Comedian and writer Wyatt Cenac has performed standup in a variety of venues over the years, some big, some small, some rather unique. But does the type of venue affect his performance?

“It’s not the type of venue as much as the type of crowd,” he said in a telephone interview, “that’s the wild card. If it’s a rowdy crowd, you have to adjust for that. In theory you want them to pay attention to you but if they’re drunk and yelling and all that, it’s hard to keep yelling a bunch of jokes if you’re not able to compete with everyone else. If it’s a small, intimate crowd, you can get a little more personal.”

When he performed at Just for Laughs for the first time two years ago, it was in the Cafe Cleopatre performance space upstairs from the strip club.

“The crowds were great,” he remembers, “they were really fun crowds. All the shows I did at Cafe Cleopatre were super fun. I don’t recall having a negative experience. Even at the small showcase shows I did, the crowds were always fun and they seemed like they wanted to be supportive.”

Around the time he was last performing in Montreal, an interview he did on Marc Maron’s WTF podcast started getting attention. Cenac told Maron that when he was a Daily Show correspondent and writer, at-the-time host Jon Stewart once yelled at him in the writer’s room after he was critical of an impression Stewart had done of Herman Cain.

The two “made up” on air during Stewart’s final episode as host and since then the Comedy Central flagship show has been under new management, so to speak. I asked Cenac what he thought of the current Daily Show with Trevor Noah.

“They’re doing a great job,” he said, “with shows like that, it’s such a fun opportunity to get to make the show every night that you can comment on things and can also go and do field pieces. You can be very imaginative in what you do but at the same time be grounded in a reality that hopefully everyone has a context for.”

Cenac has previously worked with Noah and current correspondents Roy Wood, Jr., Ronnie Chieng and Michelle Wolf. He has high hopes for them and the people still working on the show who were there when he was.

“It’s a very interesting time for them,” he observed, adding: “They’ve definitely found their groove and what the show is and I’m very happy for all of them.”

Given all this, I asked Cenac if a return to The Daily Show was potentially in the cards for him.

“No, it’s it’s own thing,” he responded, “with shows like that, regardless of who’s behind the desk, when you do it you’re there for your time and when you leave it’s somebody else’s opportunity, somebody else’s ship to sail and I’m on the shore happily watching it sail…when you go, you go.”

Cenac’s comedy has always had a strong political undercurrent. With some of the current US administration’s actions just as ridiculous as satire, it could make doing political comedy tough. Cenac doesn’t think so.

“I think it’s still just as challenging as it’s always been,” he observed, “it’s funny because I remember after Barack Obama got elected in 2008 the conversation was ‘How can people do comedy when Barack Obama is President?’ He seemed to be such a well intentioned, nice guy that isn’t right for comedy, especially coming out of the Bush Administration where you had a bunch of ridiculous characters. I feel that comedy did well for itself for the last eight years. And in the previous eight before that, I think people were able to do well with characters that were equally as bizarre as the Trump administration has been.”

Cenac actually once did an impression of then-Senator Barack Obama. He didn’t think it was that good of an impression.

“The other problem,” he noted, “was I had to shave to do the impression. I kind of like looking like a werewolf, so I was not built for sketch comedy in that way.”

What he was built for is storytelling interspersed with astute political commentary that will have the audience laughing the whole way through. That’s what I experienced at his JFL set two years ago.

This year, Cenac will be across the street from Cafe Cleopatre hosting an All Access TV taping in Club Soda. If you want to know what to expect, well…

“I’m not 100% sure, I still haven’t figured it out,” he said (two weeks ago),  noting that he has been in Toronto for the past nine months working on a TV show, “it could just me me on stage trying to figure out the shooting schedule for when I get back.”

I’m sure it won’t be that, but if it was, I’m sure Wyatt Cenac could make it hilarious.

All Access Live hosted by Wyatt Cenac is July 29th at 7 and 10pm, tickets available through hahaha.com

* Featured image of Wyatt Cenac performing at Just for Laughs in 2015 by Jason C. McLean

For the past seven years local cartoonist Samantha Leriche-Gionet has attended the Montreal Comic Convention with copies of her autobiographical comic strip, Boumeries, in hand. The graduate of Concordia University’s Film Animation department has made a career for herself chronicling the ups, downs and in-betweens of daily life by finding humor in everything from raising young children to having vivid dreams on a nightly basis.

To get a sense of how our annual Con has evolved, FTB took a moment to speak with the artist about the challenges facing illustrators working the convention circuit, finding French readers in unexpected places and the double-edged sword of celebrity.

Forget The Box: Do you feel like there’s been enough support for you here on home soil to build your brand or do you feel like you get further along outside Montreal or Quebec?

Samantha Leriche-Gionet: No, I do much better here. I used to sell equal amounts of English and French copies at Montreal Comic Con, but that shifted when I started getting somewhat popular and because I’m a local, I’m going to attract a lot more Francophones.

So now, for the last volume I printed 500 in French and 100 in English. The ratio is really unbalanced now but I do sell a lot of English copies on the web and it’s nice to have English copies if I want to travel. When I went to Seattle, I didn’t bring any French copies and the first person who stopped by my booth addressed me in French and said “I’m from Calgary but I’m from Quebec originally. Do you have any French copies?” [Laughs] I have a bigger readership here than anywhere else.

Is it cathartic chronicling your personal life in your comic strip?

Yes!

It’s also a great document to look back on….

Yes, it’s a really great archive. I didn’t think of it that way at all when I started doing it. Even after having kids, I would just keep doing the comic and then I’d forget about some strips and then when I read the books again I’ll go, “oh yeah – my daughter used to do that!”

