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

Ryan Hamilton is an exception to the rule ‘nice guys finish last’.

A wickedly funny dude, obviously, he’s frequently impressed both industry insiders and layman comedy fans by winning numerous major comedy competitions including Last Comic Standing and The Great American Comedy Fest, and has been named one of Rolling Stone’s Five Comics to Watch, all the while maintaining the kind of down-to-Earth attitude that can only come from Small Town America.

Here, I sit down, by myself, and talk with Ryan Hamilton over a shitty cellular connection while he sits down, also by himself, in a hotel room somewhere on his busy tour schedule.

[Interview condensed for length]

Ellana Blacher: So I googled you, are you aware that the Wikipedia page baring your name already belongs to someone?

Ryan Hamilton: Yeah, I saw that actually. A hockey player, right?

EB: Yeah, you’re Ryan Hamilton (Comedian). He’s not Ryan Hamilton (Hockey Player), he’s just Ryan Hamilton.

RH: Well it’s a pretty common name.

EB: And Hamilton has been pretty popular lately, what with the Broadway play and all.

RH: It’s been great for me. People think they’re getting a great deal on Hamilton [The Musical], but they’re actually getting tickets to my show. So then they see me instead.

EB: It can’t be that much of an accident; you’ve won a bunch of major comedy competitions. You even won Sierra Mist’s America’s Next Great Comic, and they aren’t even around anymore.

RH: It’s true! I outlived Sierra Mist!

EBL And you opened for Seinfeld last month! How was that? A lot of people compare your comedy style to a young Jerry Seinfeld.

RH: It was just great. Yeah him and I were talking about that, we don’t see it. We don’t think our styles are that similar, I think it’s just that we both have kind of a more clean style of comedy so we get lumped together.

EB: I can see that. Well, you’re both in town for Just For Laughs. You’ve been a mainstay at this festival for a while. And you play a lot of comedy shows. Do you find there’s a difference from festival to festival?

RH: Every show is different, honestly. Even the same one from year to year. Every one really has its own life, its own feeling, and they’re all great.

EB: Have you ever spent any time in Montreal outside of Just For Laughs?

RH: Uh, no, actually. I’d really like to but I’m always travelling. I’m always on the road.

EB: Well that must be nice. I see that the potato farming community you’re from in Idaho only has a population of about a thousand people as of the last census. How did you even get into comedy from that?

RH: I started off in journalism actually, writing for a local paper. I just called them up and asked if I could have a column, and they let me. And after a while another paper started publishing me too, and then I started helping write behind the scenes for a local news channel, and it felt so great when things I had written, little funny things, made it to air. And then I left comedy for about eight years.

EB: How did you find your way back to it?

RH: Well I never really thought of comedy as a serious career option. That wasn’t really a thing where I was from; we didn’t even have a comedy club in town. And then I lost my job, and then decided, hey, I should give comedy a serious try, and if it doesn’t work out, then at least I’ll know.

EB: And now you have an upcoming Netflix special and a series of solo shows. Tell me about that.

RH: Well we filmed the Netflix special back in May. And the show’s kind of a preview for it. It’s called Ryan Hamilton: Edgy, Boundary-Pushing Comedian. It was kind of a joke, based on something my friend said.
But now, that’s what I am.

You can see Ryan Hamilton in Montreal as part of the Just For Laughs festival from July 24th-29th. Get your tickets through hahaha.com.

And in the meantime, get familiar with this rising star’s unique, clean comedy style.

Here’s Ryan Hamilton performing on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert:

And here’s his Just For Laughs Reel

In a room in the iconic Monument-National on St Laurent Boulevard, press gathered in anticipation. Festival Season is coming in Montreal and Just for Laughs was ready to announce its long awaited lineup for the 2017 comedy festival.

This year is a special one for Just for Laughs as it marks the 35th anniversary of a comedy festival that helped launch the careers of everyone from Demetri Martin to Amy Schumer. Every year the people behind the festival, including its veterans, do their best to bring in top comedic talent from around the world and give new faces a shot at fame.

This year is no exception.

The biggest names on the ticket this year have to be American comic legend Jerry Seinfeld and French comedian Gad Elmaleh, who is the most beloved comedian in Europe right now. Elmaleh has recently begun doing comedy in English with great success. Seinfeld’s appearance at Just for Laughs will be his first since 1989. For one special night at the Bell Center on July 28th, the two will share the stage in honor of the festival’s anniversary.

Africa’s most successful comedian Trevor Noah will also be performing this year. Since he took over as host of The Daily Show in 2015, he has done some of the most scathingly successful critiques of current events and of the US President and his government of racist, misogynist, classists. If you’ve ever watched any of Trevor Noah’s comedy specials, his style of soft-spoken yet biting social commentary peppered with hilarious impressions promises that any show he’s in will be special.

