I had no idea what to expect when I walked into the Olympia theatre to see Steve-O: The Bucket List. Steve-O is mostly known for his work on the MTV stunt films and TV show, Jackass. The description said he’d be talking about stunts and showing us clips. It didn’t feel like the kind of thing you’d see at Just for Laughs, but it was that and a whole lot more.
It should be said that this show is not for
the faint of heart. If you have issues with seeing feces, nudity, semen, pus,
and excruciating pain, you might want to avoid it, but if you have a strong
stomach and an open mind, you need to see this show.
Opening for Steve-O was Brad Williams, who’s been coming to Just for Laughs for years. Williams is a comedic powerhouse, a dwarf who is unafraid to make fun of himself and anything else.
True to the pattern in his comedy where he bitches about how he’s frequently mistaken for other famous dwarves, he came on stage announcing that he was NOT Wee Man, the dwarf from the Jackass series. The rest of his set was jokes about being married to a tall woman and the challenges it brings. It was a great intro.
When Steve-O took the stage my first thought was that he got old. He was clad in a plaid shirt and khakis – the clothing choice of middle aged men everywhere – and above his glasses he has a little gray about the temples. His hoarse voice proceeded to talk about getting older, proposing to his fiancé, and the challenge of what to do now that he’s in his forties.
Does he continue his ridiculous stunts or not? The show was about tackling his bucket list of crazy stunts he wants to do.
Before showing the video clip of every stunt, Steve-O tells the audience the tale of what inspired the stunt, the logistics involved, and any difficulties they ran into along the way.
The overall vibe you get from Steve-O is one of gratitude. His storytelling is at once dramatic, engaging, and funny. He is self-deprecating and endearing and the video clips that follow his stories are every bit as hilariously absurd as he describes.
The stunts you will see include things like “Vasectomy Olympics”, which he attempts painful crotch torturing activities following his vasectomy, and “Skyjacking” in which he masturbates before skydiving nude.
One particularly hilarious stunt was when defecates into an electric fan. In the story preceding the video he describes how the stunt made him realize his fiancée was “the one”, as she was the only one who didn’t run when the stunt went awry. Though the show was graphically disgusting in many ways and I had to cover my eyes at least once, of all the Just for Laughs shows I’ve been to so far, it was at this one that I laughed the hardest.
That said, if you’re feeling brave see this
show. You will laugh and cheer for Steve-O.
Just for Laughs continues until July 28, tickets available through hahaha.com
Warning: The second half of this review ended up being more of a rant about Mike Ward.
The Midnight Surprise shows are a staple of Just For Laughs. Part of OFF-JFL, the only thing audiences are told is the host. Apart from that, people buy their tickets without knowing ANYTHING about the line-up. And I mean anything. Any of the comedians that are performing as part of the main festival could appear. For instance, last year, Louis C.K. and Dave Chappelle both made very surprise appearances at these shows.
So while I was waiting at the line with my friend, checking my phone to see if there were any rare Pokemon around, I had no idea what to expect. But I was in for one heck of a ride, it turns out.
The first week of the Midnight Surprise is hosted by Piff the Magic Dragon, or John van der Put. You may know Pif from American’s Got Talent, which he did not win. He seems to be kinda bummed out about that, but hey at least he’s got a regular show in Las Vegas, so that’s cool.
Basically, Piff’s whole gimmick is that he wears a dragon costume and does magic acts with a lot of whooshes. All of this is mixed with his brilliant British style humour that involves dark and fast one-liners.
For instance, a good bunch of his jokes involve him implying that he is very mean towards his pet chihuahua Mr. Piffles, who helps him out with most of his magic tricks. It is a bizarre combination of really neat magic tricks, British-style dry stand-up comedy, and the absurd.
But the relatively more important question is, which stand-up comedians showed up at Friday’s Midnight Show? Long story short, I got to see Tom Green, Jessica Kirson, Yannis Pappas, Brad Williams, Mark Little, and everybody’s favourite controversial Quebecois Mike Ward.
That’s quite a lineup! To put it in perspective, that’s a relatively famous movie star, ~1/3 of the Ethnic Show, ~1/3 of the Nasty Show, and Mark Little, who is also pretty famous, I think.
My favourite was Jessica Kirson, and that’s not just because I got to interview her last week before the Ethnic Show. It’s actually because her style of humour speaks to me. It’s fast-paced, it’s somewhat dark, and it’s sincere. I think I’d call her style psychological humour – she talks about her insecurities and troubles, but does it in a way that makes you laugh. She also tells the audience that she needs our laughter and us to enable her.
If nothing I’ve just described appeals to you, the awkward moments she constantly creates will get you to laugh. One way or another you will laugh at Kirson’s show – and she doesn’t really care whether you laugh at her or with her.
Tom Green’s routine is similar to Kirson’s. His delivery is dryer than hers, though. Green talks about how he doesn’t want to die in his sleep, because he wouldn’t know that he had died; and how he doesn’t like/want to understand all those celebrities who die of drug overdose, because their biggest problem in life is having to memorize a few lines.
Again, Green proves that most of comedy has to do with delivery. He stands in the middle of the stage, looking dazed and confused (and is probably drunk), and just talks and talks and talks.
I really want to talk about the other comics as well, but I have limited space, so I have to choose what I talk about. That’s why I want to dedicate the next few paragraphs to a rant about Mike Ward.
In case you haven’t heard, the Quebec Human Rights Commission has decided that Ward has to pay $42 000 for making a joke at the expense of a child with disabilities. Obviously, his entire routine was him complaining about how he has the right to joke about anything and everything he wants.
