MONTREAL — Though there is what seems like an infinite number of shows programmed each night at Just For Laughs, what I find most important about the festival – from the prospective of a site that covers what’s new and great in comedy – are the New Faces shows. As you would expect, these are showcase shows, wherein the fest gives up and coming comedians around the world a proper coming out at a proper venue.
Last night, I sat for both groups of New Faces at the Cabaret. Out of the 20 comedians featured, I can’t say I was blown away by anyone. That’s not to say I didn’t witness some quality comedy, hear some well-crafted jokes or find myself entertained. All three of those things happened— just not as much as I thought they would.
Aussie comedian ADAM HILLS MC’d the first show. Not until halfway through the show did I realize I had seen Hills in New York at Comix. The reason I remembered? He did a bit wherein he showed off his artificial right foot and calf—something he did at the New York show; you don’t forget things like that. He was an efficient host, well liked and all that, though it does makes me nervous when a host gives the audience too much rope at the start of the show, which Hills did, suggesting that a middle aged attorney named Mark in the crowd tell the crowd one positive thing about each comic after their set (which, he did in fact do throughout the show).
MCs for sure need to engage the crowd but there’s a line between keeping them alert and making them too much a part of the show and making them believe it’s ok to be disruptive during comedians’ sets. Luckily, the crowd was nothing but respectful. I guess I’ve grown jaded watching East Coast comedy crowds turn into raging assholes.
Austin’s ANDY RITCHIE kicked things off with a set of almost-too relatable material— jokes about drug commercials and invented illnesses (restless leg syndrome, anyone?) flew like mad, keeping the crowd happy and comfortable but making the comedy nerd inside of me die. I did, however, like the joke wherein he likened his broken showerhead – stuck to the massage setting, or more like a water Gatling gun, Ritchie says – to the rubber bullets of 1960s riot squads during civil rights protests.
MATT KNUDSEN followed with a bit of a more original set. Dressed in a suit and maintaining an amazingly measured and deliberate pace, Knudsen was able catch the crowd by surprise with a G-rated anal sex joke. Married with no kids, the comic is always asked when he plans to start a family. To counter the annoying, probing question Knudsen told the crowd that he likes to get close to said questioner and say about his wife: “She’s not getting pregnant where I’m putting it.” (Pause for laughter) And then the tag from Knudsen: “I mean her sister.” Well done.
When midwesterner MARY MACK took the stage next, I was ready for something a bit different. I had seen Mack online a lot and was looking forward to finally seeing her live. A frail looking, high voiced woman, Mack specializes in the absurd. Half way through her set she told what she felt was an unresponsive crowd, “The more you don’t laugh, the more abstract this crap is gonna get.” She finished off her set with a sing along that found Mack playing the recorder and leading the club in a rendition of “Don’t Fence Me In.” I feel like she cut her set a bit short – or maybe I didn’t want her to get offstage – which was unfortunate.
A very physical CHRIS D’ELIA from Los Angeles – who appears on Showtime’s new show Live Nude Comedy – made the crowd laugh—a lot, though I’m not sure it was his jokes or the fact that he does a funny German accent (a lot) and a funny gangster voice (a lot) and does funny exaggerated leg and arm movements (a lot) or the way he ended his set with his feet 90 degrees toward the ceiling and his face and shoulder nailed to the ground. Impressive and entertaining for sure. Funny? Surely, not.
New Face reviews… to be continuted. Check back here for more Just For Laughs coverage…