Writer and Director of Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin Judd Apatow has chosen Montreal as the venue for his new stand-up show which will be recorded live for Netflix during the festival. Transgender actress, model and advocate (plus my second favourite Frank n’ Furter) Laverne Cox will be hosting her own gala, as will SNL veteran David Spade.

The lineup of Canadian talent this year seems to favor comedians from Newfoundland. Among them, we have ranter and political satirist Rick Mercer, who will be hosting a gala. Mark Critch of This Hour Has 22 Minutes will be hosting Homegrown Comics, a staple event at the festival featuring Canadian up and comers in standup comedy. The only Central Canadian names this year are Howie Mandel and Montreal’s own Sugar Sammy, who is the festival’s special guest.

A smiling Sammy took the podium this morning to express his gratitude to a festival that launched his career so quickly he found himself riding the bus to his own show with his fans back in the day. He jokingly told the press that he’d promised himself he’d take a fancy car to Just for Laughs once he got rich and famous, but ended up taking the metro today due to Montreal construction. His gala will feature international standup comedians.

Just for Laughs veteran Kevin Hart is doing what he can to promote young talent via Laugh Out Loud Network Presents: Just For Laughs Eat My Shorts. The initiative between Hart and Just For Laughs will feature shorts submitted by various filmmakers. Twenty films that speak to a diverse audience will eventually be chosen to stream on the LOL website and a panel consisting of Hart and other judges will select the top five for a screening at the Imperial Theatre. A winner will be selected that night and Hart will present them with a development deal followed by a Q&A session.

The Nasty Show is for me the best part of Just for Laughs. It’s the show where comedians, by their own admission, can let loose and tell jokes without having to worry about offending anyone. The lineup for this year’s Nasty Show features the master of British snark, Jimmy Carr, as well as Godfrey, Robert Kelly, and Big Jay Oakerson. What are suspiciously absent from this lineup are female comedians, though whether this is deliberate or accidental is unclear, though it’s not for lack of talent. Anyone who thinks women can’t do filthy comedy is welcome to google Lisa Lampanelli, Margaret Cho, Sarah Silverman, or Paula Bel, to name a few.

The Ethnic Show is the festival’s way of fighting racism and breaking down cultural barriers through laughter. The host this year is Iranian-American Maz Jobrani who is joined by Jewish American Jessica Kirson, Korean Irish-American Steve Byrne, and the Dominican Vlad Caamaño among others. The Ethnic Show is the show for cultural criticism and self-deprecating ethnic humor that feels less offensive because it’s made by comedians of those backgrounds.

In addition to festival staples, Just for Laughs is introducing some new attractions. New Faces: Creators features people contributing to the “evolution of the comedy landscape” via digital content creation. Also new to the festival is Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch recognizing the talents of stand-up comedians, sketch artists, and web content creators impacting the comedy industry this year.

For those who shun the mainstream, there’s always OFF-JFL and Zoofest which feature over sixty shows in intimate venues all over the city. The more risqué nature of the shows and the fact that tickets are generally cheaper makes this a great option for those of us who are broke. OFF-JFL regular Andy Kindler will host the Alternative Show, while The Lucas Bros return for more laughs. Other comedians in this series include Vir Das, Cristela Alonzo, and Barry Rothbart, to name a few.

With the tense socio political climate in North America, Just For Laughs is the kind festival we need more than ever. It’s not just because we all need a good laugh; it’s because if anyone can call bullshit on the worst behaviors of our leaders to keep them in check, it’s comedians. The best comedians shine when things are bad so if current events are any indication, it’s going to be a GREAT festival this year!

Ticket info can be had at hahaha.com

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!

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.

The Nasty Show is an institution at Montreal’s Just for Laughs festival. For over twenty five years talented comedians, some known, some not known yet, unleash the beast, the material they can’t use with faint of heart audiences. At the beginning of every show, the announcer boldly says:

“If you’re easily offended, get out!”

The Nasty Show isn’t for the easily offended.

If you’re the type to whine about a good natured gay joke (they exist), or call the Human Rights Commission because a comedian rightfully points out that sign language is the least politically correct language there is, don’t go to the Nasty Show.

Jokes like that are EXACTLY what you’re going to get. Though the roster of comedians in the show changes every year, there is one face you are sure to see: The Pitbull of Comedy, Bobby Slayton.

Bobby Slayton was fourth on the roster the night I attended the Nasty Show. Though he used to host, he was happy to give up the reins. He brashly told the crowd that JFL asked him if they could give someone else a shot at hosting. Slayton said that if they were looking for someone fatter and a lot less funny, he had just the guy.

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Bobby Slayton.

This year’s host is our own Mike Ward, the comedian recently forced to pay $42,000 in damages to a disabled kid and his mother, the former of whom was the subject of one of his jokes four years ago. As Forget the Box’s legal columnist, many have asked for my take on the Mike Ward verdict is, so here it is.