Now, I’m aware that on top of baby photos my kids are going to have a bunch of comics about them to look through. They’re probably going to be angry with me at some point over some gags I’ve written about them or something they did. I’m not making fun of them though.

How do you choose what to edit out of the stories?

I never want my kids or [my partner] Pierre-Luc to be the butt of the joke. Pierre-Luc can veto anything. Usually he vetoes it right away – “don’t put this in the comic!” My kids can’t do that yet. My oldest knows it’s her and her sister but she doesn’t get that the whole story is about them yet. I just try not to make fun of them because I don’t want to. I try to depict them in a funny light. I want them to be likeable and fondly remembered. It’s not that big of a problem. I know when something is good enough for the comic.

What conventions, other than the Montreal Comic Con, have you attended?

TCAF in Toronto, VanCAF in Vancouver, Emerald City Comicon in Seattle. Here, I do the Montreal Comic Arts Festival, Expozine which is in the fall and I do Otakuthon which is an anime con, which is pretty good for me because there is less of a focus on comics.

We are three cartoonists, so if people are looking for comics in French they have three choices. There’s a small comics festival in Prevost, in the Laurentians. I did a really crummy convention in Toronto that doesn’t exist there anymore called Wizard World. The franchise exists but not in Toronto anymore. It was really bad. I did okay, but…

Bad terms of sales, you mean?

I sold one book in three days and out of desperation I started taking ten dollar commissions and paid for the whole trip with those. I did forty-five, I think. It was exhausting. I’m never doing that again!

What have you seen change here at the Montreal Comic Con in terms of the way people come through Artist’s Alley and check out art?

Well, the place got much bigger so I don’t think it’s to our advantage really because people get lost. They say “oh I’ll be back later” and they never find you again. Of course that’s also a good excuse if they don’t want to buy anything [Laughs]. And of course there are a lot more artists than there used to be.

Comic Con is not on the growth curve for me actually. I did better this year than last year but just barely. It’s not a great Con for me but it’s an okay Con so I still do it.

It’s often said there are different atmospheres at different conventions…

Yes.

Do you feel, as other attendees have expressed, that the focus at this event has shifted more towards promoting the big-name celebrities?

Yes, more than before. I heard that David Tennant was something like 130 bucks if you wanted an autograph or a photo-op, I can’t recall which, but it explains why people are hesitant to buy anything. People also have to pay to get in, so it gets expensive.

I don’t do commissions but other artists here do and attendees don’t really order commissions at all. If you go to Ontario or the States, it’s basically what everyone wants. I have a friend who usually pays for her table with commissions and she was complaining all weekend because no one orders commissions.

At other conventions, do you find people will ask for commissions even if they aren’t familiar with your work?

Yes. They see “Commissions” and they’re interested.

Has there been a highlight to this year’s Con for you?

[Laughs] This isn’t a highlight but somebody told me it’s too bad I don’t have PAW Patrol merchandise and I wanted to tell him that PAW Patrol stuff is everywhere. Why did you come to Comic Con looking for PAW Patrol stuff?

I do love when kids buy my books. I love when kids know what it is. Adults are nice too, but kids are special. I think my ideal target audience is geeky parents.

What would you like to see change as the Con evolves in years to come, if anything?

I’d like the prices to drop but that’s impossible. I don’t know. I’m doing okay.

What’s next for you? More Boumeries…?

Yes. I’m also illustrating a series of children’s novels. I’m working on two comics at once: one that I’m only illustrating and one that I’m doing completely by myself. I already have a publisher behind it.

Is it weird being a local celebrity of sorts and having fans recognize you? I remember once seeing someone asking you and Pierre-Luc for a photo…

People feel like they know me. Yeah, it’s weird. I’m the one doing the comics so I’m okay with it. Pierre-Luc found it weirder so he doesn’t come to conventions a lot, in part because of that. People know a bunch of stuff about me. Some people I don’t even recognize. They’ll say hi and I’ll wonder “who are you?” But it’s nice to have three days of people saying “your work is awesome!” even if they don’t buy anything. Just hearing “this is great, I’ve read it, keep it up.” That’s my real pay.

You can check out Samantha Leriche-Gionet’s work, including Boumeries, at comics.boumerie.com

Jessica Kirson is a comedian all can admire. She’s funny, she’s fearless and she has a versatility few comedians have, shifting seamlessly from social commentary to hilarious impressions. She has the kind of energy most can only match after several cups of caffeine, and though she’s been through her share of struggles, Kirson has managed to find humour in all.

Jessica Kirson is performing at Just for Laughs’ Ethnic Show this year. I had a chance to speak to her. Here’s what we talked about.

SG: Welcome to Montreal, you excited about being here?

JK: I’m very excited about being here! I LOVE Montreal. This is my fourth time doing the festival and it’s great.

SG: How would you describe your style of comedy?

JK: I don’t have a style. I do all different kinds of comedy, I do characters, pretty high energy, very honest, real, talk about my family a lot… I’m not really a joke teller, I’m more of a high energy comic.

SG: I notice you do a lot of impressions. Who do you like to do most?

JK: I like doing my grandmother, my Jewish grandmother mostly because it’s so familiar to me.

SG: What was she like?

JK: She was amazing. She was the reason I got into standup, she was the one who called me over to her table one day and said you should be a comedian, every time people are around you they’re laughing. I never thought I could do it but I listened to her and took a class 19 years ago. Very strong woman, powerful, very honest, she was beautiful.

SG: In the history of standup comedy there have been a lot of Jewish comedians. Why do you think that is?

JK: I think humour comes from pain… I think the Jewish community and the culture have turned a lot of difficult situations into humour and tried to find a lighter way of dealing with it… In my family there was always a kind of laughter and being silly and everyone joking around and this was a way of dealing with pain.

