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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* Photos by Chris Zacchia

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best of luck!

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

Last night we traveled to the MainLine Theatre to see Stand Up Strip Down, a night filled with laughs and butts.

I want to start of by saying going to an Off JFL show is an experience in itself. When you take a seat at the Main Line and look around, you cant help but think, shit, this is what every comedy show in every movie I have ever seen looks like, cool. You also realize that everybody knows everybody, the crowd is a mix of die hard Off JFL’ers, locals and comics that just finished their sets. They all join together to form a sort of funny cult, but instead the arsenic in the cool aid is swapped out for a mild hallucinogenic that side effects include hysterical laughing.

A memorable venue, cool crowd and an atmosphere that only comes around when doors open at midnight, are all elements of a great show the final elements needed are a good host and a solid line up, both were accounted for.

DeAnne Smith was responsible for hosting this night of laughs and moderate nudity. If you have seen DeAnne Smith preform you know she’s great, so obviously when it came to hosting she kept that reputation going.

DeAnne’s comedic style is truly a pleasure to watch. She effortless blends several forms of comedy and puts her own unique twist on it. From the self-deprecative to the anecdotal, to the sarcastic, DeAnne can do it all while engaging with the audience in a way that reflects an old school attitude.

DeAnne’s high energy hosting not only got the show off to a good start, it also set the tone for the entire audience. An audience of which DeAnne was a part.

It’s really cool to see the host sitting in front of you having as much fun as you are. It reminds you of the first time you and your friends got an older sibling to rent an R rated comedy and you all watched it together in your parent’s den, dying of laughter only taking breaks to reenact what you just saw. Comedy is one of the few things in life that can’t be faked, sure you can dress funny but as soon as you take the stage every one will know what’s good. DeAnne Smith you good.

DeAnne let lose a lineup of funny and unique comics upon us, each feeding off the crowd and using that energy to keep the show going strong. In between comics, DeAnne would introduce a new burlesque dancer to perform a routine, including such local luminaries of the Burlesque scene as Miss Sugarpuss.

This was my first Burlesque show. If you have never seen burlesque before I don’t want to ruin it for you but it’s really cool, especially when the performers acts take on a comedic edge, for example one act was about a widow but DeAnne reassured the crowd by saying “don’t worry she’s a horny widow.”

In this show, Burlesque and comedy go hand in hand. To fully understand this synergy you have to see it for yourself.

Stand Up Strip Down is a show that I highly recommend you go see. It’s not only super original and funny but it provides the sort of rare, elusive innocence being ruined feel we all had when we decided to start watching comedy.

Stand Up / Strip Down runs until Thursday, please visit hahaha.com for tickets

Having already seen The Nasty Show, where a group of established and up and coming comedians told the raunchiest jokes they could think of, I thought I had a good idea of what my first Just For Laughs Ethnic Show experience would be like. I was expecting a night of laughs stemming from the baggage that stereotypically comes with the cultures represented by the different comedians’ upbringing. I got the laughs, but their inspiration was much more varied than what I was expecting.

Don’t get me wrong, there were plenty of jokes stemming from cultural differences sprinkled throughout the evening, more heavily in certain areas, like host Maz Jobrani’s two very solid routines and parts of Mike Marino’s set, though not the really funny part about electronic supermarket self-checkout (I don’t think frustration with grocery store stupidity is an exclusively Italian trait). But there was nothing close to a Russel Peters-style full imersion in jokes about race and background.

The only comedian who delt almost exclusively with ethnicity was Elon Gold. Erik Griffin didn’t touch on it at all, in fact, if you listened to his set without looking at him you’d find yourself trying to guess just what his background was. Meanwhile Angelo Tsarouchas came across as much Montreal, or more specifically Park Ex (no one messes with a Park Exer, not even in South Central LA) as he did Greek, while Marino was primarily representing New Jersey.

It was almost as if these very funny people from different backgrounds found humour in things everyone could relate to. While their upbringing did affect their approach to the subject matter, it wasn’t the only thing. You know, like regular people.

Sarcasm aside, my expectations for this show stemmed from my understanding of comedy as a medium that found it hard to go beyond the stereotype. I find it refreshing that my expectations weren’t met.

Just for Laughs is such a huge and internationally recognized festival, that it very well may be a trendsetter in the comedy world. If it can set a new trend for a shift in the concept of “ethnic” humour, then I’m all for it.

