On November 5th, 2017, Montrealers return to the polls to determine if Denis Coderre will remain the city’s mayor for the next four years or if new Projet Montréal leader Valérie Plante will get the job. Meanwhile you, Forget the Box readers, can head to our poll right now and pick who you want to see as the next Mayor of Montreal.

The poll closes on November 4th, when we will write an endorsement of the winner on behalf of our readers and publish it the same day, the day before the actual vote. At publication time, there are only two declared candidates for the city’s top job, if more join the list, we will add them as options on the poll and you can, too.

You can also change your vote right up until the poll closes. If we replace this poll in our sidebar with a new one, it will remain active and accessible through this post. Also please feel free to leave a comment as to why you voted the way that you did (but comments don’t count as votes, obviously).

In the meantime, we’ll also be covering the election campaigns to the best of our abilities. Not only the mayoral race, but as many city council and borough mayor races as we can. It’s a big city and an important election, so have your say November 5th, 2017 at the polls and right now in this poll:

Who do you want to see as Mayor of Montreal after the November 5th municipal election?
  • Add your answer

* Featured image via WikiMedia Commons

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

Not all heroes wear capes. Some, as I found out during Saturday’s second taping of All Access Live Hosted by Wyatt Cenac, jump on stage to entertain the crowd during technical problems.

Having already been to an All Access Live taping, the one hosted by Moshe Kasher, I expected a funny, intimate show and a well-oiled and well-timed production. It was both, right up to the end of American comic Theo Von’s set when the generator that was powering all the TV equipment blew.

After a bit of confusion, warm up comic Aaron Burr returned to the stage to explain what was happening.

Now since we’re talking about messups, I’ll admit one of my own. In my initial review of the Kasher All Access I called the warm-up guy Bill Burr. I thought it must be Bill. Bill Burr was a comic and Aaron Burr was the guy who shot Alexander Hamilton (note to self: listen to Mirna, she’s usually right).

Turns out not only is Aaron Burr a comic, he’s a damn good one capable of some seriously good improv to keep the audience going when the planned show was temporarily delayed.

Jessica Kirson, whom I imagine was the planned surprise guest for the end, also performed her set during this mid-show interruption. We’ve already reviewed her as part of The Ethnic Show, so I won’t go into her set here only to say that her comedic talent combined with the awkward energy in the room led to a truly stellar set that the audience needed at the time.

Huge props are also due to Von. He had been rocking the crowd with a solid set and then was pulled off the stage before he was able to finish it. When the TV tech was back up and running, he had to start from the beginning, something that I can’t imagine being easy to do when so much of a comedian’s success relies on flow and timing.

While the audience was fully expecting him to repeat most jokes and was even told that he would by Burr, Von opted for entirely different material at the start. He only ended up repeating the setup to the joke he was interrupted on, which involved audience interaction on top of it.

Now while I’m sure professional comedians like Von have a ton of material in reserve, the decision to throw out what he had planned for his TV appearance in order to offer the in-house crowd something new impressed me. It helped that he also happened to be one of the funniest and most animated comics up there that night.

Amidst all the chaos, host Cenac kept his cool and delivered his comedy in the chill, matter-of-fact way he is famous for. His material ranged from personal observations to the current state of US politics.

Audience interactions also played a big part in his performance, something Cenac felt completely at home doing. For one intro he sat casually at a table, just hanging out with some of the crowd.

I interacted with one of the comics, Darrin Rose, when he asked who was an older brother. Turns out he wasn’t that fond of older brothers, or at least his – for comedic effect of course.

Robby Hoffman, with her mousey though confident delivery was great. Kurt Braunholer was another standout.

The other comics, Rhea Butcher, Charlie Demers, Esther Povitsky and Damien Power, all delivered solid sets and I remember laughing quite a bit. I’d have to watch the TV version of this show to properly do them justice in a review, though.

All the excitemen during the unexpected break made Von’s triumphant return to the stage the comedic high point of the night. That and probably the extra bar run we got because of it split my focus between what was currently on stage and thoughts of “how cool was that” about what had transpired.

That dichotomy lasted until the end, with a brief interruption when I fully focused on Cenac’s second mini-set.

It wasn’t the show I was expecting but it ended up being one of the most entertaining shows I saw.