The Quebec Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Tribunal were created to enforce the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms which protects individuals from harassment and discrimination. That means going after employers who have made it clear that higher paying positions within their companies should only go to men. It means punishing establishments for having dress codes that are clearly designed to discriminate against people who are required by their religions or cultures to wear certain clothing items or accessories. It means ignoring people who want to legally punish panhandlers for trying to earn a living or slapping the complainers with a fine for harassing these individuals.

It is not to go after comedians.

Comedians are society’s best critics. They are the first to pick up on the inconsistencies in our laws, our policies, our customs, and the first to point out the obvious hypocrisies of people in the public eye. A classic example is George Carlin who pointed in the eighties that politicians were going to ban toy guns, “but keep the f-cking real ones!”

Did Jeremy Gabriel deserve to be mocked for his illness?

No.

Is Mike Ward the one who should be punished for making the joke? Or should the tribunal punish all the people who used the joke as an excuse to bully a disabled and disfigured kid?

The answer seems obvious to me.

There is nothing mean-spirited in the joke Ward told or the manner in which it was delivered. There is a BIG difference between questioning in a joke whether a deaf kid can tell if he’s off-key and Daniel Tosh telling the audience that a female heckler at his show should be raped.

The Human Rights Commission and Tribunal overstepped their bounds.

These institutions were created as vehicles of social justice. They were not created for censorship. When an organization goes after the very people who criticize our society, be they journalists or comedians, they cease to be a means of social justice and turn into ones of repression.

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

The other comedians at the Nasty Show: Paula Bel, Brad Williams, Thomas Dale, and Ralphie May called Mike Ward a freedom fighter and he IS one.

He told the audience he’s planning to appeal the decision and keep on appealing. Every comedian at that show has his back.

Ward is fighting for the freedom to give criticism and make jokes and laugh, even if those laughs make us feel uncomfortable and even a little guilty.

Having said all that, the Nasty Show did not disappoint.

Thomas Dale is the first openly gay comedian to do the Nasty Show and though his act was clean compared that of Paula Bel, Brad Williams, and Ralphie May, he held his own. Dale warmed up the crowd by saying that he almost wishes Trump will win just so he can move to Canada because the men are so hot. The rest of his routine consisted mostly of d-ck jokes.

Paula Bel, the only female comedian in the show, made the best Donald Trump joke. She rightfully pointed out that if Trump wants to stop all illegal immigration, he ought to start with those Eastern European women he keeps bringing into the US to marry. By pulling her long blonde hair across her forehead she faithfully replicated Trump’s comb over and did an imitation of his voice that filled me with awe at its accuracy.

Bobby Slayton was true to form. He did his customary picking on the audience, his target being a large breasted man. Slayton then addressed the elephant in the room: his wife’s death. Though it had happened only three months earlier, Slayton managed to make the tragedy both funny and deferential to his late wife while maintaining his comedy’s textbook raspy edge.

Brad Williams was next and he is a force to be reckoned with in comedy. Though small in stature, he’s not afraid to move around on stage to strengthen a joke. He used the Ward verdict to point out that when society has it too good we make stuff up to get upset about. Williams’ set also included his customary rants about his experiences as a dwarf and his understanding of people with kinks. He rightfully points that a guy claiming to have no sexual interests probably has a roll of duct tape and a van.

Last to go on was Ralphie May, a larger than life comedian from the Southern US. Though his routine was mostly about pleasuring women (those of you who have no idea how or what that is should send Cat McCarthy an email) , he included a joke about Canadian winters and took a jab at Brad Williams for identifying as a dwarf.

“You don’t have a battle axe. You’re not a dwarf!” May said.

The Nasty Show, sponsored by Pornhub is a must see, but if you’re a prude, or an overactive, oversensitive Social Justice Warrior, stay away. Grow a thicker skin or go to another show.

July is here with all its humidity. It was disgusting outside yesterday, but that was the only thing I could complain about, really. In fact, the whole of Montreal should be squealing with glee right now because the world’s funniest festival is back in town!

Of course, I’m referring to the one and only Just For Laughs. In fact, JFL may be one of the only reasons why I’ve decided to stay in this city after school. (I may be slightly exaggerating because of all the free shows I get to see and review; but hey, bloody constructions everywhere, sheesh…)

JFL is celebrating its 34th birthday this year and as always, the schedule is jam-packed with hilarious comedians from all over the place. I’m excited to see such great comedians like Jimmy Carr, Cameron Esposito, Michelle Wolf, Aparna Nancherla… The list goes on.

But I’m particularly stoked about the Midnight Surprise, because no one knows who is gonna show up. Big-timers often go to these events before their big show to test out their material – and I wouldn’t mind accidentally bumping into David Cross, you know?

But today’s focus is The Ethnic Show; a spectacle that has a very interesting concept. The comedians who do their sets at this show are all “ethnic” – notwithstanding the fact that the word does not really mean what we expect it to mean.