Preaching aside, I realize that this is a comedy review for the internet, not a Masters’ thesis. So, what did I think of the show? I liked it.

While there were no moments that had me in stitches, there were no dull or unfunny moments, either. It was their opening night, so things may get tighter and more hysterical as the run progresses. Also, it’s important to note that my fellow audience members seemed to be having the time of their lives (maybe this is what happens when you get a jaded news guy like me to review comedy).

What were my favourite parts? Tsarouchas’ set stood out, and not just because he answered my phone call or because he’s a local boy done good. Well, the local part does have something to do with it. Park Ex represent! St-Viateur bagel represent! Also Jobrani was a great host who really kept the night rolling and Marino struck a nerve…with my brother Joe, who was also in attendance, thanks to the aforementioned bit about supermarket checkouts, so it’s worthy of a mention.

The Ethnic Show runs as part of Just For Laughs until July 23rd, please visit hahaha.com for tickets

Honestly, he had me at St-Viateur Bagels. I had planned on asking Angelo Tsarouchas if he was a St-Viateur or a Fairmount man but decided to start the interview with a more general question: “what, besides seeing family, do you look forward to when you come back to Montreal?”

“St Viateur bagels,” the Ottawa native who grew up in Montreal and now calls Los Angeles home responded without missing a beat, whenever my mom comes to visit, she brings me St-Viateur Bagels.”

It’s not the only thing this comedian and TV actor cherishes about his former home. He also loves the Habs, the fact that there are beautiful women everywhere, people who go out, dress up and have fun and Arahova Souvlaki.

While the first four may not make it into his act in this year’s Just For Laughs Ethnic Show, the Souvlaki, or more likely other aspects of Greek culture, undoubtedly will. Much of Tsarouchas’ standup routine focuses on his Greek upbringing and this year he’s representing that upbringing in an event hosted by a Persian (Maz Jobrani) and featuring Italians, Jews and more.

ethnic show

Tsarouchas, who hosted the show in previous festivals, is also representing Armenian culture this time out as he recently got married.

“I’m a Greek Canadian married to an Armenian American,” he said. “I know, it sounds like a documentary. And they’re crazy just like us.”

That is a good thing, especially for his act.

“Familiarity breeds comedy,” he explained, going on to recount meeting his wife’s family, “they’re all talking and I don’t understand what they’re saying but I can tell by the gestures. It’s what I grew up with.”

He also recounted the first meeting between the two families: “It was a lot of sniffing, like dogs at a park. A lot of checking each other out.”

That’s bound to make it into his act, as is the joy of being a new father.

“When you’re doing comedy you’ve got to be in the moment of what you’re doing,” he said, “and now I have a kid.”

Tsarouchas has performed comedy all over the world, but LA is most definitely his base of operation. I asked him how the LA and Montreal scenes differed.

“That’s an interesting comparison,” he responded, “Montreal has a great local comedy scene, a lot of great comedians come out of Montreal.”

“There’s a great local vibe here for comedy,” he continued, “but it’s in the shadow of this great festival, Just for Laughs, the most prestigious comedy festival in the world. Most people go to LA to get into film and television and ironically the guys in LA will fly us to Montreal to get us interest in LA.”

Among the film and TV roles that Tsarouchas did get was a commercial and quite a famous one at that. Remember the “It’s not delivery, it’s Delissio (or DeJourno in the states)” ad? The one with the mobsters? Well, Tsarouchas was at that table:

“Everyone remembers me from that commercial,” he said when I brought it up, “and I don’t say a word.”

Tsarouchas’ act changes based on where he is. Montreal audiences can expect a particularly good show.

“It’s not because I’m from here, not because I’m at the festival,” he observed, “these are some of the coolest audiences you’re going to play to. Montreal audiences are very savvy when it comes to comedy.”

Angelo Tsarouchas will perform as part of The Ethnic Show in the Just for Laughs Festival July 17 to 23. Please visit hahaha.com for tickets

The Nasty Show kicked off this year’s Just for Laughs Festival at Club Soda last Wednesday. Hosted by comedy veteran Bobby Slayton, and featuring the acts of Ari Shaffir, Derek Seguin, Hailey Boyle, Kurt Metzger and Nick DiPaolo, the eclectic group of acts delivered their nastiest routines to the crowd.

