Models. Dance Numbers. Glitz, glam, multiple outfit changes. The Laverne Cox gala dazzled in production quality and sheer aesthetics, from the hilarious (and extremely effective) hype man to the flawlessly toned legs of our fabulous host in a wide array of black high-cut leotards.

The only thing that didn’t live up the excellently executed night was, unfortunately, also the main point of the evening. For a production that hit so many high notes, the actual comedy fell a little bit flat.

Not to say the comedy was bad, which it wasn’t. It was full of the kind of jokes you might reply ‘LOL’ to in a text message, while your passive facial expression remains unchanged. But of all of the shows I saw at this year’s Just For Laughs festival, this one certainly got the fewest laugh-out-loud moments from me.

It actually featured one of my personal festival favorites, Ryan Hamilton, who I thought might improve my impression of the comedy that night, and perhaps even warm me up for the next comic. But all of the jokes he ended up telling were ones that he had already told at his own show (which I already reviewed) earlier in the festival, and didn’t quite have the same effect on me as the first time around. Perhaps this is better for him, as his show would be one that I would recommend.

For the first time at the festival, I found myself wondering how many comics were left until I could go home.

Laverne, I love you. You’re an inspiration to millions, and your legs are amazing. However, with all of the options available at a major comedy festival like Just For Laughs, the Laverne Cox Gala would not be one that I would recommend.

It can’t be that the timing was off, as the show itself was so well timed, with all the right beats hit during the dance number and every strut in perfect sync during the catwalk. This particular comedy line up, unfortunately, didn’t really do it for me, and as the comedy was supposed to be the main point of the show, I can’t say that it really lived up to my expectations.

As such, I can’t recommend in good conscience that you, dear reader, go and spend your hard-earned cash to see this show at what’s supposed to be a comedy festival. You’re better off spending the money on a Netflix subscription to watch Orange Is The New Black if you want to see Laverne Cox.

There aren’t a lot of things you can reasonably expect to be shocked by at the Just For Laughs festival.

Featuring long-running shows with names like The Ethnic Show and The Nasty Show, if there was some way that you wandered into a comedy fest and did not know what you were getting yourself into, you would really have nobody to blame but yourself.

So I came into this festival fully braced for whatever could be thrown at me. Bring on the jokes about sex, women, weight, addiction, depression, and ethnicity. I was expecting all of it.

What I did not expect was Ryan Hamilton.

Disarmingly funny, Ryan Hamilton: Edgy, Boundary-Pushing Comedian, had me in stitches more consistently than any other show I’ve seen so far at Just For Laughs. And most amazingly, it was done without a single dirty joke, slapstick dick joke, or even one swear word.

I had almost forgotten that very good comedy could exist that was—shockingly, amazingly—not R-rated, and full of feel-good humour that you could reasonably take your niece to go and see without her parents getting angry. It was fresh, poignant, and light-hearted without sacrificing depth.

The only complaint I have about this show is that I wish it had been longer. The opener, Ivan Decker, could have done an entire show by himself. Though he shared the clean style that was clearly thematic, he had his own refreshing brand and a unique stage presence that I haven’t seen before. I’ll be looking out for him in the future.

My friend Sabs, a cynic at the best of times, said it best on our way out of the theatre: “That was a really nice way to end a day. Laughing at stuff like that, it felt good.” And indeed, Ryan Hamilton has achieved something that I had forgotten even was a thing: high quality humour that doesn’t leave you feeling even a little bit dirty.

At a place like JFL, an idea like that is really edgy, and truly boundary-pushing.


Ryan Hamilton: Edgy, Boundary-Pushing Comedian runs through July 29th. Get your tickets through

Also check out Ryan Hamilton’s Netflix special, Happy Face, premiering this August 29th

Ryan Hamilton is an exception to the rule ‘nice guys finish last’.

A wickedly funny dude, obviously, he’s frequently impressed both industry insiders and layman comedy fans by winning numerous major comedy competitions including Last Comic Standing and The Great American Comedy Fest, and has been named one of Rolling Stone’s Five Comics to Watch, all the while maintaining the kind of down-to-Earth attitude that can only come from Small Town America.

Here, I sit down, by myself, and talk with Ryan Hamilton over a shitty cellular connection while he sits down, also by himself, in a hotel room somewhere on his busy tour schedule.

[Interview condensed for length]

Ellana Blacher: So I googled you, are you aware that the Wikipedia page baring your name already belongs to someone?

Ryan Hamilton: Yeah, I saw that actually. A hockey player, right?

EB: Yeah, you’re Ryan Hamilton (Comedian). He’s not Ryan Hamilton (Hockey Player), he’s just Ryan Hamilton.

RH: Well it’s a pretty common name.

EB: And Hamilton has been pretty popular lately, what with the Broadway play and all.

RH: It’s been great for me. People think they’re getting a great deal on Hamilton [The Musical], but they’re actually getting tickets to my show. So then they see me instead.

EB: It can’t be that much of an accident; you’ve won a bunch of major comedy competitions. You even won Sierra Mist’s America’s Next Great Comic, and they aren’t even around anymore.

RH: It’s true! I outlived Sierra Mist!

EBL And you opened for Seinfeld last month! How was that? A lot of people compare your comedy style to a young Jerry Seinfeld.

RH: It was just great. Yeah him and I were talking about that, we don’t see it. We don’t think our styles are that similar, I think it’s just that we both have kind of a more clean style of comedy so we get lumped together.

EB: I can see that. Well, you’re both in town for Just For Laughs. You’ve been a mainstay at this festival for a while. And you play a lot of comedy shows. Do you find there’s a difference from festival to festival?

RH: Every show is different, honestly. Even the same one from year to year. Every one really has its own life, its own feeling, and they’re all great.

EB: Have you ever spent any time in Montreal outside of Just For Laughs?

RH: Uh, no, actually. I’d really like to but I’m always travelling. I’m always on the road.

EB: Well that must be nice. I see that the potato farming community you’re from in Idaho only has a population of about a thousand people as of the last census. How did you even get into comedy from that?

RH: I started off in journalism actually, writing for a local paper. I just called them up and asked if I could have a column, and they let me. And after a while another paper started publishing me too, and then I started helping write behind the scenes for a local news channel, and it felt so great when things I had written, little funny things, made it to air. And then I left comedy for about eight years.

EB: How did you find your way back to it?

RH: Well I never really thought of comedy as a serious career option. That wasn’t really a thing where I was from; we didn’t even have a comedy club in town. And then I lost my job, and then decided, hey, I should give comedy a serious try, and if it doesn’t work out, then at least I’ll know.

EB: And now you have an upcoming Netflix special and a series of solo shows. Tell me about that.

RH: Well we filmed the Netflix special back in May. And the show’s kind of a preview for it. It’s called Ryan Hamilton: Edgy, Boundary-Pushing Comedian. It was kind of a joke, based on something my friend said.
But now, that’s what I am.

You can see Ryan Hamilton in Montreal as part of the Just For Laughs festival from July 24th-29th. Get your tickets through

And in the meantime, get familiar with this rising star’s unique, clean comedy style.

Here’s Ryan Hamilton performing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:

And here’s his Just For Laughs Reel