. We’re so happy to hear you’. We need somebody telling the truth out there. Jon Stewart famously became a major news anchor and he was like, ‘you know I’m doing a comedy show. They were like ‘no, no, no, we’re coming to you for the truth’…We’re the last voice. Years ago, Lewis Black, brilliant comic and an old friend of mine said listen, we don’t want this job but no one else would do it. Right? We’re the last ones to tell the truth and laugh at how ridiculous it is.”
I know it’s selfish, but I had to ask what he loves about Montreal, and what makes us special on the global scene. It’s akin to a civic thirst trap, but sometimes you just want the likes.
Getting lost walking the streets of Old Montreal; the art galleries the whole vibe… I go to Old Montreal to get…centered… I truly miss that: walking the streets of Old Montreal, and looking at the beautiful people. Your city has beautiful people. And I enjoy that. You’re stylish.”
We chat briefly about Quebec’s politics and distinct identity crisis. There’s much to laugh at when you take a step back.
“Yeah, it is a different crazy,” he says. “But it’s a crazy that doesn’t involve bullets. I appreciate that…hang on to that.”
We’re sure as hell trying.
Just for The Culture runs from July 13 to 28 hosted by Alonzo Bodden, featuring Dave Merheje, Jessica Kirson, Paul Rabliauskas, Sheng Wang, Yannis Pappas and Zainab Johnson. Tickets available through hahaha.com
Vir Das on Hollywood, Bollywood, and Finding Common Ground with Comedy
Vir Das wears a lot of hats: he’s a Hollywood actor, a Bollywood actor, and a TV show host, but first and foremost, he’s a comic. When I met him via Zoom, he was in Goa, India, his only hat on being one of gunmetal gray perched high on the head of a friendly, down to Earth fellow seemingly unaffected by the extent of his notoriety.
Though known internationally for his comedy, the temporary ceasing of stand-up due to public health measures forced Das to spend the worst of the pandemic acting. As a comic, he sees all his other roles as fodder for his comedy, considering humour to be a way of keeping himself grounded.
Das sheepishly admits that he cannot shoot movies year ‘round because there’s only so much he can stand hanging out with other actors discussing stuff like protein shakes and intermittent fasting. At the same time, he admits that touring is exhausting and his ideal would be a balance between all the roles he plays in the entertainment industry.
He laughs occasionally as he speaks, realizing the humour of his remarks, the sign of a man for whom comedy is as natural as breathing. He says that as you age, the acting roles on offer become smaller and more nuanced, whereas as a comedian, the work gets bigger and better.
As an Asian Canadian working in the arts, I have had my share of experiences dealing with the disapproving reactions to my profession. I wondered if Das had a similar experience with his family.
Das admitted that he waited two years before telling his family that he studied theatre, adding that his parents’ attitude has always been that if he can pay the rent, whatever he did was fine with them. He says it’s been a long time since he’s worried about making an income, adding that the cultural attitude toward working in the arts is changing.
“I think the whole ‘My Strict Indian Parents’ stereotype and joke, and sitcom, and movie, and series, and documentary is losing steam and validity as we speak,” he says with a smile.
Das is one of the few artists to work in both Bollywood and Hollywood. Though Bollywood is the bigger industry of the two, it seems mostly unknown to white English speaking audiences.
When I think of Bollywood, I think of beautiful costumes, elaborate makeup and jewelry and dance routines that put old Hollywood musicals to shame. I wondered what the differences were to someone like Das, who has an insider’s view of both industries.
Das said there isn’t much a difference, and that everyone involved is trying to tell authentic stories, though he admits that Bollywood sets seem to work a bit faster, something borne of experience more than anything else. When I asked him about his dancing, he said it was good.
“Give me the right choreographer and enough rehearsal time and I can dance,” he says, adding that he finds it ironic how audiences appreciate the escapism of Bollywood and yet the only movies that succeed in America are Avenger movies and Marvel movies. He points out that in the latter everyone is wearing ridiculous costumes in a fantastical world, suggesting that perhaps superhero movies are America’s Bollywood.