SG: You make a lot of jokes about being heavy in your comedy. Showbiz seems unfairly dominated by thin women. How has being curvy affected your career?

JK: I don’t talk about that a lot anymore because I lost a hundred pounds. I do talk about it a little bit because it’s a demon of mine, food and food addiction and binge eating and everything… I’m very honest on stage so I do talk about it… I don’t care what the industry wants or doesn’t want, I am who I am. I feel like it hasn’t affected me when it comes to being a comedian, being heavy/not being heavy. I’m glad I haven’t made a career because of my looks.

SG: Do you think comedy is more forgiving in that way?

JK: I think standup comedy is. I don’t know so much about movies and getting a major part on a sitcom but I’ve done an enormous amount of television and movies even when I was at my heaviest. I think if you’re funny, you’re funny and you get work, but I know for much more female comics now it’s much more a part of their persona and their image on the internet –about body and body image… and it was never like that when I started.

SG: You’re doing the Ethnic Show this year. Do you consider yourself an ethnic comedian?

JK: I do talk about where I’m from and my family and my experience and my background, so yes… I do a lot of different ethnicities and characters.

SG: Comedians seem to be having a field day with American politics right now. Are you planning to take a shot at it?

JK: I don’t talk about politics a lot in my act. I don’t think it’s funny. I’m actually pretty horrified at everything going on but I do talk about it in a roundabout way… For example, I might talk about gay marriage or something. I won’t talk about it from a serious point of view, I’ll talk about it making fun of people who are against it and why.

SG: You’re doing Just for Laughs the Ethnic Show. You’ve also got a Youtube channel, The Jessy K Show, and the Jessica Kirson Podcast. Tell me about those.

JK: I have different stuff online. I have a lot of stuff on the Jessy K Show on Youtube and I have a lot of videos on my Facebook page, and I have a new podcast called Fat Pig and that is with another comic, a very close friend of mine, Frank Liotti, and we talk about food addiction and funny stories with food and our struggles and we have guests on and stuff.

SG: Do you feel that will empower other women who go through the same stuff?

JK: It does. It empowers a lot of people, we get a ton of feedback and emails and all kinds of things and people just love it because we’re very very honest. We talk about our own experiences and also make light of it.

SG: How do you feel about Montreal audiences?

JK: I think Montreal audiences are incredible. A lot of times it’s real comedy audiences so they want to see it, they want to laugh, they’re smart, they’re cultured. I love Canadian audiences.

SG: Are there any other projects we can look forward to seeing from you in the coming year?

JK: Working on a television show right now about my mother being a therapist and I have a lot of stuff going on online. The podcast has been growing and growing.

SG: If you could say one thing to your audience right now, what would it be?

JK: Be silly, always be silly and not take things too seriously and try and find humour in every situation when you can, when you’re ready, and fight fear and do things that feel uncomfortable because you live once.

Jessica Kirson performs as part of The Ethnic Show running until July 27th. Tickets available through hahaha.com

This won’t me Moshe Kasher’s first visit to Montreal, or to Just for Laughs. The comedian, writer and actor has been performing regularly here since his first appearance at the fest in 2009.

“I love Montreal,” he stated in a telephone interview, “this will be my fifth or sixth time coming to Montreal, so I feel like I know the city and I like it. The only thing is I’d like to get out to the wilderness surrounding the city. Other than that, I’ve seen it all…You guys already know this, but you’re a special city.”

2017 will, however, be the first time Kasher hosts JFL All Access. This is also the year where he became a TV talk show host with the new Comedy Central show Problematic (airs on MUCH in Canada).

“With my podcast, we were doing a topical show every month taking on a different topic and then the political climate changed and there needed to be more big conversations,” Kasher said, explaining the origins of the show.

“Conversations are important,” he continued, “and conversations, I think now more than ever need to happen. What is happening in our world is that when we disagree with people we stop talking and my philosophy on life is that when we disagree with each other we should begin having conversations.”

Problematic sees Kasher talking to a variety of internet trolls and provocateurs who are unable to hide behind their handles as well as celebrity guests and pundits. Shows are centered on a particularly, um, problematic corner of the web.

The show, which has already completed its seven episode first season has a stated mission to “bring peace and harmony to the internet”, a mission he is trying to accomplish on cable TV. I asked him why not do it on the web directly.

“Maybe we will. I’m still waiting to figure out if we’re doing more, so maybe for the next one, if we’re not, it will be on YouTube or Hulu or something like that,” he said, later adding that the distinction between the web real life is fading and the distinction between the internet and TV is something which will soon disappear.

Something that remains different, for Kasher, is performing live in front of an audience:

“That is one of the great divides between the internet and real life is that you cannot fake a live performance.”

While performing for TV and the web as well as in films offer a similar experience, for Kasher, there’s nothing quite like performing for a live audience.

Montrealers will have a chance to see Kasher in his live element when he hosts All Access, something he promises will be “wild and exciting” while featuring a wide array of comics. He is happy he is getting the chance to host one of the All Access TV tapings at a festival that welcomed him since he was one of the “new faces” of comedy.

Just don’t expect him to weigh in on one of Montreal’s most longstanding controversies. I asked this frequent visitor what he thought about our bagels and he admitted he likes them, but when asked his preference between Fairmount and St-Viateur, he responded:

“I don’t know that I’d want to involve myself in a political controversy.”

All Access Live Hosted by Moshe Kasher is on July 27th. Tickets available through hahaha.com

The Ethnic Show is described by Just for Laughs as “a cultural melting pot for comedy”. This year is its ninth edition and comedians from a variety of backgrounds are here to show their comedic mettle. Some are well-known, some less so, but one thing is for certain, you’re guaranteed a good time even if every style of comedy is not your thing.

