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Entries in Just For Laughs (3)

Thursday
Sep292016

Kumail Nanjiani at #JFL42

Upon greeting the audience Kumail Nanjiani pointed out that this was in fact the second performance of his career in Toronto.  He noted that this was the first show announced, so these are his fans that were really on the ball and yet they lose out on the experience of the first show.  Whether fans of 'Beta Male', 'The Meltdown', 'Silicon Valley', or more likely all of the above, no one in the audience had more impact than Amir.  Nanjiani spotted the young man in the 'Make America Rage Again' hat who cheered when Kumail mentioned he grew up in Pakistan...

...and so began the only stand up show we've seen of it's kind.  We learned a great deal about Nanjiani's life through his discussion with Amir and his mother.  At one point he joked that everyone else should leave so he could talk with them.  At what point Nanjiani shifted from this honest and open discussion to his prepared material was imperceptible.  There we see his true gift for timing, and his compassionate, insightful way of seeing the world. 

A few times the material grew a little raunchy, and the knowledge that a 14 year old was present created tangible awkwardness.  Ever self aware, we witnessed the odd moment of the performer turning his back on the audience in order to be able to tell certain parts of the story of a family visit to 'Fun Land'.  It's a tale that will yield equal parts cringe and laughter should you have the chance to hear it.

In an unpredictable, free flowing, and seemingly partly improvised show there were a few standout moments.  Hearing his parents response to his stand up special 'Beta Male' was relatable and hilarious, especially considering the success of that project.  None was more memorable than his 'encore', where he offered up the last few minutes to questions from the audience.  This element showed his incredibly quick wit, and the unique variety of people that comprise his audience.

The ultimate moment was when he was joined briefly by his wife Emily Gordon, producer of 'The Meltdown'.  The show (co-hosted by Nanjiani and Jonah Ray) has just started its final season, and the two responded together to a question about how they feel about it ending, and what's next.  The openness and honesty in that tiny moment are present throughout his whole show.  Kumail Nanjiani's story, and his ability to make it relatable are what make his work powerful.  Though we may laugh our asses off, we leave thinking about real issues like race, sexism, and whether or not that show is ok for a 14 year old.

Monday
Sep292014

JFL42 - Sept. 17-27, Toronto


Thanks to JFL42, Toronto had the opportunity to host some of the best comedians in the world over the last couple of weeks.  It has to be a rare occurance that such a diverse and well rounded lineup of hilarious individuals could be organized, but JFL42 pulled it off. We managed to see some of our favorites, who we've been dying to check out, including Dave Attell, Iliza Schlezinger, Chris D'Elia, Nikki Glaser, Brody Stevens and  Pete Holmes.  The interactive pass system worked flawlessly, making it easy to check out a variety of performances at the 13 venues all over the city.  

The first show we made it out to was the legendary Dave Attell at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.  After a fantastic opening set from Christina Walkinshaw, the man himself graced the stage luggage and all. Right away commenting on how great Toronto will be once it's finished.  The crowd adored him from the beginning, absorbing every line of his dry, sarcastic and hilarious set.  A true master of his craft, never miss an opportunity to see Dave Attell.

The next day, we headed to the Mod Club for the wonderful Nikki Glaser.  We weren't quite as sure what to expect as we mostly knew Nikki from a couple of podcasts and watching her kill on @Midnight. Fellow New York City funny lady Sabrina Jalees opened, and she was on fire.  Basically both of these women had us in tears from start to finish.  Nikki Glaser's bit about her surrogate Brenda is one of the funniest things we've ever heard, and we are officially going to follow every project she's a part of from now on.  Brilliant.

We checked out Iliza Shlesinger's final show in the city at the Garrison.  The place was absolutely packed, and she had a captive audience that seriously learned as much as they laughed.  The Monday night date crowd was treated to an interesting experience as she ran down the difference between anothers dream wedding and her dream break up.  She proves relentless in her take on both women and men in 2014, and provides great insight and intelligence on subjects that each find confusing; the other.  She delivered a bold, hilarious, and downright genius performance just a short time before filming her second live Netflix special.

The second last show we saw was someone we've been dying to see for a while now, the extra friendly, super hilarious Pete Holmes.  From the second he hit the stage it was clear he was having as much fun as we were.  The sold out crowd loved every minute, from his old roommate who drank too much milk, to how long it would take him to make love to Ryan Gosling if they were stranded on an island together, there were nothing but great moments with Pete Holmes.  

JFL 42 also brought Chris D'Elia for his first ever performance in Toronto, and one that we will never forget.  Brody Stevens opened with an amazing set that was tailor made for the city, and showed that he'd spent time here and enjoyed it.  D'Elia showed his natural talent for performing by running entirely new material, and comfort with his audience by going back to the planned beginning of the set part way through the show.  There's a sense that Chris D'Elia is on the rise, despite being one of the bigger names to have appeared at the packed Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

To conclude, thank you JFL42, for bringing so many of our comedy heroes to Toronto.  It was way too much fun.  Who's joining us next year?

Wednesday
Oct092013

Review: Marc Maron Live at JFL42

Seeing Marc Maron live after listening to WTF for some time was a highly anticipated experience.  The Just For Laughs festival brought a lengthy list of talented comedians to Toronto for a variety of shows, but the one we were most looking forward to was a bit more personal than most.  In a nearly packed Queen Elizabeth Theatre we were excited to learn that Andy Kindler would be opening.

We've heard Maron and Kindler sit down in the garage for a talk.  We've seen Kindler appear on 'Maron' the IFC tv series alongside Maron, and seeing the two perform together was an absolute gift.  Andy Kindler possesses something that is quite welcoming, and intangible.  The audience absolutely fell in love with Kindler.  His short set was laugh filled from beginning to end, to the point where he stopped and remarked on how well received he is in Toronto.  As the two traded spots and Marc Maron took the stage, you could see the kinship between the two .  Maron remarked that this was likely the best audience response he'd seen Kindler receive, and proceeded to break down certain elements of Kindler's physical comedy, and do some rare, nuanced impressions of some other comedians. 

For most this would be an unorthodox start to the show, but Marc Maron seems so at home onstage that he could start and end just about anywhere.  There are times during the set where he'll pause and candidly tell the audience about elements of his personal life.  Fans of his work will not be surprised by this, though it feels unexpectedly personal; as though there aren't a couple thousand other people hearing his thoughts on getting married a third time, or how his father (a doctor) helped inspire young hypochondria.

At one point he discusses enjoying a cigar outside the theatre prior to the show and a lovely, happily married couple approached him to say they love the podcast.  Maron's response is one of confusion, that these aren't the damaged, emotionally broken people who make up a large part of the WTF listenership.  But there lies the beauty of the whole experience.  

Each and every person in that theatre listens to Marc Maron for their own reasons, and brought their own baggage along with them.  Relief is here.  We laugh at him, we laugh at ourselves, we laugh at the absurdity of the world we live in and feel better.  Everyone feels ok for a while, because somehow Maron has created a unique style of comedy as therapy.  Therapy on a large scale, with a thousand other people.  It's ok man.

Whether intending to or not, Marc Maron has become a leader to misfits and maniacs the world over.  It was an absolute honour to be part of the live show, and we highly recommend his podcast WTF, his television series Maron, and his latest book 'Attempting Normal'.  We also suggest that you check out the Netflix exclusive special 'Thinky Pain'.