Category: Just For Laughs

Cos’ Effect

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Leave it to Bill Cosby to put things in perspective. Think two or even three seven-minute Festival sets a night is adequate? On Saturday, Cosby performed to 3,000 in Place des Arts’ cavernous Salle Wilfried Pelletier for two hours and ten minutes, waited 45 minutes for the old,  impressed crowd to file out and a new, eager crowd to file in, and did it all over again. And the stuff he did…it was good.

Gray-haired and comfortably bumming in a long-sleeve t-shirt, sky-high sweatpants and Crocs, Cosby spent the majority of his time at stage center, seated in a chair draped with a red sweater reading “Hello Friend,” a nod to his own Ennis William Cosby Foundation. In that chair he hemmed and hawed about one singular topic: Marriage. “So there I am,” he began. “Mrs. Cosby. My wife. That’s what I want to talk about. This Evening.” He leaned back and rolled his eyes in despair. He sat poker-straight, making dazed, hangdog, “old-person” expressions. He knelt on the stage to depict himself cutting down a Christmas tree for the sake of “romance” and hunched forward, hands on knees, explaining and warning what one was in for as one aged. There were car rides, health woes, grandkids, Biblical reinterpretations, wolves, wives and mothers. Things weren’t as tight towards the end as they had been at the beginning, and it was an uncomfortable physical effort just watching him perform for so long, but in terms of tone, cadence, exaggeration and outright life wisdom, the 72-year-old is clearly still one of the top storytellers around. 

Posted by Julie Seabaugh at 03:09 PM | Comments (0)

Miscellaneous Friday Thoughts

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I had made it a point this year to stick to shows featuring artists I rarely had the chance to see live. Thus no Rich Vos, no Christian Finnegan, no Golds either Judy or Elon, no Aziz Ansari, no Marc Maron, etc. The same was supposed to hold true for Louis CK, yet I was easily swayed into catching his final midnight show at the 2300-cap Metropolis [an additional last-minute show was announced for tonight at the Kola Note]. Prolific as ever, CK managed to fill at least half of a one-hour, 45-minute show with material crafted since his spring Hilarious CD and DVD tapings. As for the old stuff, I overheard the quoted phrase “You are sitting in a chair…IN THE SKY!” twice more before the evening was out.

On the downside, as always, a sacrifice had to be made. I opted out of the midnight Alternative Show, where I had hoped to catch Duncan Trussell, an out-there New Face whose darker stuff had previous been nixed from the Cabaret Theatre. He was one of the fortunate ones, however. Scrambling to fill late-night space vacated by Paul Provenza in the St. Catherine Theatre, two free New Faces…Encore shows were announced, only to quickly be dubbed “Best of New Faces.” Normally the top of the New Faces crop gets play over at Comedyworks, the Comedy Nest and elsewhere, and it still happened to some extent, but now not being included in Encore equated to instant, in-Festival failure. Ouch. Aren’t these guys already under enough pressure?

Over at Doug Stanhope’s second annual Just For Spite Festival (two nights at Cafe Chaos, in the heart of the JFL street fair grounds), both shows were sold out by Friday’s 8 p.m. start time. As a result, Stanhope will be making more money off two independent sets than most acts will make in their entire Festival run. [Full disclosure: I’m married to one of Stanhope’s business cohorts.]

Speaking of selling out, Russell Peters checked “Sell out the single biggest show in JFL history” off his to-do list. Recently named one of Forbes’ “Top 10 Earning Comedians” Peters counted 11,000 paid tickets at the Bell Centre, later celebrating the achievement at a “Midnight at the Opera” shindig in association with Just For Laughs Comedy Conference at Club Opera.

Posted by Julie Seabaugh at 02:10 PM | Comments (1)

The Bobcat Came Back

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“Um, hi, you don’t look the same, either,” Bobcat Goldthwait announced upon taking the stage at Friday’s Bubbling with Laughter show. Though he was due on much earlier, the former Jimmy Kimmel Live director (in Montreal promoting the Canadian premiere of his Robin Williams-starring World’s Greatest Dad) ended up in the penultimate spot after a phone call to his hotel room informed him the show he thought was tomorrow was currently underway.

With the same eardrum-splintering voice but shorter hair, the once-retired stand-up also relied on some old material: Having a woman approach him to say, “I don’t mean to insult you, but you look like Bobcat Goldthwait” and relating a story from the set of Blow in which he asked Johnny Depp and Paul Reubens who amongst them was not on probation.

Fortunately sandwiched in between was some eye-openingly introspective stuff about his return to the live stage (“There’s a connection I make with the audience that in the other things I do…I ran out of money, ladies and gentlemen!”) and a transfixing story about being trapped on a plummeting airplane with a team of Special Olympics athletes. None of it was particularly hilarious, and was in fact reliably hesitant and stuttery, but it definitively marked what could be a more personally revealing direction. Then he blew the light, admitted to stealing his entire act from Sesame Street‘s Grover and left no question that yes, the same old Bobcat had returned. 

Posted by Julie Seabaugh at 01:21 PM | Comments (1)

Andy Kindler’s State of the Industry (and TV)

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For 16 years, Andy Kindler’s annual State of the Industry lambast has been the must-see credentialed event, the one time suits jockey for sitting room up front, as opposed to elbow room at a venue’s back bar. “Let’s meet up at State of the Industry,” is akin to the theater crowd’s “Let’s do lunch at Sardi’s”; stating as apparently Elon Gold did, “This is the only hour in my life that I laugh,” cements one’s status as one of the Cool Kids (assuming there even are cool kids in comedy).

The hour and a half address was self-aware and kvetching as usual, preceded this year by an excellent introduction courtesy of Marc Maron. “Like Andy, I have absolutely nothing left to lose,” he offered, then described how touring with with Kindler is like “traveling with the history of the Jewish people.”

Yet something felt off, and it wasn’t merely Kindler’s running gag about odd microphone placement. The television screens, the branded banners, the lights and the red carpet clearly indicate that SOTI is a fully-sanctioned, downright embraced ribbing, leaving zero illusion of true nose-thumbing. Feeling like you’re doing something wrong by being in the room is half the fun, and a fake brick wall sporting fake graffiti isn’t going to change that.

“It has to be industry-related, or something I saw on TV…I’m going to ridicule things I’m not that familiar with,” Kindler noted up front of his range of topics. With no Last Comic Standing to kick around, the laundry list included the ShamWow pitchman, TMZ, how “Montreal found a way to do less than they least they could do” with two non-adjacent economy seats, Carlos Mencia, Tyler Perry, Howie Mandel, various agencies, Kevin James, Dane Cook, Carrot Top, I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!, Jay Leno, and, as ever, himself. However, his running commentary seemed harder hitting than his material, which often came across as just that…themed material. “Now this is just anger,” he admitted,” shaking his head at his notes. Yet it wasn’t the angry, Roast-oriented side of Kindler that most shone through. The best part of his humor has undoubtedly always been his self-effacing and hand-wringing. But with an ending like, “This could be my last year doing this speech. There’s a lot of things I could say right now…in lieu of crying. I get the feeling a lot of people come in here thinking something else is going to happen. Maybe I could get paid to stay home next year. Too real?”, the answer is a surprising “yes.”

Posted by Julie Seabaugh at 11:44 AM | Comments (0)

Noble: A Prize

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I had been cautioned before going into Ross Noble not to believe the hype, that, contrary to the official spiel, the wildly prolific cult Englishman’s act wasn’t all improvised.

Didn’t matter a bit. From start to finish, his one-man show was a densely packed display of energy, absurdism, audience interaction and controlled chaos. With his long hair, boy-band headset and surfer-dude-by-way-of-Monty-Python accent, Noble turned one table of devoted fanboys into a modest roomful of converts, just as he turned the presence of one audience member’s baked-good snack into a monstrous running gag involving the woman, her friend, her mother, the tacos on another table, his miraculous ability to “feed, like, 100 people with just some nachos” and his status as “some kinda Mexican Jesus.”

Some bits on Madonna, Boba Fett and a brass band providing a peculiar soundtrack to porn were obviously rehearsed, but then it was right back into 10 minutes on imagined tourist groups taking in the Musee JPR venue in all its questionable glory. After all, why bother with jokes when your stream of consciousness leads even you deep into an entertaining unknown?

Posted by Julie Seabaugh at 02:04 AM | Comments (1)

New Home for New Faces

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2009 marks the year the theoretic stand-up-and-comers gained entry to the same comedic playground as the big kids. Previously schlepped off to the cramped Kola Note, the New Faces sweating out a pair of industry-heavy showcases are housed in the Cabaret Theatre, now sharing lobby space with Musee JPR. For another interesting switcharoo, this year’s hosts Dan Levy and Sugar Sammy are much newer faces in their own right than last year’s Dana Gould and Greg Giraldo, or Tom Papa the year before.

A delayed flight caused me to miss the first half of New Faces 2, particularly regrettable since I was looking forward to revisiting the skewed world of Moshe Kasher, who killed at LA’s Candor Comedy last month and reminds me—a bit unfairly, I confess—of Brent Weinbach. But of the four sets I caught, Rory Scovel deserved the most credit for keeping things light and in the moment. With a thick beard and flannel shirt, his slacker-oriented material was no huge surprise, though lines like “I’ve been trying to quit smoking pot. It’s hard because they keep coming out with those damn 3-D movies,” and the ability to turn a bit about driving on shrooms into a Scientology dig proved there was more to him than mere drug humor. Renee Gauthier spent her time on Boyz II Men karaoke and a gratingly over-the-top dance sequence, while low-key Eric Krug didn’t fully connect until he broke out his idea for MTV pilot “Tupac or Anne Frank?” Dan Ahdoot closed the show strong, however, citing sign language as the most racist language of all and bringing both keen intelligence and personal experience to material that might otherwise be found on the Axis of Evil cutting-room floor. (Sample line: I’m Iranian and Jewish, one of those combinations that goes together like peanut butter and…cat.”)

Later at New Faces 1, first-up Myq Kaplan stole the show early with fast-paced language-play that tackled religion, technology, the dubious legacy of Final Destination and begged for repeat listens. Andy Ritchie had the best lines of the night, quoting a PT Cruiser ad man as asking, “Hey, what if Dick Tracy was a single mom?” and bemoaning of a faulty showerhead, “Every time I want to get clean, I feel like a Civil Rights activist.” To a demonstrator who had once gotten the business end of a firehose, “Yeah, but not every day, first thing in the morning!” Closer and one of Variety‘s 2009 10 Comics to Watch Kumail Nanjiani covered mostly “cheese” (aka heroin) and the Cyclone roller coaster, but his huge likability factor and flair for theatricality sold every moment. 

Unfortunately, Alex Kohl’s overly-confident hipsterisms were best saved for PBR keggers; Mike Bridenstine started strong with a withering impression of a certain Zanies owner but lost the crowd with his repeated “Bam! Yer pregant!” fake catchphrase; Chris D’Elia’s impressions of African-Americans, Germans and ex-girlfriends would play best at a ComedySportz;  and Last Comic Standing vet Mary Mack’s loopy act was, er, inspired by Maria Bamford’s yet again, only this time in front of an unwitting international crowd.

Posted by Julie Seabaugh at 12:13 PM | Comments (1)

Just Started, Already Cancelled

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No sooner has the US industry-heavy portion of Just For Laughs gotten underway than it experiences its first casualties. The Comedy Conference’s kickoff event, the 10 a.m. Thursday-morning Keynote Address, got the axe, though The Colbert Report head writer Barry Julien’s addition to the “Late Night: In the Writer’s Room” panel managed to swing the scales back a bit. In the past, “The Green Room with Paul Provenza” enjoyed a healthy three-evening midnight run. This year, only two 1 a.m. shows were scheduled, but Thursday’s offering was removed from the schedule Wednesday night; Friday’s show yanked the following morning. And on the Gala front, Wednesday Britcom host John Cleese was replaced by Lewis Black (the Monty Python star has rescheduled for Sunday) after Cleese was diagnosed with an inflamed prostrate gland. Perhaps he pulled something practicing his silly walks?

Posted by Julie Seabaugh at 10:07 AM | Comments (1)