POP Montreal 2016 came and went with a blast of exquisite music, a frenzy of new friends and old faces, and a pleasant haze. Here is a highlight reel gleaned from the morass of sights, sounds, and smells that descended upon Montreal this past weekend.

Seth Bogart

Nothing was left up to the imagination with Seth Bogart. This underground LA pop diva sensation blew the minds off everyone in the room, with his unabashed physicality, wry satirical lyricism, and explosive performativity. The hilarious video content was nearly as captivating as his outfits, which he changed three times!

John Cale

John Cale performed in a very fitting venue: the aged and mysterious Rialto Hall. You can feel the passage of time sitting in the upper portion of the theatre, just as you can feel the passage of time in Cale’s mysterious calmness.

Perhaps surprisingly, what was most striking about his performance was its contemporary relevance. A mixture of live and electronic drums provided the basis for exquisite synthesizer tones and a guitarist who played more sounds than notes.

Holy Fuck

Holy Fuck came to party, and they took us all with them. Never before has an instrumental band been as captivating as this quartet of feisty Torontonians, excited to share a new LP with the world after a six-year hiatus. Nothing was lost in the interim – in fact, the group has only sharpened their tones even more; made those arpeggiated grooves even smoother; those lengthy breakdowns even tighter. Check them in your city if you can, for undoubtedly you will dance.

Angel Olsen

Back at the Rialto Theatre, I witnessed the transformed sound of Angel Olsen, a fairy-folkster turned rock’n’roller. Her band looked cute in their 50’s style suits, but the real catch is Angel’s voice, which carries a worldliness that belies her young years no matter what band arrangement she performs with. She put aside the guitar for a couple of keyboard ballads, sending the crowd away into the night with catchy melodies reverberating in our ears.


Drawing from the darker shades of new-wave, these brothers brought a captivatingly sinister energy to the tiny L’esco stage. One cannot help but be fixated by the singer Thomas, who manages to convey the brooding skepticism of a Nick Cave figure in all his glory. Every phrase was spat out with the vigour and charm of a street urchin turned art student, or visa-versa.

Hua Li

If you don’t know Peggy Hogan (aka Hua Li) yet, then get with the program. This dynamic local hip-hop artist and rapper is one-of-a-kind excellent. Performing with collaborator Gloze on programmed drums, Peggy slid smoothly through a healthy batch of heavy hip-hop with consummate ease, delivering her verses’ lines with dexterity and force. It’s always a pleasure to see someone act out their confidence and skill in a physical way, and Peggy sure knows how to get down with her beats.


I hope everyone’s saved up a little money and a lot of energy because tonight marks the beginning of the most frantic week of concerts this year, a.k.a. Hipster Christmas, a.k.a Indie Music Mayhem, a.k.a. the 2016 installment of Pop Montreal. From September 21st to the 25th most (if not every) small and medium sized music venue in and around the Plateau/Mile End will be hosting an unbelievably large and varied collection of artists.

To preview this fest in all its diversity is altogether impossible so we haven’t tried to. These are simply a few options that stick out as highlight to us at FTB. You might want to go check out the full schedule and reach your own conclusions but be warned, if you have option paralysis this might be your worst nightmare.

There’s just so much to do and so little time to do it in. My advice to newer fest goers is to pick something and stick to it, you could spend half the night walking back and forth trying to find the right show.

I know you want to find the “it” show but at Pop there’s actually several “its” going on simultaneously, so just get out there and pick one. To not overwhelm you, here’s three to get you started on your search.

IMTL Day Party and Brunch with Lakes Of Canada + Fleece + Nova + KyAzma

One of the more unique shows that happens at Pop takes two things that aren’t normally known to work in tandem, Sunday brunch and rock concerts, and for the fifth year in a row ignores convention and puts them together. An all-you-can-eat buffet for $7 is a steal in its own right but then you add performances by Lakes Of Canada, Fleece, Nova and KyAzma, who will be debuting their latest music video for  The Circle, and this becomes a highlight show in this year’s fest.

Indie Montreal allows you to buy tickets in advance through their website and I strongly suggest that if you plan on attending you do that. It’s not hard to foresee this show selling out, the lineup alone should bring a lot of interest and when you combine that with the best brunch deal on The Main you’ve got packed venue written all over this.

Lakes Of Canada, Fleece, Nova and KyAzma play Divan Orange, 4234 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Sunday, September 25th, 12:00pm (Doors at 11:30am), $7 in advance and at the door, ticket through indiemontreal.


Nanimal + Girl Arm + Pins & Needles + Laureate

If you’re looking for a great rock show at the best dive rock bar in town then head down to Barfly on Thursday night and check out Nanimal, Girl Arm, Pins & Needles and Laureate. This concert should be a hot sweaty mess of tightly packed individuals, like most Barfly events are, so save the fancy outfit for another night and wear the jeans, t-shirt and dancing shoes to this one.

