Man thrusts fist at viewer

For eight seasons on the shameless sketch comedy series MadTV, comedian Bobby Lee cracked audiences up with his impersonations of celebs like Connie Chung and Kim Jong-il…but just as often by simply running around naked, even to the point where one sketch featured an Intervention-style sit-down with his concerned co-stars. It was a career-launching experience for the California native, who makes his Montreal debut this week as the host of Just For Laughs The Nasty Show. With his successful podcast introducing him to new fans, the 47-year old is happy to reflect on the good ol’ Mad days and share just how nasty he plans to get.

James Gartler: How did your popular TigerBelly podcast get started back in 2015?

Bobby Lee: My girlfriend asked “how come you don’t have a podcast?”And I said, “No one will listen if I have one.” So, she went to the store and bought all the equipment and told me “Well fine, I’m going to do it on my own then,” and for a couple of weeks she did. One day I just walked by the room and she was sitting by herself looking so sad, so I said “Fuck it, okay, I’ll do one with you”.

It turned out really well and we started accumulating a couple of episodes and building some good traction and eventually I was able to get really good guests, like Jordan Peele, Eric Stonestreet, Craig Ferguson and others. It kind of reinvented me in a sense. People wanted to see me again. So it’s been great.

JG: Do you feel podcasts are great medium for comedians? It seems like an open-mic night that can go on for as long as you want it to and no one can censor you really…

BL: Also you find your real audience that way, I’ve done a lot of different things – a couple of lines here and there in movies, TV shows and whatnot – but podcasts were the way to reach the people that share my real sensibilities and people that enjoy what I have to say. It’s reinvented my shit, man, and I’m pretty happy.

JG: Have you never performed in Montreal before?

BL: I’ve never performed in Montreal before. I’ve done Vancouver a bunch of times, Toronto, Edmonton, Calgary, all those rooms, but Montreal is the one festival I’ve never done, which is weird because I’ve been in the game for so long.

JG: You’re hosting JFL’s The Nasty Show, which is a popular ticket. How do you decide what material works best for that kind of evening?

BL: Well, not every joke I’m going to tell is going to be a dirty one. I feel like I’ll do an act that I would do in L.A. and that’ll suffice. People say that I’m really dirty – I don’t see that. I could have done The Ethnic Show a couple of years ago, but I decided that maybe the dirty one was more up my alley.

People think that when I perform that a lot of Korean people come out. I have no Asians come out. My audience is a mix of everyone. Obviously, I have Asian people that like me, but I wouldn’t say that’s my audience. If you see someone like Jo Koy, he has a huge Asian audience. I don’t think Asians like me that much.

JG: Why’s that?

BL: I won’t tell you who it was but many years ago there was a Korean actor at The Comedy Store who saw me perform and he came up to me and said: “you’re a disgrace to your people”. So that’s when I knew, “ohhhh, I don’t really connect with them really” (Laughs). Like, if you look at my audience, the people have tattoos on their eyeballs, or they have some weird thing they’re doing with their hair, they look a little dirtier, much like me. I’m just a dirty ethnic guy.

JG: On MadTV you showed a real propensity for running around naked. Did they request it or did it evolve over time?

BL: I just had this thing growing up where I just kinda liked being naked. It’s a control thing, to be honest with you. The other reason why I do it is because I never thought that I was that sexy, but once I started getting naked and being more comfortable with my body is when I feel like women started going “Oh – he thinks it’s good. Maybe it is good?”

It was a way to build my self-esteem, really to be honest with you. And also, getting naked on MadTV was nothing – I used to do some crazy shit. I used to poo in people’s dressing rooms. I pooed in the executive producer’s office once. So being naked is not the worst thing I did.

JG: So by comparison they overlooked it…

BL: Oh yeah. But MadTV taught me so many things about life. It really influenced me because it was so difficult being on that show, especially in the late 90s/early 2000s.

I was a little Korean guy on an American sketch show and that rarely happens.

For me to be able to get that show and learn how to act and memorize lines and perform on TV was so valuable. And also it taught me that “oh shit – maybe you can make it”. Getting there was so important to me on so many different levels.

JG: And a lot of the cast has moved on to great things. Alex Borstein, of course, has her great voiceover career and Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele are doing well for themselves. Who are most jealous of, from your costars, if anyone?

BL: Honestly, I’m not jealous of any of those guys because those guys are all family. I’m more jealous of people who are more my type. When people my type do better than me, then I get a little crazy.

JG: What’s your type?

BL: I think my fear is that when other when other Asians make it people think that I’m that person. Like when Ken (Jeong) got Hangover and it became a big hit, I would walk down the street and people would roll down the window and yell “Hangover!” so people thought I was Ken for years. That’s what I dread the most – when other Asians make it and people think that I’m them.

JG: Was there a backlash for MadTV alums after you left the show? The material didn’t pull any punches. You made fun of everything and everyone and it was hilarious. Was it hard to go into an audition and say “hello and yes – I’m the guy from MadTV”?

BL: At the time when we were doing it, it felt like… We had no control over what the show was.

When Keegan and Jordan and Ike (Barinholtz) were there, I knew, even though we weren’t really a hit, we were under the radar, but I still knew that the level of talent on MadTV that could rival SNL. I’m not saying we were better, but I was able to see so many good guys.

When I joined the show, Alex was still there, Will Sasso, Michael McDonald…all those guys are my friends and it was just a great introduction to comedy. Keegan and Jordan and Alex and all these people being successful only helps my cause. I feel like Key & Peele reinvented the way the industry views MadTV. I know that Key & Peele was their own thing, but they are MadTV people and they met on MadTV. The kind of talent I was exposed to completely and utterly blew me away.

And also, I got sober on that show. I discovered recovery on that show. I relapsed, I got sober and that’s how I was able to do movies after that. So even though there was some darkness, I have fond memories when it comes to Mad.

