November’s Candyass Cabaret was special one, for sure. Glad I made it. If you missed it, you missed a great show, but you can still catch the next one (more on that later).

It was the Montreal burlesque show’s 50th edition. With a new show, a new lineup and rotating hosts the third Friday of every month, the Candyass crew has been quite busy.

Emcee Ryan G. Hinds
Emcee Ryan G. Hinds

Their anniversary show at Cafe Cleopatre (where else) featured performers who have been part of it since the beginning such as show founder Velma Candyass, Roxy Hardon, Diane Labelle and Nat King Pole. They were joined by performers who became part of the Candyass Club along the way like Jacy Lafontaine, Damiana Dolce, Lili Lolipop and Pyrometheus. There were also visiting guests from Buffalo, New York’s Stripteasers Burlesque: Cat Sinclair (aka FTB columnist Cat McCarthy), Juicy Lucy and Fifi Laflea.

The Buffalo trio, wearing Pussy Riot masks and carrying protest signs, reminded everyone that burlesque performance and the very act of removing (most of) your clothing on stage for the sake of art is much more than sexy. Don’t get me wrong, it’s quite hot, especially when done by these performers, but it’s also a political act.

This, of course, was the first Candyass Cabaret since the Trump victory south of the border. Emcee Ryan G. Hinds also briefly mentioned the political climate the show was being performed in, but kept the evening squarely focused on the theme of the night, which was musical theatre.

He even sang a few tunes himself: Coming Up Roses from Gypsy and You’ll Be Back from Hamilton. All part of his main job, keeping the audience entertained and happy during acts like a good emcee should.

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(l-r) Velma Candyass and Roxy Hardon (photo Argaive)

On a personal note, Hinds was quite generous with the questions when he called audience members up to the stage to answer musical theatre trivia. I placed third (having placed first in the audience dance contest at the previous Candyass Cabaret). Full disclosure: The Music Man is NOT my favourite musical, I was in it in high school and it’s the first one that popped into my head when asked. I’m actually partial to Jesus Christ Superstar, Evita and Wicked.

Speaking of singing (as we were before that little diversion), the vocal highlight of the evening has got to be Roxy Hardon’s rendition of Nowadays from Chicago. Deceptively soft at first, then revealing the true power of the tune.

Of course, this led to her being joined on stage by Velma Candyass, who had already performed earlier, for a raucous final…wait, Roxy and Velma? Chicago? Oh now I get it, only took me 50 shows.

It only took Pyrometheus a few moments to get down and dirty with his chimney sweeping brush to the tune of Chim Chim Cheree. Yes, the song from Mary Poppins. Instead of the film version, though, he opted for a lesser known but quite interesting Duke Ellington rendition. Bonus points for not using the Dick Van Dyke version and setting up so many obvious puns.

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Jacy Lafontaine

Then there was Jacy Lafontaine dancing to a song from Sweeny Todd. Making a musical about a murderous barber sexy is not an easy feat, but she pulled it off flawlessly.

Lili Lolipop had everyone Singing in the Rain. No need to bring your umbrella, she brought her own! And Sondheim wasn’t left out as Diane Labelle danced to Tintinnabula from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum.

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers isn’t from a musical per se, but, as Hinds pointed out in his introduction, the moment Barbara Streisand is involved, it counts. Nat King Pole in the role of Neil Diamond and Damiana Dolce as Streisand offered a very funny and even sweet modern take this classic love duet.

There was also cake!

Sounds like a great show, right? Sad you missed it? You should be…but fret not, dear reader. FTB is giving you a chance to win a pair of tickets to the next one!

To participate, just sign up for the FTB E-mail Newsletter list right here. We’ll send you a digest of some of our best content each week and also, on Monday, December 12th, we’ll send our subscribers info on how to enter for the draw (so you should sign up by then).

The show is on Friday, December 16th at Cafe Cleopatre, 1230 boul St-Laurent, 2nd floor, Doors 9pm, Show 10pm. This one has a holiday theme and features Diane Labelle, Nat King Pole, Damiana Dolce, Roxie Hardon, Mary Sisuei & Golem de Lave, Lili Lolipop & more! Plus Classy Claire is back with a tasty selection of rumballs.

Even if you don’t win the tickets, trust me, it’s worth your while to check it out. Only $10 at the door!

* All photos by Denis-André Desjardins except where otherwise noted

Forget The Box’s weekly Arts Calendar is back for its last November edition. Take a look at these excellent events if you’re looking for fun and inexpensive things to check out!

As always; if you’re interested in going to one of these events and want to cover it for us, send a message  or leave a comment below.

Beaux Dégâts #45 – Tap Water Jam MTL + Ella Grave showcase

Beaux Dégâts is a time-honoured Montreal tradition that combines improvisation in musical and fine arts to create a unique organic event space. From their Facebook page:

“Beaux Dégâts tries to make a parallel between the reality of street artists and the Fine Arts. It is here to bring back what has been ignored for too long by art institutions and return to the street artist’s reality: the importance of community, sharing, accessibility and uniqueness.

For two hours, six teams of artists will improvise 8ft X 8ft murals on different themes given on the night. Each team will have to research and find visual references to create a production in front of public. All mediums except spray cans are allowed. During the evening, the public will vote for it’s favorite mural using their empty Pabst beer cans. The team that will collect the most cans will win the right to paint over the other artists work if they wish.”

