The Best Bits of JFL42

From the underground stages of Comedy Bar to the cavernous Sony Centre, Just For Laughs’ younger Toronto based sibling assembled a smorgasbord of comedic talent. In its 4th year, JFL42 brought 207 shows to 11 venues across Toronto, showcasing both local and international performers. With an innovative interactive ticketing system, the festival offered untold riches to those able to decipher the puzzle of its inner-workings. There was way too much comedy to individually review, so Live in Limbo presents the 42 best bits of JFL42:

  1. Best Value for Money: It feels almost trite to start the list with this, but the check-in ticketing was amazing. With the cheapest pass you could easily see 1 show a night. That’s 10 shows during the festival. With a schedule, good planning skills and a hatred of sleep, seeing 20-30 shows was entirely achievable.
  2. Best Marketable Skill: Mark Little showcasing his ability to turn any audience suggestion into the theme song for an 80s family sitcom.
  3. Best Googlebomb in the Making: Craig’s Ferguson desire to virally spread the use the word “Trump” as a synonym for shit. You know what to do, folks.
  4. Best Stab at Cultural Appropriation: Moshe Kasher’s insistence that Iggy Azalea’s commodification of black culture was no better than a Jewish comic inserting Tai Chi into their act.
  5. Best Moral Quandary: “Is it immoral to jerk off into a baby wipe?” – Chris Hardwick.
  6. Best New Spicy Sex Move: According to Rachel Feinstein, an Amish Handjob is when you repeatedly flop a flaccid penis back and forth.
  7. Best Learning Experience: Moshe Kasher’s Hound Tall podcast unfolded with a fascinating discussion of religion, including a Hindu sect centred on Shiva’s phallus.
  8. Best Handling of a Heckler: An obnoxious shouting douchebag didn’t escape Hannibal Buress’ wrath before being ejected. “You seem like the kind of guy who’s never made his own money.”
  9. Best Bait and Switch: TJ Miller’s offer to move into accessible material was greeted with a roar of laugher. People expecting to see Silicon Valley’s Erlich Bachman instead of a meta level comedy savant were sorely out of luck.
  10. Best Commercial Plug: A discussion on defence against mugging and guest Chris Gethard’s purchase of a manriki chain devolved the You Made it Weird podcast into an extended plug for martial arts store
  11. Best Moves: Kids in the Hall’s Scott Thompson tearing up the dance floor at Comedy Bar.
  12. Best Facial Hair: A hilariously meta Ladystache sketch found Steph Tolev leaving a scene to adorn her character’s chin with a pair of tiny trousers.
  13. Best Reality Check: Chris Hardwick’s crowdwork led him to discover a high school student in the front row, causing the rest of the crowd to gauge their age. “You don’t even know what grunge is.”
  14. Best Walk Out: Ari Shaffir’s Skeptic Tank podcast hosted an earnest and frank discussion on suicide and depression. After Nikki Glaser’s admission of teenage struggles a crowd member shouted “This is meant to be a comedy show” and left the theatre.
  15. Best Energy: DeAnne Smith’s sets were a whirlwind of unrelenting sass and sexuality. A physical gag involving winking and finger guns brought down the house at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
  16. Best Excuse for Marijuana Legalisation: Brian Posehn has no desire to feign interest in his dealer’s stupid hobbies anymore.
  17. Best Unsolicited Life Advice: A homeless woman on the street once told John Mulaney to “eat ass, suck a dick and sell drugs”. In that order.
  18. Best Rendition of This American Life – John Hodgman’s Vacationland performance was a wonderfully enjoyable comic tale of holidays in New England, reminiscent of the aforementioned podcast juggernaut.
  19. Best Use of DJ: Hannibal Buress mammoth set was hugely amped by his onstage DJ. The unique feature opened up a ton of outstanding audio gags. Who knew so many rappers were obsessed with morning wood?
  20. Best Dating Economics Lesson: “The street is littered with dicks.” – Rachel Feinstein.
  21. Best Toronto Reference: Andy Kindler’s take down of Queen West store Fashionably Yours. “It’s not even a pun. Who ends a letter with Fashionably Yours?”
  22. Best Backup Career: Kate Berlant’s adopted the persona of a warped guru/fortune teller/philosopher, catering her entire set to audience interaction. Any comics need a life coach?
  23. Best Excuse for Meat Eating Vegetarians: Kyle Kinane has no moral issue with vegetarians adding chicken wings to their diet. It’s not like the chicken even needs them.