Das is often presented as a man bringing an authentic Indian perspective to audiences worldwide. He agrees that it’s a fair assessment, given that most perceptions of Indians come from British, American, and Canadian versions of India, which are more “palatable versions”. He says that such views miss out on the voices of 1.3 billion people who have things to say.
He speaks fondly of other East Asian comedians such as Russell Peters and Lily Singh, the former showing a young Vir Das that Indians can do standup. He has immense respect for Lily Singh as a community builder who created one devoid of gatekeepers. In terms of celebrities who opened the doors for more East Asian actors in Hollywood, Das credits Priyanka Chopra.
When playing to white, English-speaking audiences Vir Das’ primary goal is to make them laugh and get to know him. His comedy influences include Richard Pryor for his vulnerability, Eddie Izzard for history and making his shows seem unscripted, and George Carlin for punching up and being anti-establishment.
Das admits that his comedy is likely to change over the years, pointing out that Carlin only found his stride twenty years into his career when Das himself has only been doing comedy for fifteen. At present his comedy hinges more on being an outsider rather than a specific cultural identity. He prefers to begin a show with something the audience knows nothing about and then systematically proving the similarities between his world and theirs.
His upcoming Just for Laughs show, Vir Das’ Wanted World Tour is based on the premise that home is anywhere, adding that it will have a story. Das is also appearing in the Patton Oswalt Gala, though he grins and says he’s looking forward to his own show more, adding that in the latter he only has eight minutes for audiences to get to know him, something that he does happily, though he prefers the kind of “friend sits you down for a talk” format better.
In terms of his future work, Das says his Wanted World Tour is going to thirty-eight countries, followed by a Hollywood rom-com, and a Bollywood action movie
If Vir Das’ Netflix special, Losing It, is any indication, his Just for Laughs shows are bound to be fun!
Tickets are available at hahaha.com
Cosplay @ Montreal Comic Con 2022 Day One
The party’s going down over at the Palais de Congrès this weekend, and all the proof you need is in this gallery of standout outfits from Montreal’s finest cosplayers. Before you head on over to join in, get inspired and dress for the occasion. Everyone else has!
FTB Weekends: Rogers & Interac Down and Just for Laughs Coming Up
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the Rogers outage which also knocked debit transactions and e-transfers out for over a day then switch gears and talk about the upcoming Just for Laughs Festival
Follow Dawn McSweeney @mcmoxy on Twitter and Instagram
Follow Jason C. McLean @jasoncmclean on Twitter and Instagram
Game Plan – A preview of Montreal Comic Con
Dust off your best cosplay and bust out that autograph album because the Montreal Comic Con is back. This Friday through Sunday, the Palais de Congrès will play host to artists, actors and fandoms of all varieties in a celebration of all things geeky and game-related.
To help you figure out what to prioritize, Forget The Box has combed through the Guest List so you can make the most of your weekend. No thanks necessary. It’s just what we do.
The original Borg Queen herself, Alice Krige, will be headlining the convention – if not descending from the ceiling as a head – to reminisce about her various appearances in Star Trek, as well as her work in 2013’s Thor: The Dark World and 1992’s Stephen King classic Sleepwalkers.
Her costar in the upcoming indie film She Will, none other than Malcolm McDowell, will also be attending to reflect on his Trek experience – aka killing Captain Kirk in Generations – as well as his voice work on Superman: The Animated Series and, inevitably, 1971’s A Clockwork Orange. Look for his panel on Friday and Krige’s on Sunday.
Arrow and Teen Wolf star Colton Haynes will take the stage on Saturday to field questions about his time working on both larger-than-life shows, with X-Files and Terminator 2 star Robert Patrick speaking to the crowds on Sunday, possibly about his uncanny ability to terrify us without so much as uttering a single word.
