Candye Kane

The world has lost a true unbridled talent. Candye Kane was literally The Toughest Girl Alive!

Anyone who had the pleasure of knowing Candye knew she was a lovely and genuine spirit. She was an amazing friend, mother, performer, and mentor. She spent her life running uphill in heels, there were topsy turvy tribulations, but she never succumb to the hard times.

Candye used her artistic talent and voice to fight for sex workers rights, to end violence against women, was part of the body and sex positive movements, and co-founded United by Music, an organization that mentored developmentally disabled musicians. She was also openly bisexual and championed LGBTQ rights and headlined many pride events worldwide.

In her over thirty year career, she traveled the world spreading love positive energy. Candye played between 200 -250 shows annually despite battling cancer. She is a Super Hero!

Candye_KaneUpon her death she knew her popularity would again rise. We must remember her for the real talented activist that she was and celebrate her spectacular sunshine through the screen of sensationalized lies.

It is important to know her as more than just a sex object. Even years later gross dudes would recognize her tattoos and say lewd things to her. Have some respect!

Yes, Candye was a pinup model, she did play the piano with her breasts, and she was in pornographic magazines. She tucked away that part of her life and did not let it define her. She found success through hard work and touring.

She had a brain under all of that beauty and the voice of a true diva. Her music was her soul. She sang original songs about accepting your body and celebrating your social status.

She wanted to bring light to the women who came before her, some of which were forgotten in the male dominated industry. Big Maybelle, Big Mama Thorten, Bessie Smith, and Etta James were her main inspirations. Performers like Devil Doll, Imelda May, and The Horrorpops have a lot in common with the retro-inspired Rockabilly vibes that Candye personified during her tumultuous career.

Candye piano

Adversity causes the most profound art. Candye started life with her abusive mother, who taught her to shoplift. Then she became a mormon, only to be kicked out when she became pregnant at 17.

She then moved on to punk music, living with a Mexican Cholo gang, and adult entertainment. Her voluptuous body evolved and left her vulnerable. She used the short stint in the adult industry to support herself and her child. She did like to party, but was always a classy dame.

Candye’s son Evan was her drummer for many worldwide tours. Her son Tommy is also a musician. Evan and Laura Chavez performed with Candye in the play that was written about her called The Toughest Girl Alive (after Candye’s song Toughest Girl Alive from the album of the same name).

She raised her kids in San Diego and it was very important for her to be an effective parent. She was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer but still kept on trucking. Her best friend and collaborator was Laura Chavez. They met while wearing the same shirt and eventually became artistic soul mates who toured constantly.

Laura was Candye’s best friend, amazing guitarist, co-song writer, and producer. She lived at the hospital and was by Candye’s side though out her many stints in many hospitals in the US and around the world. Laura was even there by her side when Candye passed away.

candye and laura

Candye’s physique changed as she got sick. The cancer took away her curves but did not eat away at her raw loveliness. She always embraced her big beautiful body and was actually self conscious during the transition.

Candye briefly studied to be an opera singer. She loved classic standards and punkabilly music equally. Her close friend, Marika remembered a beautiful moment where Candye was singing Dream a Little Dream and Honeysuckle Rose while getting ready for a show.

Candye is a true inspiration, she never gave up, performed through sickness, and probably would have been happiest if she had died on stage. I was always amazed that even through her pain and hard times she still held her head up high and wanted to march on to the next town. She shared herself with the world in such a way that her legend will live on forever in the hearts and future artistic performances of all who knew who she was.

CandyeKaneDollBoobsI was lucky to open for her in 2013 with my burlesque troupe, The Stripteasers, at Nietzsches in Buffalo NY. She completely blew me away with her powerful attitude and unwavering positivity.

Candye loved playing in Buffalo, Rochester, and Canada. I knew that she was part of the reason I was where I was. I was honored to share a stage with her.

As a plus size girl I look to Candye for guidance. She was a BBW pinup model when it was hard to do it. She transcended size and was more than just a fetish. She was a true super hero.

I loved her flawless sense of style, especially the ridiculously amazing dress with doll faced boobs. You know you are doing well when you are spoofed by drag queens.

She was classic, original, and absolutely timeless. I especially relate to songds like 200 Pounds of Fun, You Need a Great Big Woman to Show You How to Love and Fit Fat and Fine. They fight size discrimination and make me feel good about my soft and squishy delicious body.

Candye Kane shall sparkle in the collective memory of us all, she will live on in the hearts of her fans, friends, and all of the women she inspired to be themselves and take pride in their beautiful bodies. Award winning Delta Blues diva punkabilly swing superstar feminist icon super hero, you are now singing with the angels.

You inspired a generation of women to not give up, you didn’t allow yourself to be discredited or shot down, you rose up and showed the world that there was no room for self doubt. Thank you Miss Candye Kane, the world will not be the same without you.

circus photo by john carocci

Today I met a salsa dancing Peruvian clown. High wire trapeze and juggles. I’ve always wanted to run away with the circus, do something fun and be free. You really never know who a person is until you talk to them.

Then one of my Dreamlander friends stopped by wearing a bat onesie with big fluffy ears and played a half ass game off chess with me. We talked about a warehouse party we both attended, I was a glam leprechaun, and about having to create a scene versus joining into an established one.