The Nasty Show runs July 17 to 27. Tickets are available at hahaha.com or by calling 514-845-2322. Follow Bobby Lee on Twitter @thetigerbelly.

The Ethnic Show is a Just for Laughs staple. Promoted as a “hilarious celebration of global perspectives” it features an ethnically diverse cast of comics cracking jokes about their own cultures and how whites treat them. It’s one of the few events where white people can feel comfortable laughing at ethnic jokes, guilt-free.

In the past, The Ethnic Show has been kind of hit or miss for me. Some of the comics are great, pulling no punches with their critiques of their own cultures and how white people react to them, while others are lame, opting for the most clichéd ethnic jokes or lame-duck tactics like busting out a guitar.

I was pleasantly surprised this year.

The host is Cristela Alonzo, a Mexican-American from Texas. Though tiny and sweet looking, she made a perfect host, not just because her material was funny, but because as a comedian, she’s relatable and likeable.

Host Cristela Alonzo

Her material ranged from encountering racism for the first time, to her homogenous upbringing, to the adventures of getting older. She also made one of the best Trump jokes of the night, saying she’s ok with the wall…

“Because we build tunnels now!”

Next up was Italian comedian Anthony DeVito, who began his set bemoaning the fact that he looks ethnically ambiguous. His comedy is primarily self-deprecating, his set taking jabs at himself, his girlfriend, and his grandmother (or Nonna), and the racism of older generations.

Anthony DeVito

His set was very stereotypically Italian, but the shy, angry, self-deprecation of his delivery made it hilariously endearing and a joy to watch.

DeVito was followed by Brazilian comedian Rafinha ‘Rafi’ Bastos, who was one of the funniest acts of the night. I had seen Bastos perform as part of Laugh Out Loud Live! last year and in my review I said he’d be a great addition to The Ethnic Show, so I was overjoyed to see him on last night’s roster.

While a lot of his material – like his bemoaning the fact that Brazil is known for bald pussies – was repeated from last year, he had enough new material to keep the set fresh, and his loud angry delivery was hilarious enough to make me not care about the old stuff. In addition to making fun of himself, he took potshots at plastic straw bans, turtles, and English insults – pointing out that ‘pussy’ doesn’t work as an insult because every pussy he’s encountered has been strong and durable.

Dave Merheje, a Lebanese Canadian comedian, was on next and I had high hopes for him. I had had a chance to interview Merheje before the festival and had seen past performances on YouTube. He is incredibly funny.

Unfortunately he spent too much of his time last night trying to engage the audience, who weren’t having it. When he finally did launch into his material, he was great. Here’s hoping he focuses on that for future performances.

After intermission Robby Hoffman took the stage. A former Lubavitch Chasidic Jew-turned-Lesbian, a lot of her set was about growing up in a religious household with a Jewish mom and nine siblings.

As a Jew, I found this material kind of tired, but that’s probably because her jokes were things I hear about all the time from my friends. She also had a bit on dried fruit that could only be described as lame. Her set vastly improved when she started joking about gender, sexuality, and the pay gap, saying that men should pay for women because:

“Pussy is expensive. You want free? DICK is free!” A joke that had the audience hysterical.

Last to go on was Donnell Rawlings. Other media I met at the event described him as a disciple of Dave Chappelle. In addition to being a comedian, he also has an upcoming role in Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot film.

He came on stage loud and proud, singing along to the country song Old Town Road by Lil Nas X with the vocal prowess that showed that if he ever decided to quit comedy, he might have a shot as a singer.

Rawlings is a comedic powerhouse. Every joke hit the mark, from his bit about how black people don’t pick up shit, to being into white women who work for non-profits, to his rant about rock music.

He was a great way to end the show and people left the theatre still laughing at his performance.

The Ethnic Show runs from July 11-25 at the Just for Laughs Festival. Check it out

I arrive at my first Piknic Électronik of this summer, (#8 of 2019), two road-beers down the hatch and eager as ever after a long week to get some sun and dance to some electronic music (or more so in my case, sway back and forth as rhythmically as I can relative to the ratio of sangria I’ve consumed over time).

I, of course, have naively failed to account for the rather large crowd that Piknic often attracts on a day as beautiful as this, and with the same idea (and perhaps gusto) as everyone else, head for Parc Jean-Drapeau at peak hour, and am consequently forced to sober up some while I wait in the tunnels of the vastly over-crowded yellow line.

The train is packed full, and we all spill out of the station in a mass, ambling to the main entrance of Piknic. Luckily, though, the line at the rather densely packed entrance is quite large, it moves slowly but surely, and as I wait to receive an entrance bracelet from a smiling staff member, the atmosphere is reinvigorated by the excitement of those around me. Their enthusiasm fuelled most likely in part by a similar cocktail to mine: excitement, anticipation, alcohol, and an absolutely perfect amount of sunshine. 

Inside the festival there awaits a sea of animated festival goers; a diverse crowd of people united by their attire of tank-tops, shorts, and fanny packs, and a palpable enthusiasm. They’re talking, drinking, dancing, swaying.

Some are sitting in the lounge chairs on the outskirts, or hammocks, watching their friends playing volleyball  under the sun at the sand court between the two stages. Many people are in line waiting to refill their cups and buckets of Sangria and beer, but the largest sea of people is situated in front of the main stage, the perfect place for imbibing both sound and sun, and neither come as a disappointment on this day. 

A game of volleyball if you look closely… But if all you see is sun and trees you still get the picture!

At the main stage French DJ, Groj, who is known for his live singing during his performances opens with a rhythmic and psychedelic set that grabs the crowd’s attention. The music is resonant, sonorous amidst all the trees, and yet somehow still bright and energetic, in a way that somewhat mirrors the energy of the crowd.

Groj’s performance is followed by the headliner of the evening: German DJ, HOSH, part of Diynamic record label. His lively house and techno sound has been likened to the journey of a collapsing star, and the comparison does not disappoint.