This show is on our highlighted list for a second reason, my “sources” inform me there might be a special guest appearance during Nanimal’s set. Someone who can certainly be considered part of Montreal’s indie rock royalty might be hitting the stage right before your eyes.

Nanimal, Girl Arm, Pins & Needles and Laureate play Barfly, 4062 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Thursday, September 22nd, 9:30pm (Doors at 9), $10.

CJLO BBQ with Wiklow + No Aloha + Joyce N’sana + Guy Madonna

If you liked the idea of combining food and music but think Sunday morning’s a bit too groggy a time for that then perhaps you’d prefer Thursday afternoon’s free BBQ over at Quartiers Pop. This event is being put on by the good people over at CJLO, begins at 2pm and features Wiklow, No Aloha, Joyce N’sana and Guy Madonna.

Before people start going crazy over the “free BBQ” aspect it’s important to point out that the entrance and music is free, I’m pretty sure you’ll have to pay for your own beer and hot dogs. There’s no such thing as free beer, you know this, accept it, move on, you still get to see four great acts for free.

 Wiklow, No Aloha, Joyce N’sana and Guy Madonna play Quartiers Pop, 3450 Rue Saint-Urbain, Thursday, September 22nd, 2:00pm, free.



From hip hop to synth pop to nerd rock and back again we’ve got it all in this week’s preview. Well actually we’ve got three things and then it repeats. Apologies, I was going for an exciting first sentence and overshot a little.

On a very expected note: keep an eye out next week for our Pop Montreal preview which will be coming to you on Wednesday in order to coincide with the start of the fest.


Coming to town next Tuesday is Vancouver based Hip Hop artist SonReal who after years of hard work pumping out great music for free is finally starting to put together some real buzz both here and south of the border. Such is the life of an artist in 2016, give them great stuff for free and hopefully at some point you’ll get a return on your investment.

It’s good to see that all the hard work is paying off as this current tour is taking SonReal to all corners of North America and has him playing to increasingly larger crowds. I suggest that it’s best to see him now because next time he’s in town it might be a little harder to get tickets… and a little more pricey.

SonReal plays Théâtre Fairmount, 5240 Avenue du Parc, Tuesday, September 20th, 8:30pm (Doors at 7:30), $20 + s.c, buy tickets from the box office.

Honey Beard + La Mécanique

For anyone looking for something to do in the UQAM area of town on Friday night, I suggest you head over to M Bar where Toronto based electro synth pop duo Honey Beard will be taking to the stage as part of their Canadian tour in support of their debut album Thousand Million Things. Joining them will be local act La Mécanique who are a rather new group that also draw heavily on those synthtastic sounds that should make you want to get up and dance.

The music might feel 80s inspired but the drink prices will remind you of the 90s as the organizers have promised a happy hour with pints at $4 and pitchers at $10. With the cover being only $5 this is the hands down ideal show to check out this week for students on a budget.

 Honey Beard and La Mécanique play M Bar, 1245 Saint-André, Friday, September 16th, 10:00pm , $5.

Double Experience + East of Sunday + Lunar Trees

On Saturday night Ottawa nerd rockers Double Experience will be taking over The Pioneer’s stage for the first show of a cross Canada tour in support of their newest album Unsaved Progress. If you’re not catching the references I’ll spell it out: this band is passionate about video games which is reflected in the underlying themes of their music.

More apparent to non-video game savvy listeners is that Double Experience are a solid rock band with well crafted and catchy tunes that have crossover appeal to fans of different music genres.

Rounding out the bill are two local acts, East of Sunday and Lunar Trees who are great rock bands in their own right. Put it all together and this show is a full evening of rock and roll for the reasonable price of 10 bucks!

Double Experience, East of Sunday and Lunar Trees play Resto Bar Le Pionnier, 286 Lakeshore Road, Pointe-Claire, Saturday, September 17th, 8:30pm (Doors at 8:00), $10, 18+.

11th annual Hip Hop You Don’t Stop

For fear of it getting drowned out by the Pop Montreal coverage, we’ve pushed the preview of this important community event up by a week. Next Wednesday to Sunday (21st to 25th) a series of multidisciplinary events focused on the arts is taking place in the Côte-des-Neiges and Notre-Dame-de-Grâce boroughs aimed at engaging young people and inspiring them to participate positively in urban arts and Hip Hop culture.

A schedule on the facebook event page will show you the overall list of activities that gives a full picture of the scope of this festival. Being a music column we’re going to focus on the Queens and Kings Showcase which highlights talented young artists in the Montreal Hip Hop scene who will be performing this year under the theme of “Artistic collaboration between men and women.”

The event culminates on Sunday at N.D.G (a.k.a. Girouard) Park with a day long event entitled Elementakiza which is an interdisciplinary, intergenerational day long series of performances and activities combined with a barbecue, tacos and jerk chicken on the menu. You can even get your hair cut!

All activities in this festival are free and all-ages and I’m betting they really don’t care if you actually live in the community. If you’re not a kid or have kids you can still participate by being part of the crowd and showing your support.