My wanderlust is strong, my need to quench my quest for fun, for fantastical adventures and caravans of freaks. I want to roam, I want to be with someone who understands that life.

The clown I met today said he has had girlfriends but it was hard, like they didn’t really understand the circus life. The only thing I can’t approve of is being part of a circus that still uses animals, I can’t support that ever. It’s abuse and it is wrong.

There are plenty of awesome circuses that are animal free, which means all participants gave their consent. Animals cannot consent. I adore fire dancers, sword swallowing, aerial silk dancers, clowns, dirt bike tricks, and other human tricks. I want that ethical circus life.

clowning aroundI surround myself with performers. Everyone I live with is incredible and creative. I get home and lay on the couch with my cat , eating my dumpster grapes, surrounded by smoke and candlelight.

The door opens, cold rushing in, enveloping the living room with a bitter chill that cut right through my rainbow sweater, and then in walks in my roommate and her friends: a future male burlesque dancer named Chocolate Fantasy, the most beautiful Asian girl with all of the daddies, and a low key drag queen.

My best friend is a clown, think balloons full of blood. We even did a special performance on her birthday at the Cirque De La Lune where we re-created a scene from the 1920s silent clown movie He Who Gets Slapped. I really called in the clowns for that one. I had to go in to the venue to scrub blood off the walls, it was so worth it. What a magical night.

Juggalos are so easy to make fun of, but why? I bet the Gathering of the Juggalos is a blast. They do what they want and are ridiculous. I love anyone who isn’t afraid to wear makeup. If you ever get the chance please for the love of all that is good watch Tom Green at the Gathering of the Juggalos, it’s the funniest.

I had a clown hit on me once on OKcupid, he said he liked clown farts, is that a sex act?

ok cupid clownMy roommate met a clown on Tinder in New York City, but he didn’t come out as a clown at first. He tells his friends he is a party entertainer so they all think he is a stripper. Why so ashamed bro? That’s an awesome way to pay the bills.

Lucy and I literally had the same fantasy at the same time, painting faces! So jealous of that life, I would be the happiest clown ever, that’s what I am doing after I retire from burlesque.

I love performing so much, I always fall for musicians. I want to be with someone who’s voice makes me tingle, wiggle and writhe.

Once a burlesque couple guest performed- a dancer and a musician, so funny he even mimicked her number. I wanted that life so bad, conquer the world out of a giant bus run on vegetable oil that is set up so my three cats can come with us (don’t worry I will NEVER exploit them for the show). Maybe this pussy palace on wheels will have some solar panels and a garden on it, too.

I need a fearless artist, performer, comedian, quick witted, willing to make a fool of themselves, basically me. People all say opposites attract- fuck that I will never date a racist Trump voting bigot asshat- I only want like minded fools in my life. I am extreme so my opposite is also extreme.

I love in the movie The Punk Singer. Kathleen Hanna talks about falling for her husband, Ad-Rock from The Beastie Boys. She is a feminist riot grrrl and he is in a bro rap group that objectifies women. They were idealistically opposite with their art, but both still artists, they met in the middle and he even stood up against violence towards women during an award acceptance speech.

It is important to have some differences, because that sparks great communication and conversation. Positive change and mutual inspiration. I need someone to take the lead and lead me to somewhere good and not dark. I know that light needs dark to look brighter, but two bright explosions together is also a spectacular site.

What about a photographer, a dancer, a poet, or even a clown? Sometimes the people you least expect could be incredible, perhaps your next soulmate, future tour parter, love of this moment.

It’s all we have, those spontaneous seconds where new ideas form, where people change you so profoundly they could not imagine. I want to collaborate with someone I have never met yet. I know people who run away and follow their dreams instantly without thought or premeditation. Planning is for those who don’t truly succeed.

It’s interesting to me that letting someone in just a little bit can take life into all kinds of crazy adventures. It feels like things are literally piling up on top of you- work, dishes, piles of clothes, health problems, family stuff, drama llamas, ect. and you need to escape or be trapped. I must spin a globe and go where it lands.

Aftermath. by Andrea Dworkin. presented by Waterworks Theatre, Montreal.

This year marks the 10th anniversary of Andrea Dworkin’s death. On September 26th, 2015 she would have been 69 years old. Opening on September 17th and running until the 27th, Montreal Theatre company Waterworks will be presenting a world premier full staging performance of Aftermath.

Based on a text written by Andrea Dworkin after her drug-rape in Paris in 1999. Her life partner, well known author and activist John Stoltenberg, found the original document on her computer.

“…what I discovered was a 24,000-word autobiographical essay, composed in twelve impassioned sections, as powerful and beautifully written as anything Andrea ever wrote. It was searingly personal, fierce and irreverent, mordantly witty, emotionally raw. It was also clearly not a draft; it was finished, polished as if for publication.”

The piece was edited and cut in half to about 90 minutes and directed by Stoltenberg and Dworkin’s longtime friend and collaborator Adam Thorburn. It was performed as a staged reading in New York by Maria Silverman in May of 2014. “At each step in putting this theater project together, I have wished I could talk with Andrea about it. I would want to tell her how the words she showed no one are now reaching and affecting audiences in live performance,” Stoltenberg writes.