Now, I admit that $42,000 is a bit too much, and yes, maybe policing jokes is scarily similar to censorship. But the question is, what exactly do we lose if people suddenly stopped mocking people for disabilities? Does the world stop spinning? Probably not.
Ward is pushing the idea that he is fighting for his right to be mean to people; but I don’t think that’s what we should be focusing on. Ward has a right to be mean, sure; but he’s also a public figure, you know?
At the show, he told us about an interview he once had, in which the media portrayed him as someone who condones pedophilia. Now, in that case, the media seems to have messed up horribly, just to make him look awful. That, however, doesn’t change the fact that he has made pedophile jokes. I mean, sure he can just wash his hands off of all responsibility, arguing that he is simply making jokes, and that people shouldn’t take him seriously.
The problem, however, is that words are more powerful than people seem to think they are. A joke is not merely a joke, I would argue. The kinds of jokes Ward makes normalise meanness and, to be frank, I don’t think that’s okay.
You can be funny without being mean. I understand that this poses somewhat of a problem for Ward and other comedians that have crafted their comedy careers out of being mean; but I’d rather side with the people on the receiving end of mean jokes than with those who make money out of a sick and twisted schadenfreude type of humour.
Anyways, this is what happened to me at Friday’s Midnight Surprise. It probably won’t happen to anyone if they were to go to another Midnight Surprise. But that only means that you have to go and see for yourself!
The Midnight Surprises will take place with Piff the Magic Dragon on July 24, and with Blake Griffin hosting on July 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30. Check out the Just for Laughs website for more information.
In a small room at Le Bordel, a comedy club that normally hosts French-speaking comedians, a crowd of sweaty members of the press gather. Some are famous, some hope to be, but they’re all here on Just For Laughs’ invitation. Some chat, some sip the beer or wine provided courtesy of a drink ticket included with the invite, others play with their phones, but all are waiting for the night’s event.
For the first time, Just for Laughs offered an invite-only preview of the Nasty Show to members of the press. All braved the 30+ heat and humidity to crowd into that tiny room, everyone trying to speak over everyone else who was in turn trying to speak over the club’s background music. With that many people in one room, the club’s air conditioning proved useless but no one seemed to care as announcements were made and Mike Ward took the stage.
Mike Ward is hosting the Nasty Show for the second year in a row, replacing the Pitbull of Comedy Bobby Slayton who will be performing at the show instead. The preview featured Ward and “Prozac with a head” comedian Brad Williams.
True to the tradition of Nasty Show hosts, Ward started his opening set with some self-deprecation, talking about how he fucks like an old man and wants a woman who’s “legal but not [legal] everywhere.” Turning his attention to the audience, Ward did a bit on dick pics, managing to coax one man near the front to disclose how many he’s sent. When the man in question said “20,” he, not Ward became the subject of applause.
Ward then tackled what the late George Carlin would have called “the turd in the punchbowl” – the issue that everyone had at the back of their minds but were too polite to bring up.
On February 24, 2016 Mike Ward appeared before the Quebec Human Rights Tribunal following a complaint regarding a joke he made about a kid with a disfiguring facial condition. Over a dozen comedians showed up on the day of his testimony to show support. Though the verdict isn’t expected until August, Ward took the cavalier attitude one would hope for, boldly telling all present that if he was going to get in trouble for this joke, he was going to tell it as much as possible in as many languages as he can.
Ward told the joke, which turned out to be nowhere near as offensive as the reports on the Human Rights’ complaint suggest. The joke had nothing to do with the fact that the child was disfigured and more to do with the fact that the kid is also deaf. The child’s dream was to sing for the Pope and he got his wish but being deaf he was not able to tell – as per the joke – if he was off key. It was this and not the fact that the kid is disfigured and was dying at the time that Mike Ward was making fun of, and the crowd at the preview responded with laughter not outrage.
Next to take the stage was Brad Williams, a man the late great Robin Williams dubbed “Prozac with a Head.”
Brad is a sight to behold, most conspicuously because he’s a dwarf with more energy than most big people. He quickly won the audience’s affection by starting his set with a joke about Canadian politeness. Apparently a heckler in Edmonton apologized to him after a show for comparing him to a Leprechaun. As Canadians, we love to make fun of ourselves and take pleasure in jokes that are at once critical and complementary. This was no exception. Though the bulk of his comedy is about his trials and tribulations being a dwarf, he peppered his routine with dick jokes.
Though he only had limited time for his set, Williams surprised everyone by saying that he was having such a good time and wanted to continue. The audience was overwhelmingly enthusiastic and egged him on with shouts and applause.
Williams then talked about how tough Canadians are, citing the behaviour of our hockey players who keep playing despite bloody faces and missing teeth. He went on about how great a contrast it is to his fellow Americans whom he claims have the motto “strive to be a victim.” As an example, he cited a guy who brought a therapy chihuahua onto a flight he was on for “stress reasons.” Williams rightfully pointed out that a stress dog shouldn’t look more nervous than the human who needs it.
One of Williams’ last jokes was a beautiful jab at presidential candidate Donald Trump, a man he called “so orange he comes Cheeto dust.”
Williams and Ward killed for by the end of the hour-long preview most had forgotten the heat of the room as all were laughing so hard. It bodes well for the Nasty Show, which is going on from July 20th to 24th in the much-better-ventilated-venue Club Metropolis with show times to suit early birds (7 p.m.) and night owls (9:30 pm).
If this is just a preview, the main event will be glorious.