HOSH’s music captivates his audience, with its spirited buildups and explosive melodic peaks. And as the beautiful day transitions into a beautiful dusk with the sun setting over the main stage, it’s time go home again although this time I decide to walk instead of bother with the crowds at the metro. If you ever get the chance and don’t mind a bit of a walk, the view from the bridge at sunset is rather captivating.

For tickets and information on upcoming shows, please visit Piknic Électronik’s website.

DJ HOSH: Soundcloud | Spotify | Facebook

DJ Groj: Soundcloud | Spotify | Facebook

Mental illness is a topic a lot of people are uncomfortable with. Though society is getting better at discussing illnesses like depression, anxiety, grief and others, we owe that in part to the entertainers who have bravely come forward to tell of their struggles. Among these you find comedians like Hannah Gadby and Adam Cayton-Holland.

Adam Cayton-Holland’s story is one of moving beyond grief and turning pain into power. He is returning to the Just for Laughs festival after six years away.

The reason for his hiatus is a sad one. Shortly after he played the festival in 2013, his sister died by suicide. Cayton-Holland was the one who discovered her body.

Following her death, he battled grief and depression and underwent therapy which helped him to cope. He eventually came out with a memoir of his struggles, titled Tragedy Plus Time: A Tragi-Comic Memoir. His show, Happy Place, is loosely adapted from that memoir.

I had the opportunity to speak with Cayton-Holland about his experience overcoming grief and his return to Just for Laughs. He was surprisingly cheerful on the phone given the tragedy he’s endured, saying he’s excited to come back and that he loves Montreal.

When I asked him for specifics, he talked about loving the food at Au Pied de Cochon and that he’s looking forward to eating at Joe Beef this time around. When I asked him whether he preferred New York bagels to Montreal bagels, he pointed out that being from Denver, Colorado, he doesn’t have a dog in this fight.

“I’ll take Montreal,” he laughed.

Pleasantries aside, I asked about the tragedy he endured.

“I came to Montreal in 2012, and I came back in 2013. I came home, and two days after that my little sister took her own life.”

I asked if she was ill and he said she was clearly so but that things only became clearer in hindsight, describing how looking at the timeline, the last two years of her life were characterised by mental illness that turned his sister’s brain in on itself.

I asked him if the grief and depression he endured as a result interfered with his ability to do comedy:

“Oh my god yeah. And I sort of stopped doing standup for a while. It was this odd thing where you know, for a comic from Denver, Colorado to be a New Face, it was a big deal, it was a big career moment, and then two days later your sister takes herself out. So it’s like all things you’ve been caring about in your career and comedy and Hollywood and then you’re just quickly reminded: oh none of that matters at ALL and I’m broken and my family’s broken. My friends and I sold our TV show, Those Who Can’t, which had three seasons to TruTV right around that time so we had to make a pilot and I was sort of doing the best I could but I had a couple of breakdowns and I had to have aggressive therapy and it is as awful as you can imagine. It was THAT awful.”

I know some people, when dealing with grief, tend to work harder to try and forget, so I asked Cayton-Holland if this was the case with him. He said that he tried, but everything happened seven years ago and he hasn’t been talking about it in standup on stage.

Writing the book, then, became his way of mourning. Now that he put the book out, he wants to talk about it in a one-man show format, describing said show as:

“Not standup per se, a little more serious.”


For Cayton-Holland, writing was therapeutic and cathartic, helping him process what he was going through, though he went into the writing process with no hyperbole in mind.

“I’d sit at my laptop and sob, but it helped me. There was a normalization of it. I don’t want this to be a dirty secret. I don’t want this to be something I’m ashamed of. I’m not ashamed of her, not ashamed of what she did. I just feel like mental illness took my little sister out and so writing about it helped me kinda come around and get through the normal feelings of grief and anger and shame and guilt. Writing really helped me with that.”

When he mentioned sobbing, I asked if he wanted to fight the stigma about men crying. In response Cayton-Holland pointed out that the stigma is a little dated and feels like there’s something wrong with a man who can’t cry.

“I lost my little sister. You expect me not to cry?”

When I asked about the response to his memoir, he said it’s been amazing:

“If anything it’s shown me how prevalent this stuff is: mental illness, depression, suicide. I cannot tell you the amount of messages I get all the time, sometimes it’s really big overshare. I put myself out there so people relate. I wrote honestly and tried to normalize it and a lot of people are like ‘Thank you because my family went through something similar’ and just share- It’s the power of story, and people seem to really respond to that.”

He said that in some ways the experience made him less lonely, in some ways it made him more so. He says that telling his story has helped nip any shame and awkwardness in the bud.

“It’s 2019 and we still whisper the word ‘suicide’. I’m comfortable with it but I understand the stigma around it.”

His show is called Happy Place because the therapy he underwent to overcome his grief involved retreating to a happy place in his mind when a traumatic memory – in this case finding his sister’s body – became too intense. The show is based on excerpts from his memoir, but Cayton-Holland says you can expect tons of new material as well.

Happy Place is on at Just for Laughs from July 23-25. Check it out.

ShazamFest, a unique outdoor annual summer festival, returns for its 14th edition, and this year with more whimsy than ever. It has perhaps the most eclectic diversity of performances to occur at a single festival.

ShazamFest features a diverse range of entertainment including, but not limited to: live music performances, circus acts, burlesque, dance, theatre, poetry, wrestling, skateboarding, and much more. The festival is set to take place from the 11th to the 14th of July (this weekend), and is to be hosted in the Eastern Townships, 90 minutes outside of Montréal at festival founder Ziv Przytyk’s organic family farm. Free roundtrip shuttle services from Montréal are available, as well as free on-site camping. 