The line-up is basically the set up for a joke: A Greek guy, an Italian guy, a Moroccan dude, a Jewish woman, a Lebanese guy, a Puerto Rican woman, and a Nigerian guy walk into a bar… I mean, the result is hilarious. And the comics seem to think so as well.

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Jessica Kirson doing the Jewish Grandmother face. Photo by Cem Ertekin.

Before the show I talked with Jessica Kirson, who told me that she was looking forward to performing. Thursday’s show wasn’t the first show of the festival, so Jessica was already pumped to be doing the show.

“It feels good to be on the show,” Jessica said. “I’m the Jew on the show, so I’m very proud of my heritage and everything. I love talking about it, it’s great!” Indeed, Jessica’s set had a lot of stories about old Jewish women, who apparently all have the same facial expressions and all sound like Fran Drescher. But you probably already knew about that stereotype, right?

My favourite part about her set, though, was her talking to herself. Apparently it’s a gimmick that she does. At random points during the show, she turns her back to the audience and “comforts” herself by saying weird things about oatmeal. It’s bizarre and great.

Oh by the way, before I forget, she wanted me to write that “Yannis Pappas is an asshole.” Yannis, the “token Greek” of the show echoed her sentiment (in case it’s not obvious, this was a joke).

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Yannis Pappas. Photo by Cem Ertekin.

Speaking of Yannis, he started off his set by saying that he has been to Laval and is pretty sure that it’s a Greek island. Everyone else laughed at that; but, to be honest, I’ve never been to Laval (because I never really needed to) so I didn’t get the joke. I laughed anyway, because everyone else was also laughing, and I really did not want to stand out.

To my chagrin, Yannis did not have any jokes about Turkish people. I suppose the entire Greeks vs. Turks trope doesn’t really exist in North America, so that’s understandable. Regardless, I managed to get him to admit that “Yoghurt was probably not a Greek invention.”

However, he also told me before the show, “I’ll give you guys yoghurt, if you guys give us baklava.” I’ll let him get away with that because he was a good sport and a funny guy on stage.

You know who’s really cool though? Rachid Badouri. That guy had its first major anglophone show at JFL last year. He was also one of the comedians on the Ethnic Show last year.

This year, they got him to host the Ethnic Show and he was psyched. “They finally trusted me,” he told the audience – amazed. He repeated the same material from last year; but he’s still funny. It’s all in the delivery, I guess.

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Nemr. Photo by Cem Ertekin.

In addition to Rachid, Yannis, and Jessica, the Ethnic Show also features Godfrey, Gina Brillon, Nemr, and Dom Irrera. Now, all of these people are absolutely amazing. Godfrey killed it with a joke about how he wished humans would have mating calls and acting out a very riveting mating ritual that takes place at a dance club. Nemr explained to us that, in Lebanon (and in Turkey, I might add), people light a matchstick to check for gas leakages.

Gina talked about her up-bringing in Bronx and how the guys there would try to hook up with anything, including a literal broom with boob. Dom was great as well, portraying the stereotypical Italian guy perfectly. I also didn’t know this, but apparently, he was Ernie Potts in the Hey Arnold! TV series.

Bottom line is, go see the Ethnic Show. It’s fun, it’s different. Most of the time comedians put some background jokes into their sets, but the Ethnic Show allows them to craft an entire set out of their identities. I could talk about it for hours upon hours, but the best way to understand it is to see it.

You can see the Ethnic Show between July 13-28 at Club Soda and Metropolis. For more information, check out hahaha.com. In addition, Yannis Pappas, Jessica Kirson, and Gina Brillon have their own shows as well. So be sure to check them out.

Gina Brillon appears on the featured image, taken by Cem Ertekin. 

2015 was quite a year. As we prepare to welcome in the next 365 days, it is time, once again, to take a look back at some of our favourite posts from the previous 365. We asked our contributors to suggest some of their top choices from their own contributions and those of their fellow FTB writers. Here are the results in no particular order:

Dumpster Diving Meets Haute Cuisine at the United Nations by Joshua Davidson (October 2) The title pretty much says it all. Is dumpster dived food really haute cuisine for the world’s diplomats? Yes, it was this year. Josh Davidson explains and talks about what this could mean for food sustainability.

Montreal Police are Out of Control by Jason C. McLean (December 20) After undercover SPVM officers hospitalize a protester for identifying them, Jason C. McLean argues that what many have known for a long time is now, once again, crystal clear for all to see: Montreal Police are out of control!

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SPVM riot squad (photo Cem Ertekin)

Leurs Guerres, Nos Morts: Paris, Beirut, Syria and Beyond by Niall Clapham Ricardo (November 17) In the wake of a spate of terrorist attacks, Niall Ricardo looks at our differing reaction to the similar events and argues that we need to see who really benefits.

