Redefining ethnic comedy: The Ethnic Show @ JFL

JFL ethnic show stage

Having already seen The Nasty Show, where a group of established and up and coming comedians told the raunchiest jokes they could think of, I thought I had a good idea of what my first Just For Laughs Ethnic Show experience would be like. I was expecting a night of laughs stemming from the baggage that stereotypically comes with the cultures represented by the different comedians’ upbringing. I got the laughs, but their inspiration was much more varied than what I was expecting.

Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of jokes stemming from cultural differences sprinkled throughout the evening, more heavily in certain areas, like host Maz Jobrani’s two very solid routines and parts of Mike Marino’s set, though not the really funny part about electronic supermarket self-checkout (I don’t think frustration with grocery store stupidity is an exclusively Italian trait). But there was nothing close to a Russel Peters-style full imersion in jokes about race and background.

The only comedian who delt almost exclusively with ethnicity was Elon Gold. Erik Griffin didn’t touch on it at all, in fact, if you listened to his set without looking at him you’d find yourself trying to guess just what his background was. Meanwhile Angelo Tsarouchas came across as much Montreal, or more specifically Park Ex (no one messes with a Park Exer, not even in South Central LA) as he did Greek, while Marino was primarily representing New Jersey.

It was almost as if these very funny people from different backgrounds found humour in things everyone could relate to. While their upbringing did affect their approach to the subject matter, it wasn’t the only thing. You know, like regular people.

Sarcasm aside, my expectations for this show stemmed from my understanding of comedy as a medium that found it hard to go beyond the stereotype. I find it refreshing that my expectations weren’t met.

Just for Laughs is such a huge and internationally recognized festival, that it very well may be a trendsetter in the comedy world. If it can set a new trend for a shift in the concept of “ethnic” humour, then I’m all for it.

Preaching aside, I realize that this is a comedy review for the internet, not a Masters’ thesis. So, what did I think of the show? I liked it.

While there were no moments that had me in stitches, there were no dull or unfunny moments, either. It was their opening night, so things may get tighter and more hysterical as the run progresses. Also, it’s important to note that my fellow audience members seemed to be having the time of their lives (maybe this is what happens when you get a jaded news guy like me to review comedy).

What were my favourite parts? Tsarouchas’ set stood out, and not just because he answered my phone call or because he’s a local boy done good. Well, the local part does have something to do with it. Park Ex represent! St-Viateur bagel represent! Also Jobrani was a great host who really kept the night rolling and Marino struck a nerve…with my brother Joe, who was also in attendance, thanks to the aforementioned bit about supermarket checkouts, so it’s worthy of a mention.

The Ethnic Show runs as part of Just For Laughs until July 23rd, please visit hahaha.com for tickets

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