Models. Dance Numbers. Glitz, glam, multiple outfit changes. The Laverne Cox gala dazzled in production quality and sheer aesthetics, from the hilarious (and extremely effective) hype man to the flawlessly toned legs of our fabulous host in a wide array of black high-cut leotards.

The only thing that didn’t live up the excellently executed night was, unfortunately, also the main point of the evening. For a production that hit so many high notes, the actual comedy fell a little bit flat.

Not to say the comedy was bad, which it wasn’t. It was full of the kind of jokes you might reply ‘LOL’ to in a text message, while your passive facial expression remains unchanged. But of all of the shows I saw at this year’s Just For Laughs festival, this one certainly got the fewest laugh-out-loud moments from me.

It actually featured one of my personal festival favorites, Ryan Hamilton, who I thought might improve my impression of the comedy that night, and perhaps even warm me up for the next comic. But all of the jokes he ended up telling were ones that he had already told at his own show (which I already reviewed) earlier in the festival, and didn’t quite have the same effect on me as the first time around. Perhaps this is better for him, as his show would be one that I would recommend.

For the first time at the festival, I found myself wondering how many comics were left until I could go home.

Laverne, I love you. You’re an inspiration to millions, and your legs are amazing. However, with all of the options available at a major comedy festival like Just For Laughs, the Laverne Cox Gala would not be one that I would recommend.

It can’t be that the timing was off, as the show itself was so well timed, with all the right beats hit during the dance number and every strut in perfect sync during the catwalk. This particular comedy line up, unfortunately, didn’t really do it for me, and as the comedy was supposed to be the main point of the show, I can’t say that it really lived up to my expectations.

As such, I can’t recommend in good conscience that you, dear reader, go and spend your hard-earned cash to see this show at what’s supposed to be a comedy festival. You’re better off spending the money on a Netflix subscription to watch Orange Is The New Black if you want to see Laverne Cox.

The Jane Krakowski Gala at Salle Willfrid Peletier  had an excellent lineup of comedians: Tituss Burgess, Chris D’Elia, Jen Kirkman, Randy (the puppet), Eman El-Husseini, Sean Emeny, Donnell Rawlings and Steve Simeone.  The variety of talent was so great that this was a really enjoyable gala, as galas go.

Coming from New York with her hit show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Jane Krakowski has a few Emmys under her belt. And while she has had a ton of success in the United States, with the election of Donald Trump, she would like the world to know that she wants to move to Canada.

During her show Jane reminded us she is usually typecast to play characters like Jenna Moroney (30 Rock) and Jacqueline Voorhees (Unbreakable: Kimmy Schmidt), narcissistic, overwhelming women with multiple personal problems and psychological issues bordering on insanity. But in truth, she tells us, she couldn’t be anymore different then the characters that she portrays on television. She cares about people around her and likes to give them jobs; that’s why at all times she has a “dozen unpaid interns massaging the leather interior of [her] car  so it doesn’t crack in the sun.”

Although her performance was strong, the theme of her show “how great Canada is” is getting pretty tiresome at these galas.

It seems that whenever an  American comedian is hosting a Galas, that person has to mention “how amazing Canada is compared to the United States.” Just a thought for future hosts: please quit talking about how much better Canada is in your jokes, it’s been way overdone.

We know,  it’s great up here.

The Highlight of Jane’s performance was most definitely when her costar Titus Burgess, who said he just flew down just to “sing this one with her” and he was planning on flying back to New York immediately after, serenaded the audience with his sweet angelic voice.

While Jane gave us a decent performance, the standouts from the lineup were really excellent. There was Randy the Austrailan puppet with some serious Schadenfreude  for people aggressively waiting in line at the self-checkout of the supermarket. Then there was Chris D’Elia’s delightful observations of the nature of Canines. Elam El-Hussaini, meanwhile, spoke about the “Israeli-Palestinian Issues”  with her Jewish wife at home. Finally, Sean Emeny was like a deadpan joke machine who rapidly spit out hilariously innocent jokes; think Jimmy Carr, but without insults.

By the end of the night I had such a great time I didn’t mind if Jenna Krakowski seriously decided to moved Canada. For one reason, we would get to see a lot more of her funny self. And secondly, she’d probably talk a little bit less of about how great Canada is if she were a resident.

