Any Just for Laughs show that has words like “faces” in the title is always a bit of a crapshoot. You know for sure that you’re going to enjoy the host who is usually a comic legend but the remaining roster generally consists of comics, good and bad, who are yet unheard of and hoping to make a name for themselves on the Just for Laughs stage. The Just for Laughs show New Faces: Unrepped was no exception.
New Faces: Unrepped consisted of a slew of American comedians trying to bag an agent or gig. The audience consisted primarily of industry reps and agents looking to find their next star.
The show was hosted by comic legend George Wallace, who was doing a one-man show later in the week. By his own admission, Wallace had no material ready to host New Faces and opted instead to work the crowd.
He clearly knew none of the comics performing that night and was reminiscent of a kind, well-meaning uncle who invites a ton of people to a barbeque but has absolutely no idea who any of them are. Despite his lack of preparedness, he remained the show’s star.
The show was a mixed bag with every stereotype represented. You had the clean cut white sarcastic guys, JP McDade, Danny Palumbo, and Brendan Lynch, the snarky smiling feminist comedian, Molly Ruben Long, a sassy black woman, Janelle James, some African American males, Neko White and JB Ball, a few ethnic comedians, Ismail Loutfi and Raoul Sanchez, one Zach Galafianakis clone, Casey Crawford, and one creep, Geoffrey Asmus.
JP McDade was the kind of comedian one would want for a major American sitcom. He’s white, blond, cute and snarky, perfect for shows like How I Met Your Mother that appeal to white audiences who want to laugh at other white people. His comedy was good but not great and his delivery clearly needs a little refining because his jokes were spaced so far apart the audience lost him at least half the time.
Next up was Ismail Loutfi, a Muslim American comedian. Unlike the other comedians that night, his comedy was largely political, bravely tackling issues of Islamophobia and American ignorance of Muslim American culture. To keep the audience going, he peppered his routine with a lot of self-deprecation and unlike the other comedians that night, his material was by far the most interesting, if not the funniest.
African American comedian Neko White clearly has a lot of potential. His delivery and timing were spot on which made up for the occasional lame joke. He started his routine by announcing that he was from Harlem and bravely addressed the issue of gang violence in the US in his comedy.
Raul Sanchez could only be described as OK. His delivery was OK, his jokes about incarceration were OK, and as a comedian he came off as just OK.
JB Ball was the other African American male comedian on the roster and his delivery and the timing of jokes were also spot on. The problem is that his jokes were mostly sexist towards women, which is FINE provided the jokes are funny, which they weren’t.
Casey Crawford of North Dakota was by far the funniest of the bunch. Clad in an Expos T-shirt and Canadiens hat, Crawford seemed desperate to win over Canadian audiences. As it turns out he didn’t need the gimmicky outfit, undoubtedly the product of a gift shop raid. Crawford’s jokes were FUNNY and his style had the adorable awkwardness reminiscent of Zach Galafianakis.
Molly Ruben-Long was the feminist comedian of the night. I’m all for feminist comedy and I’m all for female comedians, but her jokes were lame, so while I found myself silently cheering her, I couldn’t bring myself to laugh.
Janelle James is an ex dominatrix who moved to white suburbia. Her jokes were funny but not bend over funny. As the oldest and most charismatic performer that night, she deserves a shot but ageism is probably going to play a role in whether she gets it.
Brendan Lynch was funny and self-deprecating in a way that was kinda charming. He’d be another good casting choice for a snarky white sitcom character.
Geoffrey Asmus was the most memorable of the comedian not because he was good, but because he was BAD.
Asmus’ stage persona is one of a sanctimonious entitled chronically ill white male with delusions of grandeur. He began his routine by physically attacking a member of the audience who was cheering him, before describing a medical condition with such specificity there was no doubt he actually had it.
He talked of being a virgin who’s never masturbated in a way that was more painful than funny. He claimed that not engaging in sexual activity allowed him to hone his intellect and bragged that he knew everything.
Asmus claimed that he even knew about Canadian Prime Ministers and asked the audience to name one. I turned to my partner and bet him that I could stump the guy after which I called out “Diefenbaker” (the Prime Minister in the 60s who had a rivalry with JFK). Asmus said Diefenbaker was a white male, hardly remarkable given that nearly ALL Canada’s Prime Ministers were white males, in other words: I won.
Asmus’ performance was barely wiped out by the final performer of the night, Danny Palumbo.
Palumbo clearly wears a mustache to hide the fact that without it he’d probably look like a twelve year old boy. He was snarky and funny, and as a foodie, his comedy about culinary ignorance appealed to me. Unfortunately a lot of his jokes were the boring passive-male-in-a-relationship stuff that’s been WAY overdone in comedy.
Shows like New Faces: Unrepped are something to experience at least once. In them you get to see a legend work the audience with grace and see potential up and comers work their magic while others crash and burn.
* Featured image: Felicia Michaels, courtesy Just for Laughs