Howie Mandel’s gala hosting abilities are stronger than most. You can tell he’s a seasoned performer who has been on television for years. Perhaps it’s from having done Deal or No Deal and America’s Got Talent, but for whatever reason, he was able to host one of the best gala’s I’ve seen in years.

I’ve been to a few galas, many of which have been pretty lackluster, whereas Howie’s seemed to rise to the occasion. He made a highly entertaining evening  better because he knew how to deliver jokes and properly introduce the next comic. You’d think this would be an easy task for most hosts, yet I’ve seen so many failed attempts before.

It also didn’t help him that it was a good night for the comedians that he was hosting,  as most of them were spot-on with their routines. The evenings all-star cast included Cedrick the Entertainer, Ron Funches, Orny Adams, Christela Olonzo, Gina Yashere and John Heffron.

Highlight of the show were Cedrick the Entertainer jokes about getting old, Ron Funches whose dry lisp delivery was just generally funny and Gina Yashere talking about the dirtyness of New York (she’s a great comic and I recommend checking out her solo show if she comes back to the festival in the near future).

Orny Adams received of a standing ovation for his routine which was based on the how much he hates millennial and millennial culture. I have to say; I’ve seen Orny several times and when he’s on he’s on and that night he was great!

By the end of the evening most people who were in the audience were feeling pretty energetic from all that laughter, and segue after segue the host master Howie Mandel gently made us laugh as he brought us to the end of this all star occasion.

35 years ago Just For Laughs brought the world’s great comics to Montreal, and here, 35 years later, who better than Canadian funnyman Howie Mandel to host them.

* Featured image from 2016 by Mike Miller, courtesy Just for Laughs

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

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

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

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

Sir Patrick Stewart is many things to many people. Royal Skakespeare Company veteran, Knight of the Order of the British Empire, Captain Jean-Luc Picard, Twitter phenom, Sir Ian McKellen’s BFF. Now you can add raunchy standup comic to that increasingly growing list.

Wednesday night, Stewart hosted a gala at Just for Laughs and made his entrance dressed as a stereotypical old-time knight. He made reference to his title a few times during the night (pun intended), even joking about his duels with fellow knighted British celebs which culminated with a Sean Connery impression.

Most of his material, though, was, as he put it, “far away from The Royal Shakespeare Company.” Now, this wasn’t The Nasty Show, but it wasn’t PG either.

Sir Patrick Stewart Just for Laughs Montreal 2

Think of an older relative at a family dinner after a few drinks telling dirty jokes. Now imagine those jokes with a British accent, which adds class. Now give that voice the commanding presence of one of the biggest cultural icons of the last quarter century and you get the almost surreal feeling I had last night.

OMG I’m in the same room as Sir Patrick Stewart…and he’s telling dick jokes!

Political Commentary From a Knight

Add one more thing to the list: supporter of Quebec independence. Well, not really. He only said that to stun the audience to silence. He admitted it after quite a long, confused pause.

He did, however, get into Canadian politics for real. He ripped into Stephen Harper, quipping that making the biggest dick Prime Minister wasn’t the best way to deal with penis envy.

A supporter of England’s Labour Party since he was four years old, Stewart said that they were kind of like our Liberal Party, just without the vapid hairdoo as leader. No mention of Mulcair, maybe it’s the Riker beard.

The Comics

As with all JFL galas, the evening wasn’t just about the host. Five comics graced the Place des Arts stage and kept the crowd entertained.

Kyle Kinane
Kyle Kinane

First up was Kyle Kinane, whom I had seen a few nights earlier at OFF-JFL’s The Canadian Show. While Stewart didn’t mention his most famous role, except in a reference to people who kept asking him about Star Trek, Kinane went for it in his routine. It came across more as a tribute to the man who had just introduced him.

Now I’m sure there were more than four lights in Place des Arts, but the other part of Kinane’s Trek referencing led us into his bit on male beard grooming. That along with his take on heavy metal roadies and his visit to a fertility clinic made for a very funny set which the audience just ate up.

Two fellow Brits joined Stewart in the lineup. Russell Howard delivered a solid fast-paced set that touched on family and celebrity (he’s a star in England) in a very funny and interesting way. Gina Yashere also told dick jokes, sort of, but hers were more about how she wasn’t looking for one. Still raunchy and quite funny, though.

Gina Yashere
Gina Yashere

David Acer represented Montreal with class and wit as Pete Zedlacher did for Wawa, Ontrario. SNL alumn Jim Brewer went all the way to Africa to get jokes from a safari and the prospect of being eaten by a lion which the audience ate up (pun also intended). Sebastian Maniscalco got laughs comparing his life with that of the man who introduced him: “he’s a knight, I ate hot dogs for breakfast.”