The festival is also particularly distinctive for its green initiatives, as part of its dedication to an eco-responsible and sustainable approach. ShazamFest is very encouraging of its zero-waste initiatives, having only produced 12 bags of garbage at its 13th edition last year and aiming to create even less this year by encouraging festival goers not to bring single-use bags, using only reusable or compostable dishware, providing unlimited free local source water, bringing in organic local food vendors, and numerous other eco-friendly features.

The headlining acts of ShazamFest XIV will be Afrikana Soul Sister, Les Hôtesses d’Hilaire, the Souljazz Orchestra, and Susie Arioli. A few additional must-see features include Matthew Silver, Ziv’s Sunset Show, Bibi Lolo BangBang the clown, a burlesque segment by Swell Sisters La PetiteFleur and Queeny Ives, and many more.

Here’s the full lineup:  

Visit ShazamFest’s website for more information about the artists and tickets.

Win Tickets!

That’s right, FTB is giving you a chance to win a pair of tickets ($125 value) to Shazamfest! Simply share this post on Facebook or Twitter, tag @forgetthebox and say Shazam!

We will draw a winner from the entrants and announce it Friday morning.

For everyone else, tickets are available through ShazamFest.com

Happening on July 11-14, 2019, 2722 Way’s Mills, Ayer’s Cliff, QC J0B 1C0 in the Eastern Townships.

Free entry for children 12 years & under
Free admission all day Sunday 
Free roundtrip shuttle services from Montréal 
Free on-site camping

Ronny Chieng is one of the few comics to bring an Asian perspective to the Just for Laughs stage. He is playing the Just for Laughs festival as part of his Tone Issues Tour but you can also see him on The Daily Show and in Crazy Rich Asians, his first role in a major motion picture. 

I had the chance to speak to Chieng over the phone. Being half-Asian myself, I know about the expectations Asian parents often have for their children so I asked if his family had different hopes for him career-wise. Chieng appreciated the question because one of his very first jokes at Just for Laughs addressed that.

He spoke of being sent to Australia to study law but he was a poor student. He became a comedian because he couldn’t get a job in law, and comedy ended up paying better. He even said that he didn’t tell his parents about his new career directly – they found out about it when he appeared in the local press in their home country, but they’re okay with his career choice now.

Since Chieng now works in America and a lot of his comedy is political, I asked him if he thinks Trump is good for comedy. He feels it’s fair to say that Trump is good for comedy.

“He’s bad for life, bad for the planet, and bad for the country, and bad for mental health everywhere. At The Daily Show we talk about him every day, so I’d be hard-pressed to say he’s not good for comedy. Would I want that? No, I would rather have someone else – he has more cons than pros for the comedy world.”

Though Chieng doesn’t like the Trump Administration, he doesn’t feel that comedians working in America should feel obligated to criticize it in their comedy.

Great stand-up, in his eyes, comes from really authentic points of view and pandering to trendy topics if you’re not personally passionate about them is not going to make for good comedy. 

While comedians shouldn’t feel obligated to talk about it, he feels that everyone – comedian or not – has an obligation to say something if they feel that something isn’t right.

Chieng’s comedy centers a lot on being Asian in predominantly white countries so I asked if his work was more about dispelling stereotypes or just about laughter. At first he joked that it was about making money, but then said that he is about fighting stereotypes or at least give them a little more nuance. 

“If there’s a stereotype, I would like to explain why that’s a stereotype and maybe take the stereotype to another level – explain the full story behind the stereotype or break the stereotype altogether if I feel a stereotype is unfair. I try to address it because I feel like no one is talking about it in society. I wanted someone to talk about it when I was growing up so that’s the kind of comedy I do. I hope I do the kind of comedy I wanted to see.”

While a lot of Chieng’s comedy is about lived experience, he does research on occasion to make sure he knows what he’s talking about. When it comes to his favourite topics in comedy, he said it’s mostly things that make him angry, saying he has an hour of such examples in his Just for Laughs show.

Crazy Rich Asians was Ronny Chieng’s first film role, so I couldn’t help asking him about it. Chieng loved doing the film because it was shot in Malaysia and Singapore, where he’s from, which allowed him to see family and friends during filming. 

The film was considered ground-breaking because it supposedly opened the door for more Asian characters in film when Hollywood still didn’t think it was possible. While Chieng doesn’t consider the film to be the be-all and end-all of films featuring Asian characters, he thinks the fact it was so well-received is amazing. 

“What the movie was really good at was not over-explaining Asian things and showing Asian characters as complete three-dimensional characters with complicated needs and wants. Some of them are good guys and some of them are bad guys, some of them are in between, they fall in love, they fall out of love, they have complicated lives. I thought that was very useful. I think it also established a baseline for Asian storytelling moving forward. I think there’s no context for Asian stories usually in the West, so a lot of movies can’t be made because there’s no baseline understanding so I feel like Crazy Rich Asians is a very good baseline story for Asian people in the West.”

There have been criticisms of Crazy Rich Asians as only showcasing paler-skinned Asians. For example, Filipinos like myself tend to be darker. Chieng sees the problem in the fact that in North America, Asian is considered a single voting block despite the diversity in Asian nationalities and cultures among the Asian diaspora. 

“You got Koreans, you got Japanese, you got Burmese, you got Thai, you have Filipinos, you have Malaysians, you have Chinese people, not to mention Chinese Indonesians, Chinese Malaysians, Chinese people who live in Japan, Chinese people from different parts of China with all the different dialect groups. Then you have the same number of people Americanized… and each of those groups are very distinct cultures. To expect one movie to cover the entire diaspora of Asia is an unfair burden placed upon it by Western views of what Asia is,”

In terms of criticisms that the film only showcased wealthier Asians, Chieng considers the movie satirical and that it showcases the extreme wealth that’s in Asia right now because that’s how the West experiences Asia in 2019.

Ronny Chieng is playing Just for Laughs from July 23 to 25. Check him out.

