As someone who loves bitingly brutal comedy, I was not sure what to expect when I attended Off JFL’s Boast Rattle. Unlike its more well-known counterpart – the roast battle – in which comedians take turns insulting each other, a boast rattle is in essence a compliment contest. It’s a new concept, and it’s one that’s sure to take off if last night’s performance is any indication.

I thought only insults could be funny…

…That is until I saw what last night’s team of talented comedians could do with compliments.

I’ve covered three shows so far, and this one had me laughing the hardest.

Run by American comedian Kyle Ayers, it consists of himself as host, a sound effects guy – comedian Dave Thomason, comedian Chris Laker as judge, and three pairs of talented comedians trying to outdo each other by complimenting their opponent.

At the end of each round, Ayers and Laker give their input, after which the audience votes as who moves on to the finals.

The show was broken into two rounds, one initial boast rattle, followed by a final in which an audience volunteer was chosen, asked a few questions, and the comedians used their answers to come up with the best compliment for them.

Kyle Ayers made an excellent host.

His standup style is a charming mix of awkward self-deprecation and biting commentary.

In his opening bit, he went over the rules of the competition, explaining that the audience volunteer for the final had to be someone having a rough time. He explained that in the case where two people offered to go up on stage, the more deserving would be complimented by the finalists, using as an example a show where it was between a guy who claimed he was tired and a woman who works in a pediatric burn ward. He rightfully pointed out that if it’s general fatigue versus burned babies, it was kind of a no brainer.

Ayers apparently begged our Prime Minister to attend the boast rattle, and after having fellow comedian read Justin Trudeau’s official not-so-polite reply in French, he demonstrated a boast rattle by complimenting a printed photo of the man.

His best compliment?

“He’s so wonderful I can’t wait to see what unqualified sociopath Canada elects as backlash.”

This was clearly a jab at his fellow Americans who elected an Orange Racist after the enlightened President Obama. He compared the current president to Game of Thrones’ Lannisters because: “What’s up with his hair and I think he f*cks his family.” It was one of the best jokes of the night.

After a couple of technical difficulties handled with grace, the battle began.

First up was Sasheer Zamata, who has her own OFF JFL show, versus Martin Urbano, a comedian featured in this year’s New Faces of Comedy.

The pair were interesting to watch as their styles are so different.

Sasheer Zamata’s compliment style was in the form of remarks one thought would end up being filthy, but turned out sweet and clean:

“Martin’s from Texas. Everything’s bigger in Texas and when they say it, I think they mean… (long pause for everyone to anticipate a penis joke)… Martin’s heart,”

Martin Urbano’s technique is a little edgier, darker, and more self-deprecating. He managed to make a comparison to an arsonist complimentary – “because her smile lights up a room” and turned a stalking joke into praise. His style reminds me of a cross between Demetri Martin and Emo Phillips, that unassuming guy who makes you laugh before you know it but whose jokes are so dark they’re almost offensive, but not quite.

The contrast between them was so stark and their jokes so good they were both moved to the final.

Next up was Danny Jolles vs Ramy Youssef.

These two were especially funny to watch in part because they were so evenly matched. They said from the get-go that they’ve been friends for years, and the chemistry between them was clear, as was the almost sibling-like rivalry. What was supposed to be a compliments contest ended up being a backhanded compliments contest.

Youssef compared Jolles to a Pixar character, which would have been a nice way of saying he’s cute if he hadn’t said the one he had in mind was the protagonist in the film Up. For anyone unfamiliar with the film, said hero is a wrinkled, curmudgeonly old man.

Jolles in turn ribbed on Youssef’s Muslim heritage, calling him a “suicide charmer”. Though their closing compliments were both cringe-worthy, Danny Jolles took the round for somehow making a comparison to Bin Laden complimentary.

Last was Emily Heller versus Ron Funches.

Funches was good, with an excellent remark about how Heller bought him his first dashiki and it didn’t feel racist at all…

…But Emily Heller was breathtaking.

She did not make a single bad joke the whole night, and though diminutive in stature and tone, her edgy jokes spoke volumes.

In the final round, which she got to by unanimous audience and judge decision she successfully rattled off a made up list of pornographic titles based on Billy Crystal movies after the audience volunteer – comedian Dulce Sloan – admitted she liked him.

Heller won Boast Rattle and it was well-deserved.

A new concept, Boast Rattle is a treat if you can stay up late enough to catch it.

Check it out.

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

Sasheer Zamata is a former SNL star who’s gone solo. If her performance last night is any indication, this is a rising star worth watching.