The Montreal production is being directed by Waterworks artistic directors Tracey Houston and Rob Langford and being performed by Montreal actor Helena Levitt as Dworkin.

We’ve heard of this type of story before, more recently with the Bill Cosby allegations and Jian Ghomeshi spectacle where the victim’s creditability was brought into question. “If she can’t remember everything, then maybe it didn’t happen.” It was so long ago, maybe she’s a little sketchy on the details” ad infinitum.

In the text, Dworkin refers to the drug Rohypnol and GBH. “This isn’t an aspirin in your drink. It’s not like getting drunk. It’s not like getting high. This is so easy for the boy. This is so simple for the boy. This is foolproof rape. The gang who can’t shoot straight can do this kind of rape. You can do this hundreds of times with virtually no chance of getting caught. I think how easy this evil is to do.” She goes on to describe how powerless one is to fight back from this kind of rape even after the fact, when there is no memory to report or very little if any evidence left behind.

Aftermath is a very passionate, personal account of Dworkin’s life, family, work and thought process that very few people not familiar with her writings have yet to see or be aware of. Stoltenberg explains, “[Dworkin’s] stirring writing ranges dramatically over many themes—her aspirations when she was young, her erotic and romantic relationships, the marriage in which she was battered, her understanding of the connection between Jews and women, her take on President Clinton’s behavior, her deep commitment to helping women, her critique of women who betray women. And the fact that Aftermath is acted means audiences get to hear an emotional dimensionality in Andrea’s voice that in life she shared only with me and her closest friends—trenchant and oracular, as the public knew her, but also tender, sardonic, sorrowful, vulnerable, funny.”

Rob Langford and Tracey Houston, founders of Montreal’s The Waterworks Company (Palace of the End, Gidion’s Knot, Glory Dazed), a troupe committed to staging the best of contemporary playwriting by women, found out about Aftermath last year from Stoltenberg’s Twitter feed, Langford contacted Stoltenberg, proposing to give Aftermath its first full staging here in Montreal.

Aftermath runs September 17th to 27th, 2015, at the Centre culturel Georges-Vanier, 2450 Workman, Little Burgundy, a couple of blocks northeast of the Atwater Market. METRO: Lionel- Groulx.

A special première takes place on September 17th at 8pm; the show runs over the next two weekends Fridays at 8pm, Saturdays at 4pm and 8pm, and Sundays at 4pm. Post-show talkbacks, with special guests, will take place throughout the first weekend.

Admission is $18 / $13 (buyer chooses price). Tickets are available, via Eventbrite, 
at waterworksmontreal.com, or at the door.

cat burlesque

Curtain up, lights so bright they hide all the small imperfections, instant lust, a sexual object, an icon, an inspiration, and an untouchable force. That is my world. Burlesque is a classic form of Striptease, a mix of vaudeville and grind, from circus tents to huge theatres, and now on top of red lit bars filled with Pabst Blue Ribbon yielding hipsters, empowered youth looking for anything authentic, and the occasional surprised old men who remember the “golden era” of the craft.

In a world so super saturated with SEX it is hard to find true titillation, nothing is left to the imagination. The neo-burlesque movement is the answer to that void. All over the world and especially in cities like Toronto, Montreal, New York, and yes, even Buffalo there are thousands of dancers shaking their stuff in the name of sexual liberation. Nobody is excluded from this revolution.

I am not perfect. I have terrible skin (my arms and a lot of my body is covered in patches of eczema), I am considered morbidly obese by the medical world, I have over processed bleach blonde hair that is breaking at the seams, and a plethora of other traits that would put me on most people’s “EW” or undesirable list. But, for the last seven years, people have paid me to dance around in front of them naked.

What burlesque dancers all share is an undeniable fearlessness, a sense of freedom, and a destiny that can only be accomplished with the art of undress. I have had so many women tell me that seeing me perform changed their lives, “wow, if SHE can do that, so can I!”

candyass
Backstage at the Candyass Cabaret in Montreal (photo by Chris Nautics)

I would have to say the highlight of my career (wow, I am actually calling this a 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 a show at the historic Café Cleopatra with the Candyass Caberet. It was definitely a political statement about how the rest of the world views Americans and our culture of waste and over privilege.

He is a part of myself that I am not proud of. He is the worst: A mullet wearing, mustached, drunk, Zubaz clad, sports obsessed, McDonalds loving, misogynist, ultra-AMERICAN man. Usually when I perform as Cock Sinclair I transform from a beautiful traditional dancer to him on stage. It really kicks the audience in the teeth. I often hear “What the f*ck was that!” before the roar of laughter and applause. That element of gender bending surprise is golden.

I don’t mean to sound stuck up here, but I think I am a beautiful woman, in the traditional sense, especially when all done up. Still, surprisingly, I get the most play from both gay women and straight men when I am dressed as my uber-douchey male alter ego.

I once had a hot girl walk up to me at a bar (The Old Pink in Buffalo), rip my mustache off of my face, kiss me hard, stick the mustache back on, put her number in my hand and disappear into the bar before I had a chance to blink. Whoa. Why is this? Well, I think it is because he is more accessible than my glam femme persona.

cat sinclair cock sinclair
The two Sinclairs: Cat and Cock

Dating is hard for any performer, but especially a burlesque dancer. We exude so much sexuality on stage and are held on such a pedestal that it is impossible to live up to that in the real world. Having a sub par love life is a price I am willing to pay.