I’m Dying Up Here is a Showtime show that explores the trials and tribulations of standup comedians trying to make it in Los Angeles in the 1970s. For one night only, the cast and creator were in town to share their inside experience of working on the show.

Though the event was clearly meant to plug the show, people who attended did so for only one reason: Jim Carrey. Among the crowd of young eager faces there to see the famed Rubberface in the flesh was an Ace Ventura imitator, complete with coiffed hair, Hawaiian shirt, and loose army boots, who charmed people as they filed into the theatre.

People expected funny from this show, but this event was not meant to be funny, not really. It was meant to be the cast and one of the show’s creators, Carrey himself, talking about their baby, I’m Dying Up Here.

The moderator for the evening was a culture writer for the New York Times, dressed in a suit the cut of which seemed modeled after the styles of the 70s. When people applauded him for his profession, he smiled awkwardly and said it was nice to see people still applauding journalists.

As a moderator he was awkward at best, a man clearly unaccustomed to being on stage and too timid to handle the panel of stars around him.

When the cast members came on stage in response to another actor’s name being called, he did nothing to properly establish who was who, so with the exception of Jim Carrey, I had no idea who everyone was and had to look it up later.

The cast consisted of Michael Angarano, RJ Cyler, Ari Graynor – who plays a struggling female comedian on the show, and real-life standup comedians turned dramatic actors Erik Griffin and Andrew Santino.

It was Griffin and Santino that kept the event from turning into a full on snoozefest by telling stories of pranks they played on each other, and exuding their natural charm as comedians on stage.

Unfortunately most of the event was a pretentious display of self aggrandizement, technical discussions about dramatic acting, and the trials and tribulations of entertainers trying to be successful.

The show contained lessons about the history and evolution of standup comedy, but the panel made no attempt to tell it cohesively. Ari Graynor’s explanation of the struggles of female entertainers was excellent, but she was unfortunately interrupted by Carrey, the moderator, and the comedians, as if so used to dominating the conversation about comedy they couldn’t let a woman who was not a comedian have a say.

Jim Carrey seems like a broken man; someone who’s struggled to find fame and fortune, found it, and still came up feeling empty. His war stories about smoking a joint with Richard Pryor and hanging out with the dead-too-young comic legend Sam Kinison early on in his career were amazing. Sadly, his stories were peppered with remarks like:

“There is no such thing as the real Jim Carrey.”

And

“I love you all but I won’t fucking pander to you.”

The event was too long and happened too late at night for anyone to take a sincere and active interest in what was being said. People expecting an energetic and funny Jim Carrey faced a damaged celebrity who was almost obnoxiously cerebral and worn out. Audience members around me actually fell asleep during the show while others walked out.

The show was successful in one regard: it made me want to watch I’m Dyring Up Here and read the book it’s based on. If it triggered the same interest in the rest of the audience as it did in me, it was worth the ninety minutes of boredom.

Rick Mercer is a comedy legend. From Talking to Americans, to This Hour has 22 Minutes to Rick’s Rants, there isn’t a Canadian alive unfamiliar with his biting social and political commentary all said with his signature Newfie accent. He hosted a gala last night for Just for Laughs featuring a talented roster of comedians from around the globe.

As was expected of Mercer, his monologues were all Canadiana, praising Quebec if only because we successfully stopped Kevin O’Leary from taking the Conservative Party leadership, a line earning him uproarious applause. He spoke of the idiocy of attempting to drive across Canada and how our country is so big most of us can barely handle the trip. With the audience sufficiently warmed up, he announced the first act.

Jessica Kirson was first to go up. Though she’d done the Ethnic Show earlier in the festival, there was some fresh material in her set in which she spoke of her sex life with her wife. At the same time, she kept her outstanding impressions of elderly Jewish people from her previous sets, which Kirson does so well they’re impossible to get bored of.

Next up was Jon Reep, an American comedian reminiscent of blue collar comics like Larry the Cable Guy. In his Southern drawl he explored the contrast between his father being a proper Christian and the glorious day he and his brother discovered his father’s porn stash.

Reep was funny, but I got the impression he’d be funnier if he was allowed to swear in his act, something that was impossible that night as they were filming the gala for TV. The audience was polite, but he didn’t get as much applause as other comics.