HHYDS Showcase Queens and Kings plays Centre d’Essai de l’Université de Montréal, 2332, boul. Édouard-Montpetit 6th floor,  Friday, September 23rd, 6:00pm (till 11pm), free.

HHYDS Elementakiza happens at Parc Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, corner Sherbrooke and Girouard,  Sunday, September 25th, 11:00am (till 1opm), free.

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. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!


Well labour day has come and gone which means the kids are back to school (teehee, sucks to be you kids!) fantasy football is back, the days are getting shorter and sadly the summer music fests are all but over. The shows this week are therefore going to be slowly transitioning into more and more indoor events.

Fortunately there are some great shows to look forward to in the near future. Starting with…

Selah Sue

Next Wednesday you can head over to Théâtre Corona and check out Belgian singer/songerwriter Selah Sue who is currently on tour in support of her second album Reason. Selah has been a success on the other side of the Atlantic ever since the release of her self titled debut album back in 2011.

If you listen to a few of her tracks you can see why. Beautifully arranged music that always seems to feel like the swell of a wave before it crashes over top of you is layered in behind Selah’s rich introspective vocals. Selah is definitely this week’s award winner for best artist you’ve never heard of but lucky for you there is some time between now and next Wednesday’s show to change that.

Selah Sue plays Théâtre Corona, 2490 Rue Notre-Dame Ouest, Wednesday, September 14th, 8:00pm (Doors at 7:00), $27.50 + s.c. in advance / $32.50 + s.c. day of show, tickets available through boxoffice.

All Aboard + The Honest Heart Collective + Hometown Lights + Bordeen + Caraway 

The best option for an indie rock/hometown show this week is happening on Saturday night at La Vitrola where no less than five great local(ish) acts will be hitting the stage to entertain you for the very reasonable price of ten dollars. All Aboard, The Honest Heart CollectiveHometown LightsBordeen and Caraway are all Canadian artists who will make you realize that you don’t have to go far to find good music.

This show should be an intimate, energetic and tightly packed evening of music so don’t complain if you leave a bit sweaty and with some ringing in your ears. Also don’t forget to bring some cash for the merch table, the lifeblood of the indie band tour budget.

All Aboard, The Honest Heart Collective, Hometown Lights, Bordeen and Caraway  play La Vitrola, 4602 Boulevard St Laurent, Saturday, September 1oth, 8:00pm (Doors at 7:00), $10 ($12 at the door) tickets available through lifttckt.

Slayer + Anthrax + Death Angel

Metal fans should take note of one of the biggest shows to hit our area this year outside of the festival circuit. These three thrashtastic pioneers have been doing what they do since the early 80’s and don’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down.

I’m not going to speak about the bands at length or link to any of their websites. Fact is, these guys don’t need any promo, this is more of a friendly reminder that they’ll be hitting Metropolis next Tuesday. Now here’s four hours of Slayer music just because…

Slayer, Anthrax and Death Angel play Metropolis, 59 Rue Sainte-Catherine East, Tuesday, September 13th, 8:00pm (Doors at 6:30), $69.50 + s.c. in advance / $75.00 + s.c. day of show, tickets available through box office.

Villa Paradizo

If you’re looking for a fun outdoor activity this weekend but the money isn’t really flowing at the moment you might want to consider Villa Paradizo, the free EDM festival taking place on Crescent and De Maisonneuve this Friday and Saturday. The third installment of this fest has a mix of local and international DJs that will be spinning from 11 am to 11 pm on both days.

For anyone who might have trouble in a crowd or who enjoys spending money at free shows keep in mind all the bars in the area are the best (and only) seats in the house. They’re asking for you to call and make reservations in advance if you want a spot.

The downside is you have to pay “Bar on Crescent between De Maisonneuve and St Catherine” prices for drinks. Personally I’d save the money and go be part of the crowd on the street.

Villa Paradizo happens on the corner of Crescent and De Maisonneuve, Friday and Saturday, September 9th and 1oth, 11:00am to 11pm, free.

* Featured image: Selah Sue via YouTube

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. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!


After a brief pause from local shows last week to give the proper respect due to The Hip, we’re back at it with four very cool and very different events taking place this week. All are at smaller venues with low (or free) ticket prices and none are on the same night as each other so why not go to a few of them?

Evan Taylor Jones

If you’re looking for a great show tonight then head down to the Wheel Club where singer/songwritier/guitarist/former The Voice contestant Evan Taylor Jones will be bringing his unique brand of soulful rock to the stage in support of his new EP The Sunray Sessions Live. Evan’s style shows a clear and deep connection with the roots of rock and Motown brought into the 21st century and given a contemporary feel.

Anyone living outside of Montreal should take note that this summer tour seems to be stopping in every city on the eastern side of this continent. So if you can’t make it tonight I suggest you check out the full list of shows on Evan’s Facebook page and hopefully find a stop near you.