The real me is sitting on my bed typing this article on my shattered iPhone 4, wearing Hello Kitty pajamas and a neon 90s Cosby sweater. I am covered in my three cats, Ziggy, Beau, and Lola. Yesterday’s makeup smeared on my face, a chunk of gold glitter in my eye, and my hair in a ratty bun on top of my head. A Billie Holiday record is playing. Piles of costumes surround me: wigs, high heel shoes, pasties, corsets, fishnets, strap ons, riding crops, and other accouterments.

I am lucky that this is my life, I get to reinvent myself every time I take the stage, I get to inspire sexual awakening in others and express every idea in my brain. I challenge everyone who is reading this to put on some sexy music and strip in front of a mirror, do it right now, do it for you!

* Featured image by Nate Perriciny

Brigitte Robinson, Luke Humphrey #3 (Photo by Daniel Plante)

The Segal Centre officially kicked off its 2014-15 season last Thursday with The Graduate. The play aims to be a fresh re-imagining of a young man going through an existential crisis after graduating from college in 1960s California. Despite some minor flaws, the play is was a stimulating production which confirmed the story of a ‘increasingly disillusioned’ generation has been going on long before millenials were ever taking selfies.

Video projection was used throughout the play for various reasons;  setting the mood, marking the passing of time, to emphasize a dramatic moment. Sometimes it worked, such as setting psychedelic and groovy mood of the sixties. Most of the time, though, it felt completely unnecessary and even took away from crucial moments in the story.

Luke Humphrey as Benjamin Braddock_Photo by Andrée Lanthier

 

In the climax of the film version of The Graduate, there’s several harsh zooms/cutaways to characters’ angry faces. The play attempted the same moment with video production, and it came off as silly. In the most important moment in the story, you could hear sounds of laughter in the audience.

The use of live musicians Justin Rutledge and Matthew Barber, meanwhile, was a much more welcome addition. These two gentlemen so embodied the spirit of Simon and Garfunkel (who created the soundtrack to the film) that during the play you swear you’re hearing songs from the famous folk duo you’ve never heard before.

But in fact Rutledge and Barber composed completely original, Simon and Garfunkel-inspired tunes for The Segal Centre adaptation of the story. It’s an ambitious idea that helps more than any video projection to set the mood and tone of the 60s, but full two-three minute versions of their songs did drag down the story at times. It would be interesting if they edited the songs to one minute with full, downloadable versions available for consumption afterwards.

In the film version of the story, Benjamin Braddock is without a doubt the star of the story. Onstage Luke Humphrey does more than an adequate job in the role of Benjamin.

In fact, with his good looks, obvious talent and Stratford Festival experience, Humphrey could easily go on to become a huge theater star in the future. But in this production it’s Brigitte Robinson in the role of Mrs. Robinson who steals the show. Portrayed with such bravery, anger and intense sexuality, the character of Mrs. Robinson becomes a more vicious and developed character than you’ve ever seen before.

In a way, this version of Mrs. Robinson makes the May-December affair that ignites the story more believable. Instead of seducing Ben simply out of boredom, it becomes a calculated act of revenge by an alcoholic trapped in a loveless marriage. Warning to parents: this is not a show you bring the kiddies to, as Mrs. Robinson literally bares all for the audience onstage.

The Graduate plays at The Segal Centre until September 21st, tickets available through segalcentre.org

 

 

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One of the most intriguing moments during the The Segal Centre press conference for their 2014-15 lineup was the announcement of a new adaptation of The Graduate. This past summer the star of that show, Luke Humphrey, generously agreed to answer a few questions for us via email. Here’s what Forget the Box found out about Humphrey’s love of Shakespeare, being an American in Canada, and stepping into the iconic role of Benjamin Braddock.

Stephanie Laughlin: As someone born and trained in the States, what brought your career to Canada?

Luke Humphrey:  I’m actually the only American in a family of Canadians. Growing up I spent every winter and summer holiday visiting family, so moving here felt pretty natural.

I was at university at NYU when former Stratford Festival artistic director Des McAnuff saw me in a student production of A Winter’s Tale. We talked after and he invited me to join the season. My professional acting debut was in The Tempest at The Stratford Festival with Christopher Plummer. I played islander #3 in a skin tight lizard body suit. Ever since then, I have really fallen in love with Canada. I really believe the future of  both screen and stage is very exciting here, and I’m thrilled to be a part of it.

SL: What would you do if you weren’t acting?

LH: I love producing. I actually had a commercial production company for a while but acting took over and I had to step away. Though recently I have been really interested in becoming a truck driver, so maybe in another life I would do that.

SL:  What keeps drawing you back to the Stratford Festival?

LH: The Stratford festival is Disneyland for actors. There are classes, coaches, and workshops to explore and work on your craft and you get to work with some of the most talented people from so many fields. It is really supportive environment to be in as an artist. It was great to be able to start my career there, and I was able to just sponge off of so many great minds and talents.