Opening for Zamata was Australian comedian Matt Okine. His act had a lot of potential… Unfortunately he spent the first third of it making jokes about potatoes.

Yes, potatoes.

He talked about fries, and wedges, and steamed potatoes, and baked potatoes and potato salad. It was reminiscent of George Carlin’s early bits about everyday life but nowhere near as funny, partly because it was far too long. Overall the whole routine about potatoes fell as flat as the chips he was ranting about.

When Okine started addressing more edgy material like race and poverty, the audience seemed to wake up.

He spoke of how having a steady income now gave him choices and that he was no longer a slave to whatever’s on sale. He described Australia’s racism problem and addressed the fact that in many ways the media are like heroin dealers in that while not necessarily racist themselves are willing to push it to people addicted to its precepts. It had a bit of a ‘fake news’ rant vibe, but when you think of outlets like Fox and Breitbart that DO push racist agendas, his argument does have some merit, and he did make it funny.

Next up was Zamata herself, resplendent in a bright jumpsuit she said she got in Edmonton.

Sasheer Zamata’s act does not feel like standup comedy. If you’re looking for a showman who tells jokes and is loud, bombastic, and whose material is obsessed with the trivial, look elsewhere.

She’s not overly loud or aggressive and her comedy is conveyed in her words and her very expressive face. She comes off as warm, calm, and genuine, the kind of compelling person you’d want to spend time with and listen to.

When you’re in Zamata’s audience you don’t feel like someone who got tickets to attend. She has a way of communicating with people so you feel like a good friend she wants to confide in and tell you about what’s going on her life. This doesn’t mean that she shies away from edgy material, far from it. Nothing from date rape, to racism, to STDs, to gender stereotypes, to sexuality is safe in Zamata’s act.

Towards the beginning she talked about going camping with a largely white group and unashamedly mocked their need for excessive sun protection. She proudly proclaimed that their vulnerability was a form of karma, interspersing her commentary with amusing anecdotes about doing drugs on the trip.

Sex and relationship stories seem to be a staple in most standup comics’ routines, but Zamata’s are unique because they display the intersection of funny stories that define everyone’s sexual experiences and her perspective as a black woman who has dated white men.

She spoke hilariously at one point of a guy she’d been hooking up with asking to touch her hair and misconstruing what turned out to be a sexual question as a racist one. In her talk about sexuality she spoke highly of Planned Parenthood, a health organization now under attack in her native US, and their unorthodox reaction to her approaching them about a very delicate health issue she once had.

On the issue of race, Zamata stressed the importance of talking about it openly and asking questions. What resonated most with me was her rebuttal to people who claim they don’t see race:

“When someone says ‘I don’t see race’ what they’re saying is ‘I CHOOSE not to see injustice.”

I all but had to resist the urge to bow to her for that line as it was as beautiful as it was succinct.

Zamata then told a story of a protest in South Africa in which white students surrounded black students to keep them from being assaulted by police. She used it to demonstrate how one’s privilege can be used to help others.

She spoke of cultural appropriation and feminist advertising or “Femertising” in a way that had audiences at once laughing and thinking about these issues. Her observations were at once funny, biting, and accurate, but they were never conveyed in a way that would make any but the most snowflakey entitled white-privileged idiot defensive, something I attribute in part to the calmly compelling way in which Zamata speaks on stage. What’s also remarkable is that while clearly an intersectional feminist, unlike many on the left she is unafraid to criticize her own side.

Though her act tackled important issues, it always found room for the silly with short bits about Disney characters, and boyfriends, and bullfrogs. If last night’s show is any indication, Sasheer Zamata is on the rise, and her best is yet to come.

Sasheer Zamata performs at OFF-JFL through July 27. Tickets available at hahaha.com

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

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

Warning: The second half of this review ended up being more of a rant about Mike Ward.

The Midnight Surprise shows are a staple of Just For Laughs. Part of OFF-JFL, the only thing audiences are told is the host. Apart from that, people buy their tickets without knowing ANYTHING about the line-up. And I mean anything. Any of the comedians that are performing as part of the main festival could appear. For instance, last year, Louis C.K. and Dave Chappelle both made very surprise appearances at these shows.

So while I was waiting at the line with my friend, checking my phone to see if there were any rare Pokemon around, I had no idea what to expect. But I was in for one heck of a ride, it turns out.

The first week of the Midnight Surprise is hosted by Piff the Magic Dragon, or John van der Put. You may know Pif from American’s Got Talent, which he did not win. He seems to be kinda bummed out about that, but hey at least he’s got a regular show in Las Vegas, so that’s cool.