Evan Taylor Jones plays The Wheel Club, 3373 Boulevard Cavendish, Thursday, August 25th, 8:30 pm (Doors at 7).

If We Are Machines + A Devil’s Duo + CFCQ and the Piss of Assurance

On Friday night you can head to everyone’s favorite dive Barfly and check out an evening of indie rock headlined by Vancouver’s own If We Are Machines. This summer the six piece psych rock ensemble is traveling from one end of the country to the other and back again on the very accurately named “Ocean Waters Tour”.

Joining them on stage will be two local acts: A Devil’s Duo (members of A Devil’s Din) and CFCQ and the Piss of Assurance making this quite an amazing lineup especially when you consider that tickets are only five bucks!

(Author’s Note: When I say the Barfly is “everyone’s favorite dive” I do so with empirical evidence, try googling Dive bars Montreal or looking up any poll for Best Montreal Dive Bar and you’ll see what I mean.)

If We Are Machines,  A Devil’s Duo and CFCQ and the Piss of Assurance play Barfly, 4062A Boulevard St Laurent, Friday, August 26th, 9:00pm, $5.

Saturday in The Park (N.D.G Arts Week)

Girouard park and the surrounding area has been full of action these past few days while in the midst of hosting N.D.G Arts Week. This multidisciplinary fest celebrating music, theatre, art, dance and much more has all sorts of events going on this week so check out their schedule and find a little something for you.

The big event for music fans will be Saturday in the Park where a mix of Hip Hop, Jazz, Funk, R&B and Soul will come together in a very open and all inclusive way. The first two hours of the event (5 to 7 pm) is an open mic hosted by Eleuthera. Anyone interested in getting up on stage should send a message and sound sample to  ndgopenmic@gmail.com.

The rest of the event (7 to 10 pm) will be a big jam session with the collective #LeCypher featuring Urban Science and whole group of artists from different genres. If you like improvised music and/or sitting in parks then this is the show for you. ProTip: bring a lawnchair!

Saturday in the Park occurs at Girouard Park, 3500 Avenue Girouard, Saturday, August 27th, 5:00pm to 10:00pm, free.

A Cosy Night with Pomme

This Monday the French singer-songwriter Pomme will be over at Le Verre Bouteille for an intimate evening of music which is a perfect way to hear a musician who describes her style as “des ptites chansons écrites dans des ptites chambres.” If this was a movie I’d say that Pomme is cast perfectly as the “cosy” acoustic artist that people want to go and hear on a Monday.

Pomme plays , Le Verre Bouteille, 2112 Mont-Royal East, Monday, August 29th, 8:00 pm (Doors at 7), tickets available through Indie Montreal, $11.85.

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. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

* Featured image of Pomme via Instagram


During it’s 20th edition, the Fantasia Film Festival presented Takashi Miike with a Lifetime Achievement Award. Mike’s name has been a staple of the Fantasia experience over the years which is no surprise because the prolific Japanese filmmaker has over 100 credits to his name in 25 years.

If the shear number of films doesn’t blow your mind, the topics, extreme style and depictions of violence, dark humour, and the range of genres of film Miike has directed should: from crime dramas to kids’ films to ultra-violent manga adaptations to musicals to downright disturbing romances.

Personally, my introduction to Miike’s work came in the form of a recommendation by my trusted video store clerk, whose employee curated shelf served as a perfect Fantasia primer for my teenage self, handed me a copy of Miike’s 1999 film Audition (Odishon) with a firm warning and the seriousness of one facilitating a rite of passage. The film still unsettles me whenever it crosses my mind.

Photo by Julie Delisle

I had the honour of sitting down with Miike for a quick interview and had a chance to ask the filmmaker a couple questions.

Fillion: How do you choose which film projects you take on?

Miike: Firstly, I always look to see if I have the capacity to take on the project, if my schedule would permit it. So, if a project comes to me… If I think too much about the content, the budget, or which company the project is coming from, it would be shielding myself and it would cut off certain paths in my life. I don’t want to do that. So, I tend to take on work in the order that it comes to me.

Things change a lot depending on the times. Some of these elements will never come together again. Actually, my natural way is to see that the timing is right. If I think too hard I’ll miss certain connections and things I would have otherwise not known. My way is to try even if I am not familiar, even if it is the first time I attempt something.

Fillion: Which films have you found the most challenging to make?

Miike: Westerns or samurai films. Things that are not happening in our time. In my career, I had never done that before taking these on and it was something that was very interesting.

For example, when you are using horses, I didn’t know where to rent horses or where we could have the horses run. It was completely new for me. These are things that were common in older films but are on the verge of disappearing in current cinema.

The next thing that will be going will be action films with cars. They are too risky and many people no longer want to take that risk. In a film, there always needs to be an element of risk or else the spectators will feel this, that it’s not natural and lacks something. A film is like a gamble, to amuse the public, you have to bring something exciting. So overall, for me, making samurai films, older styles of films, was both interesting and very challenging.