Of course, one of the biggest thrills of any comic convention is seeing all our local talent gathered in one place. In that respect, this year’s show will not disappoint. A-List artist Yanick Paquette – of DC’s Wonder Woman and Swamp Thing comics – will be in attendance, probably with plenty of gorgeous art in tow. Comic artist-turned publisher Andy Belanger will also be present, hopefully demonstrating some of the sick moves that have helped make him a regular in the wrestling scene.
Concordia animation graduate and cartoonist extraordinaire, BOOM, will return with her autobiographical Boomeries graphic novels in tow and maybe even a tease of her upcoming book, La méduse, due out this fall. And Montreal institution Terry Mosher, aka AISLIN, will also be present to speak on his decades of political cartooning for The Montreal Gazette. Who better to provide a lighthearted perspective in these dark political times?
Add a host of vendors selling all the merch you could possibly want to add to your secret display case – don’t pretend you don’t have one! – and a Masquerade Ball where fans with sewing skills get to strut their stuff, and a good time is pretty much guaranteed. Plus, unlike the Jazz Fest, it can’t get rained out, which is definitely a perk.
Tickets to the convention are still available over at the show’s official website , where additional updates will be provided in the days ahead.
Tales of Woah at the Montreal Fringe
The weather these days may be failing us, but two Fringe Festival shows are definitely delivering, especially if you have a penchant for time travel.
Comedian/Storyteller Al Lafrance, who has been appearing at the festival for a decade now, returns to the stage with a reflective piece entitled Is This Yours? at Café Campus. As the title suggests, Lafrance is often curious about the items he finds at yard sales and thrift shops and what they say about the complex lives we lead. Old photos and handwritten letters have granted him the opportunity to step into the past, crash hundreds of weddings and enjoy beach vacations with families he’ll never meet.
Sure, it may sound a little creepy to speculate on people’s lives based on the random fragments they’ve donated or discarded, but as the affable Montrealer explains, he’s always been fascinated by the legacies we leave behind. Especially those of “weirdos with passion projects”.
It’s that very fascination that led him to investigate a particularly unusual discovery – a handmade board game about hitchhiking – and seek out its creator in order to understand how it came to exist in the first place. The answer to that question forms the backbone of this show, which touches on the strange twists and turns that can happen along the way to our ultimate destination.
Energetic and unassuming, it’s easy to see why Lafrance is a two-time Just For Laughs Award winner. His cleverly-woven tale soothes and satisfies, like a warm cup of tea after an especially pleasant dinner party. So, grab a bite to eat on The Main, head on over to his show and prepare to be transported.
Speaking of pleasant journeys, this year’s edition of Fringe features an astonishing one-woman show that revisits the remarkable ups and downs of Josephine Baker’s legendary life. Josephine, a burlesque cabaret dream play stars Tymisha Harris as the titular entertainer – no pun intended – who broke down barriers as the first black woman to star in a major motion picture.
Having already appeared Off-Broadway and toured around the world with this act, Harris couldn’t be more comfortable in Baker’s skin – or her own, for that matter – and is clearly having a ball strutting her stuff. That confidence permeates the show in the best way possible, letting you know from the moment the performance begins that you’re in for a real treat.
This piece covers Baker’s ascent to stardom as a sexy, banana-clad dancing sensation in Paris, her work as a spy during World War II, the various romantic entanglements that popped up along the way and finally her activism during the Civil Rights Movement.
It’s a startling history made all the more vivid by Harris’ elegant and enthusiastic delivery. Baker remains a beloved icon and Harris takes visible pride in portraying the nuances of her dazzling and daunting life.
In spite of being born in St. Louis, Baker was rejected by racist audiences upon her return to the States in the ‘30s. The pain of that rejection is reflected in the songs (Strange Fruit, The Times They Are A-Changin’) which Harris delivers with a powerful, unwavering voice. Special credit must be given to her sound technician, who manages to keep her vocals from deafening the audience. Goosebumps, however, are unavoidable.
