His humor is sometimes dangerously candid. He can make any timid audience balk in fear. But when you enter Brody Stevens’ den, as I did the other night at the confined space known as Montreal Improv, there is no coming back.

Like a motivational speaker’s pow wow, you feel the energy in the room and somehow you are changed. While his show is more of a therapeutic catharsis involving neurotic interjections then a typical comedy show, he kept the audience chuckling, but perhaps with only light psychologically scarring from shifting between fear and trembling.

When the lights dimmed and the show began, Stevens started with workout stretches. The evening only got more peculiar when he tried to channel the energy of the crowd. But that was what this eccentric star does best; makes his audience squirm as they are put in the actor’s studio hot seat, getting inundated by tough personal questions.

And in this way, his interactions with the audience, made us feel like we were all part of the show. And as the evening progressed he fed off the energy, from time to time demanding neurotically why we didn’t laugh at his jokes.

Brody Stevens off jfl 2

As the night progressed he twitched and lounged  with moments of hilarious agitation,  he snapped every time someone kicked over a beer bottle, and the audience loved every minute the charismatic idiosyncrasies that make Brody Stevens one of the most interesting faces in comedy. There’s a reason while he will be part of the  Funny or Die Odd Ball Festival, the guy epitomizes weirdo.

Known as a big sports fanatic (and lost a professional baseball player) Stevens has also warmed up crowds before tapings of The Best Damn Sports Show, The Man Show and Chelsea Lately. He also had his own HBO special Brody Stevens: Enjoy It! with Zach Galifianakis.

All night I sat in my seat, scared that he might pick on me. But then I realized there is No Way Out, this is not any regular comedy show. It’s a show where you might find yourself like poor “Tanya” featured with all the prepubescent audience members in a reenactment of Brody’s big scene in the Hangover.

If you want to see something fresh and new by way of comedy then this is a must see at the Just For Laughs., you’ll feel positive and great afterwards.

* Brody Stevens performs at Montreal Imporv until July 26th, tickets available through hahaha.com.

* photos by Chris Zacchia

It’s like déjà vu. Again we found ourselves at The Mainline Theatre for another OFF-JFL show. Tonight we were lucky enough to see Paul F Tompkins & Friends Real and Imagined.

The show opened up with a refreshing set by host Tompkins. It was funny and had the feel of a southern gentleman entertaining us with anecdotes. His set took the common comic theme of being newly married and gave it a new approach, which was both original and funny.

Demi Lardner off jfl
Demi Lardner

The first comedian up was Demi Lardner, an Australian comic whose style resembled Mitch Hedberg’s witty remarks. Her set was quick, and fun. The crowd responded well.

After Demi’s set, the host returned, this time decked out in a cape and crown and introduced as Andrew Lloyd Webber. He told us about the highs and lows of musicals. The crowd reacted well to this set but it could have benefited from being a little bit shorter and concise. Dressing up in royal garb and emitting the royalty sometimes associated with Webber is not the most original angle, and this hurt the overall feel of the set.

The next comedian up was Mark Forward. Although I felt Mark’s set was unimpressive and lacked a unifying theme, the crowd enjoyed it. Personally thought the jokes about generation bashing were overused and dry. This lack of originality made the set feel long and slow paced.

Mark made his finally appearance as a unique character, a parody of TLC’s The Cake Boss, but this one had the power to read minds.  The bit had originality and showed off some impressive imporv skill when he called on the crowd to ask him about their future.

Overall Paul F Tompkins & Friends Real and Imagined was a good show. Though there were low points, the comics always found a way to kept the show heading in the right direction.

Paul F Tompkins & Friends Real and Imagined runs until July 26th,. tickets available through hahaha.com

* photos by Chris Zacchia

Al Madrigal wants you to know that he is the result of assimilation. He is a third Generation Mexican American who can barely speak a word of Spanish, but actually listening to him you’d think he is from Arizona.

