Toronto’s Just For laughs iteration, JLF42 was in town and I was very excited to see what it had to offer. How it works is you get a set number of credits to prebook shows, and then as you attend those shows, you get your credit back to book other shows. I was able to see 41 performances at 12 shows over the course of the week. Here’s my review of those shows!
Dave Attell ft. Nikki Glaser @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre
My first show was a free last minute show for credit holders; Dave Attell with Nikki Glaser opening. Glaser, known for being a bit raunchy, did not disappoint. She had the crowd in stitches with her very honest taken on dating, sex, and being a smart women in a dumb world. Dave Attell was a little shakier. Dave is known for being filthy in the best possible way, and for the most part the crown audience was on board, but Attell’s crowd work seemed to fall a bit flat with the Toronto crowd. He sprinkled in some local references that weren’t too forced which was a big hit, and we all walk away feeling very entertained.
Mike Birbiglia ft. Chrs Gethard @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre
I have been itching to see Birbigs live for years, and when the opportunity arose, I jumped at it. Open the show was New Jersey native Chris Gethard who shared tales of marriage, growing up on the mean streets of NJ, and gaters. Chris was a storyteller, much like Birbiglia, so he was the right choice as opener. Gethard was pretty funny, but Mike Birbiglia definitely stole the show. Birbigs tells long stories, which are brilliant and funny, and he brought all of that to the Queen Elizabeth Theatre to a packed house who hung onto his every word. Around the middle of his hour set, a heckler interrupted and Mike handled it beautifully. If you are unfamiliar with Mike Birbiglia’s work, I highly suggest you check out his special ‘What I Should Have Said Was Nothing’. You will instantly be a fan.
Matt O’Brien and Christina Walkenshaw ft. DJ Demers @ Bad Dog Comedy Theatre
This was my first ‘local’ show of the festival. Hosting was DJ Demers who was pretty funny and did a great job warming up the crowd. I’ve known Matt O’Brien for a few years and he is one of the funniest guys I know. Matt came out like a ball of energy and crushed the room. His fresh take on relationship humour was a welcome change from a lot of what’s out there. Christina Walkenshaw is the grown up version of the girl you played with in the fourth grade who knew all the swear words first and didn’t mind getting mud on her dress. Christina recently went on 50 Tinder dates for her blog, and shared with us some of her hilarious insights on the Toronto dating scene.
Tig Notaro ft. Johnny Pemberton @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Johnny Pemberton opened this show and had all the confidence of someone with much better material. He was pretty darn awful, although the crowd seemed to love him, which prompted me to wondering if someone had spiked my beer with crazy pills. If you have the chance to see Johnny Pemberton, don’t. Tig Notaro brought her deadpan hilarity to Toronto and had the crowd in the palm of her hand. Tig went through a terrible time a few years ago, losing her mother, ending a long term relationship and being diagnosed with cancer all within 6 months, so it was amazing to see her bounce back and be at the top of her game.
True 42 @ Comedy Bar
True 42 is a mixed bag of who’s around and feels like doing a 10 minute set. The show was hosted by Graham Kay who did a great job of keeping the crowd amped up. Some of the best of the night were Tim Rabnet, Arthur Simeon, and the completely underrated Jon Dore. Dore’s brand of comedy is not for everyone, but when it connects, he knocks it out of the park.
SiriusXM Top Comic finals @ Randolph Theatre
SiriusXM was on the hunt again for their Top Comic and had the finals at this years JFL42. We got to see some great acts from across Canada including Darcy Michaels, Chantel Marostica, and Faisal Butt who took the top prize. We were also treated to a headlining set by Jon Dore who crushed it once again.
Paul F. Tompkins @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre
Paul F Tompkins is in league of his own. Known as a high brow comedic storyteller, and brought hilarious tales of learning to drive, proposing to his wife in the dark, and the exclusive magic castle. This was by far the most packed show I attended, even the cheap seats were full!
You Made It Weird podcast live @ Randolph Theatre
Pete Holmes’ You Made It Weird podcast is a riot. Pete is a huge crowd pleaser with a very loyal fan base, and they packed the Randolph for YMIW. This episode featured Joe Derosa, DeAnne Smith, Brody Stevens and unfortunately Johnny Pemberton. The lineup was mostly solid, and they covered some great topics, including tales of losing ones virginity (DeAnne in a graveyard), which bodily functions we would get rid of if we could, and Pete and Joe waxed nostalgic about things that made them laugh 10 years ago.
Mark Forward @ The Rivoli
Mark Forward is hilarious. I had the amazing pleasure of seeing his headliner set at The Rivoli on Queen, and for the 15 of us in the room who were picking up what he was laying down, it was an absolute treat. Marks act is part stand up, part performance piece, all hilarious. If Mark Forward is in your town, go see him!
The Alternative Show @ Comedy Bar
The Alternative Show is hosted by Andy Kindler, who was just meh. I’ve never liked the ‘hackey comedian’ schtick, and that seemed to be all that he had. The bill was chock full of alt-hilarity, running the gambit from Amanda Brooke Perrin’s youthful tattoo indiscretions to David Dineen-Porter’s bizarre and amazing performance piece. Another comedian worth mentioning is Brody Stevens. I never really ‘got’ Brody Stevens before this show, and then something clicked with me and I was able to see his genius. One of my favourite acts of the fest.
Doug Loves Movies podcast live @ Queen Elizabeth Theatre
I was not familiar with this podcast before attending, but I know Doug Benson from Super High Me and @Midnight, so I knew I would be funny. The podcast featured Jon Dore, Brody Stevens, Mark Forward and JP Manoux, and included movie themed games, hilarious banter, and even prizes for the audience. The structure kind of went up in smoke (both figuratively and literally) but no one seemed to mind the chaos of jokes coming from the stage.
Best of the Fest
For my best of the fest, I am going to have to say Mark Forward takes top prize. His hour at the Rivoli was beyond brilliant, and he was a riot on Doug Loves Movies. I cannot recommend him enough.