MONTREAL – Paris may be the city of lights, but its funky, badass little sister Montreal is all lit up like a Christmas tree this week. And few individuals seem to shine more vibrantly than the 16 who stood onstage last night at the L’Astral club and gave the world a reason to stand at strict attention. Indeed, the New Faces show of Montreal’s famed Just For Laughs comedy festival has long been a rudimentary staple of the fest’s 29 year legacy, and this year’s crop of courageous young comics is certainly no exception to the quality standard.
So, let’s begin rapping about the first set of stand-up star hopefuls, shall we? Oui oui.
The first of Wednesday’s two New Faces shows proved with its line-up to be a versatile and broadly scoped range of charming, eager crowd pleasers. Sandwiched between alternately reflective and interactive bits from set MC Julian McCullough, himself a JFL New Faces veteran, the set list kicked off with Yannis Pappas, a jovial and cherub-faced New Yorker who provided some remarkable insights on the NRA, divorce, and the absence of black ghosts in the other-worldly racial canon. (Hasn’t he seen Ghost Dad?) Pappas displayed an easy, enjoyable use of the stage space that gave his punch lines a familiar, conversational feel as he paced comfortably around the platform. “You always have to design your mom’s Match.com profile for her,” he quipped, gesturing knowingly. “It needs to read along the lines of ‘cougar ready to fuck again.’”
Next up was Barry Rothbart, a devilishly handsome mensch who pontificated on a number of subjects, including the genesis of a male dancing superstar. You know, when the dad shouts “you will never be a dancer; you’re a boy!” to his heartbroken son, who then goes on to achieve Baryshnikov-levels of success and fame… well, you probably should hear Rothbart share the motif in his own words sometime. Really, Rothbart has quite an active imagination, and his cunning ability to pantomime banal scenarios to elaborate comic effect shone through with a delightful comic flourish.
Ali Wong, the third comic to hit the stage, was easily one of my favorites of the evening – a brassy, ballsy, take-no-prisoners kind of gal who could probably cuss as easily as she could curtsey. Wielding a brash cadence that invited audience members to get comfy with her rhetoric before turning it roundly on their heads by shouting phrases like “gatekeeper of the hole,” Wong most certainly is the type of stand-up who will stand out like no other. Her most memorable line: “This [motioning to mammary area] isn’t even real. I wear the kind of bras that if you put it on the floor, it would look like the floor had tits.”
Truly, Wong’s was a tough act to follow, but thankfully Jerrod Carmichael was more than up to the challenge. Parlaying an enduring sense of false modesty into a slew of off-color quips, the North Carolina native exuded an aw, shucks demeanor throughout the duration of his set, even as he spewed knowledge about Casey Anthony and stripping one’s way through college. “Strippers don’t like it when you try to make change for a $20 on the stage,” he winked knowingly, before expounding upon the small business loan he’d need to take out to afford supplies needed to pull off a robbery of the same bank.
Following Carmichael, an adorably elfin comic named Mike Recine took to the microphone, where he spent his allotted time pontificating on just what might constitute a “good” pedophile, amongst other equally cringe-and-cackle worthy bits of ribald humor. The audience seemed to respond especially well to Recine’s story about his autistic brother, who was disqualified from a Special Olympics event for running during a walking race. “You’re going to punish a challenged person for outsmarting the competition?” he quipped to much guffawing. And hell, you’ve gotta admit, he’s wielding a bit of logic to complement his savory wit. Certainly, this is the stuff of classic comic gold.
If Norm Macdonald were to ever find himself in need of a kidney transplant, he might be wise to solicit a spare organ from Nick Rutherford, himself the spitting image of the caustic comic. And in the same spirit as the godlike Norm, Rutherford put his animated storytelling skills on ceremonious display, at one point miming an overzealous man riding a jet ski while simulating freaky gyration, close to fornication. (Sayeth the great Ice Cube.) “He was acting like it was the kind of sex you’d need to be wearing a cowboy hat for,” Rutherford dished to a thunderous rumble of club-wide laughter.
In Cy Amundson, the long extinct Viking race may finally have its own representative comic boy wonder. As tall, blond, and striking as any of his horn-wearing ancestors may have been, Amundson, a Minnesotan, invoked familial and biographical-themed humor that painted a vivid portrait of his large, perhaps equally rowdy kindred. (Amundson is one of eight siblings.) Delivered in a rhythm that rung reminiscent of a young Jerry Seinfeld, the man called Cy never lacked for enthusiasm for his material, and thus created an infectious tone of good-natured but cuttingly wry mic time.
Last on the first round of New Face comics was Streeter Seidell, a comic as unique as his unusual moniker. With one broad introductory stroke, Seidell let us know that, while he’s not quite fat yet, he’s certainly in the process of obtaining girth, and has the peanut butter jar injury to prove it. Of all the comedians who performed last night, Seidell boasted perhaps the most original and inspired analogies sprinkled in throughout his short dance with the stage. My personal favorite: “Sex with a condom is like eating a sundae with chopsticks. Sure, I’ll get it finished eventually, but not without much frustration and disappointment in the process.”
If you want to check out any of these comics in action, go to our post, which announced all of the New Faces comedians here.