Laura Kitelinger took the stage next. A tall pale statuesque brunette clad in a little black dress and heels, her stage persona is that of the pill popping rich bitch. Her jokes and stories all had a delicious snark to them and at the same time she cleverly addressed touchy subjects like women choosing not to have kids. Unfortunately, her closing joke was a painfully lame story about going to the hairdresser that ended her set on a down note.

Aussie Paul Barron was one of the best acts of the night. He sells out shows in his native Australia and it’s easy to see why. He is one of the few comedians who knows how to use the stage. He is physical in his comedy, but the quality of his jokes doesn’t suffer as a result. He danced and tiptoed and waved his arms and told jokes and stories. One of the most memorable was when he was talking about how penguins mate for life and don’t cheat on one another.

His remark was that there’d be no point in cheating on your mate because “penguins all look the same!”.

Next on stage was Arthur Simeon, a Ugandan Canadian and a regular on CBC’s The Debaters. Simeon began his act by addressing the matter of his accent and the racist assumptions Canadians tend to make of their fellow citizens when they fail to sound like a local.

He was only one to address immigration and refugee issues in his comedy, offering a brilliant way of testing potential Canadian immigrants. One of his best comedy jabs was at people who neglect to put winter tires on their cars.

“I think that if you forget to put your winter tires on, people should be allowed to shoot you in the face!”

The remark earned him unanimous applause.

Arthur Simeon was followed by W. Kamau Bell, an American comedian and author most well-known for hosting the CNN series The United Shades of America. He opened his act by saying straight away that he talks about race a lot, and then he launched into his critiques of American politics which were by far the most scathingly succinct of any I’ve heard during the festival.

Bell spoke of Attorney General Jeff Sessions:

“A man SO racist he was denied a judgeship in ALABAMA!”

Though his act made you acutely aware of racial and political tensions that have surrounded the Orange Tax Evader’s administration he was still funny in a way that made you think about how biases shape perception.

Last to perform Tom Papa.

The best way to describe Tom Papa’s act is as that of a de-motivational speaker. He gives advice but in a way that is almost insulting. For example, he spoke of his wife giving up sugar and how he thought it was a terrible idea. He explained that people get depressed and in order not slit your wrists “you have a cookie once in a while.” He ranted against dieting and exercise machines and people who insist on doing activities like kitesurfing and ziplining on vacation. The overall message of his act seemed to be that simplicity and low expectations are the key to happiness.

The only thing disappointing about the Gala is that for an event that seemed to stress Canada’s 150th anniversary, there were only two Canadian performers, Mercer and Simeon. The rest were American with one Australian, Barron, the exception. As a Canadian it’s disappointing that once again our neighbors are stealing the limelight.

At least our leader is hot.

A few minutes into Orny Adams’ set at OFF-JFL he jokingly announced that the show would start soon. While it would be a running gag throughout the evening, for me it would end up feeling true.

This was my first time seeing Orny perform and I hadn’t checked out any of his videos online prior to the show, so it took me the first half of the set to warm to his abrasive style of comedy. It’s important to note that I was in the minority as the rest of the crowd were clearly laughing from the start.

I was also in the minority age-wise as a good chunk of his early material focused on the cultural divide between millenials and the combined group of older Gen-Xers mixed with younger Baby Boomers. As someone in the middle of those groups without a horse in the proverbial race, those jokes may have not offended me (though I’m sure they would offend some, let’s just say this show is not gluten-free) but they also didn’t land like they did with most of the crowd.

What did land for me was his story about getting booted off TV and his absolutely hilarious bits of observational comedy on waiting for food in a sandwich shop and bottled water. His sarcastic, ornery Orny delivery was perfect.

He was also not afraid to engage with the crowd, regardless of where they were sitting. I got the impression that most weren’t random festival goers checking out a comic but fans of Orny. He’s the type of comic that I can see having a devoted fan base.

If you’re a member of that fan base or someone who would like to be, then you have a couple more times to catch Orny this year in Montreal.

Orny Adams: More Than Loud runs July 27 and 29 as part of OFF-JFL, tickets available through hahaha.com

Panelists Tanu Oberoi and Laurence Tenenbaum discuss Mont;real’s 375th birthday celebrations and Guns n’ Roses returning to our city with host Jason C. McLean. Plus News Roundup, Community Calendar and Predictions!