Biographical one-person shows can sometimes struggle to maintain their momentum, but Harris paces herself well, jumping from song to dance to witty remark with the inexhaustible spirit of a seasoned performer. In spite of the show’s tight structure, she still manages to be playful and improvisational in her approach.
Magical flickering fingers and a knowing smile compliment her array of eye-catching costumes hidden amidst the boudoir-themed set. Harris even goes through the trouble of including a small statue in tribute to Baker’s pet cheetah “Chiquita”, regardless of whether audiences will even spot it – again, no pun intended.
From the smallest detail to the biggest flourish, Josephine dazzles. It stands easily as one of the best shows to ever play at the Montreal Fringe Festival and is, quite frankly, a must-see.
With the festival wrapping up this Sunday and tickets selling out fast, make your way over the Fringe website to secure your seats and swing by Josephine’s website for more information on the play.
FTB Weekends: 7 Downtown Montreal Metro Stations Free on Weekends & Summer Festival Season Has Begun
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss the plan to make seven Downtown Montreal metro stations free on weekends and the summer festival season beginning with Grand Prix and Fringe.
Follow Dawn McSweeney @mcmoxy on Twitter and Instagram
Follow Jason C. McLean @jasoncmclean on Twitter and Instagram
What About Albert? Is Ready for Consumption @ Montreal Fringe
The press release for What About Albert? had me at hello:
An absurdist comedy. A Godot inspired fever dream! Pick and Pod are two helpless part timers trapped in a restaurant that may or may not exist…
And the website offered the following advisory: Content Warning This show may depict existential dread and gore.
Be still my heart.
If Waiting for Godot is nihilism dressed in the somber, tattered suit of Chaplin-era tramps, this is a self aware romp of quick wit, wearing the face paint of a fast food franchise spokes-clown.
The script is artfully fast paced, like Gilmore Girls or Aaron Sorkin. No easy feat for writer Xander Chung or performers Jordan Prentice (Pod), Fanny Dvorkin (Pick) and Joseph Ste-Marie (Billy – puppet by Samantha Gold); it’s a trick that only shines when everyone’s on the same page, and here, they certainly were.
The stars delivered so much while their characters, by design, did very little. I was impressed by their performances: it was a lot of range to flex, and if they’d slipped up on the tosses and catches of the linguistic acrobatics, the whole thing would’ve collapsed. A risky prospect that succeeded wonderfully.
I definitely laughed more than expected, and the absurdly strange plot turns did not disappoint. There were truisms hidden in plain sight too, deep fried and ready for consumption.
When Pick says “Appetite and fries are all I have”, maybe I felt it a little too hard; in the end, it’s tasty experiences like this that add flavor to the weird ride we’re all on. Go check it out while it’s hot and fresh.
What About Albert? runs at the Montreal Fringe until June 19th. Tickets at MontrealFringe.ca
Photo by Joseph Ste-Marie, courtesy of The Malicious Basement Theatre Company
Flips and Flops at Fringe
To say that it’s wonderful to finally have the Fringe Festival back up and running would be a serious understatement. There’s a palpable sense of gratitude every night, as eager audiences and passionate performers exchange smiles of appreciation in venues up and down The Main.
After a two-year drought, we’re clearly desperate for some live entertainment, but that doesn’t mean any old thing will quench our thirst. Montrealers are a discerning bunch, so with that in mind, we offer the following reviews of shows currently featured in the festivities.
Even those unfamiliar with dance will find themselves swept up in the enchanting Tango, to the Pointe – a sensual and spellbinding show that fuses Argentinian tango with classical ballet stylings to thrilling effect. Director/choreographer Alexander Richardson and partner Erin Scott-Kafadar bring the language of love to vivid life through movement in this eye-catching production, the Company’s fifth thus far.
It opens with an edgy number lit by LED lights before gradually progressing into more traditional tango territory. The dynamic duo slink across the floor to the sounds of spoken word, guitar and eventually accordion accompaniment, the likes of which causes legs to unfurl into dazzling spins.