The unsurprisingly male dominated set of performers was surpassed by the refreshing humour of the lone female comedian in the lineup. Hailey Boyle gave her comedy set full of the same fellatio-focused staples of her male counterparts, but with a refreshing, and dare I say nuanced, twist. Smoothly balancing self-deprecation with some quirky boasting, Boyle’s routine felt fresh and in line with today’s comedy style.

The final comedian, Nick DiPaolo, dubbed “one of the best” by host Slayton, came a bit short, loosing the audience at some punch lines that I guess either felt like recycled or dated material. Derek Seguin on the other hand – the only local Montreal performer of the evening – really stole the set with a parental take on nasty, describing his wife’s birth and the limitations of the Quebec healthcare system. In a US-centric line-up, where many of the show’s comedians used US references to commercials and television shows that don’t air in Canada, Seguin’s Quebec embellished set was clearly appreciated by the crowd.

Though we’re not blind to American media up here in Quebec, one thing the show could have benefited from was either more local references, or at least less US-only. After all, you’ve got to know your audience.

All in all, The Nasty Show held up to its reputation and offered, as always, an exciting lineup and plenty of nasty. Looking forward to checking it out again next year, though I hope more acts like Seguin and Boyle are brought to the forefront.

I thought this would be much easier. Sure. Just For Laughs is a huge, sprawling event, some might say Montreal’s largest festival, a distinction not easy to get in a city known for festivals.

But our focus is shows that feature lesser known comedians with a few of the big shots that have a unique appeal beyond the mainstream. Shouldn’t be too hard to focus in on a few good acts that fit the criteria, right? Wrong.

Turns out the emerging and underground acts, who are performing as part of the main festival and this year, for the first time, in OFF-JFL which is part of Zoofest, are as bountiful and numerous as the gala guys and gals. Our coverage team, comprised of Hannah Besseau, Jerry Gabriel. Chris Zacchia and myself, clearly had our work cut out for us, but we pulled through and now we know at least some of what we plan to check out.

It all starts with the Nasty Show, the fest’s annual below the belt kickoff event. Hannah Besseau already spoke with Bobby Slayton, leader of this year’s Nasty crew that comprised of Ari Shaffir, Kurt Metzger, Haley Boyle, Nick DiPaolo and local Derek Seguin. You can read her, um, interesting interview published today.

Later in the week, we get Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. Now Aziz may not qualify as emerging talent, he’s actually one of the biggest stars in comedy right now, but since I discovered him watching Parks and Rec and later his standup specials on Netflix, for me he’s a web comedian and therefore watching this incredibly funny man perform still counts as indie. Whether that justification holds water or not, this show is bound to hold my funny bone hostage.

angelo-Tsarouchas
Angelo Tsarouchas

The fest’s second weekend is when the Ethnic show starts. This year it’s hosted by Maz Jobrani, a prolific and very funny Persian comedian. I spoke with Angelo Tsarouchas, the show’s Greek representative, Montreal native and LA resident. You can read our discussion, where we touch on everything from the differences between the Montreal and LA comedy scenes to the best bagels in town next week.

In addition to Persians and Greeks, the show also promises Jews and Italians, but alas, the Irish are left out again. As someone who is proudly half Irish (or claimed to be until I had roommates actually from Dublin), I’ve got to say, c’mon JFL, geez, don’t your venues want to sell alcohol? (apparently the Irish perform as part of the British show, but I digress)

stand up strip down
Stand Up/Strip Down (Miss Sugarpuss & DeAnne Smith)

Moving along…the following week, the clothes are coming off, well, not DeAnne Smith’s (at least I don’t think so). You see, Smith, just back in town after reaching the semi-finals on Last Comic Standing, is the Stand Up part of Stand Up, Strip Down. The strip down part? Well, that’s going to be some of the top burlesque performers in the city, people like Miss Sugarpuss, L Diablo and Ruby Rhapsody.

Clothes will also be hitting the floor at Illuminatease, this year’s JFL/Zoofest offering from the Blood Ballet Cabaret. We’ve reviewed the BBC before (myself personally most of the time, it pays to be editor-in-chief) but we haven’t covered this show, their conspiracy show and now I get the chance! If you don’t think that the moon landing, religious conspiracies and celebrity assassinations can be made sexy, BBC begs to differ and their “family of dysfunctional yet lovable burlesque and circus artists” are here to prove you wrong.

Speaking of taking off your clothes, I’ve never wanted to see Lewis Black naked, but I have always wanted to see him perform live. This forever angry and funny man and Daily Show regular will be performing The Rant is Due in Montreal and I, for one, would like to see what he owes us.

And just who will be the Talk of the Fest this year, why it’s Nick Offerman, or at least he’s the one hosting the show with that name. Another Parks and Rec star, who’s also a published author and does run a wood shop, is returning to the stage and inviting some of JFL’s top talent to join him. He’s supposed to be quite like his character Ron Swanson, so I wonder what meat-intensive Montreal restaurants he’ll visit when in town.

Well, that wraps up only some of what’s out there in this year’s Just for Laughs festival. For the full schedule, please visit hahaha.com and keep checking FTB for our coverage.

 

The 24th edition of the St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival came to an end Sunday evening at Cabaret du Mile End with the Frankie Awards. Here’s there list of companies who were honoured at this year’s Frankie Awards. Congratulations to everyone!

BOUGE D’ICI – Outstanding Choreography Award:
Heather Lynn Macdonald for Running for Home (featured in Garden of Knives by Travail Rouge)

FREESTANDING Award for Making Big Things Happen in Small Spaces:
Orpheline – Cimonac Productions

GREENLAND – Music Award:
Le trouble
Honorable mentions to: Corrina Rose , O Savannah, Summerset, Hua Li., And Syngja

SOLOS FESTIVAL- Best Solo Production:
Paleoncology – Moon Dinosaur Theatre
Honorable mentions to Shadow Waltz – Wolfinger Productions and Dysmorphia Diet – Ball of Clay

CEAD – Texte le Plus Prometteur:
Le Monstre – Olivier Arteau-Gauthier

RUBIKS – Visual Identity:
Kitt & Jane: an interactive guide to the Near-Post-Apocalyptic Future – SNAFU Dance Theatre

JEFFREY MACKIE – Best Text:
High Tea – Life & Depth

PRIX FRED – BARRY- Meilleur Scénographie/Best Production Award:
Blood Wild – Rabbit in a Hat Productions

JUST FOR LAUGHS – Best English Comedy:
TIE between: The Quitter – Al Lafrance and
My Big Fat German Puppet Show – Invisible Inc.

SEGAL CENTRE – Most Promising English Company:
Johnny Legdick, A Rock Opera – Playwright Hero

MAINLINE – Creativity Award:
Insane Dance Double Feature: No Fun / Breaking Boundaries – Still Milking the New Sacred Cow

BEYOND THE MOUNTAIN – Touring Award:
Sense Gentle – Real Eyes Theatre

CENTAUR THEATRE – Best English Production:
Aiden Flynn Lost His Brother So He Makes Another – Theatre Howl

LES VÉTÉRANS-FRANCOS – Meuilleur Production Francophone:
Le Monstre – Théâtre Kata

Cat Sinclair wears many hats: burlesque performer, Buffalo Infringement Festival organizer and visual artist who makes collages that juxtapose hardcore pornography with images of adorable cats to name a few. She recently brought her performance and visual art to Montreal with multiple shows as part of the 2014 Montreal Infringement Festival

I caught up with her after her final performance at Le Petit Cabaret in Old Montreal, just a few steps away from City Hall where we did this interview:

I ended up at Untitled Sam Mullins Project at the Montreal Fringe because I’m an idiot—this, I promise, is not a disclaimer.

The fact is I ended up at Sam Mullins because my Interweb Googleplexing abilities rather failed me in the moment, and while I thought I was in the right place for Johnny Legdick, I somehow ended up at Untitled Sam Mullins Project, and with a friend along for the ride to boot. And with my friend’s ticket already paid for, and Johnny Legdick already, oh, 25 minutes in and 15 minutes away down the road (at TSC,  not Mainline, I’ve now learned), we decided to proceed as planned and feign no faux-pas. And we didn’t regret it.

Sam Mullins is, my friend tells me: curly haired, sweet, a plucker of her similarly panic-attack-y heartstrings, and full of nice muscles. My friend says Sam Mullins is hot. I say Sam Mullins tells a mean story, or four, and delivers them in an honest, straightforward, audience-connected way.

Sam Mullins, at least to this Google-for-Dummies simpleton, is refreshing. Where I’ve come to expect costume work, sketchiness and stand-up antics from one man/woman shows (sometimes with tremendous success, sometimes with tremendous barf), Sam Mullins is just a guy, with some muscles, telling some stories about himself.

Whether it be about that dress he wore to school, the hometown hockey glory he ruined, the time his father saved Josh Hamilton’s career, or his panic attacks and the road he’s gone down to overcome it all, on stage—Sam Mullins is just, seemingly, quaintly, himself, and the sound writing instincts he’s trying out for us, unburdening himself one well-crafted story at a time. There’s some nipping and tucking ahead, but that’s kinda the whole point.

In any case, there’s nothing overly clever to say here. Just cats instead of marriage is indeed a brilliant idea. He’ll explain it to you; have no fear.

In his Frankie award-winning show The Quitter, Al Lafrance brings the audience through his bumpy trip on the road to happiness. Spoiler alert; donuts, mix tapes and small town Quebec are all part of the journey that lead this former General manager of the Montreal Fringe Festival to where he is today.

For a man who describes himself as grumpy, Lafrance can be pretty darn charming. Even before he began speaking during his last performance, the packed crowd at Montreal Improv erupted with applause. LaFrance is a man who loves the Montreal Fringe, and the Montreal Fringe clearly loves him back.AlLafrance_photo3_Fringe2014

The show is a mix between stand-up comedy and storytelling. Other Fringe performers used intricate props and amusing imagery to help grab the audience’s attention and did it well. Lafrance meanwhile commands just as much attention roaming around the stage for an hour with nothing but confidence and a box of donuts he left for everyone on the way in. He can get away with that largely because it’s hard not to respect Lafrance’s no bullshit approach to reflecting on his life: I’m not perfect, mistakes have been made. Thankfully some of them have been amusing enough for me to share and make you laugh.  

The journey may have been silly at times, heartbreaking in others. But the lesson LaFrance has learned is something that everybody can appreciate: sometimes quitting doesn’t mean failing. Sometimes you need to make mistakes in life so that you can end up where you’re supposed to be. While Fringe shows can at times have an air of self-importance to them, it was a pleasure for this reviewer to end her Fringe 2014 experience on such an upbeat note.

The Quitter has completed its run at the Montreal Fringe Festival. Make sure to check out LaFrance’s website Bloody Underrated for information on his cross-Canada Fringe tour.

With a title like Johnny LegDick: A Rock Opera  this show gives you a pretty clear sense of what you’re walking into right off the bat. A musical about a group of travelling circus show freaks who break free of their oppressive owner (who happens to be named “sucka-da-cocka”), is without a doubt silly to its very core. But just like a good Meat Loaf song, every now and then who doesn’t want an epic power ballad in their life?

For a festival full of minimalist stages it’s a treat to see a Fringe show full of elaborate props, costumes, and a live band. The songs of course are meant to make you laugh more than make you think (unless of course, you really do want to ponder how a man pees when “he has a leg where his dick ‘suppose to be…”).

The funniest part of all is that everyone in the show is quite the talented singer. And somehow that brings a gravitas to songs about bananas, horse men with no pants and homo island. The lead of the show especially (whose real name I can’t seem to find anywhere online!) will blow you away with his voice. I sincerely hope that actor goes on to star in many other musical productions in the future.

Dick jokes aside, this is a solid show that is more than worth the price of admission. It would be great to see the play get some funding so they could go even further down the rabbit hole; expand the show into a two-hour odyssey of outcasts falling in love and standing up to the man. In many other cases of Fringe shows the standard hour length production is more than enough, but in this case I was definitely left wanting more.

After you’ve seen the show, make sure you like Playwright Hero Productions’ Facebook page and then you too can get all those insane songs suck in your head for a week.)

Johnny LegDick: A Rock Opera plays at Theater Sainte Catherine until Sunday as part of the Montreal Fringe Festival

Following their complete and utter dominance of the local live late night talk show scene, Walter J. Lyng and Leighland Beckman are tweaking the format of the insanely popular Night Fight and staging a one time only presentation of what they have dubbed as Brunch Fight. It all goes down at Noon on June 21 at Mainline Theatre as part of the Montreal Fringe Festival’s after dark series. This event is so after dark, as a matter of fact, that’s it happening during the sunniest part of the day. Now THAT’S dark.

In addition to the usual talk show insanity and assorted antics that host Lyng and Musical director Beckman usually get up to, this time around, the dynamic duo will be serving up a full brunch to anyone who shows up. Seriously. Eggs, bacon, ‘brunch beverages’, fruit (sure)… the works. Oh, and they’re only charging $5. Yep. (Plus a $2 service charge for those Fringe people)

“I’m kind of like Robin Hood in that I will be stealing these Brunch items from the rich and giving them to the poor, except I’ll actually be paying for all this stuff and I can’t really speculate on the financial status of any specific audience member, so I’m actually nothing like Robin Hood,” says Lyng.

BRUNCH FIGHT will feature a wonderful assortment of Fringe Festival favourites, including Jon Bennet of Pretending Things are a Cock fame and musical guest Victoria Laberge, whose soothing ukulele melodies will no doubt ease the pain of even the worst hangover. The bloody Caesars will probably help too.

Plus a brand new Top 38 list, Stupid Knife Trick, and much, much more!

Doors will open at 11:30 a.m. The show will start at 12:00 p.m. Brunch will be served at 12:07 p.m at Mainline Theatre. Get your tickets in advance through the Fringe website.

 

A Bandolier of Dreams_Photo2_fringe2014The following is a review for a show you will never see.

The setting? A Victorian-era drawing room. The characters? Two English gentleman. The story? Well my darlings that changes every time as Bandolier of Dreams is a hilarious hour of improv from Matt Goldberg and Mike Hughes- aka two members of the long-running comedy troupe Uncalled For.

At the story telling shows I’ve seen this year’s Montreal Fringe festival, I’ve come to have great respect for the talent it takes to keep an audience engrossed in your story. Improv I feel like takes it up a notch. Not only do you have to keep an audience entertained, but you’re under the added pressure of making it all up as you go along  (and in this show all while speaking in an English accent!). I assume Goldberg and Hughes set out very loose parameters of where they want the story to go and have fun props like tea trays, wine bottles and telephones to keep the show moving along.

Needless to say, Goldberg and Hughes hit it out of the park. The two have an easy and obvious chemistry that comes from their years working together, and are professionals in the art of improvisation. There were times when Goldberg came close to breaking character and bursting out laughing but honestly, it only added to the silly atmosphere. As their Fringe profile declares, you come to this show for the “comedy experience”, not serious theatre.

I had even greater respect for the difficulties of creating witty banter on the spot when yours truly got called up onstage in an audience cameo role. I caught on to some of the tricks of improv; your actors will feed you ideas you can build on by asking questions or open ended statements. I came up with much more amusing things I could have said on the metro ride home then I did on stage, but it was a fun experience none the less. (Oh and that wine they drink onstage folks is definitely real so thanks for the drink guys!)  Remember to give a wink to Hughes during the show and who knows, maybe you’ll end up a star of Bandolier of Dreams as well.

Bandolier of Dreams plays at Theatre Sainte Catherine until June 22nd.

 

 

Since its inaugural edition in 2004, the Infringement Festival has offered Montreal audiences something unique. In a sea of big-name and medium to large budget events distinguished primarily by the art form they present, the Infringement has always opted for a different model.

With little to no budget and a team of strictly volunteer organizers (full disclosure: this year I’m one of those organizers as well as a performing artist and co-founder of the event), the Infringement presents acts from a variety of genres. There’s music, all types of music, theatre, visual arts, spoken word, video, guerrilla street performance, comedy, art in alleyways and much more.

The common thread? This is boundary-pushing, frequently activist and political art that challenges the concept of art as a commodity. Instead, it’s a labour of love.

The Infringement is not a stepping stone to the mainstream, rather a challenge to it (though, to be honest, some former infringers have gone on to mainstream success). Whether it’s a play in a bathroom challenging transphobia or a band who just wants to play a show and not have to go through red tape, there’s always a message.

This year is no different. The overall theme is Make Some Noise, a challenge to recent noise fines in the Plateau.

What is different this year is the length. The Infringement is focusing all the activity over five days and nights, call it an intensive dose of authentic culture.

Opening Night

The fest kicks off tonight (Wednesday) with the second-annual Recital Fractal hosted by Louis Royer at Labo de la Taverne Jarry on Jarry East. Expect an evening of French spoken-word and music. I attended the first one at last year’s Infringement and was impressed by the multiple talented artists crammed into just a few hours.

dumpster dive art drive
The Dumpster Dive Art Drive vernissage in 2012, this event is back again this year!