Terra Formars: Bugs in Space

Along with coming to receive his Lifetime Achievement Award, this year, Miike brought two titles to the festival: As The Gods Will (2014) and Terra Formars (2016). Terra Formars is a live action adaptation of the Japanese manga series of the same name. Although not among the type of films I usually cover at Fantasia, Miike’s Terra Formars turned out to be a total blast: an action packed sci-fi somewhere at the meeting point between Starship Troopers and Power Rangers with a nod to Blade Runner.


In a distant future, humanity is looking to Mars as a solution to the overcrowding on Earth and the depletion of its resources. Hundreds of years ago, a space program sent moss and cockroaches to Mars as a means of warming up the planetary atmosphere and making it a livable habitat for humans. After a failed first attempt at colonization, a second top secret mission is sent to Mars to rid the planet of its cockroach problem.

Led by Ko Honda, the mission participants are promised big bucks and fresh starts as long as they accept being subjected to some genetic modifications to survive on martian soil. Oh, and kill the cockroaches.

Not even an hour after their arrival, the space team (a mix of small criminals, murderers, hackers, yakuza), quickly realizes that beyond being annoying and strange, Ko Honda has misinformed them. Turns out the cockroaches have mutated into gigantic powerful beasts of sorts and that their genetic modifications were actually to give each of them the abilities of insects multiplied to human scale.

Terra Formars is ridiculous in so many ways and self aware. The film is as funny as it can be sort of gross, in the best of ways, and the action is exhilarating. Discovering which creature the crew have been spliced with brought me back to the thrill of seeing Power Rangers as a kid and waiting to see what the rangers would morph into.

Ko Honda, the film’s villain of sorts, is one of my favourite characters in the film. I’d honestly like to see a sequel that focuses on his character some more. Although he has some of the stereotypical characteristics of film villains (especially those of earlier films), there was something really endearing, fun and fresh about Miike’s villain.

Ko Honda’s obsession with fashion took on a new meaning after meeting Miike in person. Ko Honda is almost a counterpoint to Miike in many ways: Ko Honda is agitated and skittish while Miike is poised and calm. That said, Mike has to be one of the most fashionable directors I have ever met at Fantasia. His jacket was striking, enough so to make Ko Honda totally jealous.

*Photos of Miike courtesy of Julie Delisle

new faces unrepped just for laughs

Any Just for Laughs show that has words like “faces” in the title is always a bit of a crapshoot. You know for sure that you’re going to enjoy the host who is usually a comic legend but the remaining roster generally consists of comics, good and bad, who are yet unheard of and hoping to make a name for themselves on the Just for Laughs stage. The Just for Laughs show New Faces: Unrepped was no exception.

New Faces: Unrepped consisted of a slew of American comedians trying to bag an agent or gig. The audience consisted primarily of industry reps and agents looking to find their next star.

The show was hosted by comic legend George Wallace, who was doing a one-man show later in the week. By his own admission, Wallace had no material ready to host New Faces and opted instead to work the crowd.

Host George Wallace (photo Felicia Michaels, courtesy Just for Laughs)
Host George Wallace (photo: Felicia Michaels, courtesy Just for Laughs)

He clearly knew none of the comics performing that night and was reminiscent of a kind, well-meaning uncle who invites a ton of people to a barbeque but has absolutely no idea who any of them are. Despite his lack of preparedness, he remained the show’s star.

The show was a mixed bag with every stereotype represented. You had the clean cut white sarcastic guys, JP McDade, Danny Palumbo, and Brendan Lynch, the snarky smiling feminist comedian, Molly Ruben Long, a sassy black woman, Janelle James, some African American males, Neko White and JB Ball, a few ethnic comedians, Ismail Loutfi and Raoul Sanchez, one Zach Galafianakis clone, Casey Crawford, and one creep, Geoffrey Asmus.

JP McDade was the kind of comedian one would want for a major American sitcom. He’s white, blond, cute and snarky, perfect for shows like How I Met Your Mother that appeal to white audiences who want to laugh at other white people. His comedy was good but not great and his delivery clearly needs a little refining because his jokes were spaced so far apart the audience lost him at least half the time.

Next up was Ismail Loutfi, a Muslim American comedian. Unlike the other comedians that night, his comedy was largely political, bravely tackling issues of Islamophobia and American ignorance of Muslim American culture. To keep the audience going, he peppered his routine with a lot of self-deprecation and unlike the other comedians that night, his material was by far the most interesting, if not the funniest.

African American comedian Neko White clearly has a lot of potential. His delivery and timing were spot on which made up for the occasional lame joke. He started his routine by announcing that he was from Harlem and bravely addressed the issue of gang violence in the US in his comedy.

Raul Sanchez could only be described as OK. His delivery was OK, his jokes about incarceration were OK, and as a comedian he came off as just OK.

JB Ball was the other African American male comedian on the roster and his delivery and the timing of jokes were also spot on. The problem is that his jokes were mostly sexist towards women, which is FINE provided the jokes are funny, which they weren’t.