News Roundup Topics: Sean Spicer resigns, new Governor General and the death of Chester Bennington of Linkin Park

Panelists:

Tanu Oberoi: Web designer, musician

Laurence Tenenbaum: FTB co-founder

Host: Jason C. McLean

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

Production Assistant: Xavier Richer Vis

Montreal 375 Report: Jerry Gabriel (narration), Xavier Richer Vis (video)

G n’ R Report: Hannah Besseau (narration), Xavier Richer Vis (video)

LISTEN:

WATCH:

Recorded Sunday July 23, 2017 in Montreal, Quebec

There aren’t a lot of things you can reasonably expect to be shocked by at the Just For Laughs festival.

Featuring long-running shows with names like The Ethnic Show and The Nasty Show, if there was some way that you wandered into a comedy fest and did not know what you were getting yourself into, you would really have nobody to blame but yourself.

So I came into this festival fully braced for whatever could be thrown at me. Bring on the jokes about sex, women, weight, addiction, depression, and ethnicity. I was expecting all of it.

What I did not expect was Ryan Hamilton.

Disarmingly funny, Ryan Hamilton: Edgy, Boundary-Pushing Comedian, had me in stitches more consistently than any other show I’ve seen so far at Just For Laughs. And most amazingly, it was done without a single dirty joke, slapstick dick joke, or even one swear word.

I had almost forgotten that very good comedy could exist that was—shockingly, amazingly—not R-rated, and full of feel-good humour that you could reasonably take your niece to go and see without her parents getting angry. It was fresh, poignant, and light-hearted without sacrificing depth.

The only complaint I have about this show is that I wish it had been longer. The opener, Ivan Decker, could have done an entire show by himself. Though he shared the clean style that was clearly thematic, he had his own refreshing brand and a unique stage presence that I haven’t seen before. I’ll be looking out for him in the future.

My friend Sabs, a cynic at the best of times, said it best on our way out of the theatre: “That was a really nice way to end a day. Laughing at stuff like that, it felt good.” And indeed, Ryan Hamilton has achieved something that I had forgotten even was a thing: high quality humour that doesn’t leave you feeling even a little bit dirty.

At a place like JFL, an idea like that is really edgy, and truly boundary-pushing.

 

Ryan Hamilton: Edgy, Boundary-Pushing Comedian runs through July 29th. Get your tickets through hahaha.com

Also check out Ryan Hamilton’s Netflix special, Happy Face, premiering this August 29th

I think there’s a chance Jen Kirkman may read this review. She did, after all, make reviews a topic of discussion in the informal preamble she had with the audience before launching into her performance of Irrational Thoughts at OFF-JFL.

I say performance rather than set because, as Kirkman warned us, it wasn’t a standup set but rather a one-woman show that told us one story, her own story, with different chapters, each separated by a few years. There was music, there was dancing (a very honest, self-deprecating dance routine that really worked with the overall show) and, of course, there were plenty of laughs to be had by the audience.

Kirkman didn’t tell jokes in the classic setup-punchline sense. The humour came throughout from her well thought out storytelling arrangement and matter of fact delivery.

Think of her as that one person at a party who starts telling stories to a small group of people which grows as she continues. Everyone is cracking up, they’re not laughing at her but rather laughing with her laughing at herself. No one wants to get up to use the washroom because they might miss something funny and if they need another beer from the fridge, they will race right back to hear the rest.

Kirkman is a captivating performer and the audience laughed along with her (even though she wasn’t laughing on the outside) as she told her tales. Through all this, she touched on cold war hysteria, problematic parents, sexism in the 1980s education system, fear of flying, 9/11, Gary David Goldberg and recent politics in her home country, the US.

She did a great job of viscerally explaining her horror at the Trump victory and profound disappointment at a missed historic opportunity for women and the young girls who may be inspired. As for her Sanders quip, well, if I was wearing my political pundit hat, which I wear the other 11 months when JFL isn’t running, I may have had something to say, but I’m wearing my comedy reviewer hat, so all is good.

And speaking of comedy reviewers, she brought up one in her preamble, Steve Bennett (from Australia, it seems). Unlike him, I will mention that the audience was laughing the whole time and I will add that I was laughing along with them.