Their crisp movements and astonishing flexibility early on give way to a softness and vulnerability that pulls you in during their third routine of the evening, set to pleading piano music. Tango, evidently, can be about more than simply building and releasing tension.
Humor starts to creep in around the halfway mark, with Richardson playfully encouraging the crowd to marvel at his muscles before dancing a deconstructed tango with two wooden poles in the place of a partner. Scott-Kafadar busts out some unexpected moves all her own, including a moonwalk en pointe and a feat of strength so startling it’s best left unspoiled. By the time she’s twirling around with one foot in a pointe shoe and another in a stiletto, you’re likely to believe there’s little she can’t effortlessly handle.
It all comes together in a breathless finale punctuated by lifts that will leave you cheering and wanting more. This blend of tango and ballet is the dance equivalent of chocolate and peanut butter – a combination so satisfying you’ll never want to see them separately again.
The only complaint possible is that the final Montreal performance of Pointe is apparently already sold out. Luckily, their next stop is the nearby Ottawa Fringe festival, where they’ll dazzle audiences for six performances between June 16th and the 25th.
Considering what’s unfolding in the United States right now, the timing couldn’t be better for an insightful piece of theatre that explores the complexities of an unplanned pregnancy. Regrettably, A Little Bit Pregnant, which plays at Mainline Theatre, misses the mark by a whole lot. This meandering play from Concordia student Kate Lavut recycles a series of well-worn cliches leftover from sitcoms long since departed in its depiction of two couples reacting to the news that one of them is with child.
The script skips over the crucial step of establishing compelling characters and jumps straight to the agonizing and hand-wringing over what must be done. Unusually long pauses punctuate the leaden dialogue, which consists of gems like “I wanted someone to want me!”, “I love to love you!”, “it was different then!” and the obligatory “my uterus – my choice!” By the third reference to “making love”, you’ll start to wonder if the playwright constructed this piece from fragments of an old Dynasty script.
What it lacks in originality, it makes up for in unintentional laughs. Alexander Cruz, dressed in a grandad sweater and perpetually fussing with his hair, brings welcome comedic energy to the role of Shane, particularly when blathering on and knocking over plants. He has zero believability as baby daddy to Isabel Fuentes’ Tasha, mind you, but her natural charisma and confident delivery are almost enough to help you forget that pesky little detail.
The likeable Sarah Durocher (Maya) and Sanjeev Mannan (Tony) are given so little of consequence to do, they’re upstaged by their costume changes and a concealed bag of popcorn, respectively. It’s a real shame their character arcs are all as flat as a pancake because with material better suited to their strengths, it’s easy to imagine this cast carrying a more memorable piece fully to term.
That’s the charm of Fringing: sometimes you wind up seeing something polished and perfect, and sometimes you see emerging talents before they’ve fully found their footing. Either way, at these ticket prices, you’ll still spend less than you would at the multiplex. So, head on over to the Montreal Fringe website for more information and enjoy the remainder of the festival, which we’ll continue to cover here at Forget The Box.
The 2022 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival runs through June 19. Tickets and info at MontrealFringe.ca
FTB Weekends: Bloc Montréal Provincial Party, Montreal Summer Festivals & SQDC Strike
Jason C. McLean and Dawn McSweeney discuss Balarama Holness launching the Bloc Montréal provincial party, the return of Montreal’s summer festivals and the SQDC workers going on strike.
Follow Dawn McSweeney @mcmoxy on Twitter and Instagram
Follow Jason C. McLean @jasoncmclean on Twitter and Instagram
Montreal Fringe Returns at Full Force
From June 9th through the 19th, the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival will feature over 500 performances by 250 artists in 11 venues. That’s something that happened every June, until it didn’t.
For the past two years, the first event of Montreal’s festival season has only been able to offer completely virtual or hybrid versions. Now, as an early sign of things getting back to normal, the Fringe is back to full force.