His nasally voice and straight face delivery makes him naturally funny as a fake news correspondent on The Daily Show. Since he was recently added to the Comedy Central show’s line up he has brought a humorous take on American culture and been able to show how an assimilated American can act just like a “real” American.

You can barely tell them apart. And really that’s his point; American culture is a collection of diverse cultures that have become a life filled with homogeneous monotony that needs to be mocked.

Before this gig, Al Madrigal had been getting acclaim for his stand up work. Recently, he was knighted Best Stand up Comedian at the HBO/US College in Aspen.

One thing Al Madrigal does well is to show the folly of systems. I suppose that is because he has never really fit into the system, being classified un-American but being unable to identify with any marginalized ethnicity He is a social order comic exposing many of the problems inherent in that order

Although I was waiting for him do this famous routine the Maid is on Las Drugas, a story of his college days, I still laughed at his new material, especially his story about the day he found out he was a Mexican comic when he was put on a lineup featuring only Mexican comics.

Another highlight was when he did some family-focused humour, telling us about when he wasn’t allowed into his daughter’s ballet dress rehearsal while the creepy lighting guy was.

While packing a punch with many jokes, including some controversial ones, there were a few silent moments. Still, most of his jokes hit hard and home and many dealt with his identity crisis which we learned is because Al Madrigal’s apparently Mexican Ameircan?

Al Madrigal performs as part of OFF-JFL until July 26th. For tickets, please visit hahaha.com

* Photos by Chris Zacchia

Last night we traveled to the MainLine Theatre to see Stand Up Strip Down, a night filled with laughs and butts.

I want to start of by saying going to an Off JFL show is an experience in itself. When you take a seat at the Main Line and look around, you cant help but think, shit, this is what every comedy show in every movie I have ever seen looks like, cool. You also realize that everybody knows everybody, the crowd is a mix of die hard Off JFL’ers, locals and comics that just finished their sets. They all join together to form a sort of funny cult, but instead the arsenic in the cool aid is swapped out for a mild hallucinogenic that side effects include hysterical laughing.

A memorable venue, cool crowd and an atmosphere that only comes around when doors open at midnight, are all elements of a great show the final elements needed are a good host and a solid line up, both were accounted for.

DeAnne Smith was responsible for hosting this night of laughs and moderate nudity. If you have seen DeAnne Smith preform you know she’s great, so obviously when it came to hosting she kept that reputation going.

DeAnne’s comedic style is truly a pleasure to watch. She effortless blends several forms of comedy and puts her own unique twist on it. From the self-deprecative to the anecdotal, to the sarcastic, DeAnne can do it all while engaging with the audience in a way that reflects an old school attitude.

DeAnne’s high energy hosting not only got the show off to a good start, it also set the tone for the entire audience. An audience of which DeAnne was a part.

It’s really cool to see the host sitting in front of you having as much fun as you are. It reminds you of the first time you and your friends got an older sibling to rent an R rated comedy and you all watched it together in your parent’s den, dying of laughter only taking breaks to reenact what you just saw. Comedy is one of the few things in life that can’t be faked, sure you can dress funny but as soon as you take the stage every one will know what’s good. DeAnne Smith you good.

DeAnne let lose a lineup of funny and unique comics upon us, each feeding off the crowd and using that energy to keep the show going strong. In between comics, DeAnne would introduce a new burlesque dancer to perform a routine, including such local luminaries of the Burlesque scene as Miss Sugarpuss.

This was my first Burlesque show. If you have never seen burlesque before I don’t want to ruin it for you but it’s really cool, especially when the performers acts take on a comedic edge, for example one act was about a widow but DeAnne reassured the crowd by saying “don’t worry she’s a horny widow.”

In this show, Burlesque and comedy go hand in hand. To fully understand this synergy you have to see it for yourself.

Stand Up Strip Down is a show that I highly recommend you go see. It’s not only super original and funny but it provides the sort of rare, elusive innocence being ruined feel we all had when we decided to start watching comedy.

Stand Up / Strip Down runs until Thursday, please visit hahaha.com for tickets