SL: What’s your favourite Shakespeare play?

LH: That’s tricky. There’s plays that I love as an audience member, and plays I love as an actor. I have to say at this stage of my life, I’m very interested in Henry IV 1 and 2 into Henry V. I think it is a very human exploration of responsibility and duty and the search for greatness not from ceremony and title, but from action and deeds. I find myself mumbling those monologues as I walk down the street.

SL: What brought you to The Segal Centre for The Graduate?

LH: Lisa Rubin saw me in Taking Shakespeare with Martha Henry at Stratford last year and a couple months later I got a text message asking me if I would be interested in doing The Graduate. I thought it was too good to be true. I had heard a lot of great things about The Segal Centre both from audiences and artists who had worked there so was very happy to have the opportunity.  I had also been talking to Andrew Shaver about finding something we could work on together so when I found out he was directing I was overjoyed. I mean really, this whole project is a dream for me.

SL: How do you apporach a role like Benjamin Braddock, when it’s already been so iconically portrayed by someone else?

LH: Approaching something like this is very similar to approaching a Shakespeare play. You have seen it done and have an iconic image in your head, but you can’t just go out there and do an impression of the person who went before. You have to pick up the script and bring yourself to the part, allow your own qualities to colour the part in a way that makes it unique. It helps that the play is different from the movie, which is different from the book. While the story is more or less the same, the feel and tone is different enough where I don’t feel exactly like I’m walking down the same path that Mike Nichols and Dustin Hoffman created.

SL: What are your goals for the future?

LH: Right now I’m just thrilled that people keep allowing me to be in their plays. Down the road I want to combine my producing experience with my acting career and hopefully keep working on interesting projects with exciting people, I mean, that’s the dream.

The Graduate runs at the Segal Centre until September 21st, tickets available through SegalCentre.org

nick_offerman_totf_610x400

While he might not share the same distaste for Canadian Liberal culture as his onscreen alter-ego Ron Swanson, being a libertarian, Nick Offerman certainly does appreciate the craftsmanship of a good canoe.

Sporting his famously groomed mustache (one that would make even Ernest Hemingway quiver) Offerman began this year’s Talk of the Fest by disseminating the differences between the character made famous on Parks and Recreation and the real Nick Offerman.

But whatever politics makes them different, their mastery of woodworking makes them both modern day renaissance men. During his introduction he held up a ukulele for us to see. It was his newest creation.

NickOffemanOfferman then showed off his mastery in songwriting, performing a little ditty for Canada about the great Canadian manly man. The crowd filled in the chorus. The song was a hit as it listed off iconic names from Canada’s past from Leonard Cohen to Farley Mowat.

And after we moved on to the comdey sets…

This is the Talk of the Fest, after all, featuring many of the great comics from this year’s festival. After going to my first Talk of the fest Last year, I learned that this was the”best of” buffet of comedy taster . A mix of short sets from all over the fest whether clean or crass: Ralphie May, DJ demers, Debra Digiovanni, Nick Thune,  Kyle Radke, Bobby Slalton and Shawn Collins, were part of the 7 o’clock show.

Some of the Highlights were:

DJ Demers talked about problems with bathroom signage and asked why some bars make it so complicated?

Bobby Slaton,who hosts the Nasty Show, took us on a funny routine while shopping with his wife and explained why staring at young woman isn’t wrong.

Nick Thune, a new parent, drove the hospital staff crazy looking for Baby Penises in his wife’s ultrasound.

Shawn Collins had the audience in tears suggesting that we take the two biggest search results “cats” and “porn” and combine them into the largest website ever called “Kitties and Titties.com” Interesting…let me sleep on that one.

One more thing of note about the show, keeping it clean. As the assembled cast of comics went through their routines it was difficult to stay clean and not scar the children. Many of these comics had been in the Nasty Show at the beginning of the Just For Laughs and had prepped  a little too well for crass. And while a few nasty remarks got by,  everybody was too busy laughing, so nobody really cared.

The evening was capped off by Nick Offerman closing the Talk of the Fest, and although I didn’t love every comic, the evening had moments of brilliance. But it was Nick Offerman’s, cool composure as host and his famous witty dry deadpan humor that made the night remarkably enjoyable.

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If this is what the New World Order looks like, then sign me up. I’m speaking, of course, about Illuminatease, the latest offering from Blood Ballet Cabaret running in Zoofest three more times this weekend.

The actual Illuminati could take few branding tips from Miss Bloody Maryanne and her troupe of burlesque performers. Freemasons, for the most part, aren’t known for being sexy, these performers most certainly are.

Blood Ballet Cabaret Illuminatease Zoofest

The troupe hasn’t performed together in a year and it has been even longer since I caught a BBC show. I’m happy to report that they haven’t lost anything, in fact they seem to have gained a bit in terms of energy and spontaneity.

unnamed (9)BBC has always been big on theme and this time they set it from the start, with four of the night’s performers clad in Druid-esque robes trying to crack a secret code. For world domination? Not quite, more like a hidden message to follow them on Twitter.

This opener was high on the tease factor as the performers didn’t disrobe (ha ha, get it, robe, pun fully intended) all that much. This would change very drastically and very quickly.