I left feeling very satisfied both culturally and comedically. Now to watch some TNG episodes on Netflix and find out if seeing Sir Patrick Stewart in a new light changes how I view the show.

* photos by Éric Myre, courtesy of Just for Laughs

Just for Laughs festival has started and the comics have taken to the stage multiple times. However, when they’re up on the stage, you don’t really get to have a conversation with them. They tell you their jokes and you laugh and think, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Gina Yashere, Ahmed Ahmed, Dan Naturman, and Ronnie Chieng are four of the comics that will be taking the stage at Club Soda twice every night to do the Ethnic Show. I had a very lovely conversation with them and we talked about their experiences as being comics belonging to a minority. So, what is ethnic anyway?

The Ethnic Show runs July 8h to 19th at Club Soda, for tickets and info: hahaha.com

Just for Laugh’s Ethnic Show markets itself as “the most culturally diverse show of the Festival.” And yeah, that’s pretty much true. The seven comics I watched last night at Club Soda came from a variety of different ‘ethnic’ backgrounds and their sets made sure everyone got a good laugh.

Entering Club Soda with my friend, the one question that I had in mind was “What the hell does ethnic mean anyway?” If you have a look at the line-up, you’ll see that none of the comics are what you would call Anglo-Saxon.

Ethnic, in this sense, does not necessarily have to do with skin color. It’s these people’s experiences as belonging to a minority group in North America that has made them fit the label ‘ethnic.’ And they seemed to be okay with it.

At the very beginning of the show, the host Alonzo Bodden reminded the audience that they would be offending everyone equally. Now, in this day and age, it could be really difficult for comics to talk about sensitive issues like race and ethnicity. To be honest, I’d like to think that it should be. I’m not saying that we should be censoring what people can say; but a comic making jokes about racial or ethnic topics should be self-aware.

After all, when people think about ethnic comedy, what pops into their heads are stereotypes. But there is so much more to the “ethnic” experience than old, cliche stereotypes. If such jokes based on stereotypes haven’t gone stale yet, it’s about time that they did.

07-DSC_0029
Rachid Badouri

Luckily, you’ll find very little of that in the Ethnic Show and that’s what I really liked about it. Essentially, these comics are telling their own stories about snippets from their own lives. They just happen to be from a certain ethnicity and that happens to colour these stories.

For instance, Rachid Badouri has a bit about parent-teacher meetings. At its core, his story is about a little boy whose father does funny things without even knowing. But because his father is Moroccan, the story takes on a different aspect. Still, the joke isn’t funny because Badouri is doing accent jokes, it’s funny because of how ridiculous the situation is – AND his facial expressions.

I especially loved Bodden’s performance as the host. He really knew how to get the audience excited and involved. In fact, I daresay some of his jokes got more laughs than some of the other acts.

I’d also urge you to pay special attention to Frank Spadone and Gina Yashere. For some reason I could really empathize with Spadone’s jokes about his family. As for Yashere, I’m simply a sucker for the kind of sarcastic Londoner humour she delivers so well.

Ronnie Chieng’s routine was also pretty funny. He told a story based on his observations at the airport line and delivered it very loudly. Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t laughing because he was just screaming, but because he was screaming at an imaginary Asian person at an imaginary airpot for eating BBQ pork at the passport line. The way he set up the story made it impossible not to laugh.

I found Dan Naturman’s act a bit drier than the others. I suppose I find the single-forty-year-old-hitting-on-women routine is getting a bit old. Don’t get me wrong, though – I still laughed at Naturman.

All these comics are hilarious in their own way and not just because they do ethnic comedy. I get the feeling that they have bits in their routines about ethnicity, mostly because the name of the show is the Ethnic Show.

In my opinion, the Ethnic Show is all about great comics telling their own stories, but with us putting the label ‘ethnic’ on it.

In between the acts, Bodden kept asking audiences what they were. I think the purpose of that was to push the audience outside of their North American mind-frame. I mean, what is a Canadian, anyway? Most Canadians come from one “old country” or another.

Maybe I’m over-analyzing a great comedy show, but I think the concept of race and ethnicity deserves being over-analyzed. The show got me thinking and maybe it will do the same for you. But even if you’re in it just for laughs (get it?) I promise that you’ll have a fantastic time. Definitely check the Ethnic Show out.

The Ethnic Show is running between July 8 and July 19, twice every night at Club Soda. Check out the Just for Laughs website for more information.