Basically, Piff’s whole gimmick is that he wears a dragon costume and does magic acts with a lot of whooshes. All of this is mixed with his brilliant British style humour that involves dark and fast one-liners.

For instance, a good bunch of his jokes involve him implying that he is very mean towards his pet chihuahua Mr. Piffles, who helps him out with most of his magic tricks. It is a bizarre combination of really neat magic tricks, British-style dry stand-up comedy, and the absurd.

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Piff the Magic Dragon with Michelle the Audience Member.

But the relatively more important question is, which stand-up comedians showed up at Friday’s Midnight Show? Long story short, I got to see Tom Green, Jessica Kirson, Yannis Pappas, Brad Williams, Mark Little, and everybody’s favourite controversial Quebecois Mike Ward.

That’s quite a lineup! To put it in perspective, that’s a relatively famous movie star, ~1/3 of the Ethnic Show, ~1/3 of the Nasty Show, and Mark Little, who is also pretty famous, I think.

My favourite was Jessica Kirson, and that’s not just because I got to interview her last week before the Ethnic Show. It’s actually because her style of humour speaks to me. It’s fast-paced, it’s somewhat dark, and it’s sincere. I think I’d call her style psychological humour – she talks about her insecurities and troubles, but does it in a way that makes you laugh. She also tells the audience that she needs our laughter and us to enable her.

If nothing I’ve just described appeals to you, the awkward moments she constantly creates will get you to laugh. One way or another you will laugh at Kirson’s show – and she doesn’t really care whether you laugh at her or with her.

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Jessica Kirson talking about how she does Jew jokes at the Ethnic Show.

Tom Green’s routine is similar to Kirson’s. His delivery is dryer than hers, though. Green talks about how he doesn’t want to die in his sleep, because he wouldn’t know that he had died; and how he doesn’t like/want to understand all those celebrities who die of drug overdose, because their biggest problem in life is having to memorize a few lines.

Again, Green proves that most of comedy has to do with delivery. He stands in the middle of the stage, looking dazed and confused (and is probably drunk), and just talks and talks and talks.

I really want to talk about the other comics as well, but I have limited space, so I have to choose what I talk about. That’s why I want to dedicate the next few paragraphs to a rant about Mike Ward.

In case you haven’t heard, the Quebec Human Rights Commission has decided that Ward has to pay $42 000 for making a joke at the expense of a child with disabilities. Obviously, his entire routine was him complaining about how he has the right to joke about anything and everything he wants.

Now, I admit that $42,000 is a bit too much, and yes, maybe policing jokes is scarily similar to censorship. But the question is, what exactly do we lose if people suddenly stopped mocking people for disabilities? Does the world stop spinning? Probably not.

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Mike Ward complaining about the Quebec Human Rights Commission decision.

Ward is pushing the idea that he is fighting for his right to be mean to people; but I don’t think that’s what we should be focusing on. Ward has a right to be mean, sure; but he’s also a public figure, you know?

At the show, he told us about an interview he once had, in which the media portrayed him as someone who condones pedophilia. Now, in that case, the media seems to have messed up horribly, just to make him look awful. That, however, doesn’t change the fact that he has made pedophile jokes. I mean, sure he can just wash his hands off of all responsibility, arguing that he is simply making jokes, and that people shouldn’t take him seriously.

The problem, however, is that words are more powerful than people seem to think they are. A joke is not merely a joke, I would argue. The kinds of jokes Ward makes normalise meanness and, to be frank, I don’t think that’s okay.

You can be funny without being mean. I understand that this poses somewhat of a problem for Ward and other comedians that have crafted their comedy careers out of being mean; but I’d rather side with the people on the receiving end of mean jokes than with those who make money out of a sick and twisted schadenfreude type of humour.

Anyways, this is what happened to me at Friday’s Midnight Surprise. It probably won’t happen to anyone if they were to go to another Midnight Surprise. But that only means that you have to go and see for yourself!

The Midnight Surprises will take place with Piff the Magic Dragon on July 24, and with Blake Griffin hosting on July 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30. Check out the Just for Laughs website for more information.

All photography by Cem Ertekin.

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It’s pretty much common knowledge that with certain comics, you only sit in the first few rows if you don’t mind becoming part of the show. I had a feeling that Tom Green would be one of those comics. I was right.

Of course he was. Sure, I had never seen him perform standup before, but Green’s career started with his self-titled talk show that used people’s reactions to absurd situations (feces on a microphone comes to mind) to generate a good chunk of its humour.