Soon enough we got to see Miss Bloody Maryanne shimmy out of a bathrobe (there’s that word again) playing a sultry Jackie O. More like Jackie-oh-yeah!

No more bad jokes, I promise, host Sherwin had enough of those. But his jokes they weren’t as much cheesy as they were perverse and at times self-depricating, though he really should be more confident, he has a fine ass as he demonstrated to the crowd.

Speaking of being in shape, new BBC contortionist Michelle Addessi certainly was. They may have faked the moon landing, but she didn’t fake the flexibility in her entertaining and clever moon landing skit or when she made enhanced interrogation sexy.unnamed (7)

Marilyn Monroe is already sexy, the challenge with bringing an interpretation of her to a burlesque show is maintaining her level of sex appeal while offering something original. Mission accomplished for Lulu Labelle Mirette, one of the new faces in the troupe.

Lady Josephine is a familiar face both in the BBC and to Montreal burlesque audiences. It’s that face’s expressions that I’ve always adored.

When she walked on stage decked out full disco, crazy 70s hair, glasses and all, I thought I wouldn’t get to see those facial expressions, but I was wrong. She delivered them and so much more.

unnamed (10)The show culminated with Miss Bloody Maryanne as the Virgin Mary. As far as the theme is concerned, I’m guessing this was a DaVinci Code riff, but it doesn’t matter, really, as it was the highlight of the show thanks to multiple performers (including Sherwin), audience participation and, of course, damn sexy dancing.

I’m glad Blood Ballet is back and in fine form. I thoroughly enjoyed their take on the Illuminati and other such conspiracies. My only complaint: no reptiles, next time, include lizard people! Sexy reptilians! Seriously, though, go see this show!

* Blood Ballet Cabaret presents Illuminatease runs Thursday July 31 – Saturday August 2, Agora Hydro Quebec de l’UQAM, all shows at midnight. Part of Zoofest, tickets available through Zoofest.com

* photos by Chris Zacchia

Comic Adrienne Truscott

When I first heard there was going to be a comedy set on rape at this year’s Zoofest called Asking for It, my reaction was a mix of horror and curiosity. If done well, I thought, at best it would be interesting. But if done poorly it would be abhorrent, and further the pervasive rhetoric that rape culture stands on.

Adrienne Truscott’s set opened with her dancing through the audience naked from the bottom down, in an intimately sized room. The audience from the beginning was clearly put on edge by the proximity of the naked women, but I think that was her point. She tried to ease the crowd with banter, and a couple outrageous rape jokes meant to poke fun at the assumptions that are made about rapists and survivors. It fell short, making some people, myself especially,  more uncomfortable. I think it would have been much more effective is she focussed more on ridiculing the perpetrators and the culture that supports them.

After interviewing Truscott earlier that week I guess I had expected a lot more from the set. The intent was there to satirize a prevailing issue in gendered violence, that was clear. And Truscott also stayed clear of any victim blaming, which was also, more or less, clear. But the satire could have, and actually really should have for the sake of effectively shifting the focus of rape culture, been taken a few notches up.

I had gone wanting to see how a comedy set could be executed well on this topic, but instead I feel like what was left was a very shallow attempt at address the issue in a comedic way. Her costume, I think, was a good example where she should have satirized more. She was dressed as “the ideal rape victim,” meaning wearing revealing clothing, drinking, and being flirty, as a way to point to the assumptions made about women who are raped. But other than dressing this way, it was never brought in to her set very directly, which rendered it more or less superfluous.

 

Ari Shaffir This is not happening OFF JFL

This is not happening. Well, actually, it did happen and it was quite funny, that was just the name of the show. After a night of catching just some of what OFF-JFL had to offer, we settled in to Café Cleopatre for the final show of the evening, the aforementioned This is not happening hosted by Ari Shaffir.

Just like you might expect from a nightcap, it was time to hear some stories. In this case, stories of childhood.

This wasn’t your typical standup show. Shaffir gave his guest comics the task of telling real long form stories and turning them into a comedic routine. Each night had a theme every comic needed to follow and this time the theme was either childhood or family.

It was a very interesting experiment to witness. On one hand, standup is such a free flowing, on the spot art form and this involves sticking on topic, albeit a broad one. On the other hand, breaking the mould is something standup comics and anyone who is good at improvising do anyways and succeeding in this format surely involves breaking the standup mould.

Greg Proops This is not happening OFF JFL
Greg Proops

Overall, the comics this Tuesday evening at midnight adapted well to the format. The standouts were Shaffir, who set the tone with his tale of going from rich to poor as a kid and Greg Proops of Whose Line is it Anyways fame who spoke of hooking up with the wrong crowd thanks to his first job as a pizza delivery boy.

The highlight of the evening for the audience was clearly Al Madrigal, known for his work on The Daily Show and his own standup specials. His performance did meet the theme of a story about family and was quite funny, but it was also a part of his solo act which I had seen earlier the same evening (and Jerry Gabriel reviewed). There was also a brief return visit from Brody Stevens, whose show we had just left to come to this one on time.

This was a good end to the evening and an interesting concept that worked. There are no more presentations of this show in the festival, but expect a TV version of it in the fall.

* photos by Chris Zacchia

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I’ll admit, Queens of Comedy didn’t live up to my expectations, but it did have some nice surprises.