As anyone who has attended Montreal Comic Con knows, one of its great privileges – in addition to hobnobbing with creators and celebs – is seeing the best of our local cosplay scene. This year proved no exception, as can be seen in following gallery of costumes covering everything from Star Wars and Disney characters to Horror icons and Burton films. Enjoy!

Bonnie McFarlane is a Canadian success story. Hailing from Cold Lake, Alberta; she’s a comedian, writer, director, and co-hosts a radio show on Sirius XM. As a filmmaker she’s worked to combat sexism in comedy with the award-winning documentary Women Aren’t Funny. She’s returning to Montreal as part of The Nasty Show, and co-hosting a game show at Just for Laughs with her husband, comedian Rich Vos.

I had the opportunity to meet with Bonnie McFarlane so I asked her why there is the assumption that women aren’t funny. McFarlane has a lot of theories about it.

She said that comedy clubs have been catering to “bro audiences” for a long time so when a woman goes on and performs something other than “bro comedy”, they may not receive a positive response.

McFarlane herself identifies as male-friendly and she’s been working in this system for so long that she’s learned to tailor her act to those audiences. She thinks, however, that it’s important to make room for voices outside “bro comedy”, speaking with deference about comedian Hanna Gadsby and director Jill Soloway, who helped pave the way for female voices in comedy.

Macfarlane experiences inequality when people boycotting Louis CK and urging others to do the same asked her not to play at The Comedy Cellar in New York due to their reputation to book comedians like Louis CK, who in 2017 was accused of sexual misconduct.

“Why should I have to not work because of things that he did? If you want to stop going to The Comedy Cellar that’s fantastic, do whatever you want to do, but I’m not going to work less.”

For McFarlane, the problem lies in boycott and cancel culture, describing once being at a show where Louis CK came in unannounced and did a set. She went on stage after him and people told her after the show that she shouldn’t have gone on.

McFarlane doesn’t see how having fewer female voices is going to help sexism in comedy. There’s a lot of debate in comedy about political correctness and feminism often takes part of the blame for that.

McFarlane acknowledges that it’s a complicated issue but she believes in free speech and that comedians should hold themselves more accountable for what they say. She says it’s especially hard if you’re a female comic because you’re expected to have such strong opinions about these things.

While she has no sympathy for comedians like Louis CK, she personally does not want to stop him from working, highlighting the importance of moving forward instead of constantly drawing attention to bad people.

As she often opens her sets by announcing she’s a feminist, an atheist, and a vegan, I wondered what her take was on whether feminism was compatible with comedy. Her response was an enthusiastic no, saying that making fun of oneself is another way of taking charge.

“We know how far we’ve come when we can laugh at ourselves,” she said.

In addition to being a comic, McFarlane is an author, she directs, and she co-hosts has a radio show, so I asked her which role she identifies with most.

“I’ll always love standup most because it’s given me everything else,” she said.

While her favourite thing in the world is writing jokes, she also loves writing screenplays and TV shows and directing.

“I love taking something from one idea and seeing it all the way through to the end. It’s such a satisfying process.”

In addition to doing The Nasty Show, Bonnie McFarlane is co-hosting Would You Bang Him? with her husband, comedian, Rich Vos. The show is a contest in which a panel of female judges assess male comedians and whether they’d sleep with them. McFarlane cheerfully promises there will be beefy guys in addition to the comedians. Check it out.

Tickets for The Nasty Show and Would You Bang Him available through hahaha.com

Bust out your back issues and binoculars folks, because it’s that time of year again. Montreal Comic Con descends upon the Palais Des Congres this weekend for three days of autographs, celebrity encounters, cosplay and of course, comic books.

This year, the 1990s will be very well represented, and not just by those sporting fashions from Forever 21. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’s very own Man of Steel, Dean Cain, will be present to reflect on his time in the iconic red and blue tights, as well as his turns as Vandal Savage on Smallville and Jeremiah Danvers – aka Supergirl’s foster father – on CW’s Supergirl.

Dean Cain, 90s Superman, will be there

Voiceover actor extraordinaire Jim Cummings will also be making a long-awaited appearance at the Con. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, his voice certainly will.

Remember the classic after-school programming block known as the Disney Afternoon? Cummings worked on nearly every animated series you raced home from the bus stop to check out, from Gummy Bears, Duck Tales, Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers, Aladdin and Gargoyles, to the comic book/sitcom Darkwing Duck, where he brought the titular Masked Mallard to vivid, egomaniacal life.

He’s also voiced both Winnie the Pooh and Tigger for the last few decades, and stood in for Jeremy Irons and Christopher Lloyd as the singing voices of The Lion King’s Scar and Anastasia’s Rasputin. He’s lent his pipes to various Looney Tunes projects, all sorts of video games and even theme park attractions. Suffice it to say, if there’s an animated property you hold dear to your heart, he was likely involved.

Speaking of Disney, the voice of Belle herself, Paige O’Hara, will be present to reflect on that tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast. Given her character’s reappearance in Ralph Breaks the Internet and the continual popularity of the ‘Disney Princess’ brand, one can only wonder whether we’ll be seeing more of the brunette bookworm in the years to come.

So will Paige O’Hara, voice of the animated Belle

Celebrated Canadian comic artist and writer Ty Templeton will also be in attendance once again this year, telling stories and taking commissions from his booth in Artists Alley. Templeton is best known for having adapted the classic superhero cartoon Batman: The Animated Series into a monthly comic for DC through the 90s and 00s.

The Batman Adventures series won multiple Eisner Awards and helped introduce a whole new generation to the Dark Knight Detective. Though Templeton’s credits span multiple DC and Marvel titles, as well as the late, great Mad Magazine, which only this week was cancelled after 67 years in print. Try not to bum him out about that one.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers fans will be tickled by the appearances of Austin St. John, Karan Ashley, Walter E. Jones and David Fielding aka the Red, Yellow and Black Rangers and their amorphous floating head of a leader, Zordon. Though the action-packed live action kids series became a pop culture phenomenon in its day, it also left us with plenty of unanswered questions, such as: how exactly is saber-tooth tiger a dinosaur?