This year’s host is Alonzo Bodden, a last minute replacement for Maz Jobrani who had to drop out due to a family emergency. An African American comedian, Bodden’s set began with an apology for Donald Trump, adding:

“Don’t look at me, I’m black…This is on white people!”

This was not his only potshot at the Orange president, but the worst of his wrath was directed at US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, whom he none-too-subtly suggested was a modern Uncle Tom. Direct and brutal, Bodden proved himself a worthy host and I overheard many audience members praising him as the best act of the show.

Vlad Camano (photo courtesy Just for Laughs)

Next up was Vladimir Camaño, a Dominican American from the Bronx. Of all the acts that night, Camaño’s was the most physical and interesting to watch, as he uses a lot of animal references in his act and manages to contort his body to represent everything from a deer to pigeons. His material is a combination of mocking his Dominican father and potshots at rich people but his best jokes were about sex which managed to be both self-deprecating and original.

Third in line was Mike Rita, a Portuguese Canadian who performed at last year’s Homegrown Comics Show. His material is reminiscent of Russell Peters in that it’s all about growing up with immigrant parents and how widely their beliefs and attitudes differ from North Americans. Like Peters, he imitates his parents right down to their accents and though most of his jokes were the same ones he told last year, Rita’s energy manages to keep it funny despite the lack of originality.

Before mentioning the next act, it should be said that I am not a fan of musical comedy acts and I fully acknowledge my prejudice. Musical comedy acts often consist of either great musicians and lousy comedians or vice versa, and sooner or later said acts fade into obscurity, realizing that not everyone can be Weird Al.

Somehow the next act proved to be neither.

Said act is The Do Wops, a musical comedy duo of John Catucci – known to Food Network fans as the former star of You Gotta Eat Here!– and David Mesiano, a couple of Italian guys who asked that they be described as:

“One plays the guitar, the other is an asshole.”

The Do Wops (image courtesy Just for Laughs)

Catucci, the “asshole” of the group, danced, sang and girated while Mesiano played guitar and sang along. Their jokes were funny and there’s no doubt that they can both sing, but somehow the comedy and music didn’t quite mesh and they were actually funnier when there was no musical accompaniment.

The whole thing reminded me of an exchange between Groucho and Chico Marx in the 1930 film Animal Crackers when Groucho asks Chico, a musician, what he charges not to play. “You couldn’t afford it” is the reply.

The Do Wops were followed by Steve Byrne, a Korean and Irish American who has been doing comedy for twenty years.

Of all the performers that night, he was the only one to do an imitation of the American president. Though Byrne’s take on the Orange man’s voice was on the Satanic side, it was appropriate given the latter’s behavior. If there’s one word to describe Steve Byrne, it’s fearless. He doesn’t just take jabs at his fellow Asians, mercilessly tackling stereotypes, but also takes jabs at Jews and Caucasians.

In this respect his act started out strong. Unfortunately, about halfway through it went downhill as he started ranting about Millenials.

I understand why comedians and people in general take potshots at young people. We don’t tolerate racism, or sexism, or homophobia, or transphobia, and we make demands that people be respectful and pay fair wages. Rather than take responsibility for bad behavior, it’s easier to shift blame back onto victims by calling them whiny and entitled. I also understand that older people have the money to buy tickets to big comedy shows – much if not most of the audience were baby boomers – and many younger attendees are there on someone else’s charity, so it’s perfectly natural to want to pander.

That said, taking shots at Millenials seems incredibly lazy, as most of the material talking about the evils of safe spaces and accusing young people of being soft has already been written a hundred times over by every entitled baby boomer with an internet connection.

Sadly, Byrne’s bit about Millenials had nothing original in it, and prefacing it by saying he loved them couldn’t save the rest of his act. At least older audience members were laughing.

Last to take the stage was Jessica Kirson, who boldly announced herself as “The Jew”.

Jessica Kirson describes herself as a high energy comic and when you see her performance, you know it’s absolutely true. She is the type of comedian who tells stories, but she tells them with the kind of energy that has you laughing hysterically while on the edge of your seat trying to hear more.

Like many comedians, she does impressions, but unlike other acts, she doesn’t limit herself to family members and celebrities. No one from her elderly Jewish audiences in Florida to her Asian pedicurist were spared her impressions, which were so outlandish and exaggerated they managed not to be offensive.

Some would describe her as loud and shrill, but others, myself included, say she’s brave and talented and knows it. Her most outstanding feat was combining a joke about kids and a joke about dildos in a way that wouldn’t offend anyone except the worst of prudes.

But I’m not going to spoil that one.

Go see The Ethnic Show.

The Ethnic Show runs July 14-27, tickets available through hahaha.com

* Featured image of Alonzo Bodden courtesy Just for Laughs

If you happen to spot a Power Ranger or Sailor Scout in the days ahead, do not be alarmed. It’s simply that special time of year again, when fanboys and girls of all ages gather at the Palais de Congres for three days of celebrities, cosplay and comic books. Yes, the Montreal Comic Con is back in full swing this weekend and expecting some 60 000 visitors with a passion for all things sci-fi and spandex.

Those who’ve frequented local cons since the early 2000s have seen these gatherings grow from modest affairs in hotel ballrooms to an annual event proudly featuring the likes of Patrick Stewart and Nathan Fillion. But while Hollywood heavy-hitters are sure to draw in the crowds, it’s important not to overlook the ones who do the actual…well, drawing.