Jen Kirkman: Irrational Thoughts runs until July 29 at Mainline Theatre, tickets available through hahaha.com

Jessica Kirson is a comedian all can admire. She’s funny, she’s fearless and she has a versatility few comedians have, shifting seamlessly from social commentary to hilarious impressions. She has the kind of energy most can only match after several cups of caffeine, and though she’s been through her share of struggles, Kirson has managed to find humour in all.

Jessica Kirson is performing at Just for Laughs’ Ethnic Show this year. I had a chance to speak to her. Here’s what we talked about.

SG: Welcome to Montreal, you excited about being here?

JK: I’m very excited about being here! I LOVE Montreal. This is my fourth time doing the festival and it’s great.

SG: How would you describe your style of comedy?

JK: I don’t have a style. I do all different kinds of comedy, I do characters, pretty high energy, very honest, real, talk about my family a lot… I’m not really a joke teller, I’m more of a high energy comic.

SG: I notice you do a lot of impressions. Who do you like to do most?

JK: I like doing my grandmother, my Jewish grandmother mostly because it’s so familiar to me.

SG: What was she like?

JK: She was amazing. She was the reason I got into standup, she was the one who called me over to her table one day and said you should be a comedian, every time people are around you they’re laughing. I never thought I could do it but I listened to her and took a class 19 years ago. Very strong woman, powerful, very honest, she was beautiful.

SG: In the history of standup comedy there have been a lot of Jewish comedians. Why do you think that is?

JK: I think humour comes from pain… I think the Jewish community and the culture have turned a lot of difficult situations into humour and tried to find a lighter way of dealing with it… In my family there was always a kind of laughter and being silly and everyone joking around and this was a way of dealing with pain.

SG: You make a lot of jokes about being heavy in your comedy. Showbiz seems unfairly dominated by thin women. How has being curvy affected your career?

JK: I don’t talk about that a lot anymore because I lost a hundred pounds. I do talk about it a little bit because it’s a demon of mine, food and food addiction and binge eating and everything… I’m very honest on stage so I do talk about it… I don’t care what the industry wants or doesn’t want, I am who I am. I feel like it hasn’t affected me when it comes to being a comedian, being heavy/not being heavy. I’m glad I haven’t made a career because of my looks.

SG: Do you think comedy is more forgiving in that way?

JK: I think standup comedy is. I don’t know so much about movies and getting a major part on a sitcom but I’ve done an enormous amount of television and movies even when I was at my heaviest. I think if you’re funny, you’re funny and you get work, but I know for much more female comics now it’s much more a part of their persona and their image on the internet –about body and body image… and it was never like that when I started.

SG: You’re doing the Ethnic Show this year. Do you consider yourself an ethnic comedian?

JK: I do talk about where I’m from and my family and my experience and my background, so yes… I do a lot of different ethnicities and characters.

SG: Comedians seem to be having a field day with American politics right now. Are you planning to take a shot at it?

JK: I don’t talk about politics a lot in my act. I don’t think it’s funny. I’m actually pretty horrified at everything going on but I do talk about it in a roundabout way… For example, I might talk about gay marriage or something. I won’t talk about it from a serious point of view, I’ll talk about it making fun of people who are against it and why.

SG: You’re doing Just for Laughs the Ethnic Show. You’ve also got a Youtube channel, The Jessy K Show, and the Jessica Kirson Podcast. Tell me about those.

JK: I have different stuff online. I have a lot of stuff on the Jessy K Show on Youtube and I have a lot of videos on my Facebook page, and I have a new podcast called Fat Pig and that is with another comic, a very close friend of mine, Frank Liotti, and we talk about food addiction and funny stories with food and our struggles and we have guests on and stuff.

SG: Do you feel that will empower other women who go through the same stuff?

JK: It does. It empowers a lot of people, we get a ton of feedback and emails and all kinds of things and people just love it because we’re very very honest. We talk about our own experiences and also make light of it.

SG: How do you feel about Montreal audiences?

JK: I think Montreal audiences are incredible. A lot of times it’s real comedy audiences so they want to see it, they want to laugh, they’re smart, they’re cultured. I love Canadian audiences.

SG: Are there any other projects we can look forward to seeing from you in the coming year?