Girl Gush: The Joy of Female Ejaculation and Sleeping in the Wet Spot by Cat McCarthy (November 12) It’s a rather sticky subject, but sex columnist Cat McCarthy dives right into female ejaculation (conceptually, that is – and yes, all puns very much intended).

M For Montreal: The Celebration of a Musical Scene by Ford Donovan (November 25) Montreal has a vibrant local music scene. That much is clear. Ford Donovan takes a look at just how that shone through this year at the annual M for Montreal music festival.

Beyond the Veil: The Illegitimacy of the Niqab Ban by Samantha Gold (September 27) In the height of this year’s Canadian Federal Election campaign, the woman who fought for the right to wear her niqab at a citizenship ceremony finally gets to take the oath. Samantha Gold takes a look at the legal aspects of the ban itself.

If We Can’t Protest, Then the Terrorists Win! by Jason C. McLean (November 22) With protest marches banned at the Paris Climate Conference (or COP21) as a security measure, how do we protect our right to protest in a time of terror attacks? Jason C. McLean argues that we need to look to, of all people, George W. Bush.

The JFL Ethnic Show Comedians Talk Ethnic Comedy [AUDIO] by Cem Ertekin (July 13) Just what is Ethnic Comedy? Cem Ertekin asks that question of the comedians performing under the banner of the Just for Laughs Ethnic Show.

Are Supermarkets Slowly Coming Back Down to Earth? by Joshua Davidson (March 18) Food that is still edible discarded by supermarkets for cosmetic reasons? It happens all the time. However, as Josh Davidson notes, that trend may be changing.

PorchFest NDG: Ringing in the Summer Community-Style by Jason C. McLean (May 3) It may not be your typical Montreal music festival, but, then again, what’s typical in Montreal music? Looks like PorchFest NDG is here to stay!

PorchFest NDG (photo by Jesse Anger)
PorchFest NDG (photo by Jesse Anger)

Put It In Your Mouth: Oral Sex Reciprocation and Hair Down There by Cat McCarthy (October 8) FTB’s sex columnist Cat McCarthy took a look at many people’s favourite topic: oral sex. More importantly, though, she talks about the importance of reciprocation.

Why I’m Not Voting for Stephen Harper by Johnny Scott (August 16) A rather different take on the election. Not exactly fact-based, but, then again, most politics isn’t.

Orientation on Your First Day As A Pirate by Johnny Scott (September 22) First day on the job can be a tough experience. That doesn’t change if you’re a pirate.

UPDATE: Noted Misogynist Roosh V Welcomed Montreal-Style, with Beer in the Face by Jason C. McLean (August 9) So-called pickup artist Roosh V, a man who thinks rape should be legal on private property, didn’t get the Montreal reception he was expecting. It was the splash felt around the world!

Employment DOs and DON’Ts: Your Rights as an Employee in Quebec by Samantha Gold (October 23) In a tough economy, employees can’t forget about their rights. Samantha Gold takes a look at the legal aspects, rights and restrictions of employment in Quebec.

There are plenty more where these came from. Be on the lookout for new, original content beginning January 2nd, 2016 (we’re going to take tomorrow off)! Happy New Year’s from Forget the Box!

 

 

It all started with a diarrhea joke.

After hearing the all too familiar JFL warning telling the audience to put their phones on silent-mode and berating people who might not have seen a show in the past ten years, we were expecting Rachid Badouri to jump on the stage and immediately start pulling faces and telling stories about his father embarrassing him.

Instead, we heard his voice over the speakers as he declared to the audience that he would be replaced by his good friend Ronnie Chieng (with whom they’ve played the Ethnic Show), because he was preoccupied with diarrhea. That got quite a bit of laughs.

I saw Chieng earlier at the Ethnic Show and he was pretty funny there. Luckily, he used a completely different set – except for the bit where he tells the audience that anyone at anytime could convince him that he left his iron on. Nowadays, he apparently carries his iron around with him.

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See what I mean by pulling faces? Photo by Matthew Cope

One of his jokes got me thinking though. Apparently, he was going through his old photos from the 90s one day, and realized that he looked shit. He was surprised, “I was there in the 90s, and I didn’t think I looked shit!” His conclusion is that, we might not know it now, but right now all of us look completely shit, with our skinny jeans and whatnot.

After Chieng, however, Rachid “Rat-shit” Badouri took the stage with all his shiny glory. The Francosphere probably knows who he is, but as far as the Anglosphere is concerned, Badouri has existed only for the past six months. He warned us: “My English is not good, but do not forget, your French sucks.”

A French Canadian, born to Moroccan parents, and hailing from Laval; Badouri has a lot to say – mostly about his father. Growing up in Quebec as an Arab is difficult he says, and sadly, his father did not make his life any easier for him.

For instance, his father had a tendency to use words whose meanings he didn’t really know. So, often he would tell Badouri, “Shut up your face, you cameltoe.”