The show has graced Zoofest for several years now, but this was my first time seeing it. Featuring Eman El-Husseini, Jess Salomon and DeAnne Smith, the show started off a bit lackluster with watered down audience banter from Mike Patterson, the entirely decked out in a king costume host. I’m all about the punny style humour, but this didn’t do it for me.

Eman El-Husseini was first up, and offered a relieving and relevant set, going for the big ones: religion and the Quebec Charter of Values. It was a good start to the show, and El-Husseini definitely knew her crowd.

Montreal local Jess Salomon followed El-Husseini with an eclectic set full of light but raunchy humour. Putting her sexuality on her sleeve and the crowd on the spot, Salomon talked about her experiences of being bisexual, and how people react. Salomon engaged with the crowd, and all in all it’s always nice to see a local on stage.

DeAnne Smith Queens of Comedy Zoofest
DeAnne Smith

DeAnne Smith really stole the show. Wildly animated and quick on her feet, Smith had the crowd pretty much the moment she got on stage and described the “style” of her lanky arms. At one point the lights turned on to the crowd rendering the audience visible to the comedian to which Smith, without skipping a beat, talked about how uncomfortable that visibility was – for both her and the audience.

Without giving it away, I will say I was happy with the end. Not only did it finish on a high note with an incredibly promising comedian, but given the premise of the show being on the classic trope of the King finding his Queen, it did well.

* The Queens of Comedy runs until August 1, tickets available through Zoofest.com

* Photos by Chris Zacchia

Brody Stevens off jfl

His humor is sometimes dangerously candid. He can make any timid audience balk in fear. But when you enter Brody Stevens’ den, as I did the other night at the confined space known as Montreal Improv, there is no coming back.

Like a motivational speaker’s pow wow, you feel the energy in the room and somehow you are changed. While his show is more of a therapeutic catharsis involving neurotic interjections then a typical comedy show, he kept the audience chuckling, but perhaps with only light psychologically scarring from shifting between fear and trembling.

When the lights dimmed and the show began, Stevens started with workout stretches. The evening only got more peculiar when he tried to channel the energy of the crowd. But that was what this eccentric star does best; makes his audience squirm as they are put in the actor’s studio hot seat, getting inundated by tough personal questions.

And in this way, his interactions with the audience, made us feel like we were all part of the show. And as the evening progressed he fed off the energy, from time to time demanding neurotically why we didn’t laugh at his jokes.

Brody Stevens off jfl 2

As the night progressed he twitched and lounged  with moments of hilarious agitation,  he snapped every time someone kicked over a beer bottle, and the audience loved every minute the charismatic idiosyncrasies that make Brody Stevens one of the most interesting faces in comedy. There’s a reason while he will be part of the  Funny or Die Odd Ball Festival, the guy epitomizes weirdo.

Known as a big sports fanatic (and lost a professional baseball player) Stevens has also warmed up crowds before tapings of The Best Damn Sports Show, The Man Show and Chelsea Lately. He also had his own HBO special Brody Stevens: Enjoy It! with Zach Galifianakis.

All night I sat in my seat, scared that he might pick on me. But then I realized there is No Way Out, this is not any regular comedy show. It’s a show where you might find yourself like poor “Tanya” featured with all the prepubescent audience members in a reenactment of Brody’s big scene in the Hangover.

If you want to see something fresh and new by way of comedy then this is a must see at the Just For Laughs., you’ll feel positive and great afterwards.

* Brody Stevens performs at Montreal Imporv until July 26th, tickets available through hahaha.com.

* photos by Chris Zacchia

paul f tompkins off jfl

It’s like déjà vu. Again we found ourselves at The Mainline Theatre for another OFF-JFL show. Tonight we were lucky enough to see Paul F Tompkins & Friends Real and Imagined.

The show opened up with a refreshing set by host Tompkins. It was funny and had the feel of a southern gentleman entertaining us with anecdotes. His set took the common comic theme of being newly married and gave it a new approach, which was both original and funny.

Demi Lardner off jfl
Demi Lardner

The first comedian up was Demi Lardner, an Australian comic whose style resembled Mitch Hedberg’s witty remarks. Her set was quick, and fun. The crowd responded well.

After Demi’s set, the host returned, this time decked out in a cape and crown and introduced as Andrew Lloyd Webber. He told us about the highs and lows of musicals. The crowd reacted well to this set but it could have benefited from being a little bit shorter and concise. Dressing up in royal garb and emitting the royalty sometimes associated with Webber is not the most original angle, and this hurt the overall feel of the set.

The next comedian up was Mark Forward. Although I felt Mark’s set was unimpressive and lacked a unifying theme, the crowd enjoyed it. Personally thought the jokes about generation bashing were overused and dry. This lack of originality made the set feel long and slow paced.

Mark made his finally appearance as a unique character, a parody of TLC’s The Cake Boss, but this one had the power to read minds.  The bit had originality and showed off some impressive imporv skill when he called on the crowd to ask him about their future.

Overall Paul F Tompkins & Friends Real and Imagined was a good show. Though there were low points, the comics always found a way to kept the show heading in the right direction.