Theatre Ste-Catherine was packed, so taking a seat at the back, out of the line of fire, so to speak, was quite easy. After we were treated to his latest video, a Funny or Die sendup of Donald Trump, Green took the stage.

Then the ball of energy that is present day Tom Green hit the stage. At age 45, Green offered a very interesting mix of mature political and socio-cultural observation and poop jokes.

If you’re Tom Green, you get to grow up only as much as you want. Also, Protip: If you plan on sitting in the first few rows, go to the washroom BEFORE the show.

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The label of Tom Green Beer

His topics that evening (I get the impression he changes it up every night) ranged from life before cellphones to growing up in Ottawa to being married and on Facebook at the same time to the aforementioned Trump. While everyone has an opinion on the GOP Presidential Nominee, not everyone has a personal anecdote about getting fired by him because of Dennis Rodman as Green does.

The audience was part of the show throughout. And they loved being part of it. These were Tom Green fans, after all, knowing all the main lines in Freddy Got Fingered.

The state of his own career was another topic that Green included in his performance:

“I was hosting a hit show on MTV, on the cover of Rolling Stone, starring in my own movie. Now I have a podcast…things are going well!”

But, if you think about it, he’s right. He’s very active as a standup, crowds love him (as they should, the show was great) and he even has a beer named after him, a real stout, which I enjoyed at his show.

Plus, he’s still the Tom Green we know and love, and that, apparently, won’t change.

* Featured image by Joseph Fuda courtesy of OFF-JFL

* Tom Green Live runs tonight, Sunday, July 24th at Theatre Ste-Catherine, 264 Ste-Catherine Est, and July 25 – 30 at Mainline Theatre, 3997 St-Laurent, as part of OFF-JFL. All shows 10:30pm. Tickets available through hahaha.com

Sean Patton is quite the storyteller, or moreover, this New Orleans-born and raised and now Brooklyn-based comic performing at OFF-JFL is quite a funny storyteller. In his Friday night show at Theatre Ste-Catherine he vividly recounted a few key events from his own youth and adult years (presumably real ones), some hilarious and others surprisingly emotional and serious. A few were even a bit dark.

He jumped back and fourth between them, throwing in punchlines sometimes where you might expect them, though more than once they seemed to come out of nowhere. He eventually tied all the stories together and it made sense.

Patton’s humour stemmed from how he observed the events he was talking about, many of which were not intrinsically funny on their own. A few times he went into material that would most likely be played as self-deprecating by a more predictable comic, but with Patton it just came across as honest.

This felt less like a typical standup show and more like everyone gathered around that one really funny guy at the party because they are invested in the story and absolutely need to hear how it ends before going to the fridge for another beer.

Patton’s set featured quite a few recurring characters, people from his life in New Orleans. His hometown played a leading role in his tales as well. The city’s more colourful characters, local stereotypes and the similarities between New Orleans and Montreal were all part of the show. So was Hurricane Katrina, in fact it was a particularly poignant part.

A bit longer than a typical OFF-JFL standup set, Patton was able to hold the audience’s attention, including mine, throughout, and keep us laughing.

* Featured image by Joseph Fuda courtesy of OFF-JFL

* Sean Patton performs tonight, July 23rd, at Theatre Ste-Catherine, 264 Ste-Catherine Est and Monday, July 25th, at Katacombes, 1635 St-Laurent, as part of OFF-JFL. Tickets available through hahaha.com

The Force is strong with this year’s Just for Laughs lineup.

Sorry, had to use at least one predictable Star Wars pun to deflect from the abundant excitement I’m feeling (and probably many of my fellow Montrealers are feeling as well) after hearing the announcement that Carrie Fisher, yes Princess/General Leia herself, will be performing in Montreal this summer.

While Fisher is best known for her starring role in four Star Wars films and counting, she is no stranger to the stage or comedy. She has a one-woman autobiographical Broadway show called Wishful Drinking under her belt, won an Emmy for her appearance on 30 Rock and is quite the raucous, sarcastic and sometimes hilarious interviewee.

Fisher will host one of the fest’s multi-comic galas, July 31st at 7pm at Place des Arts, while Sarah Silverman will perform her own show in the fest one night only, July 30th, 9:30 pm, at Maison Symphonique in Place Des Arts. Silverman may not be best known for her appearance as Rain Robinson in the Star Trek Voyager two-parter Future’s End, but it does make an interesting sci-fi themed segue.

Silverman is a veteran of the standup circuit as well as the star of Masters of Sex and the animated hit Bob’s Burgers. The avid Bernie Sanders backer is also a force to be reckoned with online, speaking out, sometimes hilariously but always on point for various political causes.