At the middle of his routine, he stopped for a second. Turns out, he forgot what his next line was supposed to be, and ran off the stage to go get his cheatsheet. He did it so candidly, however, that the audience could do nothing but to applaud.

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A happy Rachid Badouri in his natural environment. Photo by Matthew Cope.

Badouri’s strong suit is his face. Not quite on the same level as Jim Carrey, but boy can he twist and contort his face and eyes. His demented chicken impression is pretty remarkable.

His last joke was about the customs form that you need to fill as you enter Canada. Unlike other countries, Canada asks you whether or not you have ever been to a farm recently. As a former flight attendant, Badouri has always wondered what would happen to someone who said “yes” to that question. So one day, he decides to say yes. The officer at the customs looks at him and says “Come with me.” They take him to an abandoned runway, with a tree growing in the middle.

And then the officer says: “You see that tractor over there? It’s been there for 20 years, could you please move it?”

After that joke, and after the entire performance, Badouri got a standing ovation; and you could tell that he was so darn happy with it. It was his first time doing an hour-long set in English, he fills up every single seat at L’Astral, and gets a standing ovation. Honestly, he did deserve it.

Rachid Badouri was part of the Ethnic Show and did his hour-long English set on July 23 at L’Astral. While he has no more shows at Just for Laughs, he’s going to be on tour with his French set in the upcoming months. Check out his website for more information.

Photos are from Badouri’s performance at The Ethnic Show, courtesy of Matthew Cope and Just for Laughs.

Imagine a room full of pleasantly drunk people, chanting in primal grunts and stomping the floor, with a middle-aged man mumbling the word ‘rap’ over and over again, as a naked Black Jewish man dances seductively in a comedy club located in an attic on Bishop street.

Just keep that image at the back of your head as you read this review of Eric André’s show at Comedyworks.

If you’ve ever been to Comedyworks, you’ll know that it is a very intimate space. People sitting knee-to-knee, comedians walking up to the stage squeezing their way through the audience. I even accidentally bumped into a waitress. Honestly, though, that feeling of intimacy makes the comedy experience all the better. Even though you’re listening to famous people do jokes, it feels like you’re simply hanging out with your friends at an open-mic night.

So, we were all there to see Eric André, but before him, there were two opening acts to prep the audience for what was to come. (I mean, absolutely nothing could have prepared us for that.)

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Josh Rabinowitz performing at Adam Devine’s House Party.

The first act was Josh Rabinowitz, hailing from Brooklyn. Rabinowitz looks young and awkward, and obviously, he bases his entire act around his youngness and awkwardness. He said that he’s annoyed by ‘cool people’ who think it’s ‘hip to be awkward.’ You know, the kind of people who do something somewhat normal, but slightly weird, and just go “Oops awkward!”

“Cool people are gentrifying awkward,” he declared, and the audience burst into unstoppable laughter.

Next up was Jack Knight, from Los Angeles. Now, Knight was kind of unfortunate, because one of the audience members got a bit too drunk (and possibly too high?) and started hassling him on stage. That’s not a nice thing to do; but Knight managed to handle him pretty well.

Knight talked about a bunch of things. For instance, when he turned 18, his father told him that he was going to finally make him into a man, so he took him to vote. He has kind of a dry style that really suits his jokes; as if he’s telling the jokes, yet he’s incredulous that the audience finds them funny. But believe me, he’s funny. He’s a funny man.

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Jack Knight performing elsewhere.

Then finally, we get the absurd host of the Eric André Show. I don’t even know where to start with this guy. His laughter, maybe? Or his hair? Or maybe the fact that he kept poking that poor middle-aged man with the microphone stand the entire night to make sure he didn’t fall asleep.

I could also talk about the weird one-liners, like: “The last time I did LSD, I jerked off to anime and I came a Mario brother.” Or his list of band names, with phenomenal ideas like “Lionel Nietzsche, R&B for nihilists.”

André’s show is one heck of a roller coaster ride. I don’t think I stopped laughing even for a second. He engaged with the audience, the audience engaged with him, and then towards the end, we even had a religious epiphany all together. (Remember the image from the top?) It was truly beautiful.

If you haven’t already been watching the Eric André Show on Adult Swim, do it now. If you have been watching, and you know what a genius André is, DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW. I mean, seriously, do not miss this show regardless of who you are.

Eric André will be talking about things at the Comedyworks two more times tonight on July 25. Check out hahaha.com for more details.

Unfortunately, the featured image is not from the show, but was taken by Maryanne Ventrice in Brooklyn, NY.

As I was climbing up the stairs into the cozy little attic known to Montrealers as The Wiggle Room, I absolutely had no idea what to expect. I had heard that late night shows were quite different than the earlier ones. I mean, you must have heard of Dave Chappelle just deciding to show up at the Théâtre Saint-Catherine. No one expected that!

So, with the Montreal Show starting at 11:30 p.m., I had every reason to expect that tonight’s show would be something different. Also, if you look at Just For Laughs’ website, you will see that they don’t have the line-up for the show listed anywhere – well, at least when I looked at my iPhone sitting at the Wiggle Room, I couldn’t find anything.

What I knew was this: The Montreal Show used to be a really big part of the JFL fest, but it was dropped for some unknown reason. This year, it’s making it’s grand comeback, hosted by Tim Rabnett. Some of Montreal’s funniest people jumped on the stage today: Morgan O’Shea, Massimo, Jess Salomon, Mike Ward (who also hosts The Nasty Show), David Pryde, Mike Paterson, and Joey Elias!

This is the part where I should say “but wait, there’s more!” But I want to talk about these people a bit before I get to the surprise of the night. I mean, if you’re on Twitter, or if you’ve read the title of this piece, you know what the surprise was anyway.

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Montreal Show host Tim Rabnett at The Wiggle Room in Montreal, July 20. Photo by Cem Ertekin

So the deal with such a crowded line-up is that the comedians do not occupy the stage long enough that you could risk getting bored. But also, because they’re there for such a short time, they feel like they need to give you 150%. In a single sentence, I laughed a lot tonight.

Morgan O’Shea talked about his dating life and how he was not really good with second dates. Massimo talked about his magical Italian mother, who can apparently conjure cannolis out of thin air. Jess Salomon shared how it feels to be a Jewish-Arab “who looks like a Saint Patrick’s Day parade.” Mike Ward told a weird story about how xenophobic hatred could save children from pedophiles (Obviously the guy from the Nasty Show does the pedophile joke). David Pryde did a Braille joke about Hooters. Mike Patterson did an impression of his mother’s (I think?) boyfriend George’s impression – even if no one really knew who George was. Then finally, Joey Elias did not tell a single joke, but instead had interesting conversations with members of the audience.

Now, I think that’s what the regular line-up of the Montreal Show is going to be. Although, it was the first night and some of the jokes did fall flat on me. I mean, funny is subjective, right? But apart from that, I still can’t find jokes that mock religions funny – despite being an atheist myself. There are so many other things you can poke fun at. You know? Like, Donald Trump’s a big joke, yet I heard not a single “Trump’s toupée” joke.

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Morgan O’Shea performing in The Montreal Show at The Wiggle Room in Montreal, on July 21. Photo by Cem Ertekin

I promised I would say, “but wait, there’s more!” So here it is.

But wait, there’s more!

That’s right! At the second half of the show, the roastmaster Jeffrey Ross took over the Wiggle Room. Ross will be hosting the Roastmasters Invitational: The 2015 World Championship of Competitive Roasting. Apparently, all the comedians that will show up at that event decided to show up at the Wiggle Room.

So, on top of the seven comedians of the Montreal Show, the audience tonight got to see nine more comedians. That’s sixteen in total, and I am currently overdosing on comedians.

So who else showed up? Brian Moses, who wore a confederate flag shirt that had “gay pride” written on it; Jeremiah Watkins, who did an impression of the Kings of Leon lost in the woods; Jesus Trejo, who talked about being an only-child in a Mexican family; Whitney Lee Rice, who did animal noises; Ed Larson, who is the world’s most prolific mediocre roadie; Earl Skakel, who said that “Montreal is to a hockey fan as Israel is to a Jew;” Ashley Barnhill, who is apparently a very awkward single woman; and Tony Hinchcliffe, whose jokes I actually did not find funny, like at all.

Seriously, Hinchcliffe. I found it appalling how easy it was for you to just joke about sexual assault. I mean, perhaps you were trying to make a point about how society finds it acceptable that people who make “great art” to be sexual offenders (he was talking about Bill Cosby and Michael Jackson). But, I get the feeling that you weren’t. I don’t know, I just found it distasteful.

At any rate, the non-surprise part of the Montreal Show was enough all by itself to ensure a great night full of laughter and joy. Keep in mind, these folk are completely 100% made in Montreal. As Joey Elias said, Montreal has the “funniest bunch of bastards” on the planet. So go check ‘em out, will ya?

You can catch the Montreal Show on July 21, 11:30 p.m. at the Wiggle Room. Check hahaha.com for more information.

Also, I was only allowed to take photos in the first 10 minutes of the first set. Soooooooooooooooo…

Orny Adams didn’t have an opening act to warm up the crowd for his new set Get Into the Hole, but he managed to pull off his first OFF-JFL show on July 16 at Théâtre Saint-Catherine anyways.

Orny worked the packed theatre, giving them the lowdown on all the shit you have to deal with when you’re 40. Soon there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, as most of us couldn’t stop laughing.

His new set has a lot of material that details his philosophy on the enduring hardships of the human condition. One of his jokes on third world countries with first world problems was the killer joke of the evening.

Orny is the type of comedian capable of showing the major inherent differences  between people of different age groups while ripping on them, talking about how great his life is and still pulling off why his life is so sad. He’s just that good.

Orny has been around the New York comedy scene for over a decade and was featured in the Jerry Seinfeld’s 2002 documentary, Comedian. He has been at the festival a few times and has managed to find himself at this year’s OFF-JFL.

Orny Adams is definitely a must see at the fest and will be playing between July 21-25 at La Chappelle. Tickets available at hahaha.com

* Photos by Danny Belair, courtesy of OFF-JFL

Panelists Josh Davidson, Jerry Gabriel and Cem Ertekin discuss the Just for Laughs Ethnic Show and the meaning of “ethnic” comedy, the social media scandal surrounding peas in guacamole and the seeming about-face in Greece after the OXI victory. Plus the Community Calendar and a panel interview with JFL comedians.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

 

Panelists

Josh Davidson: FTB food contributor (read his column on #GuacGate)

Cem Ertekin: FTB news editor

Jerry Gabriel: FTB contributor

Listen to the full panel interview on “ethnic” comedy by Cem Ertekin featuring Gina Yashere, Ahmed Ahmed, Dan Naturman and Ronnie Chieng

FTB PODCAST #8: Ethic Comedy at JFL, #GuacGate with Peas and Greece by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer Hannah Besseau

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

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.

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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.

If it wasn’t for comedy legend Sandra Bernhart, Montreal may never discovered the hilarious talent that is Tranna Wintour.

“When I discovered Berhart’s revolutionary one-woman shows a couple of years ago, I was transformed. It turns out comedy was what I had been looking for all my life,” Wintour told me via email this past weekend, “I’ve always dreamed of being a performer in some form, but I didn’t know how to express it. Once I came to that realization, I was able to start putting things into motion and finally find my voice as a storyteller.”

And thank goodness she did. After discovering comedy and a Halloween costume became a full-fledged stage persona, the trans comedienne known as Tranna Wintour was born. “Who I am on stage is the real me–a more glamorous, sassier version of the real me,” Wintour said when asked about the certain New York City fashion editor that inspired her stage name.

Tranna Wintour - Trantasy - Fringe 2015-59

Tranna is a proud transgender woman. Anyone watching her stand-up or following her social media posts can tell that immediately. So how does she feels about the attention transgender people have been getting in the media recently? “I do worry that the recent media coverage makes the transgender experience a kind of novelty,” Wintour said.

Wintour continued by saying “not everyone trans woman has the means to look as good as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox 24/7. And not every trans person wants to undergo a physical transformation. The transgender experience is unique to every trans person. When I’m not wearing makeup or a wig, I look like a boy. But I don’t ever feel like a boy. Regardless of what I look like on the outside, my spirit is female.”

This year Wintour made it on a few of Cult Mtl’s annual “Best of Montreal” lists, including best Instagram in the city. While Wintour admits she uses social media very little in her personal life, for her career it’s key. “I use social media as another means to entertain people. It’s an extension of the work I do on stage,” Wintour said, “it allows me to entertain and engage my audience when I’m not performing on stage.”

Those performances include the buzz-worthy 2015 Fringe show Trantasy. “My Fringe 2015 experience was absolutely magical,” Wintour said, “my favorite part of the show was performing an acoustic version of Taylor Dayne’s Love Will Lead You Back arranged by my friend Anis. I performed it on the last two nights of the run and it was probably my most favorite thing I’ve ever done on stage. I also want to give a big shout out to The Wiggle Room team who made my run so smooth and wonderful!”

Tranna Wintour - Trantasy - Fringe 2015-45

Up next for Wintour is the show My First Time at Zoofest, which opens on July 9th. The show is hosted by Darren Henwood, and showcases Canada’s up and coming comedy talent.

“There are so many local comedians I love, they know who they are, but I must give a very special shout out to the comedians I’ll be performing with at Zoofest–Darren Henwood, John St. Godard and Tommy Marshall,” Wintour said, “I am so freaking excited and honoured to be in a show with these super talented guys!”

It’s always exciting to see a Montreal talent on the verge of becoming a big deal. And with all the glamour, hard work and positive energy Wintour has put into her career, she deserves to become the kind of successful diva she admires so much. And not as a novelty, but as a celebration of the fabulous disco-loving woman that she is.

* Photos by Reese Turner

Once again, the world-famous Just for Laughs festival is about the begin in Montreal. There is a lot of cool gigs planned for our laughing pleasure, and one of them is the Ethnic Show, hosted by Alonzo Bodden and starring Frank Spadone, Rachid Badouri, Gina Yashere, Ahmed Ahmed, Ronny Chieng and Dan Naturman.

On the terrace of the Hyatt Regent hotel, overseeing place des arts in Montreal, I interviewed Frank Spadone and we talked about ethnic comedy, the meaning of the word ‘ethnic,’ and tips and tricks to being a comic.

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

And for bonus, here’s one of Spadone’s bits where he talks about different dialects of Italian.