Ray Park will be there too, probably without the makeup

All this isn’t to suggest other decades of comic book and pop culture deliciousness won’t be equally represented, mind you. 70’s Hulk Lou Ferrigno will be hulking about, X-Men and Star Wars actor/athlete Ray Park will also be around (and maybe even demonstrating roundhouse kicks? No?) and Elijah Wood will be reminiscing about the Lord of the Rings films with the one and only Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, holding court for autograph seekers, no doubt surrounded by Starship Enterprise memorabilia.

Comic Con is the perfect time to let your inner geek out, whichever era you prefer, so take some time this weekend to enjoy its more than 200 activities and remember to invite children under the age of five to tag along. Because they get in for free…and because it’s never too early to start obsessing over sci-fi.

For full program details and ticket information, visit montrealcomiccon.com. Comic Con runs from July 5th to the 7th

Fairy Fails is the debut solo show for Meander, known to many as the Dot Dot Dot from the Montreal drag family House of Laureen. The show introduces Meander the Fairy, and is the tale of a fairy prince destined to rule, but who sadly cannot fly. It’s a fairy tale that’s sweet and delightful, a joyful reminder of what it’s like to be a child full of innocence and wonder.

Unlike the stereotypical play where all the characters talk, Meander the Fairy is silent, communicating with the audience through facial expressions, gestures, and dance moves. Meander is innocent, endearing and sweet without being annoying.

He is helped along in the play by director and stage manager Sam Jameson, who also provides narration. Jameson and Meander met during Glam Gam’s production of Peter Pansexual, in which Meander played the role of Twinkerbell.

The only other voice in the play is that of the witch, whom Meander plays via swift and hilarious costume changes. The bitter old raspy-voiced witch is a perfect foil for Meander the Fairy’s glittering innocence.

Jameson’s narration is reminiscent of the kind you would hear in children’s television and film. Mature and parent-like while still maintaining the humor.

For those of you who know Meander as Dot Dot Dot, the fariy is a far cry from his drag persona. Meander’s background is in a Canadian style of clowning called Pochinko, which he learned at the Manetoulin Conservatory for Performance and Creation (known as the ‘Clown Farm’). It’s a style of clowning reminiscent of the late Charlie Chaplin, and Meander does it well.

He came up with Meander the Fairy with the help of his clowning teacher Francine Coté, who developed the character’s costume and taught him that your clown character should be an expansion of who you really are. Where Dot Dot Dot allows Meander to explore his fiercer side, Meander the Fairy is cute, demure, and graceful. Meander’s makeup has hints of classical French clown with a few bright colors and some glitter thrown in.

Not everyone will like Fairy Fails. A friend of mine felt it was too simple and childish, but it is for those very reasons that I loved it so much. With all the terrible things going in the news and around us, sometimes we need a show that allows us to shut our minds off for the sheer joy of watching a fairy learning to fly.

Fairy Fails is a show that allows you to do just that. See it if you can.

comedian dave merheje

Dave Merheje is a comedic force to be reckoned with. Growing up in Windsor, Ontario to Lebanese immigrant parents, he worked for a sightseeing company along with other odd jobs, soon after, he got into comedy.

Since then his star has only risen; he’s played at multiple Just for Laughs festivals in Montreal, the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, the Halifax Comedy Festival, and his 2018 comedy special Good Friends, Bad Grammar was nominated for a 2019 Juno Award. This year, Merheje is appearing at Just for Laughs as part of The Ethnic Show and a solo show at Katacombes as part of Off-JFL & Zoofest.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Merheje at Just for Laughs HQ downtown.

As he’s doing The Ethnic Show this year, I asked if he considers himself to be an ethnic comedian. He smiled, calling it a tricky question and said that he never sought out to be an ethnic comic, but sharing his culture, upbringing and experiences may lead others to perceive him as such.

He considers his comedy to be closest version of himself, on stage as off stage. Early on in his career, he says a fellow comedian advised him to avoid talking about his ethnicity because “everyone was doing it”. It led him to shy away from the sensitive material, until, while talking about his father to another comedian, they suggested he discuss it on stage, now he embraces the subject, and so do audiences.

Merheje portrays his family as this hilarious dichotomy between his calm serene mother, and his aggressive matter-of-fact father. I asked him how his family feels about how he represents them, and he said they’re “dope” about it. Though his father won’t be at Just for Laughs, he comes to many of Merheje’s shows including the Juno Awards this year.

“They can take it.” He says, “they understand it’s humour and they’re not offended.”

Merheje says that some people build their own narratives about him when they find out he’s Middle Eastern, and he considers it his job to tell his truth on stage. He has experienced problems with xenophobic heckling before, with one heckler asking what age he learned to detonate bombs, but he rolls with the punches because at least the comments are said to his face.

He said some Middle Eastern people enjoy his comedy while others think he’s giving people the wrong impression about his culture but if they do. It’s on them, and he’s still going to keep doing what he does.

When I asked Merheje how feels about Montreal audiences compared to others, he said they’re a very comedy-savvy audience.

“It’s a good energy. They watch comedy, they see it every year, it’s the biggest festival in the world so they’re here for it. They’re hip to it.”

Merheje is grateful for all the extra attention he’s been getting lately but is determined to maintain a proper work ethic. He knows that you can’t buy into the attention too much or you can get hurt when it doesn’t go your way.

I asked him if there was one thing he could say to audiences, what would it be.

“Just have fun. Don’t take everything so personally. It’s just a show. It’s entertainment. Just have fun with it.”

In addition to his set at Just for Laughs’ The Ethnic Show and his solo show for Off JFL & Zoofest this year, Dave Merheje can also be seen on the Hulu show, Ramy, where he plays the main character’s devout Muslim friend (a character he says is very different from himself). Check him out.

For tickets go to hahaha.com

A Brief History of Time is a show with a daunting task. It aims to present a heavily abridged history of physics in just an hour. The snippet I saw at Fringe for All gave me high hopes for the show and I’m glad to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

I had the opportunity to email back and forth with the show’s creator and Artistic Director of Théatre du Renard, Antonia Leney-Granger. She said the show was inspired by Stephen Hawking’s book, A Brief History of Time and that all the scientific theories in the show are accurately presented.

She added that the portrayal of the historical context of the discovery of those theories should be taken with a grain of salt as they were tweaked to make the show more funny and relatable. Though the show is very educational, Leney-Granger admits that her background isn’t in science or teaching.

“I’ve always had a very curious mind and bucketloads of hobbies and interests: I’m interested in learning the basics of pretty much everything, from pottery making to quantum physics! A Brief History of Time started me off on a path that became the mission of my company, Théâtre du Renard: disseminating complex or seemingly inaccessible ideas to a variety of audiences through the playfulness and poetry of object theatre.”

For those unfamiliar with object theatre – sometimes referred to as object puppetry – it’s a kind of theatre where objects are used to create a story with characters. In the case of A Brief History of Time, Leney-Granger uses everything from troll dolls to paper lanterns to magic eight balls to teach the audience about Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and Hubble. The ensuing show is informative, funny, and enlightening.

I asked Leney-Granger what her target audience is and she said it was created with adults in mind, but she has also performed the show for high school groups and even kids age ten and up. She has had physicists and scientists come to the first shows and aside from a few vocabulary changes, they were very happy with it.

It should be noted that there is some content in the show that wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate for younger audiences. There are mentions of alcohol and orgies that may make parents think twice about letting their kids see it. If Leney-Granger has a tweaked version that leaves these things out, the show will be a definite hit among groups looking for educational entertainment that’s fun, engaging, and available in both official languages.

You won’t just see a woman playing with toys on stage, you’ll receive an education on the theories about our universe, the philosophers and scientists that developed them, and the hidden figures that contributed to their development but were never credited. In addition, the setup of the show is fairly light technically, so it can be done in a variety of settings.

What makes A Brief History of Time particularly special is its timing and use of sound. There is no wasted time in the piece and the audio jokes and pop culture references are everything you’d hope they would be.

Though Montreal Fringe is over, Théatre du Renard is planning to take A Brief History of Time on tour in Quebec and internationally, so you may have a chance to check it out.

Whether science, history, or physics are your thing or not, go see A Brief History of Time. You might learn something.

Summer is back and so is Piknic Électronik, with an exciting line-up of local and international electronic artists playing every Sunday from May 19th to September 29th. The 17th edition kicked off on May 19th with DJs Adam Husa, Mike Haddad, and Dufire, as well as others.

This weekend catch Bonobo and his traveling festival Outlier at Piknic Élektronic for a special Saturday OFF-Piknic event also featuring Totally Enourmous Extinct Dinosaurs, JETS, Prefuse73, and Durante, followed by a 100% local line-up on the island this Sunday including DJs Kora, Sinca, DJ Sunset, Lou Fre$h, and a special surprise guest!

Just picture it: you, your friends, a bucket of alcohol (yes, they have buckets), the sun setting over the St-Lawrence river, and Piknic’s consistently eclectic and electric line-up of artists. What better way to spend any summer Sunday than dancing in the sun?

The festival takes place in Parc Jean-Drapeau, just 10 minutes outside of the city on the Metro’s Yellow Line and goes on every Sunday from 2pm until the sun goes down.

Watch the full summer 2019 line-up below:

Visit Piknic Électronik’s website for complete line-up details and to purchase tickets! Season, family & student passes are also available

The Moaning Yoni was a show I was prepared to hate. While I’m all about demystifying women’s bodies, health, and sexuality in fiction and non-fiction, I find the idea of a show devoted entirely to a single body part repugnant. I was however, pleasantly surprised when I finally got to see it.

The show is the brainchild of Joylyn Secunda, an actor, dancer, and singer from Vancouver, who created the piece out of a desire to create a solo show that expressed something personal.

“At the time I had just came out as asexual and was thinking a lot about how I fit into society as an ace, female-bodied person. I began to explore different characters and developed the show through a lot of experimentation and play.”

The show follows the heroine Zoë through a journey of self-discovery during a “Yoni Healing Circle”, a sort of yoga class devoted to honoring and nourishing “sacred feminine organs”.

Secunda, clad in red harem pants and a matching long-sleeved crop top, plays almost all the characters in the play, including Crystal, the class instructor, Zoe – the show’s protagonist, Zoe’s “Yoni”, Zoë’s promiscuous college friends, and the men she’s dated. The only character she doesn’t play is a male voiceover done by voiceover performer Adam Bergquist, who clearly represents the condescending patriarchal voice of ‘reason’.

At the beginning of the class, the Crystal hands the students a magic elixir and asks them to apply a small amount to their vulvas. The effect causes Zoe’s yoni to talk, resulting in the first pleasant surprise of the show.

The Yoni in question is portrayed by Secunda as a Yenta: a shrill, nagging, opinionated old Jewish lady. I grew up with women like this, so while I appreciated the portrayal and found it hilarious, those unfamiliar with Jewish culture and Yiddish expressions might not understand all the words expressed by the Yoni in her anguish and irritation with Zoë.

The struggle between Zoë and her Yoni was fun to watch, as it even included a dance with a giant tampon.

The show is unfortunately not without its flaws. Secunda sings a few songs in the show that go on far too long without contributing to the story. The ice cream song about sex with frat boys and the multilingual song praising mother earth were repetitive and could easily have been cut in half without sacrificing the play’s message of self-love.

Where The Moaning Yoni really shines, however, is in its merciless attack on all the things a woman navigating her health and sexuality has to deal with. Everything from sexual assault, to online dating, peer pressure, to bad kissers, to toxic masculinity, to oral sex, to snake oil peddlers selling dangerous vaginal insertion devices – the latter clearly a dig at Gwyneth Paltrow and Goop, to pubic grooming is mercilessly lampooned by Secunda during the show.

There are parts of the show that are triggering so sexual assault survivors might be a little uncomfortable, but it’s still worth watching. Secunda is incredibly talented, with her supremely expressive face and body carrying much of show. If Jim Carrey is the male rubberface, Secunda might just be the female equivalent.

Secunda hopes that audiences walk away thinking about the nuances of their own genders and sexuality and the affect it has on their relationships. Some men might have reservations about seeing the show as she pulls no punches in her descriptions of negative heterosexual male behavior. When I asked her about it, she said the show is as much for men as it is for women. Her message to potential male viewers is that:

“Toxic masculinity hurts men just as much as it hurts women and non-binary people. I hope by watching Zoë’s journey in the play, you might have a better understanding of an experience that is different than your own. It’s a really fun comedy for anyone, no matter your age, gender, sexuality, or culture.”

The Moaning Yoni is a piece with a lot of potential, and if anyone is wondering whether Joylyn Secunda can carry a whole show, the answer is yes. She just needs to do a little trimming.

I’m generally skeptical of one-man shows because I know they depend on the charm and talent of the star, so I wasn’t sure what to expect when I walked into Zack Adams: Love Songs for Future Girl.

The show stars Shane Adamczak, a native of Perth, Australia, who first introduced the Zack Adams character to Fringe Festivals in 2006. Following the success of his show The Ballad Of Frank Allen, Adamczak has brought Zack Adams back.

It should be said that the show’s subject matter is nothing original. It’s the story of a cis straight man, Zack Adams, discussing through song and story the women in his life, his travels, and his professional mishaps as a performer and children’s drama teacher.

I had the opportunity to email back and forth with Adamczak prior to show so I asked him if the character was based on anyone in particular.

“Zack is based partially on me, partially on people I knew in drama school, but mostly a figment of my imagination. I like to think of him as a cooler alter ego…like my version of Ziggy Stardust. He’s evolved a lot over the years; he started as a nervous performance poet then became a struggling actor, a time traveller and then a folk rock star. It’s nice to find an outlet to live my rock star fantasies, I suppose.”

People have compared the show to Nick Hornby’s High Fidelity and Adamczak is super flattered by the comparison as he’s a big fan of the book and film adaptation. He admits that there are a lot of similar themes with regards to music, reflecting on past relationships and how they can change you as a person. Adamczak’s portrayal of these themes through Zack Adams is however a lot fresher and more fun.

While Hornby’s hero is deflated and loveably sad, Zack Adams is funny, a little angry, and almost frenzied in his storytelling. There are gags in the show you won’t expect, and rants – sometimes in song, sometimes without – that will make you laugh.

He says Bob Dylan was the primary musical inspiration for the show with “a bit if cheesy 90s pop thrown in too,” something that will appeal to the thirty somethings in the audience. What really sells the show is Adamczak himself, who is charming and looks far too young to have been touring for ten years.

You won’t just be watching a schmuck on stage with a guitar, you’ll be watching dance moves and hand gestures and tales of hilarious misery all packaged in a ginger Aussie in an 80s punk-inspired studded denim jacket.

When I asked Adamczak what he would say to people thinking of seeing the show, he said:

“ABSOLUTELY do it. Bring your sister, brothers and significant others, we’ll make a night of it and you’ll leave smiling with a bunch of weird funny songs stuck in your head.”

Zack Adams says in the show that if a show is good, you’ll be talking about it with your friends for two weeks, but if it’s a bad show, you’ll talk about it forever. I’ll be talking about this one for at least two weeks. In the meantime, go see it! It’s worth it.

Zack Adams: Love Songs for Future Girl plays two more times at the Montreal Fringe, June 14th and 15th. For tickets and info: montrealfringe.ca

The Man Behind the Curtain is a hard show to review. Inspired by magic, the show is cramped, unpredictable, and uncomfortable, but it’s also fast-paced, hilarious, and intense.

The venue is set up in the apartment of co-writer and director Sam Jameson. Anyone who feels squeamish about attending a performance in someone’s home is missing out on a great show. Productions Presents describes the show as:

“A series of fantastical vignettes that are all tied together by the theme of magic… The show consists of the performance itself, the physical space around you, and the how the physical space changes over the course of the show. “

The Man Behind the Curtain stars Erik Leisinger and is directed by Sam Jameson who met on themet on the set of Glam Gam’s Fringe Production, Peter Pansexual, when Sam was director and Erik was a performer. They worked together again last year on Glam Gam’s Greasy: A Lesbian Love Story – currently the highest grossing Fringe play of all time.

In 2018, Jameson and Leisinger founded Productions Presents, a company for the work they produce together. When I had the chance to speak to them, the question on my mind was whether Jameson or Leisinger were actually magicians, given the show’s magic theme.

“Neither Sam or Erik are professional magicians, and quite frankly can’t really do magic to save their lives. Fortunately, Erik Leisinger’s childhood friend, Erin the Magician is a hotshot magician from the west coast and has helped us throughout the process.”

You will see magic tricks in this show, but they’re nothing spectacular, and as a viewer, you really won’t care because you’ll be too busy laughing. Unlike the classic theatre setup where audience and performance spaces are separate and distinct, The Man Behind the Curtain is immersive theatre, a type of show where “the entire performance area is a part of the show, and the audience has far more freedom to interact with the performance environment and the performers themselves.”

As audience members you won’t be picked on by the performers, but you will be expected to participate a little. That said, the venue has extremely limited space, with a maximum capacity of ten people.

Shows are often sold out so get your tickets in advance. You won’t be disappointed!

The Man Behind the Curtain runs through June 15. Tickets available at montrealfringe.ca