JK: Working on a television show right now about my mother being a therapist and I have a lot of stuff going on online. The podcast has been growing and growing.

SG: If you could say one thing to your audience right now, what would it be?

JK: Be silly, always be silly and not take things too seriously and try and find humour in every situation when you can, when you’re ready, and fight fear and do things that feel uncomfortable because you live once.

Jessica Kirson performs as part of The Ethnic Show running until July 27th. Tickets available through hahaha.com

This won’t me Moshe Kasher’s first visit to Montreal, or to Just for Laughs. The comedian, writer and actor has been performing regularly here since his first appearance at the fest in 2009.

“I love Montreal,” he stated in a telephone interview, “this will be my fifth or sixth time coming to Montreal, so I feel like I know the city and I like it. The only thing is I’d like to get out to the wilderness surrounding the city. Other than that, I’ve seen it all…You guys already know this, but you’re a special city.”

2017 will, however, be the first time Kasher hosts JFL All Access. This is also the year where he became a TV talk show host with the new Comedy Central show Problematic (airs on MUCH in Canada).

“With my podcast, we were doing a topical show every month taking on a different topic and then the political climate changed and there needed to be more big conversations,” Kasher said, explaining the origins of the show.

“Conversations are important,” he continued, “and conversations, I think now more than ever need to happen. What is happening in our world is that when we disagree with people we stop talking and my philosophy on life is that when we disagree with each other we should begin having conversations.”

Problematic sees Kasher talking to a variety of internet trolls and provocateurs who are unable to hide behind their handles as well as celebrity guests and pundits. Shows are centered on a particularly, um, problematic corner of the web.

The show, which has already completed its seven episode first season has a stated mission to “bring peace and harmony to the internet”, a mission he is trying to accomplish on cable TV. I asked him why not do it on the web directly.

“Maybe we will. I’m still waiting to figure out if we’re doing more, so maybe for the next one, if we’re not, it will be on YouTube or Hulu or something like that,” he said, later adding that the distinction between the web real life is fading and the distinction between the internet and TV is something which will soon disappear.

Something that remains different, for Kasher, is performing live in front of an audience:

“That is one of the great divides between the internet and real life is that you cannot fake a live performance.”

While performing for TV and the web as well as in films offer a similar experience, for Kasher, there’s nothing quite like performing for a live audience.

Montrealers will have a chance to see Kasher in his live element when he hosts All Access, something he promises will be “wild and exciting” while featuring a wide array of comics. He is happy he is getting the chance to host one of the All Access TV tapings at a festival that welcomed him since he was one of the “new faces” of comedy.

Just don’t expect him to weigh in on one of Montreal’s most longstanding controversies. I asked this frequent visitor what he thought about our bagels and he admitted he likes them, but when asked his preference between Fairmount and St-Viateur, he responded:

“I don’t know that I’d want to involve myself in a political controversy.”

All Access Live Hosted by Moshe Kasher is on July 27th. Tickets available through hahaha.com

If you happen to spot a Power Ranger or Sailor Scout in the days ahead, do not be alarmed. It’s simply that special time of year again, when fanboys and girls of all ages gather at the Palais de Congres for three days of celebrities, cosplay and comic books. Yes, the Montreal Comic Con is back in full swing this weekend and expecting some 60 000 visitors with a passion for all things sci-fi and spandex.

Those who’ve frequented local cons since the early 2000s have seen these gatherings grow from modest affairs in hotel ballrooms to an annual event proudly featuring the likes of Patrick Stewart and Nathan Fillion. But while Hollywood heavy-hitters are sure to draw in the crowds, it’s important not to overlook the ones who do the actual…well, drawing.

Yes, there was once a time – back before geekdom went mainstream – when comic book conventions were focused more on actual comic books than comic adaptations. Of course, those were the days when superheroes rarely made the transition to television let alone the big screen. Now, we can watch the adventures of Supergirl and Preacher from our living-rooms while Wonder Woman and the Guardians of the Galaxy battle at the multiplex for box office supremacy.

It’s impossible not to be excited about that, but as films like Batman V Superman have shown, adaptations can often pale in comparison to the source material. Why not then seize this opportunity to spend some time with the creative minds who’ve been fueling these franchises for decades and truly understand what makes these characters great?