Casey Crawford of North Dakota was by far the funniest of the bunch. Clad in an Expos T-shirt and Canadiens hat, Crawford seemed desperate to win over Canadian audiences. As it turns out he didn’t need the gimmicky outfit, undoubtedly the product of a gift shop raid. Crawford’s jokes were FUNNY and his style had the adorable awkwardness reminiscent of Zach Galafianakis.

casey crawford
Casey Crawford (photo: Felicia Michaels, courtesy Just for Laughs)

Molly Ruben-Long was the feminist comedian of the night. I’m all for feminist comedy and I’m all for female comedians, but her jokes were lame, so while I found myself silently cheering her, I couldn’t bring myself to laugh.

Janelle James is an ex dominatrix who moved to white suburbia. Her jokes were funny but not bend over funny. As the oldest and most charismatic performer that night, she deserves a shot but ageism is probably going to play a role in whether she gets it.

Brendan Lynch was funny and self-deprecating in a way that was kinda charming. He’d be another good casting choice for a snarky white sitcom character.

Geoffrey Asmus was the most memorable of the comedian not because he was good, but because he was BAD.

Asmus’ stage persona is one of a sanctimonious entitled chronically ill white male with delusions of grandeur. He began his routine by physically attacking a member of the audience who was cheering him, before describing a medical condition with such specificity there was no doubt he actually had it.

He talked of being a virgin who’s never masturbated in a way that was more painful than funny. He claimed that not engaging in sexual activity allowed him to hone his intellect and bragged that he knew everything.

Asmus claimed that he even knew about Canadian Prime Ministers and asked the audience to name one. I turned to my partner and bet him that I could stump the guy after which I called out “Diefenbaker” (the Prime Minister in the 60s who had a rivalry with JFK). Asmus said Diefenbaker was a white male, hardly remarkable given that nearly ALL Canada’s Prime Ministers were white males, in other words: I won.

Asmus’ performance was barely wiped out by the final performer of the night, Danny Palumbo.

Palumbo clearly wears a mustache to hide the fact that without it he’d probably look like a twelve year old boy. He was snarky and funny, and as a foodie, his comedy about culinary ignorance appealed to me. Unfortunately a lot of his jokes were the boring passive-male-in-a-relationship stuff that’s been WAY overdone in comedy.

Shows like New Faces: Unrepped are something to experience at least once. In them you get to see a legend work the audience with grace and see potential up and comers work their magic while others crash and burn.

* Featured image: Felicia Michaels, courtesy Just for Laughs

heavy montreal

This week is very yellow line centered as two festivals hit Île Sainte-Hélène at the same time, I tell you the coolest (or maybe it’s the most random) thing you could do tonight and we actually mention a local band (Les Breastfeeders) amidst this sea of summer festivals.

Heavy Montreal

For anyone into the metal/hard rock scene the angry little brother of our city’s festival season Heavy Montreal takes over Parc Jean Drapeau for it’s ninth’s edition this Saturday and Sunday. Around since 2008, this fest has steadily grown in popularity and has even seen a re-branding from it’s earlier incarnation Heavy Mtl (or heavy metal!!!!) in order to hopefully gain some crossover appeal and attract fans from a wider variety of musical tastes.

A little piece of advice for the organizers: you can change the name of the fest all you want but when you book bands like Five Finger Death Punch, Disturbed, Nightwish, Killswitch Engage, Napalm Death and Hatebreed to play then who are you kidding, it’s a bloody metal show! I guess their idea of diversity is a couple of headliners that are more hard rock than metal.

For those who don’t want to leave the island or pay the rather ummmm heavy ticket prices there’s also a Heavy in the City aspect to the fest with a bunch of smaller shows and after parties you can attend for a fraction of the cost. For example on Sunday you can head down to L’Astral and check out Cult of Luna as part of the official after party.

The most interesting off site activity by far is taking place Thursday night at Concordia University where organizers Grimposium are hosting a screening of the new film Death by Metal followed by a bilingual panel discussion with members of the industry as well as the director Felipe Belalcazar.

This will be followed by the coolest thing you could possibly do tonight, a workshop on how to sing death metal vocals. That and the fact the event is totally free makes this my hands down top pick of the week!

Heavy Montreal plays Plaine Des Jeux at Parc Jean Drapeau, Saturday and Sunday, August 6th and 7th, tickets $149.50 or 275 through Heavy Montreal.

Cult of Luna play L’Astral, 305 Rue Saint-Cahterine Ouest, Sunday, August 7th, 11:45pm (Doors at 10:45pm), tickets $21.50 through Heavy Montreal.

Grimposium presents Death by Metal at Concordia University, VA114 Cinéma, 1395 René-Lévesque Ouest, Thursday August 4th, 7pm, free ($5 suggested donation)


Also taking place at Parc Jean Drapeau this Friday and Saturday will be one of our newer and more musically specific festivals, ÎleSoniq, which basically turns part of Île Sainte-Hélène into a big outdoor rave. This event is also expansive in it’s secondary options available to people who want to stay on the island of Montreal in the form of a series of afterparties.