Yes, there was once a time – back before geekdom went mainstream – when comic book conventions were focused more on actual comic books than comic adaptations. Of course, those were the days when superheroes rarely made the transition to television let alone the big screen. Now, we can watch the adventures of Supergirl and Preacher from our living-rooms while Wonder Woman and the Guardians of the Galaxy battle at the multiplex for box office supremacy.

It’s impossible not to be excited about that, but as films like Batman V Superman have shown, adaptations can often pale in comparison to the source material. Why not then seize this opportunity to spend some time with the creative minds who’ve been fueling these franchises for decades and truly understand what makes these characters great?

Case in point: Ty Templeton. This Ontario-based Renaissance Man has worked in just about every area of the entertainment industry – and has the hilarious anecdotes to prove it – but is probably best known for helping to adapt the Emmy Award-winning Batman: The Animated Series for comics. The celebrated tie-in book, The Batman Adventures, debuted in 1992 and proved so popular DC kept it going for another twelve years, long after the animated series concluded its run in 1999.

Templeton provided scripts, covers and interior art for the all-ages book, which won several Eisner Awards during its run and is widely considered to feature some of the best Batman stories of all time. He’s also written for Bongo Comics’ Simpsons books and provided art for DC’s recent Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet series.

Templeton’s sense of humor and passion for comics is evident in all his work, but especially his weekly online comic strip Bun Toons, which cleverly comments on comic book culture and even politics in as few as six panels. If you happen upon his booth, don’t be surprised to see him regaling a group fans with one of his rousing stories. He’s an entertaining one to be sure.

…not that he’s the only one with stories to tell. Comics legend Neal Adams will also be in attendance and hosting a panel called The Sordid History of Comic Books. Having worked on characters as diverse as Tarzan, the X-Men, Green Lantern and Batman, he has a wealth of knowledge to share with both readers and aspiring comic artists.

In addition to having drawn Superman’s famous boxing match against Muhammad Ali and co-created the villain Ra’s Al Ghul, Adams is especially well regarded within the artistic community for having stood up to the big publishers in the 1970s to ensure creator’s rights were being respected. His efforts saw Avengers creator Jack Kirby and Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster get long-overdue credit for their contributions to the medium, and helped ensure today’s crop of comic book artists aren’t at the mercy of their employers. If anyone can speak to the industry’s sordid past and possibly brighter future, it’s him.

Archie Comics’ artists Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz, meanwhile, will be present to reflect on the adventures of the world’s oldest teenager, who just so happens to also have a new hit series on the CW network. If you haven’t checked out an Archie comic since your last visit to summer camp, rest assured that little has changed in his neck of the woods, except perhaps the variety of representation now featured.

Parent ushered Kevin Keller – Riverdale’s first openly gay resident – into the pages of Archie back in 2012. The character has since made the transition to all corners of the world of Archie after weathering an initial storm of controversy. Now, Parent and Ruiz are focused on their first creator-owned collaboration: a saucy series called Die Kitty Die! which came about through a successful 2015 Kickstarter campaign and sees their typically kid-friendly style take a walk on the wilder side.

Perhaps most fittingly, given Canada’s recent 150th birthday, attendees can get to know a bit about our own somewhat forgotten national superhero Captain Canuck, whose latest adventures are being scripted in part by Jay Baruchel. The former Montreal-based actor has invested in Chapterhouse Comics to help chart the course for this character, originally created in 1975.

These are but a few of the comic book writers and artists attending this weekend’s festivities. Walking through Artist’s Alley will also offer an opportunity to familiarize oneself with the work of local independent artists whose unique perspectives and enthusiasm for comics could very well lead them to success and fame down the road.

In short, great as the temptation may be to spend those hard-earned savings on autographed photos with the host of talented actors and actresses present, celebrating the creative minds at the hearts of these larger-than-life franchises is really what a comic book convention is all about.

Full guest and schedule details for the Montreal Comic Con, which runs through Sunday July 9th, is available at MontrealComicCon.com

* Featured image: The 2011 Montreal Comic Con main room, via WikiMedia Commons

Gina Yashere is a Just for Laughs veteran, recent contributor on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah and the host of this year’s JFL British Show.

FTB’s Samantha Gold speaks with her about Montreal, raunchy humour and the difference between the current British and American political situations:

Brit(ish) hosted by Gina Yashere runs July 26-28. Tickets and info at hahaha.com

* Featured image of Gina Yashere’s 2015 JFL performance by Éric Myre, courtesy of Just for Laughs

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 hahaha.com.

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

I’ve seen Glam Gam shows before. They’re always fun and clever. They always push the envelope while making a point about sexuality and cultural norms. There is always plenty of nudity.

All of that was again the case at their latest Fringe show Peter Pansexual, but there was something more. A few things more, in fact.

So Very Montreal

Peter Pansexual is as much a story about Montreal as it was a critical parody of Disney’s Peter Pan. The Darlings, in this show, are from London….wait for it….Ontario and the Neverland that Peter (Adrian Mal Au Nez) and Twinkerbell (Ander Gates) transport them to is Montreal’s underground art and late night party scene.

The operatic song You’ll Get By beautifully performed live by Stella Von Stein was not only a fun way to accompany the Darlings’ trip to their new home, but an excellent introduction to a world that many of us, myself included, know or knew all too well, though one that has never, to my recollection, been represented through drama (or comedy) before.

There’s the precarious job market for unilingual transplants, the guestlist as payment economy, the abundance of less-than-legal party favours and, of course, the pansexual orgy that is just around the corner, “second loft to the right” with a light on all night.

Neverland feels real. Sure, an over-the-top fantasy version of reality, but at its core, this is a world many Montrealers are familiar with.

This is definitely the type of show that’s good enough to tour with, though, if Glam Gam decided to take it anywhere beyond Laval, they would have to re-work some major portions of it for each city it played in, because a good chunk of the references are hyper-Montreal specific.