Thursday: The metro, dumpsters, dinner and open mic

There’s more music Thursday afternoon in George Vanier Metro. Yes, the Infringement is doing a show in the metro, busker-style. The event features Rebecca Anne Banks, Mr Saad and Richard Lahmy.

Thursday night the Infringement is in two parts of town, first in the Plateau for the Dumpster Dive Art Drive, always one of my favourite Infringement events. With art made from found objects and a vernissage with wine in a brown paper bag, how can you go wrong. If there ever was a challenge to the commodified model of art, this is it.

Next is the Infringement Feast. It’s a dinner celebrating both Infringement conceptualizer Donovan King’s birthday and ten years of the festival at first-time Infringement venue Caverne Grecque on Prince Arthur.

After dinner, the fest heads downtown, western downtown to be precise. Le Bull Pub near Atwater is the home of Jay Manafest and Eric Chevrier’s weekly open mic show Mic Check. This week, the mic is open to all Infringers.

Friday: Rock & Candyass

On Friday, the Infringement returns to familiar surroundings with a rockin’ night at the Barfly and the monthly Candyass Beach Party Cabaret at Cafe Cleopatre. Cleo is the venerable burlesque, drag and fetish performance venue with a strip club on the first floor that fought the city’s gentrification efforts and won. Candyass Cabaret is a sexy burlesque show that challenges stereotypes. A perfect Infringement match if you ask me .

The lineup at Barfly, in true Infringement fashion, is a medley of musical styles. There’s the sweet meaningful folk of Richard Lahmy and the wild, melodic punk of Crazy Knows Crazy, both Infringement veterans. We also get the trippy rock of Realms of Bliss and the experimentation of the extract, both Infringement newcomers.

crazy-knows-crazy
Crazy Knows Crazy performing at the 2013 Infringement, they’re back this year (photo: Hannah Hampton)

Saturday and Sunday: Infringement intensive in Old Montreal

In another first this year, the Infringement is going to Old Montreal. Le P’tit Cabaret on St-Paul is a multi-purpose performance space with a mission: to bring locals back to the tourist-dominated cobblestone streets of the old city. The Infringement is happy to oblige with shows on Saturday and Sunday.

Quite a few shows, that is. While there are two events on the weekend that take place elsewhere: the Candyass and King Red Light Walking Tour that starts in front of the now closed (sigh) Bar Midway on Sunday and the art exhibit at Usine 106U on Roy Street East which is running for the duration of the fest, the rest of the Infringement action is at Le P’tit Cabaret.

Melissa Campbell and Cat McCarthy of the Buffalo Infringement Festival (the largest fest in the Infringement circuit) will be performing The Painted Dress, an  interactive live painting, all day both Saturday and Sunday on the stage of the P’tit Cabaret’s first room. This is also where McCarthy’s Kitty Porn will be displayed. Yes, it’s an art exhibit featuring collages of hardcore pornography mixed with cute kittens.

McCarthy will also perform as part of the Buffalo Burlesque Collective on the main stage of Le P’tit Cabaret both nights (and will also be part of Friday’s Candyass Cabaret). This stage will also showcase performances as diverse as King’s Critical Report from the World Fringe Congress, Seven No-Name Comedians Doing Comedy, Infringement film screenings, a public reading of John Faithful Hamer’s Blue Notes and the Infringement Spoken Word Show hosted by Laurence Tenenbaum.

Le P’tit Cabaret will also be home to quite a bit of Infringement music including the second edition of the Infringement Hip Hop Show, this time featuring socially conscious rappers Jay Manafest, Nikolai Kush and Drop D and the always intensely entertaining PsynLangWage.

There will also be funk, jazz, rock, a bit of country and more in the form of Look, a fang!, Mona Lissa & The Brink, The Voodoo Shango ExperienceThis is not [sic] (full disclosure, I’m in this band, also, we rock!), Von Dalia, Richard Lahmy (his third show in the fest), Busker & Josephine and Jazzotopes.

You may want to note that I mentioned the acts at P’tit Cabaret in no particular order. That’s because the best way to experience the Infringement as a journey of discovery, an artistic scavenger hunt, if you will. Just know that there will be something to enjoy on Saturday and Sunday from three in the afternoon until the wee hours of the next morning and head out.

Of course, you could just consult the schedule at infringemontreal.org, but that’s kinda cheating, don’t you think?

The 2014 Montreal Infringement Festival runs June 18-22