With that in mind, here are some potential highlights:
What About Albert? A dark and absurdist comedy about fast-food workers? Hot-button topic meets Godot? That’s exactly what The Malicious Basement Theatre Company has in store for Fringe audiences with What About Albert?. Full disclosure: FTB regular contributor Samantha Gold did the set and costume design for this one, so that’s how it got on our radar, but we’re sure glad it did!
Velvet’s Greatest Tits Given this city’s love for all things burlesque, book your tickets to Velvet La Touche’s new show in advance. The talented Montrealer not only strips but plays classical piano at the same time. Two types of thrills for the price of one sounds like a good time, doesn’t it? Velvet’s Greatest Tits plays at Cafe Campus, though we’re happy to report she’s not the only sexy number in this year’s lineup.
Josephine: A Burlesque Cabaret Dream Play The story of famed entertainer Josephine Baker comes to life in the one-woman, bilingual musical act entitled Josephine: A Burlesque Cabaret Dream Play, at La Chapelle. Co-creator and star Tymisha Harris has been touring all over with this piece, which debuted in 2016 at the San Diego Fringe Festival and also appeared Off-Broadway in 2018. Hailed as “a triumphant homage to a life worth remembering” by CBC, this is likely to be a surefire hit.
The Family Crow: A Murder Mystery Fringe Fest offers all sorts of intriguing delights, such as The Family Crow: A Murder Mystery – a one-man puppet piece from Adam Francis Proulx playing at Le Ministere. Having already won awards at the London and Orlando Fringe Festivals, this one seems certain to be a crowd-pleaser. Who doesn’t love puppets?
Featured Image: What About Albert? by Joseph Ste. Marie Courtesy of The Malicious Basement Theatre Company
The St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival runs June 9-19 at various venues. For tickets and info, please visit MontrealFringe.ca
Back with a Vengeance: The Montreal Just for Laughs Festival Announces its 2022 Lineup
The Montreal festival that launched the careers of comedy legends like Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler, Dave Chapelle, and Jimmy Fallon is back, and it is back with a vengeance. That’s right comedy lovers, the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival has announced its 2022 lineup and it looks awesome.
This year’s festival features galas hosted by comedy legends including Hannah Gadsby, Jo Koy, Chelsea Handler, and Russell Peters. Concert events include live performances by Hassan Minhaj, Vir Das, and John Mulaney, whose work includes writing for Saturday Night Live and his standup specials like two thousand fifteen’s The Comeback Kid and Kid Gorgeous in 2018, the latter winning him an Emmy award.
As per Just for Laughs’ continued commitment to introducing the world to rising stars in comedy, the second season of New Wave of Standup is premiering on CBC Gem Tuesday, March 29, 2022. This show was filmed during Vancouver’s 2022 Just for Laughs Festival and aims to showcase the best Canadian comedians about to hit the big time.
The lineup includes Janelle Niles, a Black and Mi-kmaq comedian who raised awareness of indigenous causes with her show, Got Land?, the Montreal-based actor and comedian Nick Nemeroff, as well as Allie Pearse, who is known for her work writing for the award-winning show Letterkenny. Other performers include Hisham Kelati, whose debut album, Tigre King, was nominated for a Juno in 2022, Maddy Kelly, Hoodo Hersi.
These are just the acts that Just for Laughs has lined up so far, which means there’s more excitement to come. If this lineup is any indication, this is going to be one of the best Just for Laughs seasons yet!
The 40th Anniversary of the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival runs July 13-31. For info and tickets, please visit hahaha.com
The second season of The New Wave of Standup premiers Tuesday, March 29 on CBC Gem
Montreal Music & Arts This Week: Nuit Blanche, Insolitudes 2, Massimadi Festival & Ol’ Savannah + Lucy Lambert’s Violet Drift
With things in Montreal headed back to almost normal, we’re almost ready to re-brand this column Shows This Week. Not yet, but soon. This week, though, it is chock full of shows.