A Unified Story

One of the hardest thing to do with burlesque-inspired theatre is incorporate many divergent elements and different performers into a unifying throughline. Glam Gam and director Sam Sullivan pull it off wonderfully.

The pacing is solid, the transitions make sense and even the most random of all elements, guest performers (they had a different one each night of the Fringe run, Honey Lustre wowed the audience night I attended) fit into the story by way of being an act the characters are watching on stage at an underground party following an attempted Michael Jackson impersonation by Rachel Dolezal (Glam Gam veteran Booze Crotch who also played Dad Darling and blueman Periwinkle) that intentionally got the crowd riled up.

It’s like the play within a play from Hamlet if people were getting naked (note to Glam Gam: naked Shakespeare, just think about it for the future). It’s also close to how David Lynch incorporates his musical guests into the new Twin Peaks without leaving the story (no, that’s not a spoiler for Twin Peaks).

Yes, it was a play, with a beginning, middle and an end. But it was also, at the same time, a burlesque show, with the audience cheering as the performers removed clothing and got raunchy with each other.

Character-Driven

Amidst all the nudity, Montreal references and clever puns, there are the characters who move the story along. Obviously modeled on the characters in Disney’s Peter Pan.

We’ve got Peter who, while the instigator of the story and cool at first, turns out to be kind of a di…um, no, wait, don’t use a body part we got to see, he’s kind of an as…nope, same problem, got it, he turns out to be self absorbed and not a very nice person, but someone anyone who has been on the party scene has met.

Twinkerbell (or Twink) is that contact you have for the party favours that never disappoints but rarely sticks around. He helps Peter seem cool, like a wingman with actual wings.

The pair work really well together as Peter’s too-cool-for-school bravado juxtaposed with Twink’s very practical approach to everything made them quite the team for comedy. Like a pair of entertaining though always horny tour guides.

You could see the young Darlings as stereotypes. However, since they’re representative of people in the audience or people those people know, I’d go with archetypes instead.

There’s Wendy (Glam Gam veteran Super Sherri), a funny though quite sympathetic take on the Social Justice Warrior. John is the bro homophobe closet case (played by troupe co-founder Michael J. McCarthy, so if you’re familiar at all with Glam Gam, that’s some serious acting, folks). And then there’s Michael (Lolipop Bob) who is, well, an exhibitionist.

The most in-your-face character is clearly Captain Hooker (Tessa Brown). For me, that was literally true. I was seated in the section of Cafe Cleopatre where she made her first appearance on top of a bar. Up close she was intense to say the least and that intensity stayed with her wherever she went in the room, a real comedic tour de force performance with some of the funniest reactions in the show.

Erik Leisinger (Radical Raven and pianist), Misty Portugal (Pearl), Seth Scheuner (Smee), Tristan Ginger (Door Bitch), Mish Chartier (Turqoise) and Alex Brault (Flaming Fox) round out the ensemble cast with choreographers Debbie Friedmann and KungfuPaul de Tourreil and stage manager and tech Fiona Ross helping behind the scenes.

This show was all about the ensemble. They worked together to do so much more than guide us from point A to point B, they made the journey fun provocative.

As the show wrapped up with the same song that was near the beginning, I’ll do the same and say that with Peter Pansexual, as with Montreal, you’ll do more than get by, you’ll find something truly unique.

 

Sasheer Zamata is a comedian, actress, writer, former Saturday Night Live cast member and the ACLU’s Celebrity Ambassador for the Women’s Rights Project. She’s also performing an OFF-JFL solo show as part of Just For Laughs this summer in Montreal.

FTB’s Samantha Gold spoke with her about being a black woman in the comedy world, her upcoming visit to Montreal, the different merits of sketch comedy and standup comedy and more:

Sasheer Zamata performs as part of OFF JFL, tickets and info at hahaha.com

Panelists Samantha Gold and Jerry Gabriel discuss Just for Laughs 2017 with host Jason C. McLean. Plus News Roundup, Community Calendar and Predictions!

News Roundup Topics: Racial insensitivity at the St-Jean Baptiste Parade, Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury and Ron Howard taking over the Han Solo movie

Panelists:

Samantha Gold: FTB’s Legal Columnist covering Just for Laughs

Jerry Gabriel: FTB Contributor covering Just for Laughs

Host: Jason C. McLean

Producers: Hannah Besseau (audio), Enzo Sabbagha (video)

Production Assistant: Xavier Richer Vis

JFL Report: Hannah Besseau

Weather: Cem Ertekin

Recorded Sunday June 25 2017 in Montreal, Quebec

LISTEN:

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

When people call me Marilyn Monroe I know that is a compliment
I respond by farting or hiding behind a mustache
I see my skin
Over fat
Straw hair
Scared Cat

I was drunk and fucked up in a hotel once.
I looked in the mirror
And knew it was true blonde martyr moment

I smile big regardless
It has made me good at customer service
I assure you its genuine
Like the bleach in my chalice
This one is for you!
Ever sip closer to perfection

Would the comparison even be made if I were brunette?
Norma Gene was a brunette
My roots are the dirtiest shade of dark blonde
Ambition

But does that mean I’m going to die naked drugged out at the hands of a corrupt president on the path of his own final destination?
Yes
Sounds pretty accurate actually
I relate more to chubby sweatpants Anna Nicole Smith
Besides the elderly husband and obsession with money thing
I need no ring

I hate the whole dumb blonde thing
I actuality did really well in school

Now I am the degenerate scum

Smoking blunts on a trampoline
Riding bikes with teenagers on acid
Standing a top Niagara Falls
Water that would rip my skin off
My body would grow flaccid
Under the waves

On the rocks
I keep falling for cocks
That are obsessed with skinny brunettes
Not buxom blondes
They tell me about it like I can help them get into her panties
Get off my lawn bro
Just go!

I keep falling for rockstars
That are scared of my shine
I am fine
My heart is all mine

 

I will never lose my name
She was married 3 times
But the only one that got her to change her name was the mistress of fame
She won at that

Everyone knows who she is
Iconic
I have shirts and leggings with her face on them
She has more drag queens paying homage per capita than any other celebritant

At what cost?
She did not get the chance to grow old
Decrepit
Intrepid dust
I feel its lust

I don’t want to grow old but its creeping in like a storm
That has been on the radar since the day I was born
It is inevitable that I will be carried away in the cyclone
The cycle of humanity

Free pass for the prettiest ones
Golden child
Free of earthly holds
Loss, love, and lack of communication
Body folds

The photo taken of just her ass

While singing “Happy Birthday Mr. President”

 

 

The 27th consecutive edition of the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival is in full swing. With just a week to go, there are still hundreds of theatrical performances coming up, not to mention daily outdoor concerts at Fringe Park.

It’s still not possible to catch all of it. FTB’s Ellana Blacher will be reviewing shows in the days to come, but for now, here are a small handful of performances we plan to catch:

Peter Pansexual

Glam Gam Productions are back! The team behind previous fun, debaucherous and thought-provoking Fringe hits If Looks Can Kill…They Will! and The Little Beau Peep Show, not to mention the monthly strip Karaoke series Bareoke are offering a queer interpretation of the classic fairy tale Peter Pan.

This isn’t Disney’s version, though it is clearly aware of the 1953 film, which their press release describes as “wholesome fun for whole family, with women pitted against each other, marginalized groups exploited and gender stereotypes reinforced.” Given Glam Gam’s history, this promises to be the exact opposite.

Here is one of the many video character teasers they released:

Peter Pansexual runs until June 16th, info at montrealfringe.ca

The Ballad of Frank Allen

Montreal Fringe veterans Shane Adamczak (Trampoline, Zack Adams and Greg Fleet’s This Is Not A Love Song) and St John Cowcher (The Red Balloon, Farm and The Adventures Of Alvin Sputnik) star in The Ballad of Frank Allen, a musical about a janitor who, due to a scientific accident, has to live in another man’s beard.

There’s even a soundtrack available on Bandcamp. Here’s a taste:

The Ballad of Frank Allen runs until June 18th, info at montrealfringe.ca

Poet vs Pageant

Melbourne, Australia-based performer, writer and poet Telia Nevile is bringing her one woman show Poet vs Pageant all the way to Montreal after being named Best Emerging Writer at the Melbourne Fringe.

This show promises an Epic Poetry treatment of an awkward outsider’s journey into the world of beauty pageants. Think Homer’s Odyssey “with extra sequins.”

Poet vs Pageant runs until June 18th, info at montrealfringe.ca

PERISCOPE

This is the story of one night where Megan takes a shortcut back to happiness with a pill. It’s a comedy show about first-hand experience with mental health.

Vancouver-based writer and performer Megan Phillips was named one of the top artists to see at the 2016 Edmonton Fringe Festival. She created this solo show with the help of Fringe veterans TJ Dawe and Jeff Leard

PERISCOPE runs until June 18th, info at montrealfringe.ca

* The 2017 St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival runs through June 18th, for tickets and info: montrealfringe.ca

*** Contains SPOILERS for the two part premier of Twin Peaks Season 3 ***

The new Twin Peaks, or at least the double-episode premier, is not what I expected, and that’s one of the main reasons I think it really works. In true Twin Peaks (moreover in true David Lynch style), it’s a mindfuck. That much was expected, but just how it messes with the audience, well, that’s another story.

I knew going in that there was a slew of new actors joining the original cast, meaning a bunch of new characters. What I wasn’t expecting, though, were new locations and certainly not New York City. When I saw those words appear over a shot of high rise office buildings so early in the show, I thought that Twin Peaks had jumped the proverbial shark.

What is Lynch doing? Why are we here? We haven’t even seen Audrey yet and we’re getting Manhattan? Who’s Tracy? Isn’t this show supposed to be about the town?

Sure, Fire Walk with Me spent the first part of the film in some other town, but it was tied to the Laura Palmer murder. In the show’s first two seasons, they never left the town except for a few boat rides to One Eyed Jack’s and, of course, multiple trips to the Black Lodge. Going to another dimension is one thing, but going to a major city?

But soon enough we were back to the familiar with the Horne brothers (of course Jerry’s in the legal weed biz) and then the creepy shots and…evil Cooper! I don’t know if it’s the makeup or Kyle MacLachlan aging very well, but even with in his doppelganger persona, it felt like we were back to the Twin Peaks I knew and loved.

That feeling stayed, even when we returned to New York and then took an extended stay in Buckhorn, South Dakota. The feeling was a mix of offbeat everyday life oddball characters and some really creepy shit. This was Twin Peaks, regardless of the changing setting.

I didn’t get the nostalgia fest I was expecting, though the nostalgia that was included in the premier was palpable to say the least. This was an entirely new story continuing the old story (which you need to watch before delving into this one) with new characters that weren’t just the kids of the characters we already knew, though I’m sure some of the new characters will be in upcoming episodes.

Also, we were promised coffee and donuts very soon. Deputy Hawk, please don’t disappoint. And if the final sequence at the Bang Bang Bar is any indication, we’re going to be spending more time with the characters and the town we know in upcoming episodes.

But that really isn’t the point. I now realize that I had been hoping for nostalgia and for it to somehow not to suck too much. Instead Lynch and company delivered something new and just as original and potentially just as groundbreaking as the original series.

He’s not resting on his laurels, he’s doing something entirely original. I honestly don’t know where any of these new and old stories are going and that’s truly refreshing. As the Giant said during the original run, “It is happening again.”

And that’s the biggest Lynch mindfuck of them all.

This week’s preview will be focused entirely on the Third Annual N.D.G. Porchfest which is set to take place this Saturday and Sunday. If you’re unfamiliar, here’s the event in a nutshell: It’s a music festival open to any solo artist or band that has access to a porch located somewhere in the borough and is willing to put on a free show for whomever passes by.

Some of the artists are professionals who perform for a living while others are basement warriors who just want their tunes to see a little daylight. The beauty of this fest is that all are welcome.

PorchFest 2015 photo by Jesse Anger

While you would most commonly associate this DIY festival with Folk/Blues/Rock music, the fact is it’s open to any genre as long as the artist is willing to translate their style to a porch setting. The result is you can walk the streets of N.D.G and hear just about every kind of music.

They pushed the fest back by a couple of weeks this year and it seems like a great decision. The forecast is calling for comfortably warm weather and mostly blue skies which is highly relevant for a fest that takes place completely outside.

Image courtesy Aurora Robinson/Porchfest

With close to a hundred acts in the festival there’s no way to talk about everything that’s going on. We at FTB have decided to highlight a few of the shows to give you a taste of the event but you should really take a look at their online schedule or download and print out their Printable Maps and embark on your very own musical “choose your own adventure.”

See you on the sidewalks!

Cräckers & Jam

A good place to start your Saturday off would be with Cräckers & Jam who will be bringing their laid back brand of indie rock to the good people of Marlowe Avenue. This is not only a nice way to ease into the afternoon but a very central place to start from with tons of shows on the surrounding blocks.

Cräckers & Jam play 2119 Avenue Marlowe, Saturday May 20th, 12:00pm.

Oxford Street

If you want to participate but have trouble getting around we suggest you stick to Oxford Street on Saturday where there will be four bands playing at two addresses quite close to each other. At 2157 Oxford will be Dirty ol’ Band and Steelburner while 2309 Oxford will host Hot Club Trio and The Vlcheks. The shows are set up so that no two bands are playing at the same time.

 

Dirty ol’ Band and Steelburner play 2157 Oxford, Saturday May 20th, 1pm and 2pm.

Hot Club Trio and The Vlcheks play 2309 Oxford, Saturday May 20th, 3pm and 4pm.

Voodoo Jazz

If you like jazz, blues, soul and funk music mixed together with quite a bit of horns, then we suggest you head down to Melrose late Sunday morning for Voodoo Jazz. Back after a break of a few years, this band is ready to treat PorchFest audiences to both instrumental numbers and songs with vocals.

Voodoo Jazz play 4333 Melrose, Sunday, May 21st, 11am

* Featured image from PorchFest 2015 by Jesse Anger

* Know a band or an artist that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe a show FTB should cover, too? Let us know at music@forgetthebox.net. Our week goes from Thursday to Wednesday, so let us know by the preceding Sunday, though not too much in advance, or you may get lost in the shuffle. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

With the summer concert season just around the corner and more and more people heading out to shows, we’ve decided to keep this week’s suggestions simple. All shows are tomorrow (Saturday) and we even have your brunch covered. Let’s get started:

Yes No Toaster: Brunch Concert with La Famille Ouellette

On Saturday morning IndieMontreal will be putting on another installment of their brunch concert series in conjunction with Festival Vue sur la Relève. This time it will feature La Famille Ouellette, a Montreal based indie-pop-rock ensemble consisting of six “brothers” who broke on the scene last year when they won the 2016 installment of the Francouvertes.

If you’re unfamiliar with the event, the concept is pretty simple: you go over to Divan Orange where there’s a brunch buffet and while you chow down you get to hear some killer live music. They’re expecting to sell out so it’s best to get your ticket in advance, details below.

La Famille Ouellette play Divan Orange, 4234 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Saturday, May 13th, 12:00 pm (Doors at 11:30am), $22 in advance through IndieMontreal, $27 at the door.

 

Laura Marling

On Saturday night British Folk singer/songwriter Laura Marling will be at Théâtre Corona as part of a tour in support of her new album Semper Feminina which was released in March. Her sound is most known for captivating lyrics, beautiful melodies and song arrangements that break the stereotypes of traditional folk.

Marling has been garnering success and accolades since she broke on the British music scene back in 2006. At present she’s not as well known on this side of the pond so if you’re unfamiliar with her work here’s a small sample.

Laura Marling plays Théâtre Corona, 2490 Notre-Dame Ouest, Saturday, May 13th, 8:00 pm (Doors at 7:o0 pm), $28 in advance through box office, $31 at the door.

 

Hot Flash Heat Wave

Also on Saturday night you can head over to Casa Del Popolo where San Franciso based dream-pop-rockers Hot Flash Heat Wave will be stopping in. Set to release their second album Soaked on June 2nd this will be a great way to check out some brand new tracks.

If you’re not familiar with the band then check out their soundcloud page for a great sample of their tunes. The video for the single Gold Years is already out as well, so give it a listen!

Hot Flash Heat Wave play Casa Del Popolo, 4848 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Saturday, May 13th, 8:00 pm, $10 available through lfttckt.

* Featured image of La Famille Ouellette courtesy of IndieMontreal

* Know a band or an artist that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe a show FTB should cover, too? Let us know at music@forgetthebox.net. Our week goes from Thursday to Wednesday, so let us know by the preceding Sunday, though not too much in advance, or you may get lost in the shuffle. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!