Not known for comedy, but really well known in Montreal nonetheless, Habs Star P.K. Subban will also be part of this year’s JFL lineup. The defenseman, entrepreneur and, from what we can tell, all-around good guy will be hosting a gala August 1st, 7pm at Place des Arts.

What’s different here, aside from that fact that a hockey star is hosting a comedy show, is that this is a charity gala. The P.K. Subban Foundation will be donating proceeds from it to the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation.

That’s not all, though. This year’s Just for Laughs festival promises performances by David Cross (Tobias from Arrested Development and one half of Mr. Show), Louie Anderson, the cast of Veep and more. Meanwhile, OFF-JFL will feature Scott Thompson from The Kids in the Hall and a host of up-and-coming comics that you will surely be hearing about for years to come.

Just for Laughs runs July 13th through August 1st. The full schedule and new additions is/will be available, along with ticket info, at hahaha.com

Panelists Pamela Fillion and Cem Ertekin discuss Fantasia (includes a segment from a forthcoming interview with the director and star of We Are All Still Here), zombie movies, a zombie apocalypse, the very real actions of Montreal police stopping a Unist’ot’en solidarity protest and Just for Laughs. Plus the Community Calendar.

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau

 

Panelists

Pamela Fillion: FTB music and film contributor

Cem Ertekin: FTB news editor

Read the rest of our Fantasia and Just for Laughs/OFF-JFL coverage and Cem’s report on the protest

FTB PODCAST #9: Fantasia and Zombies, Unist’ot’en Solidarity Protest Arrests and Just For Laughs by Forget The Box on Mixcloud

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

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.

After catching sets by Al Madrigal and Lewis Black at last year’s OFF-JFL and Just for Laughs, I realized that when you only know a comic through their appearances on The Daily Show, you may be surprised by what you get when you see them perform their own standup show. That wasn’t the case with former correspondent Wyatt Cenac, who’s playing OFF-JFL this year.

I had grown accustomed to Cenac’s very New York brand of relaxed sarcarsm on TV and that’s exactly what we got in Café Cleopatre Monday night. Take away the suit and Jon Stewart as the straight man, Cenac is still Cenac.

I really enjoyed how he used personal stories (he’s quite the storyteller) to comment on social and political issues. He used his love of the NYC Subway to bring up an observation on misinterpretation of biblical quotes in relation to homosexuality, but the winding tale that brought us there, which included Peter Dinklage and rats, was a huge part of the fun.

My favourite part of the show was when he juxtaposed the stories of a teacher fired for a film she had made when she was younger and Kim Kardashian to illustrate the wealth gap in America. Brilliant and very funny observational humour.

Honestly, it felt like a Daily Show segment, not a correspondent bit, but one of the main news satire pieces Jon Stewart delivers. Then, thanks to Wikipedia, I discovered Cenac was also a writer on the show and it all made sense.

I wasn’t just watching a skilled comedian but also a top comedy writer. You have a chance to do the same over the next few days and I suggest you don’t miss this opportunity.

* Wyatt Cenac performs at Café Cleopatre as part of OFF-JFL until July 25th, tickets and info at hahaha.com

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

Saying “I didn’t know what to expect from this show” may be a little cliché, but in the case of a Kurt Braunohler performance, it is not only true, but pretty much the whole point. I caught the US comic’s first OFF-JFL show at Théâtre Sainte-Catherine and was impressed with the way he wove various topics into one routine in a way that surprised as much as it made sense.

Braunohler packed a fresh take on standard standup fare. His bits included stuff like being a newlywed, the difference between cat people, dog people and bird people, along with some rather out-there stories from his trip to Australia and some serious, though funny, politically-charged commentary on his own tall white male privilege and racist police violence in his home country. Strangely, it all made sense as one narrative.

Still, “I didn’t think he’d go there” was something I caught myself thinking after each topic switch, especially when he went into full social justice mode. But then again, Braunohler did say more than once during his set that he hoped to provoke more randomness in life and that’s just what he achieved here.

He also told the audience that they would be given a chance to show whether or not they trusted him with their life. Along with about ten other people, I opted to take him up on his offer. I recommend you do the same (I’m still alive, aren’t I?) or at the very least, trust him to entertain you for an hour during OFF-JFL. You won’t regret it.

Kurt Braunohler: The Inevitable Whiteness of Being runs until July 23, tickets available at hahaha.com.

Photo by Danny Belair, courtesy of OFF-JFL.

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

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

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

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

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DeAnne Smith

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

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

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

* Photos by Chris Zacchia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* photos by Chris Zacchia