Beaux Dégâts #45: Live Improvised Painting and Music – Wednesday, Nov 30, Foufounes Electriques, 8pm-1am. Entrance: 5$

The Crossing presented by Cinema Politica Concordia

Cinema Politica is a media arts, non-profit network of community and campus locals that screen independent political film and video by Canadian and international artists throughout Canada and abroad. It is volunteer-run and all screenings are by donation.

 

The film that Cinema Politica is screening this Monday, The Crossing, “takes us along on one of the most dangerous journeys of our time with a group of Syrians fleeing war and persecution, crossing a sea, two continents and five countries, searching for a home to rekindle the greatest thing they have lost – Hope.”

The Crossing screening @ Cinema Politica Concordia, 1455 de Maisonneuve Boulevard W, Room H-110, Monday, 7pm. Entrance by Donation

50/50 presented at Mainline Theatre

50/50 is a novel concept; a half-scripted, half-improvised live comedy show! This show was a major hit at Just For Laughs 2016 and will not be back for four months – definitely catch this if you can at the Mainline Theatre.

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Coming off a sellout show at OFF-JFL/Zoofest this past July, 50/50 returns with a new cast blending talented actors and hilarious comedians. In each of the show’s nine scenes, a prepared actor who has learned lines off a real script is paired with an improviser who has no prior knowledge of what the actor has rehearsed.

50/50 @ Mainline Theatre, 3997 boul St-Laurent. Wednesday, November 30th, 8pm. $15 (students/seniors/QDF Members $12)

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

Panelists Cat McCarthy and Der Kosmonaut discuss political art following the Trump victory and the legacy of the late, great Leonard Cohen with host Jason C. McLean.

News Roundup Topics: Pence at Hamilton, Montreal Police spying on journalists, historic building burned, Sarkozy losing power and the International Infringement Conference.

Panelists:

Cat McCarthy: Burlesque performer, artist and FTB contributor

Der Kosmonaut: Spoken word artist, author and blogger

Host: Jason C. McLean

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

Reports by Hannah Besseau

Recorded Sunday, November 20, 2016 in Montreal

LISTEN:

WATCH:

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

I know that (US) Thanksgiving is based on the colonization and degradation of indigenous people and the murder of innocent turkeys. Nothing has changed, in fact it has only gotten more blatant.

Currently Native American protesters are being drenched with water cannons in sub zero temperatures, detained in dog cages, and other inhumane atrocities in North Dakota defending their water, defending their people from the tyrannical American government. I see Barack Obama putting a medal of freedom over Ellen Degeneras’ neck and cry at the nice words he says about diversity and being free and LGBT in our country but still in the back of my mind wonder why he hasn’t tried harder to end the disaster in Standing Rock?

In Buffalo NY there are proposals involving a ban on conversion therapy.

I love the movie But, I’m a Cheerleader because it was a satire, it showed the absurdity of changing a person back to a “normal” sexuality. People are born gay, straight, transgender, and so many in betweens and there is nothing you can do to change their beautiful diversity. It is disgusting torture.

Mike Pence is pure evil, as are all of the white supremacist butt nuggets that Trump is putting into power. I heard today that he appointed several women, these chicks must really be groovy to align with the pussy grabbing cheeto hate monger.

What is happening in this world? The rise in rape and hate crimes will be monumental.

It is hard to give thanks when it seems the apocalypse is now. It is hard to just suck it up and celebrate, like nothing is wrong.

I have family members that proudly voted for Trump and I have to invite them into my home and share a meal with them. By voting for him you made life more dangerous, you voted for racism, sexism, and bigotry. You are taking away civil liberties and building a wall of ignorance and greed around yourselves. I am embarrassed to sit here and watch you choke on your white privilege.

Regardless, my dinner table is still going to remain all inclusive. Everyone is invited. It is a safe place for all people. Only love reigns in my home. I will fight your ignorance by educating and loving you.

I am thankful that (for the time being, who knows what dark fate is in store for us) I have freedom of speech, my art remains bold and uncensored.

I am thankful for my blood and extended family of activists and fellow free spirits.

I am thankful for my health, for my ability to change the world with my words, art, and voice.

I am thankful for my cats, their cuddles cure anything.

I am thankful for music, for riot grrl rants, for poetry, for the expulsion of rage into art and positivity.

I am thankful for other people’s thoughts, for the ability to learn from my mistakes, to live with kindness and resolution.

I am thankful for our right to protest. No matter how bad it gets we need to stand tall and take back our world, letting them know that evil will not win.

I am thankful for this blog, Forgetthebox has allowed me to express myself freely for the world to read, I have gotten other opportunities and have made so many smart friends 🙂

revolution-boots
photo by Velma Candyass from the World Infringement Conference

Montreal- city of strange adventures. Random stories of our adventures included but are not limited to: A man wearing a full vinyl gimp suit with addidas sneakers. Then there was the masseuse wearing a leather jock strap and the best part is that he only spoke in puns, a dom who speaks in puns, he is now dubbed The Punisher.

My favorite moment was fat fuck poutine squirrel. I looked over to see just the ass and tail of a giant chubby squirrel sticking out of a garbage bag, he then pulled out a styrofoam container, hulked it open, and demolished the rest of a poutine, I could hear him eating, it was the cutest thing I had ever seen! The Leonard Cohen Memorial, all of the incredible street art, and a two story vintage shop with a vegetarian cafe were the other cherries on this cupcake of a vacation.

The Montreal Infringement Festival was incredible as always. I had a show everyday I was there. The Rusty Shuttle was an amazing new venue, I love the underground loft DIY artspaces of the world. Barfly was punk rock brilliance, I thoroughly enjoyed being sandwiched between two Folk Punk bands. Everyone in this city is so sexy! I couldn’t even handle it.

World Infringement Conference photo by Donovan King
World Infringement Conference photo by Donovan King

I was honored to be part of the World Infringement Conference, my presentation was spur of the moment. We had planned on showing our art work, but unfortunately hanging did not happen, so I decided to turn my presentation time into a guerrilla art gallery. We donned our Pussy Riot masks and I talked about the beauty and necessity of free and accessible art.

The Buffalo Infringement Festival is an artistic Utiopia, a perfect climate for social change and exploration. We have no idea what Fringe is here.

I recalled a performance during last year’s fest where a fire dancer named Clinton said to the crowd, “How many of you had your first show ever during infringement?” So many people raised their hands and clapped. I cried.

There are a zillion moments that justify why I volunteer my time with this festival, that was the one that will make me only work harder. To know that I am helping people express themselves for the first time, creating life long artists, adding to the collective culture of humanity.

Find things to be thankful for in spite of adversity! Be inspired by the wrong, make it right with your art and actions, protect the person next to you, make change in your community and globally, connect with others and join the revolution. This is how great punk music is born. Be the change and hold your head up high. Happy Thanksgiving!

infringement besties

* Featured image by Agraive

The Candyass Cabaret: Shimmies and Showtunes is at the Cafe Cleopatre (1230 boul St-Laurent, 2nd floor) this Friday November 18th, doors at 9pm show at 10pm. It features burlesque, drag and other theatrical entertainment. $10 at the door. I will be there with my fellow performers naked for the world to see.

I have been active with the Buffalo Infringement Festival and was very inspired to go to the Infringe Mecca of Montreal to see where it all began. Two years ago, Fifi Laflea and I made the trip for the Montreal Infringement Festival and we had no idea the honor it would be to perform with the Candyass Caberet at the historic Cafe Cleopatre.

candyass

Being in the dressing room even felt special. I wondered what incredible creatures from times past got ready in front of these very mirrors? I truly cannot believe that special place was almost a thing of the past.

In a world over saturated with sex it is a challenge to truly titilate someone with art. Burlesque is my life. It is an old tradition of theatrical bawdiness with blatant political intentions.

A major highlight of my career was a the 2014 Montreal Infringement Festival where (dressed in horrible white trash drag) I pulled several American flags out of a very large glittery plushy penis to the song “America, F*ck Yeah!” during that Candyass show, with Fifi Laflea as my beautiful assistant. It was definitely a statement about how the rest of the world views Americans and our culture of waste and over privilege.

It is even more important now to be a sort of cultural ambassador with my art due to the election of that pompous Cheeto nightmare. I have a responsibility to show the world that not all Americans are like him, not all of us support hate, most of us are scared, we are angry. We are going to speak out and stand up. Art is the first line.

I asked Velma Candyass, world renowned burlesque performer, a few questions. She is also one of the ringleaders that helped to save the Cafe Cleopatre from demolition. She also does incredible tours of the Montreal Red Light District with Donovan King, and runs her own burlesque troupe The Dead Doll Dancers. She is an absolutely incredible performer, a super babe, my burlesque crush, and a total sweetheart.

candyass-cabaret-3Wow, I am very impressed that this is the 50th show! How do you feel about 50 Candyass Caberet shows?

Im shocked at having produced this much under the Candyass concept. It’s a lot of work but I genuinely enjoy the challenges involved in managing a show and herding the artists

What was the theme of the first show?

If my foggy brain recalls, it was not too long after the victory saving the Cleopatra venue. So it was a ‘welcome to the cabaret” theme with lots of variety arts, drag queens and burlesque with a european cabaret flavour.

Why did you choose a Showtunes theme for this one?

Why showtunes? Why not? It was a theme that several of my regular artists really wanted to have and since I hadn’t featured musical theatre type acts in awhile, I felt was a great idea. No matter what, everyone has at least one musical they like, so therefore the artist should be able to develop an act based on an old favourite .

What are your favorite musicals?

I personally like Chicago, Cabaret, Avenue Q, Contact, Wicked, West Side Story and The Producers .

I know a lady never tells her age, but how long have you been doing burlesque?

Oh gawd a long time. Long enough to see the transitions in the styles of burlesque going on. And some of the Legends passing on.

What is your biggest inspiration?

Oh gosh, I would say The Velvet Hammer Burlesque was a definite aha moment along with Le Scandal Cabaret. It was all bubbling underground and dynamic.

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Who is your burlesque crush/icon?

Tiffany Carter and April March are my burlesque crush/icons. Completely different styles and eras yet wonderful legends to learn from.

What are your thoughts on the political importance and impact of burlesque?

It’s 2016 and a woman/person stripping naked and in control of their bodies is still a big deal as evidenced by some of the crazy things going on in the world. Political burlesque acts are an important expression and, just like the court jester, tell the stories that wouldn’t get told otherwise .

What are your thoughts on the Infringement Festival?

Infringement festivals provide a place for artists to create and have their say. Its getting more and more difficult to be able to afford to participate in many of the large(r) mainstreamed festival and this provides a DIY experience to develop one’s skills.

* Photos (except for backstage shot) by Argaive

* Candyass Cabaret: Shimmies and Showtunes – Saturday, November 18th, Cafe Cleopatre, 1230 Boul St-Laurent, 10pm (Doors 9pm). $10

The Chilean refugees who arrived in Canada in the 1970s and 1980s, particularly in Montreal, have been a community that has captivated me throughout the past two years. I was therefore ecstatic to have the opportunity to see The Refugee Hotel staged at The Segal Centre. Despite some awkward translation into English and a difficult script to work with, the play is an excellent one that I recommend – particularly after yesterday’s events in the USA.

These brave Chileans who came across the oceans were faced with two choices; the first being to trust that everything would be okay for them in Chile if they kept their heads down, stayed in line, and trusted that the military would “make Chile great again”. The second: to restart their entire lives in a country with a new language, new food, new music, and of course, the omnipresent “Canadian values” (still searching for a definition of those, other than the ability to properly cross-check someone).

Teesri Duniya Theatre’s production of The Refugee Hotel does its sincere best to answer these questions. The script draws from author-and-playwright Carmen Aguirre’s lived experience as the child of Chilean refugees growing up in 1970s Canada. It’s an impressive story made even more poignant by its autobiographical basis.

The Refugee Hotel Trailer from Chris Wardell on Vimeo.

This is one of the reasons that it is so frustrating to review this play. Though the premise is admirable, Aguirre’s play shortchanges itself by trying to fit too many facets of the Chilean refugee story, and indeed, the story of human migration, into two short acts.

At the centre of the play are Jorge (Pablo Diconca) and Flaca (Gilda Monreal), a married couple who represent two sides of the resistance movement in Chile. Jorge is something of a milquetoast pacifist anarchist accountant, while his wife is a firebrand Marxist active in the MIR (the Revolutionary Leftist Movement).

Their two children escape with them to a hotel in Canada, where they meet other Chilean refugees subjected to inhuman torture in the Carabineros’ concentration camps. The rest of the play progresses at a slow pace as each rediscovers their humanity and intimacy, one-by-one in a frustratingly perfect way.

By “frustratingly perfect,” I mean that of course the mute girl is coaxed into to talking at the end of the second act, and she falls for the man who talks with her first, and of course they end the play with a freeze-frame photo motif. The play’s unfortunate dives into clichés keep it from developing serious critiques.

Jorge and Flaca’s struggle to be intimate once again despite the horrific sexual torture that the Carabineros inflicted upon her is a topic that is criminally underrepresented in works of art; and even less so is it approached sensitively. An exploration of that theme alone would have made for a powerful and moving production, but Aguirre’s insistence on shoehorning so many important themes into the play means that extraordinarily difficult trauma from torture is treated as nothing more than a plot point. For example, two suicide attempts that happen within two minutes of another are treated as comedic moments.

Moreover, I felt that the repeated flashbacks to scenes of torture in the Estadio Nacional de Chile are not used to explore the characters’ motivations and histories, but rather as punctuation marks for the drama as a whole.

The play is being performed at the Segal Centre, which bills itself as the heart of Montreal’s Anglophone theatre culture. This presents an interesting double-edged sword for the actors in that they are reading from a script originally written in Spanish, for an English-speaking audience in French Canada.

Certain recurring parts of the script (such as the nickname for Jorge, “Little-Big-Bear”) sound awkward in English where they would have made perfect sense in Spanish (“Osito Grande,” better understood as “Teddy Bear”). On a larger scale, the familiar words, particularly “desaparecido,” used to articulate the brutality of the Pinochet regime are lost in translation.

Furthermore, the play misses opportunity to develop a more nuanced comedic character in Bill O’Neill, the enthusiastic Québécois hippie who helps the guests at the Refugee Hotel find work. In the Spanish script, he speaks with comically poor but confident command over Spanish, but in this English adaptation, his dialogue sounds like a 19th-century caricature – “Army me take to stadium. Bad men take Bill!”

Other than awkward phrasing, this makes the characterization of Bill difficult for the audience, as he is repeatedly referred to (kindly) as “the only gringo who speaks Spanish.” In poor translation, Bill’s character shifts from that of a Canadian activist with a sincere wish to improve his Spanish and act in solidarity with Chilean refugees into a buffoon.

This is the part of reviewing that I do not enjoy. The story itself is captivating, and the curation behind the set design and music choices was phenomenal. I just wish that the story was more focused on one or two of these families, instead of a script that leaves several important facets of post-traumatic stress equally unexamined.

All of this is not to say that I did not find the play enjoyable and tastefully performed – in fact, the actors did a stellar job working with an awkward script, and the set direction was simple and elegant. I give a special commendation to the Set Designer, Diana Uribe, who placed the beds of the hotel at an upright 90º angle, which allowed the actors to remain part of the action, while staying true to the stage direction to lie supine.

The music choices, namely the major-key Victor Jara folk ballads that accompanied scenes of horrific torture in the Estadio Nacional may have been shocking to people unfamiliar with Chile’s musical history – but it seems a deliberate nod to the famous Cueca Sola spot produced by the Anti-Pinochet Campaign during the 1989 plebiscite made famous by Pablo Larraín’s 2012 film. This is made all the more poignant by the fact that Victor Jara was tortured to death in the Estadio Nacional, specifically targeted and brutally murdered for his popularity and beliefs.

Speaking with the actor who played Jorge, Pablo Diconca, I learned that many of the cast came into this production with the explicit goal of putting faces to the communities so left behind by history. Diconca is a Uruguayan-born Montrealer who has been an integral part of the local theatre scene since his arrival in Canada at 19:

“I can not ever forget the fact that I have an accent, and I will always have one. This has restricted me as an actor – I have played drug dealers, murderers, and taxi drivers more than I can count,” Pablo told me. “When I came to Canada, I refused these roles out of principle…but with time, I came to realize that acting is my passion, and that by being on stage, this is how one becomes involved in the local culture and community. One must put their heart into acting. It becomes easier when the script is [about] something you already have in your heart. I was invited to be a part of this cast, and I didn’t see how I could turn it down. This is a play that can help to open minds.”

Teesri Duniya’s Artistic Director and co-founder, Rahul Varma, explained to me that he chose to stage this play as a way of “challenging the notion that 9/11 of 2001 divided the world into pre-9/11 and post 9/11…there have been so many other 9/11s, such as the 9/11 of 1973.” Rahul is of course referring to the military coup in Chile that took place on September 11, 1973, where the Chilean Air Force bombed downtown Santiago and assassinated the democratically-elected head of state, Salvador Allende.

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Rahul continued, referencing the current Syrian refugee crisis, “I thought that this play brings certain realities of the past and connects them to what is currently happening.  The idea is to look into what has happened – why is it that refugees are coming to Canada? Why do people leave their homes elsewhere?”

According to their website, Teesri Duniya Theatre “is dedicated to producing, developing and presenting socially and politically relevant theatre, based on the cultural experiences of diverse communities.” They are an incredibly important part of Montreal’s Arts community and I am thrilled to see that they took it upon themselves to tell the story of an underrepresented and important part of Canada.

As we draw to the closing of this play’s run at the Segal Centre, as well as the dawning of an unprecedented dark cloud over North American immigration politics, it is important to remember the lessons left by Chilean-Canadians’ struggles in and out of their homeland. I salute Teesri Duniya Theatre, The Segal Centre, and the cast and crew of this production for shining a light on the challenges faced by refugees in a sensitive and responsible manner despite an unaccommodating script.

El pueblo unido jamás será vencido.

The Refugee Hotel is playing until Sunday at The Segal Centre (5170 ch. de la Côte-Ste-Catherine). Tickets available here.

Poster by Rashad Nilamdeen.

Forget The Box’s weekly Arts Calendar is back for its early November edition. The chill has definitely returned to Montreal, but that doesn’t mean it’s time to lock ourselves indoors yet! Take a look at these excellent events if you’re looking for fun and inexpensive things to check out!

As always; if you’re interested in going to one of these events and want to cover it for us, send a message  or leave a comment below.

Bareoke presented by Glam Gam

No stranger to performing in local strip clubs with the burlesque troupe Glam Gam, Lipster’s organizers realized this type of venue would surely allow them to transform their karaoke show into Stripster!

Now you can find them the first Saturday of every month at the historic Café Cléopâtre, which comes equipped with a large stage, a smoke machine and crazy lighting which allows people to take their performances to the next level.

Glam Gam’s organizers have made an important step in making the space open for everyone, according to their Facebook event page : “We are thrilled to have performers of all different backgrounds, ages, body types, gender identities and sexualities. Some people will take off just a sock, others will get down to their skivvies and a lot of brave souls prance around in their birthday suits! The best part is that everyone respects and encourages each other’s boundaries with little to no policing on our part.”

Come see what all the fuss is about!

Bareoke @ Café Cléopâtre, 1230 St Laurent, Saturday, November 5, 10PM, $5

FTB is no stranger to Glam Gam!
FTB is no stranger to Glam Gam!

Fishbowl Collective Presents: An Anti-War Art Pop-up

The Fishbowl Collective will be occupying a studio space in Griffintown and filling it with art of all kinds against war/militarism of any kind!

At 8:30, the space will be taken over by anti-war Pierrots in an hour-long version of Theatre Workshop’s Oh What a Lovely War!

From 9:30-11 the space will act as a showcase for local artists to show their work!

Local anti-war organizations will be tabling in the space.

Oh What A Lovely War's Theatrical Poster
Oh What A Lovely War’s Theatrical Poster

Using songs and documents of the period, Oh What a Lovely War! is an epic theatrical chronicle of the horrors of WWI as presented by a seaside pierrot troupe. It was collectively created by Theatre Workshop in 1963 under Joan Littlewood, and over 50 years later remains unique in its innovative satiric way of looking at the difficult subject of war and its futility. Its dismissal of sentimentality and its distinct anti-war-agit-prop flavour highlights the oppression of the working stiff turned common soldier and points to the absurdity involved in war.

141 Rue Ste Ann, Pay What You Can (All Proceeds go to Actions Réfugiés Montréal)

Pride Screening presented by Socialist Fightback!

Socialist Fightback is screening Pride (2014) at McGill University’s Shatner Building in Room 202 this Wednesday. Entrance is FREE, and a spirited discussion is sure to follow. Curious about what “Solidarity” means to the LGBT community? Check this movie out.

Pride offers an excellent example of solidarity along class lines. Between 1981-1984, the British government under Margaret Thatcher had closed around 20 mining pits and coal mining employment continued to fall. The miners’ strike of 1984-85 was a major industrial action to shut down the British coal industry in an attempt to prevent colliery closures.

Also victims of Thatcher’s bigotry and conservative policies, gays and lesbians came together to collect funds and sustain the miner’s strike. Although reluctant at first, the miners accepted the support from the LGSM.

Pride is a great demonstration of how class unity is the best and most effective way of fighting against all types of oppression.

Pride is screening in the Shatner Building Room 202 @ McGill University, November 9, 7pm, FREE

 

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

I will be attending the Montreal Infringement Festival this year and simultaneously protesting the World Fringe Conference. Everyone who tried to attend the conference from both the Montreal and Buffalo Infringement Festivals have been denied without reason.

Why do we scare you so much? If you want to have a well run festival you must know the counterculture you have excluded. Fringe artists are supposed to be cutting edge and on the fringe of new and exciting artistic expression. They must pay money to be part of the festival. Politically motivated acts are not welcome due to the chance of pissing off sponsors. Censorship and corporate sponsorship are evil.

The Montreal Infringement Festival was created by Donovan King in 2004 after the St. Ambroise (a beer company) Fringe censored the artist in 2001. The sponsor Can-West Global, a media company that owns the Montreal Gazette was to blame.

The theatre critic from the Gazette wanted a free ticket to Car Stories (experimental politically charged interactive street theatre where the audience moves and becomes the show) and after being told “no” caused a stink and decided not to cover the festival until the artists were ejected. The festival not only kicked the artists out but also refused to pay them their ticket sales after a sold out week or reimburse the registration fee associated with the Fringe trademark.

The following year Infringement spread to Buffalo. Infringement is a non-profit, non-hierarchal, grassroots art festival. It is a revolution that brings together independent, free spirited, and often controversial and experimental expression.

live-painting-infringement
Donovan and I Montreal Infringement 2014

Donovan King attended the World Fringe Congresses in Edinburgh in 2012 and 2014 . He was invited as a representative of the infringement festivals. This year he the conference is in his hometown and he was denied access.

This is a blatant disrespectful slap in the face. Donovan was excited at the prospect of attending the 2016 Congress to continue the conversation in his home city and to try and finally resolve issues.

He has written and performed pieces that criticize the Fringe Festival and its ethics. Other artists have combined efforts to artistically challenge their exclusion from the St. Ambroise Fringe through culture jamming. The festival has responded with the complete exclusion of activist artists.

The police are called whenever there is a protest, even though the right to protest in Canada is protected by their constitution. Instead of communicating we are shunned, this cultural battle that has gone on for well over a decade and it must end now!

This year for the 3rd World Fringe Congress Donovan proposed a workshop on strategies to help ensure safer artistic festivals after unfortunate instances of sexual assault and discrimination against disabled people at recent Fringe Festivals. We need to create policies to ensure safety and inclusion of all people in our festivals.

He wrote a letter to the new Fringe CEO, Ms. Shona McCarthy, in response to the rejection of Infringement representatives:

“I find it really unfortunate that my colleagues in Buffalo are being rejected simply for being associated with me. It is important to remember that these artists simply wanted to do Fringe theatre until they were threatened by the Fringe in NYC, who claimed to control a Fringe trademark. Instead, they started an infringement festival, just like we did because of the Canadian trademark that prevented us from doing a populist form of arts we have been doing since we helped found the Fringe in Montreal. We are about as Fringe as it gets – if people won’t let us play in their ‘official’ festival, we are going to do it ourselves, just like the artists who invented the 1947 Fringe Festival in the first place.”

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Infringement Festivals accept and celebrate all artists

The Canadian Association of Fringe Festivals (CAFF) also threatens unfounded legal action against any independent artists who try to use the word Fringe without their permission. This is the antithesis of creative expression. There is an exclusion of artists actually on the fringe of societal norms.

The Infringement Festivals do not fit corporate agendas and are not allowed to voice creative solutions to critical questions. In order to spark our own counter conversation there will be a World Infringement Congress on Saturday November 19th in Montreal.

Infringement is about community, inclusion for all, challenging unjust politics, celebrating diversity, and changing the world through artistic expression. Buffalo comrades should make the trip.

My last performance with Candy Ass was incredible
My last performance with Candy Ass Cabaret

I will be exposed and covered in corporate logos for the world to see and performing with The Candyass Caberet at the historic Cafe Cleopatra. I have been one of the visual arts organizers, a participating artist, and performer in the Buffalo festival for years and am also proud to say that I won the 2017 poster contest.

I am dedicated to the conservation of artistic integrity worldwide. My paintings have been ripped off walls and people have walked out of my performances. If people are offended then you are doing it right.

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Buffalo stands with Montreal to protect Infringement

I was surprised when I saw a giant ad and schedule for the Rochester Fringe Festival in a local Buffalo art publication. This is Infringement territory! We celebrate diversity and the pure unedited brilliance of local artists.

Try to tell me that what we are doing is wrong, that bringing the community together and celebrating the beauty of unity, artists of all walks of life and experience standing side by side making the world stronger, exposing children to art, collaborating with our neighbors and connecting to out of town artists who will soon become family.

Authentic and exhilarating politically charged art, discrediting idea of art as a commodity and fighting for the rights of all humans, and challenging mainstream ideas. No budget, totally volunteer run, guerrilla music, burlesque, dance, theatre, visual arts, poetry, comedy, and under the radar art that defies all categorization.

It is my everything, a citywide sprawling sweet escape from reality. I will fight for the integrity of this festival and others like it to the end.

Rocky Horror is my religion.

Every Halloween and during the occasional summer show for the past seventeen years, I’d paint my face and those of my friends, fasten my garter belt and wait in the freezing rain and snow to see the interactive Rocky Horror Picture show.

The interactive show is something every Montrealer should experience at least once. The production doesn’t just show the 1975 movie, but actors also act it out on stage while the audience is invited to yell comments – there are scripts and videos of call lines available online – and throw toilet paper, toast, and playing cards at specific times during the film. There is a costume contest, and prizes are awarded on both the costumes and on what you are willing to do to rile up the crowd. That could mean anything from flashing to doing backflips on stage.

The venues and casts have changed from the Imperial to The Medley to the Rialto and back to the Imperial, but the formula and spirit of the event stays constant. This is a show where you must put any prejudices you have about sexual orientations and gender identities aside. It’s where you have to stuff your prudery and your judgment to celebrate the safe, consensual and fun.

Whether it’s the annual musical play at the Mainline Theatre or the interactive Picture Show at the Imperial, The Rocky Horror shows are not for those who want their intolerances tolerated. It’s for those who believe everyone deserves to feel welcome.

For me the interactive picture show is now sadly a no-go. My health problems make it dangerous for me and anyone with a physical disability as people are regularly bumping and grinding and dancing with each other, and many are drunk.

As a consolation prize to myself, I opted to go to the Mainline Theatre’s production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show – Live Montreal Musical. If you can get up the treacherously steep staircase of the theatre, the live musical show is no consolation prize but a gem in and of itself.

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With no background movie to compete with, the actors, musicians and dancers truly shine. The voices you hear are not those of Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, and Tim Curry, but of the Montreal cast.

Sarah Kulaga-Yoskovitz, who played Magenta, opened the show with her rendition of Science Fiction Double Feature, a version a lot sweeter than Richard O’Brien’s scratchy one from the film. The “Phantoms” clad in fishnets and garter belts danced around her and throughout various scenes, keeping the show’s burlesque feel true to form. The dancing, while choreographed by Director/Choreographer Amy Blackmore, never felt overly predictable or plastic.

This is one of the few shows where heckling (within reason) is encouraged. If you know the show’s call lines, you are welcome to yell them and even invent some you feel fit the show. The actors never miss a beat and give as good as they get. When Stephanie McKenna’s Frank delivered the line “even smiling makes my face ache”, one audience member yelled that it was from all the blowjobs. McKenna, never breaking character, replied with:

“No, I don’t give blowjobs like you do.”

Rocky was played by Dane Stewart, who portrayed the character’s infantile naivete and sexual curiosity perfectly. Unfortunately, he seemed unable to do the physical moves the part calls for, but whether this was a mutual decision between him and the director is unclear. Rocky is described in film and play as being all muscle and no brains. When Frank starts singing about press ups and chin ups, I expect the person in the role to at least do a push up, but if Stewart can do them, the audience never got to see it.

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Franco De Crescentis as Riff Raff was a sight to behold, stealing nearly every scene he was in. His portrayal made a character who is supposed to just be creepy sexy and intense. His performance was rivaled only by that of Maxine Segalowitz as Columbia.

Segalowitz’s Columbia was the perfect mix of sass, cuteness, and hysteria. She was also physically remarkable, performing the dance moves in a way that looked at once polished and clumsy, and like all great comedic actors, she clearly knows how to take a fall.

McKenna’s portrayal of Frank was prissier than I expected, but she played the role with all the snark it needed. Her physical strength was especially impressive as she could do lifts and simulate sexual positions many men can’t do.

Kenny Stein portrayed both Dr. Scott and Eddie. While Meatloaf raised the bar incredibly high with his portrayal of Eddie in 1975, Stein can sing and got the job done. His portrayal of Dr. Scott as (by his own admission) an old Jewish guy made the jokes about Dr. Scott being a Nazi especially funny.

Elyann Quessy’s Janet and Anthony Schuller’s Brad were what one would expect: nervous nerdy naivete, but nothing outstanding. As they are a foil for the play’s more interesting characters, that’s all you need.

Perhaps the true stars of the show were the band members, who kept the music on point. Led by Musical Director and former Producer of the show, Shayne Gryn, the timing of the music never faltered, even though the actors struggled with only two microphones and one headset worn by Frank, probably the result of a low budget and feedback issues.

If you love snark, sass, and sex, The Rocky Horror Shows are for you. If want to feel part of the experience and don’t mind being hit in the head with a roll of toilet paper, go to the interactive Rocky Horror Picture Show. If you prefer to sit and watch and see local talent at their best while enjoying great music, go to the Mainline Theatre’s Musical Show. Hell, go to both if you can! They’re amazing!

The Rocky Horror Show Halloween Ball is going on October 28, 29, and 31 with shows at 8 pm and 11 pm. Tickets are $17.95 ( + tx and serv) in advance and $19.95 (+tx and serv.) at the door. For more info and tickets go to www.rockyhorrormontreal.com

The Mainline Theatre’s production of Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show – Live Montreal Musical is happening from October 20 to 31. Tickets are $20 in advance and $25 at the door. Seniors, students, and members of the Quebec Drama Federation pay less. For more info and tickets go to mainlinetheatre.ca

Forget The Box’s weekly Arts Calendar is back with for its Halloween edition! We’ve got some great onstage performances coming up in the city, and as always; if you’re interested in going to one of these events and want to cover it for us, send a message or leave a comment below.

We’ve got two different but wildly entertaining version of Halloween cult classic Rocky Horror Picture Show – both are sure to sell out so get there early for last-minute tickets!

Richard O’Brien’s The Rocky Horror Show – Live Montreal Musical

See the sensational play that sparked an international phenomenon. MainLine Theatre presents Richard O’Brien’s musical-theatre masterpiece as camp sci-fi meets sexual exploration, glam-rock, and sensual daydreams to treasure forever. Experience #RockyMainLine up-close-and-personal in an intimate experience with a full live cast, band and dancers!

The show was directed and choreographed by Mainline’s Amy Blackmore with additional choreography by Holly Greco and Patrick Lloyd Brennan. It features Stephanie Mckenna as Dr. Frank N’ Furter.

Oct 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 at Mainline Theatre, 3997 Boul St-Laurent. Tickets $20 in advance or $25 at the door ($15 for students and seniors + a Quebec Drama Federation discount, please call 514-849-3378 for discounted tickets)

The Rocky Horror Picture Show Halloween Ball 

This is the more “traditional” Rocky Horror experience, featuring the original film with live on-stage performances. It will sell out, so get there early!

There is a limit of six tickets per person and all in-person sales are cash only.

There is a student discount of $5 which applies to the October 31st shows only. A valid student ID is required at one of our advance ticket outlets. Limit of two tickets per student. Student discount tickets can also be purchased at the door the night of the show but cannot be purchased online.

Oct 28, 29, 31, Cinéma Impérial, 1432 Bleury.

The Refugee Hotel

Teesri Duniya Theatre’s The Refugee Hotel is a dark comedy about exile, love and the Canadian resettlement experience. Told from the point of view of a young woman looking back on her childhood, Award-winning writer Carmen Aguirre poignantly chronicles the true story of a wave of Chilean refugees who are placed at a hotel in downtown Montreal in 1974, following the aftermath of the brutal Chilean coup d’état, one of the watershed moments of the Cold War.

While chronicling the true story of hundreds of thousands of Chileans who resettled across Canada and around the globe, The Refugee Hotel explores Canada’s ability to accept, support and embrace refugees as new citizens.

The play was written by Carmen Aguirre and is directed by Paulina Abarca. It will be performed in English with Spanish-language subtitles.

The Refugee Hotel Trailer from Chris Wardell on Vimeo.

October 26 – November 13, Segal Centre, 5170 Chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine, Call 514-739-7944 for tickets or purchase them through the Segal online box office

An Illiad

A poet recounts the bloody epic of Achilles and Hector in a sweeping story of rage, violence and grief. Lisa Peterson and Denis O’Hare’s An Illiad is an award-winning adaptation of Homer’s classic which has gone viral, from New York to Egypt.

Chocolate Moose Theatre Co. revisits the Canadian premiere that earned them #1 Theatre Company in this year’s Cult MTL poll! The show, which runs again starting next week is directed by Lynn Kozak in collaboration with Shanti Gonzales It features a performance by Martin Law, set design by Mikey and Sarah Schanz Denis and lighting design by Ceci MacDonald.

Runs November 2-13 at Mainline Theatre, 3997 Boul St-Laurent. Tickets: $15 general / $12 students and QDF
Available online through the Mainline Box Office or by calling 514-849-3378

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

Forget The Box is kicking off Autumn with a new weekly calendar of arts shows in Montreal! Check out these events and feel free to contact us with suggestions for others as well.

Alder & Ash

Alder & Ash is a counterpoint of two extremes. The music lies in stillness, introversion, and penitence. It lies in violence, cacophony, and angst. Alder & Ash plays solo cello with loop pedal to create improvised minimal classical music, with influence of doom metal, ambient, post-rock and noise. Alder & Ash will be performing live at Le Réactueur as part of an ambient music showcase – don’t miss it!

Alder & Ash Live at Le Réacteur, 2401 Rue Sainte-Catherine E, Friday, October 14th. Pay-What-You-Can

Fela Kuti Tribute

The Tupi Collective crew, ASMA, KYOU, and DJ Kobal are putting together an exciting evening filled with sonic tributes to Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti at Groove Nation. The event is in celebration of what would have been Fela’s 78th birthday, October 15th (but don’t get it twisted, the show is October 14th).

 

Fela Kuti Tribute at Groove Nation, 410 Rachel Est, Friday, October 14, 10pm-3am. $5 before midnight, $10 after

Pompette’s Monthly Comedy Extravaganza

Pompette’s Monthly Comedy Extravaganza offers Montreal’s finest in a casual context with one of the best new resto/bars in the city. At your service Riccardo Spensieri & his crew will be dishing out the eats and libations as Franco Taddeo & friends light up the night with laughter.

Taddeo is joined by emcee Peter J. Radomski of Just for Laughs fame as well as Paul Baluyot, ParkEx’s One Name Wonder Pantelis, TV’s Geoffery Appelbaum, Erica “The Funny & No Relation” Taddeo plus a Special apperance by Ernie the 80 year Old Comedian & his stool (chair to sit on to be clear!!).

Pompette’s Monthly Comedy Extravaganza at Pompette, 4128 Boulevard St-Laurent, Wednesday, October 19th, 8:30pm – 10:30pm. $9 with comedy night special on drinks

Is there an event that should be featured in Shows This Week? Maybe something FTB should cover, too? Let us know at arts@forgetthebox.net. We can’t be everywhere and can’t write about everything, but we do our best!

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.

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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

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

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

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
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:

“Help.”

His clear nasal voice was higher pitched than ever before as he told the audience:

“Please help us”.

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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.
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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.