Case in point: Ty Templeton. This Ontario-based Renaissance Man has worked in just about every area of the entertainment industry – and has the hilarious anecdotes to prove it – but is probably best known for helping to adapt the Emmy Award-winning Batman: The Animated Series for comics. The celebrated tie-in book, The Batman Adventures, debuted in 1992 and proved so popular DC kept it going for another twelve years, long after the animated series concluded its run in 1999.

Templeton provided scripts, covers and interior art for the all-ages book, which won several Eisner Awards during its run and is widely considered to feature some of the best Batman stories of all time. He’s also written for Bongo Comics’ Simpsons books and provided art for DC’s recent Batman ’66 Meets the Green Hornet series.

Templeton’s sense of humor and passion for comics is evident in all his work, but especially his weekly online comic strip Bun Toons, which cleverly comments on comic book culture and even politics in as few as six panels. If you happen upon his booth, don’t be surprised to see him regaling a group fans with one of his rousing stories. He’s an entertaining one to be sure.

…not that he’s the only one with stories to tell. Comics legend Neal Adams will also be in attendance and hosting a panel called The Sordid History of Comic Books. Having worked on characters as diverse as Tarzan, the X-Men, Green Lantern and Batman, he has a wealth of knowledge to share with both readers and aspiring comic artists.

In addition to having drawn Superman’s famous boxing match against Muhammad Ali and co-created the villain Ra’s Al Ghul, Adams is especially well regarded within the artistic community for having stood up to the big publishers in the 1970s to ensure creator’s rights were being respected. His efforts saw Avengers creator Jack Kirby and Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster get long-overdue credit for their contributions to the medium, and helped ensure today’s crop of comic book artists aren’t at the mercy of their employers. If anyone can speak to the industry’s sordid past and possibly brighter future, it’s him.

Archie Comics’ artists Dan Parent and Fernando Ruiz, meanwhile, will be present to reflect on the adventures of the world’s oldest teenager, who just so happens to also have a new hit series on the CW network. If you haven’t checked out an Archie comic since your last visit to summer camp, rest assured that little has changed in his neck of the woods, except perhaps the variety of representation now featured.

Parent ushered Kevin Keller – Riverdale’s first openly gay resident – into the pages of Archie back in 2012. The character has since made the transition to all corners of the world of Archie after weathering an initial storm of controversy. Now, Parent and Ruiz are focused on their first creator-owned collaboration: a saucy series called Die Kitty Die! which came about through a successful 2015 Kickstarter campaign and sees their typically kid-friendly style take a walk on the wilder side.

Perhaps most fittingly, given Canada’s recent 150th birthday, attendees can get to know a bit about our own somewhat forgotten national superhero Captain Canuck, whose latest adventures are being scripted in part by Jay Baruchel. The former Montreal-based actor has invested in Chapterhouse Comics to help chart the course for this character, originally created in 1975.

These are but a few of the comic book writers and artists attending this weekend’s festivities. Walking through Artist’s Alley will also offer an opportunity to familiarize oneself with the work of local independent artists whose unique perspectives and enthusiasm for comics could very well lead them to success and fame down the road.

In short, great as the temptation may be to spend those hard-earned savings on autographed photos with the host of talented actors and actresses present, celebrating the creative minds at the hearts of these larger-than-life franchises is really what a comic book convention is all about.

Full guest and schedule details for the Montreal Comic Con, which runs through Sunday July 9th, is available at MontrealComicCon.com

* Featured image: The 2011 Montreal Comic Con main room, via WikiMedia Commons

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

Panelists Samantha Gold and Jerry Gabriel discuss Just for Laughs 2017 with host Jason C. McLean. Plus News Roundup, Community Calendar and Predictions!

News Roundup Topics: Racial insensitivity at the St-Jean Baptiste Parade, Jeremy Corbyn at Glastonbury and Ron Howard taking over the Han Solo movie

Panelists:

Samantha Gold: FTB’s Legal Columnist covering Just for Laughs

Jerry Gabriel: FTB Contributor covering Just for Laughs

Host: Jason C. McLean

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

Production Assistant: Xavier Richer Vis

JFL Report: Hannah Besseau

Weather: Cem Ertekin

Recorded Sunday June 25 2017 in Montreal, Quebec

LISTEN:

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons