The only thing funnier than biting social commentary delivered as comedy is biting comedic social commentary delivered by a species few of us have ever seen or heard of before. That is exactly what you’ll get at Randy Feltface’s solo Off-JFL/Zoofest show Randy Feltface: Alien of Extraordinary Ability.
In my interview with Feltface last week, he told me he hoped audiences would get sixty minutes of pure escapism and contemplation, and that is exactly what he delivered. But there was more to the show than that, and it’s the kind of show that’s hard to review without giving anything away.
I made a point of not watching any video clips of Feltface beforehand, wanting to see what he does with virgin eyes. I walked out still chuckling, with a song stuck in my head and vague memories of animal trivia he shared throughout the show. There were costume changes, and physical changes, and angry rants, and hilarious anecdotes all peppered with a call to action to save our burning and the soulful musings of a creature deeply aware of its own mortality.
Randy Feltface opened his show with a bang, proving that he’s one of the few entertainers who can master musical comedy without the cringe-factor. There were references to Kurt Cobain and Terry Pratchett that would warm any Millennial and sci-fi/fantasy nerd, but there was also anger and frustration and talks of mortality that were easier to take because Feltface looks like someone you’d see at a children’s show but speaks like someone who belongs on any uncensored standup stage at Just for Laughs.
Even my more skeptical plus-one was laughing himself silly though the personal anecdotes, sing-alongs, and critiques of things we’re so used to – like caffeine addiction – that we take for granted. Despite a couple of obnoxiously loud Aussies in the audience determined to show kinship with Feltface, the show was a sheer delight, start to finish, so immersive and memorable and I didn’t need to take notes.
True to Feltface’s words last week, there’s no one else who does quite what he does. If you love entertainment, intelligent yet biting social commentary, animal trivia, and a lot of whimsy, you’re going to love this Alien of Extraordinary Ability.
While this was not technically a comedy show in the traditional sense, rather a promotional panel of writers and TV personalities, it still garnered laughs from the audience, mostly resulting from Jann Arden’s brash humour and witty jabs.
Going into their sophomore season on CTV, the group was at Just For Laughs to promote the show, share their process and discuss feminism in the industry. As season one ends,Jannwas revealed as #1 New Canadian Series of the Year with 1.4 million viewers in the first week.
As an avid watcher of The Social on CTV, I was
excited to see Cynthia Loyst’s, a host of the morning talk show, name on the
roster for the event. Loyst was the host for the panel which included namesake
Jann Arden, co-creator of Jann Jennica Harper and Leah Gauthier, writer
I can also say that I am a fan of Arden’s, being a Canadian
who grew up with female artists playing on repeat at home (thanks, mom). Along
with many other Canadians, I have followed the success of many Canadian artists
like Arden, and with a lot on her plate, she seems incredibly proud of her most
recent endeavour: Jann.
The group discussed how the concept of the show began, and
evolved, to include more and more real-life moments from Arden’s life,
including her mother’s battle with dementia, and her career. “We call it the
‘tickle, tickle, punch’,” says Gauthier, agreeing that the sardonic nature of
the show is increasingly popular to audiences.
In the writing room, which is happily outnumbered with
women, is a collaborative space, according to the group. “We work really hard
to include men,” jokes Arden, who says the sole male writer, Mike McPhaden,
comes up with many of the best “girly” jokes for the show.
Harper confessed to working in other writers rooms that had
been previously male-dominated, and sparked Arden to share the importance of
mentoring other women, not letting your age limit you, and asking for what you
want in your career.
When Loyst directed the audience to chime in with their own questions, they ranged from Arden’s take on the differences between the music and television industries, filming in Calgary and Canadianisms, to a sweet surprise when an audience member finished with “could you sing a little bit of Insensitive.”
This lead to Arden standing up, walking to their seat,
creating a stir in the rest of the audience to begin taping as she serenaded in
her signature and familiar voice amidst awe and giggles. Arden’s ability to
connect with her audience and quick wit made the promotional panel feel like a
fun conversation with a friend.
Check out Jann on CTV, season one is streaming on CTV.ca or CRAVE.
Just for Laughs continues until July 28, tickets available through hahaha.com
Rushing from watching the fireworks at Montreal’s Old Port, I was almost late to Cameron Esposito’s show at Montreal Improv. I’m glad I wasn’t, because it was perhaps one of the most entertaining and different sets I’ve ever seen.
What do I mean? For one, you know how stand-up comedians usually try to seem candid because it makes their spiel more believable? After all, you are listening to a complete stranger telling you stories about themselves. You need to first care about these people, before you can even consider laughing at them. Even then, more often than not, the line between the stage and the audience remains very palpable.
Yet with Esposito, her attempts at connecting with the audience not only do feel real, I’m pretty sure they are real. Throughout the show, she talked with two members of the audience. Usually, when that happens, the comedian tries to fit as many jokes as they can about that person’s life. Esposito, however, seemed genuinely interested in what these people had to say, and actually listened. Now, maybe she was just that good at acting, but I remain convinced that it was all real.
For second, there aren’t nearly enough LGBTQ comedians represented at JFL. As far as I can tell, most comedians I’ve seen at JFL have been straight folks, and mostly guys. After a while, these stories get old, because straight love/sex stories are the only stories you hear in the mainstream. Most movies, most TV shows, most anime, most anything – straight stories are everywhere.
So I’m really glad I got to see Esposito at this JFL. She and her wife Rhea Butcher – who also happened to be the opener for Esposito – are really funny. Both of their sets have your run-of-the-mill “America is awful, Canada is so much better” jokes as well as really thoughtful rants/commentaries about gender, politics, and gender and politics.
For instance, one part of Esposito’s set was literally a speech about why Hilary Clinton is fit to be the next president of the U.S. – if not the best candidate the U.S. has seen in a while. I’ve seen many comedians during this year’s JFL, and Esposito was the first one to talk less about Trump, and more about Hilary. Admittedly, it was strange that she got so serious during a stand-up comedy show, but I think I’m into it. In fact, I really like it and I think more people should do it.
We always talk about how comedians are supposed to critique society, point out its flaws or whatever. This is what it should be like. Pointing out problems about society and making you laugh on the side – I might add that no hearing impaired people with terminal illnesses were insulted in the process (looking at you Mr. Ward).
Furthermore, the topics Esposito talks about actually challenge people’s perceptions and understandings. To take that a step further, Esposito and Butcher are launching a new show on Seeso called Take my Wife. Unfortunately, Seeso doesn’t stream outside of U.S., so we won’t be able to watch the show in Canada, but as Esposito puts it, “we don’t need [the show], because we accept people.” The accuracy of our positive verdict notwithstanding, it was really amazing to see a lesbian comedian feel free to make jokes about her identity, without having to fear any bigoted hecklers.
Then again, maybe that was because she was preaching to the choir and the people at the show were already the kind of people who know that gender is a social construct and sexuality is a spectrum.
After this show, I’m very confident that I need more Cameron Esposito-kinda comedy in my life. Funny but not trivial stuff. If we truly want comedy to be a type of subversive act that will mould society into something better, that’s what we need.
* Featured image courtesy of Just for Laughs
Here’s a little behind-the-scenes secret about how media accreditation works. You usually ask to get as many tickets as possible to review as many shows as possible. And if you’re a relatively smaller blog like FTB, you don’t expect to get into the big shows. That’s just showbiz, as they say. So you can imagine my surprise at seeing that I was able to get tickets for BOTH Jeff Goldblum’s and David Cross’ galas on Wednesday night.
That’s a lot of comedy!
Jeff Goldblum Gala
Let’s start with Jeff Goldblum – he’s a delight on the stage. He is well dressed, well-spoken, and very self-aware. He knows what it means to be Jeff Goldblum, and he knows that impressionists love to do him. That’s probably why he had an entire segment dedicated to him teaching the audience how to do the “Jeff Goldblum.” You touch your face, go on …uhm… really long, run-on paragraphs, and …uhm… get REALLY EASILY EXCITED about …you know… things. Eh, it doesn’t work when I’m writing the impression I guess. But you get the gist.
I never thought of Goldblum as a stand-up comedian, and I will stand by that statement. He was magnificent as a host, but some of the jokes were – well, they could have been better delivered by an actual stand-up comedian. I also could tell that he was reading his jokes from a teleprompter, so that kinda broke the magic for me as well. Still, he’s a funny guy and no one can take that away from him. I highly doubt anyone is trying to do so, anyway.
At Goldblum’s gala, the audience was able to see Darrin Rose, Godfrey, Patrick Haye, Russell Howard, Elon Gold, Charlie Pickering, Lynne Koplitz, and Adam Ferrara. Out of these 8 (omg) comedians, I can confidently say that my favourites were Russell Howard, Godfrey, and Charlie Pickering. But don’t get me wrong, all of them were amazing comedians, and the audience seemed to agree with me.
It’s just that I have a very particular style of humour and these three fellas all hit the spot. Howard is from the UK and – obviously – delivers his jokes in that classic British style. His delivery is not as dry as some other Brits, which is admittedly a nice change of pace. I don’t exactly remember how the conversation got there, but at some point he started talking about same-sex marriages. He said that some people in the UK are afraid that they could lead to a lesbian queen. He than started miming the queen getting a blowjob and screamed “Yeah, does it taste like stamps?!” Best queen joke I’ve heard in a while.
David Cross Gala
David Cross is a gem. He is the master of awkward comedy and I just love that. Once his name was announced, Cross appeared behind the gates on the scene, with his pants down. He pulled them up immediately, and then started doing his spiel. He started telling us about how Americans feel about Canadians and how much trouble they have trying to mock Canadians.
The harshest thing they can think of, apparently, was that Canadians are so polite. He says that it’s funny that Canadians are so polite. And that gets me thinking… Most comedians at JFL have a bit about how people in the US think about Canadians. I wonder if that was a collective decision on their part, or is it just an easy – almost cheaty? – way of breaking the ice with the audience. Once they’re done with talking about US-Canada relations, they start talking about American politics. They’re all collectively afraid of what might happen if a certain giant Oompa Loompa gets elected.
Cross is an infinitely better stand-up comedian than Goldblum. Some heckler guy made him mess up a joke, but even then he was able to keep his cool and make that into a joke that the audience just loved. He is less charismatic than Goldblum, but that’s not what he is going for anyway. He’ll be awkward on the stage and you will love it. I mean, at least if you’re into that kinda thing.
At Cross’ gala, we had Maria Bamford, Louie Anderson, Nick Thune, Todd Barry, Scott Thompson, Nish Kumar, and Mark Forward.
Nish Kumar was by far my favourite among this lineup – and that despite the fact that I was really excited to see Maria Bamford and Louie Anderson. I was expecting Bamford’s set to be different than what it was. She kept in character throughout the whole thing, which is to be expected if you’re familiar with her style. And with Anderson, I suppose I was still remembering him as the guy who did the mid-90s cartoon series Life with Louie. He wasn’t really – but still was pretty funny.
It was my first time seeing Kumar, however, and I was very impressed. Again, he’s a comic from the UK, so obviously I liked his style. His humour is very smart and very political. He talked about how almost impossible it is to write right-wing comedy, but also it’s difficult to write a left-wing action film. “You’d have no interest in watching the Avengers go to the UN Security Council,” as he said. I love politics, and I love comedy – and Kumar was the perfect mixture of both.
Overall, these two galas were both very amazing and funny. If I could spend five hours sitting in the same hall, listening to these comedians again, I would do it without hesitating.
All photos by Eric Myre, courtesy of Just for Laughs festival.
When it comes to commenting on the American political scene, no one does it better than Lewis Black. The former playwright has been on the comedy scene for almost twenty years, providing scathing political commentary while peppering his material with none too subtle rants about the stupidity of daily life. His bit about soy milk being in fact soy juice because “there’s no soy tit” is widely considered a classic.
On July 27, Lewis Black gave a show at Place des Arts called The Emperor’s New Clothes: The Naked Truth Tour.
This show was Black at his best, for unlike past Just for Laughs Galas where he has had to censor himself to make the show appropriate for TV, Black didn’t have to hold himself back for this one-man show. He could use all the words people consider bad, words that Black calls the ones adults use to express anger, frustration, and rage so we don’t grab a tire iron and kill each other.
The expectations of the crowd that night were clear. They all wanted to hear Black’s take on Donald Trump and the upcoming election. He gave the people what they wanted, but not in the way they’d expect.
On a dark stage with a single spotlight, Lewis Black, clad in pale shirt, jacket, and jeans approached the microphone and said one word:
His clear nasal voice was higher pitched than ever before as he told the audience:
“Please help us”.
He said his career in comedy was over, citing the comments and speeches made by Republicans as far better than any joke he could come up with. As proof, he spoke of Tina Fey’s most recent appearance as Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live at which instead of writing her a speech, the SNL writers put Sarah Palin’s actual Trump endorsement speech into the teleprompter for Fey to read. Black nipped any hopes for a Trump joke in the bud saying that everyone there knew at least three he hadn’t heard before.
Most of Black’s humour that night was political and self-deprecating. He went through every Republican candidate, ruthlessly mocking the way they speak, the absurdities they say, and how they dress and groom themselves. He started with Ben Carson whom he compared to a lizard with eyes so heavy lidded he probably doesn’t even know he’s black.
Lewis Black’s take on Hillary Clinton was unique. He said the only reason she is disliked is because she’s been around the political scene for so long people are sick of seeing her. Though Black is a socialist and a staunch Bernie Sanders supporter, he was kinder to Clinton than he was to all the Republicans he spoke of.
Black surprised me that night. He showed that he too is blessed with a skill all great comics have: the ability to evolve and change with the times. Though his comedy has in the past been about the experience of men, he spent a great deal of time joking about women’s issues in a way that acknowledged the struggles and contributions of women while still keeping it funny. He remarked that he couldn’t understand why a man would ask a woman to get a boob job because he himself has never been in bed with a woman and upon seeing her breasts let out a disappointed sigh. Black said that any man who is lucky enough to get a woman to show them to him should be down on his knees every night thanking God, earning him uproarious applause.
Black’s bit about makeup was a treat and a half. He spoke of how much pressure women have to look good and marvelled at our dexterity at putting on makeup. He called eyeliner an instrument of death and talked about how cool he’d look in an eyepatch should he ever attempt to apply it.
On the transgender bathroom issue Lewis Black said that with all the other problems in America, the last thing people should be worried about is who is peeing next to them.
Though he said he wouldn’t make a Trump joke, it seems Black couldn’t resist sneaking in a jab or two, speaking of how Trump’s lack of business acumen can be seen in the fact that he bankrupted a casino and his alleged success in business has nothing to do with skill and everything to do with nepotism.
People went to the Lewis Black show expecting him to tear apart the American political system with his raging commentary. Black did that and more, showing deference to groups he’d never mentioned in his comedy before while at the same time maintaining his signature angry style. When Black is allowed to swear and scream he shines, and the worse the political system in the States the better his comedy. With the US sliding into an abyss of bigotry and despair, Black’s comedy is better than ever. Though he says he’s done, I say his best is yet to come.
The Nasty Show is an institution at Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival. For over twenty five years talented comedians, some known, some not known yet, unleash the beast, the material they can’t use with faint of heart audiences. At the beginning of every show, the announcer boldly says:
“If you’re easily offended, get out!”
The Nasty Show isn’t for the easily offended.
If you’re the type to whine about a good natured gay joke (they exist), or call the Human Rights Commission because a comedian rightfully points out that sign language is the least politically correct language there is, don’t go to the Nasty Show.
Jokes like that are EXACTLY what you’re going to get. Though the roster of comedians in the show changes every year, there is one face you are sure to see: The Pitbull of Comedy, Bobby Slayton.
Bobby Slayton was fourth on the roster the night I attended the Nasty Show. Though he used to host, he was happy to give up the reins. He brashly told the crowd that JFL asked him if they could give someone else a shot at hosting. Slayton said that if they were looking for someone fatter and a lot less funny, he had just the guy.
This year’s host is our own Mike Ward, the comedian recently forced to pay $42,000 in damages to a disabled kid and his mother, the former of whom was the subject of one of his jokes four years ago. As Forget the Box’s legal columnist, many have asked for my take on the Mike Ward verdict is, so here it is.
The Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Tribunal were created to enforce the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms which protects individuals from harassment and discrimination. That means going after employers who have made it clear that higher paying positions within their companies should only go to men. It means punishing establishments for having dress codes that are clearly designed to discriminate against people who are required by their religions or cultures to wear certain clothing items or accessories. It means ignoring people who want to legally punish panhandlers for trying to earn a living or slapping the complainers with a fine for harassing these individuals.
It is not to go after comedians.
Comedians are society’s best critics. They are the first to pick up on the inconsistencies in our laws, our policies, our customs, and the first to point out the obvious hypocrisies of people in the public eye. A classic example is George Carlin who pointed in the eighties that politicians were going to ban toy guns, “but keep the f-cking real ones!”
Did Jeremy Gabriel deserve to be mocked for his illness?
Is Mike Ward the one who should be punished for making the joke? Or should the tribunal punish all the people who used the joke as an excuse to bully a disabled and disfigured kid?
The answer seems obvious to me.
There is nothing mean-spirited in the joke Ward told or the manner in which it was delivered. There is a BIG difference between questioning in a joke whether a deaf kid can tell if he’s off-key and Daniel Tosh telling the audience that a female heckler at his show should be raped.
The Human Rights Commission and Tribunal overstepped their bounds.
These institutions were created as vehicles of social justice. They were not created for censorship. When an organization goes after the very people who criticize our society, be they journalists or comedians, they cease to be a means of social justice and turn into ones of repression.
The other comedians at the Nasty Show: Paula Bel, Brad Williams, Thomas Dale, and Ralphie May called Mike Ward a freedom fighter and he IS one.
He told the audience he’s planning to appeal the decision and keep on appealing. Every comedian at that show has his back.
Ward is fighting for the freedom to give criticism and make jokes and laugh, even if those laughs make us feel uncomfortable and even a little guilty.
Having said all that, the Nasty Show did not disappoint.
Thomas Dale is the first openly gay comedian to do the Nasty Show and though his act was clean compared that of Paula Bel, Brad Williams, and Ralphie May, he held his own. Dale warmed up the crowd by saying that he almost wishes Trump will win just so he can move to Canada because the men are so hot. The rest of his routine consisted mostly of d-ck jokes.
Paula Bel, the only female comedian in the show, made the best Donald Trump joke. She rightfully pointed out that if Trump wants to stop all illegal immigration, he ought to start with those Eastern European women he keeps bringing into the US to marry. By pulling her long blonde hair across her forehead she faithfully replicated Trump’s comb over and did an imitation of his voice that filled me with awe at its accuracy.
Bobby Slayton was true to form. He did his customary picking on the audience, his target being a large breasted man. Slayton then addressed the elephant in the room: his wife’s death. Though it had happened only three months earlier, Slayton managed to make the tragedy both funny and deferential to his late wife while maintaining his comedy’s textbook raspy edge.
Brad Williams was next and he is a force to be reckoned with in comedy. Though small in stature, he’s not afraid to move around on stage to strengthen a joke. He used the Ward verdict to point out that when society has it too good we make stuff up to get upset about. Williams’ set also included his customary rants about his experiences as a dwarf and his understanding of people with kinks. He rightfully points that a guy claiming to have no sexual interests probably has a roll of duct tape and a van.
Last to go on was Ralphie May, a larger than life comedian from the Southern US. Though his routine was mostly about pleasuring women (those of you who have no idea how or what that is should send Cat McCarthy an email) , he included a joke about Canadian winters and took a jab at Brad Williams for identifying as a dwarf.
“You don’t have a battle axe. You’re not a dwarf!” May said.
The Nasty Show, sponsored by Pornhub is a must see, but if you’re a prude, or an overactive, oversensitive Social Justice Warrior, stay away. Grow a thicker skin or go to another show.
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.
July is here with all its humidity. It was disgusting outside yesterday, but that was the only thing I could complain about, really. In fact, the whole of Montreal should be squealing with glee right now because the world’s funniest festival is back in town!
Of course, I’m referring to the one and only Just For Laughs. In fact, JFL may be one of the only reasons why I’ve decided to stay in this city after school. (I may be slightly exaggerating because of all the free shows I get to see and review; but hey, bloody constructions everywhere, sheesh…)
JFL is celebrating its 34th birthday this year and as always, the schedule is jam-packed with hilarious comedians from all over the place. I’m excited to see such great comedians like Jimmy Carr, Cameron Esposito, Michelle Wolf, Aparna Nancherla… The list goes on.
But I’m particularly stoked about the Midnight Surprise, because no one knows who is gonna show up. Big-timers often go to these events before their big show to test out their material – and I wouldn’t mind accidentally bumping into David Cross, you know?
But today’s focus is The Ethnic Show; a spectacle that has a very interesting concept. The comedians who do their sets at this show are all “ethnic” – notwithstanding the fact that the word does not really mean what we expect it to mean.
The line-up is basically the set up for a joke: A Greek guy, an Italian guy, a Moroccan dude, a Jewish woman, a Lebanese guy, a Puerto Rican woman, and a Nigerian guy walk into a bar… I mean, the result is hilarious. And the comics seem to think so as well.
Before the show I talked with Jessica Kirson, who told me that she was looking forward to performing. Thursday’s show wasn’t the first show of the festival, so Jessica was already pumped to be doing the show.
“It feels good to be on the show,” Jessica said. “I’m the Jew on the show, so I’m very proud of my heritage and everything. I love talking about it, it’s great!” Indeed, Jessica’s set had a lot of stories about old Jewish women, who apparently all have the same facial expressions and all sound like Fran Drescher. But you probably already knew about that stereotype, right?
My favourite part about her set, though, was her talking to herself. Apparently it’s a gimmick that she does. At random points during the show, she turns her back to the audience and “comforts” herself by saying weird things about oatmeal. It’s bizarre and great.
Oh by the way, before I forget, she wanted me to write that “Yannis Pappas is an asshole.” Yannis, the “token Greek” of the show echoed her sentiment (in case it’s not obvious, this was a joke).
Speaking of Yannis, he started off his set by saying that he has been to Laval and is pretty sure that it’s a Greek island. Everyone else laughed at that; but, to be honest, I’ve never been to Laval (because I never really needed to) so I didn’t get the joke. I laughed anyway, because everyone else was also laughing, and I really did not want to stand out.
To my chagrin, Yannis did not have any jokes about Turkish people. I suppose the entire Greeks vs. Turks trope doesn’t really exist in North America, so that’s understandable. Regardless, I managed to get him to admit that “Yoghurt was probably not a Greek invention.”
However, he also told me before the show, “I’ll give you guys yoghurt, if you guys give us baklava.” I’ll let him get away with that because he was a good sport and a funny guy on stage.
You know who’s really cool though? Rachid Badouri. That guy had its first major anglophone show at JFL last year. He was also one of the comedians on the Ethnic Show last year.
This year, they got him to host the Ethnic Show and he was psyched. “They finally trusted me,” he told the audience – amazed. He repeated the same material from last year; but he’s still funny. It’s all in the delivery, I guess.
In addition to Rachid, Yannis, and Jessica, the Ethnic Show also features Godfrey, Gina Brillon, Nemr, and Dom Irrera. Now, all of these people are absolutely amazing. Godfrey killed it with a joke about how he wished humans would have mating calls and acting out a very riveting mating ritual that takes place at a dance club. Nemr explained to us that, in Lebanon (and in Turkey, I might add), people light a matchstick to check for gas leakages.
Gina talked about her up-bringing in Bronx and how the guys there would try to hook up with anything, including a literal broom with boob. Dom was great as well, portraying the stereotypical Italian guy perfectly. I also didn’t know this, but apparently, he was Ernie Potts in the Hey Arnold! TV series.
Bottom line is, go see the Ethnic Show. It’s fun, it’s different. Most of the time comedians put some background jokes into their sets, but the Ethnic Show allows them to craft an entire set out of their identities. I could talk about it for hours upon hours, but the best way to understand it is to see it.
You can see the Ethnic Show between July 13-28 at Club Soda and Metropolis. For more information, check out hahaha.com. In addition, Yannis Pappas, Jessica Kirson, and Gina Brillon have their own shows as well. So be sure to check them out.
Gina Brillon appears on the featured image, taken by Cem Ertekin.
Just for Laugh’s Ethnic Show markets itself as “the most culturally diverse show of the Festival.” And yeah, that’s pretty much true. The seven comics I watched last night at Club Soda came from a variety of different ‘ethnic’ backgrounds and their sets made sure everyone got a good laugh.
Entering Club Soda with my friend, the one question that I had in mind was “What the hell does ethnic mean anyway?” If you have a look at the line-up, you’ll see that none of the comics are what you would call Anglo-Saxon.
Ethnic, in this sense, does not necessarily have to do with skin color. It’s these people’s experiences as belonging to a minority group in North America that has made them fit the label ‘ethnic.’ And they seemed to be okay with it.
At the very beginning of the show, the host Alonzo Bodden reminded the audience that they would be offending everyone equally. Now, in this day and age, it could be really difficult for comics to talk about sensitive issues like race and ethnicity. To be honest, I’d like to think that it should be. I’m not saying that we should be censoring what people can say; but a comic making jokes about racial or ethnic topics should be self-aware.