Let’s get started:
Nuit Blanche Returns
Nuit Blanche is an event we have covered extensively in previous years, but this year, the closing night of Montréal en lumière kinda crept up on us. With the uncertainty of restrictions being lifted, we weren’t sure if was going to happen and at what level.
While some of it will be virtual and some experiences will close around midnight or 1am, it will feature music, visual arts, games, multidisciplinary events and more all across the city and will go all night (though no indication the metro will remain open all night as in previous years.
Highlights include Mouvement at Ausgang Plaza, Nuit Blanche at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 24 Hours of Vinyl and regular events like the outdoor activities in the Quartier de Spectacles and open galleries in the Belgo Building.
Nuit Blanche, part of Montréal en lumière, is Saturday, February 26. Full schuedule and map available at NuitBlancheMtl.com
Insolitudes 2 Concert Series: Three Themes, Three Shows, Three Universes
This week, Indie Montreal is reviving its Insolitudes concert series. The concept is simple: three nights (March, 1st, 2nd and 3rd), three themes (jazz, pop and electro) and three universes.
This event will feature The Liquor Store, Titelaine, Millimetrik and many other local acts.
Insolitudes 2 runs March 1, 2 and 3 , 8pm at Le Balcon, 463 Saint-Catherine Ouest. Tickets for all shows available through ThePointOfSale.com
The Massimadi Festival Continues as Black History Month Concludes
With Black History Month concluding for the year, it’s important to note that one of its key events, the Massimadi Film and Arts Festival, is still running until March 11th. Canada’s only Afroqueer film and arts festival is in its 14th edition and is available for free all across the country (online, that is).
Here’s a trailer for just one of the films that are part of this year’s official selection:
Massimadi Film and Arts Festival continues until March 11. This year’s selection is available at massimadi.ca
Ol’ Savannah + Lucy Lambert’s Violet Drift @ Quai des Brumes
This one’s not part of a festival, or a series, or a hybrid event, it’s just a couple of bands playing a showbar on St-Denis on a weeknight. And that, in and of itself, is a really good thing to be able to say once again.
Yes, it is literally the first night such an event is once again possible, and yes, it is limited capacity (55 people), but it’s also Ol’Savannah and Lucy Lambert’s Violet Drift, two local acts playing a local show in a local bar. Check out the video below to get an idea of one of the acts and then head out on Monday to the Plateau:
Ol’ Savannah + Lucy Lambert’s Violet Drift perform at Quai des Brumes, 4481 St-Denis, Monday, February 28, 9pm. Tickets available through ThePointOfSale.com
If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
No promises but we’ll do our best
Osheaga is Back This Summer with Foo Fighters, A$AP Rocky, Dua Lipa & More
Osheaga is back! After being forced to cancel in 2020 and offering a stripped-down all-Canadian October edition last year, the summer’s biggest music fest is back in full force in 2022.
They just announced this year’s lineup and it’s as big as ever.
Foo Fighters, who were supposed to play both in 2020 and 2021, will finally make it across the border and headline Friday night. They will be joined earlier in the day by indie rockers the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, British singer/songwriter Charli XCX, American rapper Big Sean and more.
New York-based rapper and producer A$AP Rocky is the big name closing off Saturday. French DJ Sébastien Léger, Hamilton rockers Arkells and New Jersey indie pop act Bleachers are among those also performing on the middle day.
Sunday night, English singer-songwriter Dua Lipa closes out the night and the festival for the year. She follows rapper and Pete Davidson buddy Machine Gun Kelly, Quebec City singer songwriter Safia Nolin, British indie rockers Glass Animals and many more local, Canadian and international acts.
This is the kind of mix Osheaga is famous for and once will be again.
Osheaga 2022 runs July 29 – 31, for the complete schedule and tickets (single day tickets on sale this Friday) please visit osheaga.com