Paul F Tompkins & Friends Real and Imagined runs until July 26th,. tickets available through hahaha.com

* photos by Chris Zacchia

Al Madrigal off jfl

Al Madrigal wants you to know that he is the result of assimilation. He is a third Generation Mexican American who can barely speak a word of Spanish, but actually listening to him you’d think he is from Arizona.

His nasally voice and straight face delivery makes him naturally funny as a fake news correspondent on The Daily Show. Since he was recently added to the Comedy Central show’s line up he has brought a humorous take on American culture and been able to show how an assimilated American can act just like a “real” American.

You can barely tell them apart. And really that’s his point; American culture is a collection of diverse cultures that have become a life filled with homogeneous monotony that needs to be mocked.

Before this gig, Al Madrigal had been getting acclaim for his stand up work. Recently, he was knighted Best Stand up Comedian at the HBO/US College in Aspen.

One thing Al Madrigal does well is to show the folly of systems. I suppose that is because he has never really fit into the system, being classified un-American but being unable to identify with any marginalized ethnicity He is a social order comic exposing many of the problems inherent in that order

Although I was waiting for him do this famous routine the Maid is on Las Drugas, a story of his college days, I still laughed at his new material, especially his story about the day he found out he was a Mexican comic when he was put on a lineup featuring only Mexican comics.

Another highlight was when he did some family-focused humour, telling us about when he wasn’t allowed into his daughter’s ballet dress rehearsal while the creepy lighting guy was.

While packing a punch with many jokes, including some controversial ones, there were a few silent moments. Still, most of his jokes hit hard and home and many dealt with his identity crisis which we learned is because Al Madrigal’s apparently Mexican Ameircan?

Al Madrigal performs as part of OFF-JFL until July 26th. For tickets, please visit hahaha.com

* Photos by Chris Zacchia

lewis black

I had always wondered what Lewis Black was like when he wasn’t intensely scream/talking a rant as I had seen him do on The Daily Show countless times. Last night, I found out.

Of course Black delivered the intensity I had come to expect from his Back in Black segments, but you can’t keep that level of face contorting perma-rant up for over an hour. With no Jon to throw back to, we got to see Lewis Black, the reasonable man.

This Lewis Black was funny, sarcastic (as you might expect) and quite the storyteller. We heard about his trip to Europe, his colonoscopy and his love of Tahiti among other things all with dry wit interspersed with political observations.

He riffed on the Republicans, climate change deniers, Vladamir Putin and, for a bit of local flare, the never changing state of bridges in Montreal. No, there wasn’t a Coderre reference, though he did bring up Rob Ford. It was funny, though it did feel a bit too safe, a word I wouldn’t usually associate with Black.

At times it almost felt like I was watching him talk about the other Lewis Black that I had come to know in bits on TV. It was a more reflective Black than I was expecting, but that was cool. We got to know him a bit as a person and it seemed, at times, rather intimate, which is interesting considering this was at Place des Arts in front of a rather large crowd and I was sitting in the balcony.

He was much less the wildman and much more Lewis Black, the reasonable ranter.

* Lewis Black performs The Rant is Due tonight at 7pm @ Theatre Maisonneuve in Place des Arts, tickets: hahaha.com

He will also be a part of the Mega Stars of Comedy Gala Friday July 25th, 10pm @ Salle Wilfred Pelletier in Place des Arts, tickets hahaha.com

Jim Jefferies

Jim Jefferies is a constantly evolving performer. This Australian native who now lives in LA caught the broader public’s attention when he got hit in the face on stage. Since then has played Just for Laughs “six or seven times” and appeared in standup specials on FXX and HBO.

He recently completed the second and final season of Legit, a critically acclaimed sitcom and his first foray into the world of series television. One of the things he had to get used to was working with others.

“Standup is a very solitary art form,” Jefferies said in a phone interview, “making a TV show is more collaborative, I found that bit quite hard because I’m not used to compromising with people. When I do standup I don’t have to compromise with anybody, really. I find standup easier, cause I’m used to doing it, but I did enjoy the challenge of television and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.”

One of the biggest elements of Jefferies’ routine over the past few years has been religion and his own atheism. After having done entire specials almost exclusively dealing with the topic, he’s changing things up.

“I still do little bits and pieces,” he says, “I’ve said almost everying I’ve ever wanted to say about atheism. I think you can carry on about atheism a bit too much and eventually you’re just a bloke standing on stage talking about nothing. The whole thing about atheism is you don’t have to constantly think about it because there’s nothing to think about.”

Evolution in his act is natural for Jefferies and something he sees as essential: “It’s like a zen garden, everything’s changing constantly. Your show evolves day to day, week to week.”

Montreal audiences will get the chance to see the latest evolution in Jefferies’ act this Friday and you and a guest can join them. We’re giving away a pair of tickets but you’ve got to work for it (a bit). First, sign up to our email list (in the right sidebar), then tell us your favourite Jim Jefferies joke in the comments below or tweet it to @forgetthebox using the hashtag #JFLMTL. If you’re new to Jeffries’ act, just use Google.

Our editorial team will select the winner and yes, FB likes and re-tweets will be factored in, so ask your friends to help.

Best of luck!

* If you don’t win, you can still get tickets through hahaha.com