ÎleSoniq plays Parterre du Parc Jean Drapeau, Friday and Saturday, August 5th and 6th, tickets $95 to $250 available through ÎleSoniq boxoffice.

Yellow Line Fashion Show

For those paying attention to the dates you’ll notice that on Saturday afternoon there will be an overlap of people heading to Île Sainte-Hélène for both ÎleSoniq and Heavy Montreal. The festivals are obviously separate but anyone taking the yellow line will be treated to quite a display of strikingly different fashion senses.

Les Breastfeeders + OL’ CD + Hobo Lord

For those who want a straight up kick ass rock show I suggest you head down to L’Escogriffe on Saturday where Montreal’s own Les Breastfeeders will be playing with the support of two Toronto acts OL’ CD and Hobo Lord. Take a little pinch of punk, a dash of surf, mix it with a three and a half minute garage rock song and you’ve got the recipe for the evening.

In festival season we sometimes get locked into trying to see the biggest and best international acts around. There’s nothing wrong with that but it’s important to remember there are some seriously talented local acts ready to give you their all… and for a much more affordable price.

 Les Breastfeeders, OL’ CD and Hobo Lord play L’Escogriffe, 4467 Saint-Denis, Saturday, August 6th, tickets $10.

* Featured image from Heavy Montreal 2013 by Chris Zacchia

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. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

Carrie Fisher (1)

I had completely forgotten that Carrie Fisher was in The Blues Brothers. The 1980 cinematic masterpiece, that is, not the sequel that should simply have been titled Why?

Both films, though, did warrant a mention by Fisher as she hosted her Just For Laughs Gala. So did politics in Hollywood when it comes to older women, something she has first-hand experience with.

She also spent quite a bit of her time on stage talking about, well, what do you think? Star Wars, of course. This was, after all, Princess (now General) Leia herself, doing comedy in Montreal.

I’ll admit I had to restrain myself from going all-in with the Star Wars puns when starting this review. She was, after all, an icon of my childhood. So…not so long ago, Sunday night to be precise, in a galaxy a few Metro stops away, Carrie Fisher was a Force to be reckoned with onstage…

There. Done. Now on with the show!

It was quite a good show, too. It started off with Brian Posehn nerd-gasming over the host and devoting his entire set to his love of Star Wars and hatred of the prequels (which Fisher wasn’t in…damn, with her absence in Blues Brothers 2000, she’s two for two).

Ronny Chieng (photo Eric Meyer, courtesy Just for Laughs)
Ronny Chieng (photo Eric Meyer, courtesy Just for Laughs)

The non-childhood memory enduing highlight for me has to be Ronny Chieng. The current Daily Show correspondent’s set was focused on Asian stereotypes and how he deals with them.

Australian comic Joel Creasey told a rather funny story about a brief Twitter feud he had with fellow Aussie Russel Crowe. Creasey had very good stage presence, though he spoke a bit too quickly for me to catch everything.

We also got Jim Norton’s sort of defense of Donald Trump (not really, but it was funny),  Cristela Alonzo’s take on sci-fi realism, Celia Pacquola’s interesting view of rings, Nathan MacIntosh with a quite funny bit on the current state of tech and Ivan Decker talking mangos, of all things.

The night, though, clearly belonged to Fisher. Thanks to her HBO special Wishful Drinking we all know that she can carry a stage show. Thanks to Force Awakens interviews and some of her performances over the years (like the one in the aforementioned Blues Brothers) we know she can be funny.

But can she carry an entire standup show as host? Turns out, yes.

While her bit on other Leia hairdoo options may have been a bit by-the-numbers, though still funny, her opening monologue was a solid bit of standup. While some comics tell personal stories and then try and related them to pop culture, Fisher is pop culture, or at least a huge part of it, so she was able to cut out the middle man, so to speak.

And her song about addiction, another subject which we all know that she knows quite well, was a great way to close the show. Self-aware, casual, honest. It was pure Carrie Fisher.


* Featured image by Eric Myre, courtesy of Just for Laughs

Cameron Esposito

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

Jeff Goldblum (1)

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.

Godfrey at the Gala.

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.

David Cross (2)
David Cross, a.k.a. baseball cap Santa Claus.

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.

All photos courtesy of Just for Laughs festival.


This week the very unsurprising theme will be what to go see at Osheaga. There’s this little known group from England you might have heard of called Radiohead that I think you might enjoy… who am kidding, this preview will talk about none of the well known acts you already know you’re going to see.

So have fun checking out the Chili Peppers, Death Cab for Cutie, The Lumineers, Cypress Hill, Bloc Party and Lana Del Ray (to name a few) but earlier in the day your plan might be a little less set, so here are some options.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats

While this is hardly an obscure act, I couldn’t help myself but put Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats in this preview mostly because this is the group I most want to see, period. Nathaniel’s been around for quite a while now but only started to get “playing at Osheaga” type attention once he formed the Night Sweats.