After all, when people think about ethnic comedy, what pops into their heads are stereotypes. But there is so much more to the “ethnic” experience than old, cliche stereotypes. If such jokes based on stereotypes haven’t gone stale yet, it’s about time that they did.
Luckily, you’ll find very little of that in the Ethnic Show and that’s what I really liked about it. Essentially, these comics are telling their own stories about snippets from their own lives. They just happen to be from a certain ethnicity and that happens to colour these stories.
For instance, Rachid Badouri has a bit about parent-teacher meetings. At its core, his story is about a little boy whose father does funny things without even knowing. But because his father is Moroccan, the story takes on a different aspect. Still, the joke isn’t funny because Badouri is doing accent jokes, it’s funny because of how ridiculous the situation is – AND his facial expressions.
I especially loved Bodden’s performance as the host. He really knew how to get the audience excited and involved. In fact, I daresay some of his jokes got more laughs than some of the other acts.
I’d also urge you to pay special attention to Frank Spadone and Gina Yashere. For some reason I could really empathize with Spadone’s jokes about his family. As for Yashere, I’m simply a sucker for the kind of sarcastic Londoner humour she delivers so well.
Ronnie Chieng’s routine was also pretty funny. He told a story based on his observations at the airport line and delivered it very loudly. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t laughing because he was just screaming, but because he was screaming at an imaginary Asian person at an imaginary airpot for eating BBQ pork at the passport line. The way he set up the story made it impossible not to laugh.
I found Dan Naturman’s act a bit drier than the others. I suppose I find the single-forty-year-old-hitting-on-women routine is getting a bit old. Don’t get me wrong, though – I still laughed at Naturman.
All these comics are hilarious in their own way and not just because they do ethnic comedy. I get the feeling that they have bits in their routines about ethnicity, mostly because the name of the show is the Ethnic Show.
In my opinion, the Ethnic Show is all about great comics telling their own stories, but with us putting the label ‘ethnic’ on it.
In between the acts, Bodden kept asking audiences what they were. I think the purpose of that was to push the audience outside of their North American mind-frame. I mean, what is a Canadian, anyway? Most Canadians come from one “old country” or another.
Maybe I’m over-analyzing a great comedy show, but I think the concept of race and ethnicity deserves being over-analyzed. The show got me thinking and maybe it will do the same for you. But even if you’re in it just for laughs (get it?) I promise that you’ll have a fantastic time. Definitely check the Ethnic Show out.
The Ethnic Show is running between July 8 and July 19, twice every night at Club Soda. Check out the Just for Laughs website for more information.
Sir Patrick Stewart, Captain Jean-Luc Picard and Professor X himself, is coming to Montreal this summer.
No, he’s not here shooting the next X-Men film, though that shoot is happening in town. He’s not coming to sit on a panel and sign autographs at Comicon, he already did that a couple of years ago. He’s not performing Beckett or Shakespeare, either, at least we don’t think so.
He’s coming to do comedy. Specifically, he’ll be hosting a gala at Just for Laughs.
Make It So…Funny
After the initial excitement of such an icon coming to town settles, you may find yourself asking “is Patrick Stewart a comedian?” Well, not in the classic stand-up sense, but he can be funny as hell.
I know it might be hard to imagine the man known for badass and touching moments as a top-notch comedian, but he is. Just think of his roles on American Dad and Family Guy, his appearances on late-night shows like the Colbert Report and Jimmy Kimmel and you’ll know it’s true.
He is a master of spoofing his own public image. The overly dramatic, classically trained British actor can perform a sendup of himself like no other. It’s like Shatner but more classy. His Ice Bucket Challenge video is a prime example.
Already a Great Lineup
Sir Patrick Stewart will join a lineup of talent that is already quite exceptional. With the likes of Weird Al Yankovic, Dave Chapelle, incoming Daily Show host Trevor Noah, Neil Patrick Harris and Mike Meyers already headlining, this one looks like a real barn burner. And that doesn’t even mention the rest of the JFL lineup, the OFF-JFL lineup or performers playing Zoofest this year.
Now, with Stewart, JFL can boldly go…oh, forget the puns, here’s something to tide you over until he gets here:
* Patrick Stewart will host the July 22nd 9:45pm Gala at Place des Arts. For tickets and more: hahaha.com