  24. Best Musical Performance: Ladystache’s Allison Hogg’s pitch perfect Björk song about a moose with juice in its hair.
  25. Best Tony Award Winner in the Making: Chris Gethard’s set was practically a one man show. Meshing harrowing admissions of his battles with mental illness with tales of his hilariously unprofessional therapist and punchlines that came out of nowhere made for an undeniably gripping performance.
  26. Best Explanation for Calmness Under Pressure: Bill Burr seems to think pilots’ cavalier attitude during an emergency is a sign of warning messages prerecorded in a studio.
  27. Best Love Connection: Moshe Kasher’s crowdwork uncovered a couple who’d come together over their mutual love of The Human Centipede.
  28. Best Parenting: John Mulaney’s tales of his father’s cold-blooded sense of humour pulled some of the biggest laughs of his killer set.
  29. Best Business Idea: Joe Mande’s Shark Tank obsession led him to conceive of, a site where people pay $1 to see your naked pictures for 20 minutes. Every time they do, you get paid a dollar. Micropenis owners would be lucratively rewarded for the curiosity of others.
  30. Best Wakeup Call: Trevor Noah’s exploration on how not to be shot by a cop as a black man expertly tip toed the line between tragedy and comedy.
  31. Best Doug Loves Movies Nametag: The theatre was filled with creative pun-laden posters, but the clear crowd favourite was just a piece of corn with someone’s name scrawled on it.
  32. Best Impression of The Wire: You know how The Wire sometimes has 18 or so plotlines running simultaneously? That’s how TJ Miller tells jokes.
  33. Best Lucid Thought: “We’re on a planet floating through space. Who cares who won the sports game? We’re flying right now.” Pete Holmes
  34. Best Social Perspective: “Growing up in Uganda some people had electricity and some didn’t. It wasn’t that different though, the people with power didn’t even have microwaves.” – Arthur Simeon.
  35. Best Celebrity Encounter: Rachel Feinstein found herself spurning sexual advances from Jemma Jameson. Her strategy? To respond like a salty male sea captain surveying the endless oceans.
  36. Best Plot Analysis: The crowd left the Doug Loves Movies podcast better than they came with Sean Cullen’s detailed plot rundown of the Santa Paws trilogy.
  37. Best Onstage Epiphany: Amidst Chris Gethard’s therapy session with Jonathan Katz, Katz stopped him mid-sentence. “Can you say stress again?” Gethard complied. “Why do you pronounce it like that? Shtress?” Gethard’s eyes widened, mind blown. “You’ve really helped me, doc”.
  38. Best Plagiarism: More than once at his live podcast, Pete Holmes repeated Amir Blumenfeld’s punchlines to larger audience response. “I want a doctor to give cancer results with a bingo cage. Your cancer is B-9.”
  39. Best Sign that Good Comedy Pays Well: In an almost vaudevillian closer, TJ Miller showered his face in can after can of Evian water spray, which he dubbed the most American product that exists. The bit literally costs $40+ every time he does it.
  40. Best Prop Gag: A few minutes into his set, Hannibal announced he was wearing fake glasses and tossed them into the crowd. He donned another pair, then tossed those into the crowd proclaiming “I got lasik, bitches.”
  41. Best Send Off: At the Alternative Show, Mark Forward did a final Canadian performance of his brilliant Fancy Hats bit. A 10+ minute surreal convergence of convenience stores, dying estranged children and flashdance style dancing set to 2013 pop ballad Say Something. R.I.P. Fancy Hats.
  42. Best In-Joke: Noticing a front row audience member had left the theatre, Mulaney unplugged the mic. He informed the crowd that at some point in the set he’d say “you know what we say in Toronto” to which the crowd would respond “we love pancakes!” 40 minutes later, we responded, leaving an enraptured audience barring one perplexed member of the front row.

Everyone involved in bringing JFL42 to Toronto deserves a huge round of applause. The quality of talent on display was unbelievable. After stumbling through its teething phase, the festival has finally found its feet. If you’ve got any inkling towards comedy, do yourself right and snag a ticket next year. Hearty laughing is cardiovascular, you’re only cheating yourself by not going.

About author

Music writer at Live in Limbo. With an avid passion for all things live and loud, Leon gets down to business. Once he finds his centre he is sure to win. His prose is swift as a coursing river, with all the force of a great typhoon. Insight with strength of a raging fire, mysterious as the dark side of the moon.