This new project is a more upbeat, big band, electric guitar style of bluesy soul music than what Rateliff has done in the past and the results have been a positive reaction that has put the singer/songwriter on the mainstream map. Most people’s introduction to the Night Sweats is through the hit S.O.B but I encourage everyone to dig a little deeper in the band’s self titled debut album which is solid top to bottom with well crafted tunes.

Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats plays Scène Verte Sonnet, Sunday, July 31st, 6:25 PM.

Elle King

For those heading down early on Friday be sure not to miss Elle King who’s so-oh-oh-oh-oh fun and upbeat blues/soul/rock/country style will be a great early day choice. We’re hoping Elle breaks out the banjo and tries to make hipsters ho-down.

Elle King plays Scène de la Montagne Molson Canadian, Friday, July 29th, 3:10 PM.


Also on Friday afternoon I would recommend checking out Icelandic four piece volcano rockers Kaleo who have got some of the most beautiful, summery tunes you’ll hear at this year’s fest. Having released their second album A/B earlier this year and getting their songs featured in TV shows and video games these guys are starting to reach a bigger audience and that should include you.

While bands have being playing in odd places to gain attention ever since the Beatles took to the rooftops, these guys took it to a new (and uniquely Icelandic) level. Here they are rockin’ the volcano.

Kaleo plays Scène de la Rivière Virgin Mobile, Friday, July 29th, 2:25 PM.

Official Pre-Party with Elephant Stone + Walrus + Pif Paf

If you’re looking to start your Osheaging (pronuonced oh/sheeeee/age/ ing) off early then head over to Divan Orange on Thursday night for the official Pre-Party which feature Indie rockers Elephant Stone. The local trio are set to release their new album in September and will be (hopefully) playing some of the new tracks.

Here’s their latest music video which, talk about current, features a bit of Pokemon Go.

Joining them on stage will be Halifax natives Walrus and Pif Paf who we have already featured in a previous post.

Elephant Stone, Walrus and Pif Paf play Le Divan Orange, 4234 Boulevard Saint-Laurent, Thursday, July 28th, 9:30pm (Doors 8:30pm), tickets $13.90 through indiemontreal.

* Featured image by Chris Zacchia

Nasty Show Sign2

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.

Bobby Slayton.

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.

Mike Ward peforming at the Midnight Surprise. Photo by Cem Ertekin.

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.

Piff the Magic Dragon with Michelle the Audience Member.

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.

Jessica Kirson talking about how she does Jew jokes at the Ethnic Show.

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.

Mike Ward complaining about the Quebec Human Rights Commission decision.

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.

All photography by Cem Ertekin.

Midnight Surprise
tom green off jfl montreal

It’s pretty much common knowledge that with certain comics, you only sit in the first few rows if you don’t mind becoming part of the show. I had a feeling that Tom Green would be one of those comics. I was right.

Of course he was. Sure, I had never seen him perform standup before, but Green’s career started with his self-titled talk show that used people’s reactions to absurd situations (feces on a microphone comes to mind) to generate a good chunk of its humour.

Theatre Ste-Catherine was packed, so taking a seat at the back, out of the line of fire, so to speak, was quite easy. After we were treated to his latest video, a Funny or Die sendup of Donald Trump, Green took the stage.

Then the ball of energy that is present day Tom Green hit the stage. At age 45, Green offered a very interesting mix of mature political and socio-cultural observation and poop jokes.

If you’re Tom Green, you get to grow up only as much as you want. Also, Protip: If you plan on sitting in the first few rows, go to the washroom BEFORE the show.

Tom Green beer
The label of Tom Green Beer

His topics that evening (I get the impression he changes it up every night) ranged from life before cellphones to growing up in Ottawa to being married and on Facebook at the same time to the aforementioned Trump. While everyone has an opinion on the GOP Presidential Nominee, not everyone has a personal anecdote about getting fired by him because of Dennis Rodman as Green does.

The audience was part of the show throughout. And they loved being part of it. These were Tom Green fans, after all, knowing all the main lines in Freddy Got Fingered.

The state of his own career was another topic that Green included in his performance:

“I was hosting a hit show on MTV, on the cover of Rolling Stone, starring in my own movie. Now I have a podcast…things are going well!”

But, if you think about it, he’s right. He’s very active as a standup, crowds love him (as they should, the show was great) and he even has a beer named after him, a real stout, which I enjoyed at his show.

Plus, he’s still the Tom Green we know and love, and that, apparently, won’t change.

* Featured image by Joseph Fuda courtesy of OFF-JFL

* Tom Green Live runs tonight, Sunday, July 24th at Theatre Ste-Catherine, 264 Ste-Catherine Est, and July 25 – 30 at Mainline Theatre, 3997 St-Laurent, as part of OFF-JFL. All shows 10:30pm. Tickets available through hahaha.com