It’s hard to believe that Just For Laughs has been making Montreal comedy fans (and the millions of tourists who have visited our city over the years) double over with laughter for 35 years now. That’s quite a long time to be tickling someone’s funny bone.
Amidst the comedy mayhem and thousands of shows and comedians that have made us crack up two major annual shows have managed to become festival staples in the past decade — The Ethnic Show and The Nasty Show.
The Ethnic Show
Now in its 9th year, the Ethnic Show continues to make fun of our multicultural backgrounds with gusto. It’s impossible for someone who has an ethnic parent (guilty!) to attend the show and not get it. I, for one, most certainly do.
The immensely likeable and very funny Alonzo Bodden is hosting the show this year and he proves to be an excellent host – impeccable timing, great rapport with the audience, smart humour, and Trump-related jokes that had the Club Soda audience howling.
The comedians representing various ethnic backgrounds this year are Jewish-American Jessica Kirson returning after highly praised performances in 2016, international comedian and one of the most sought-after performers Korean Irish-American Steve Byrne, the return to the Festival of audience favourite Italian-Canadians The Doo Wops, comprised of John Catucci and David Mesiano, rising star Portuguese-Canadian Mike Rita, and staple of the New York comedy scene Dominican-American Vladimir Caamaño.
Unlike previous years, except for Bodden and Kirson, all the other comedians in the lineup were completely new to me and it was a real joy to discover them. Original and funny material, interesting stories, even singing, and some home-grown talent. Both Vladimir Caamaño and Mike Rita had a field day imitating their dads and as someone who grew up with an ethnic dad I related immensely. Steve Byrne’s comedy is polished and smart. John Catucci and David Mesiano’s songs about perfectly made pasta were both silly and hysterically funny.
Kirson ended the show with her stereotypically strong comedic act, making fun of her Jewish community, her low self-esteem, and the comedy gigs she plays.
At the end of the day, what always entertains me (and I suspect many others) about The Ethnic Show is realizing how painfully similar we all are, no matter what our ethnic background is. The good, the bad, and the utterly ridiculous… it’s all there for us to laugh at.
The Ethnic Show continues until July 27 at Club Soda. For information and/or tickets go here.
The Nasty Show
The Nasty Show is exactly what it sounds like. It’s nasty. Meaning it’s not PC, it’s not nice, and if offensive language, scatological references, and raunchy sex talk offend you, you should probably skip it.
Pushing the boundaries of what is taboo to joke about; this humorous-yet-raw comedy show encourages audiences to let go of their fear to laugh at the obscurity of life, making this no-holds-barred JFL series an exhilarating experience, this year’s show is hosted by Ari Shaffir and featuring heavy hitters Jimmy Carr, Robert Kelly, Godfrey, Big Jay Oakerson and Yamaneika Saunders.
Ari Shaffir comfortably takes over for long-time nasty host Bobby Slayton. Likeable and funny, he’s a solid host for this year’s run. With the exception of Yamaneika Saunders I’ve seen all the comedians in the lineup before and I enjoy them a lot. Saunders deserves to be up there with them too. Godfrey’s hilarious imitations (from Trump to Bill Cosby) and giggling energy are infectious and I never tire of seeing him perform. Jimmy Carr, Robert Kelly, and Big Jay Oakerson are solid performers. Witty, observant, and very fast on their feet.
Which begs the question: what would possess hecklers to want to take them on? I mean, if you’re a mediocrely funny person with below average wit, why would you want to publicly heckle brilliant minds like Jimmy Carr or Big Jay Oakerson who make their living by their comedic observations and their wit and will destroy you without even breaking into a sweat?
And yet the night that I was there a few hecklers thought it would be a good idea. This was the first time that I can remember hecklers being so bad, so unfunny, and so obnoxiously loud and persistent that they practically ruined the fun for me and affected the rhythm of the comedians on stage. I was annoyed for them and secretly wished that Metropolis security would have kicked them out sooner. I’m assuming that they did at one point because they stopped heckling. Or maybe they just died of embarrassment or passed out from the alcohol they had obviously consumed. Either way, the show went on.
Other than that hiccup, The Nasty Show was up to its usual nastiness, eliciting its traditional groans and guilty laughter from the crowd. It’s a solid lineup and includes a lot of funny, raunchy, “wrong” jokes.
The Nasty Show runs until July 29. For information and/or tickets, you can go here.
DeAnne Smith: Post-Joke Era
I’m a long-time, unabashed fan of DeAnne Smith’s comedy. She’s smart, silly, and very likeable. She could have walked on stage at Mainline Theatre last week and simply limited herself to one joke about how Montreal’s 375th celebrations are “in white years” and that would have been enough for me to write about her. Luckily, she stayed on for another hour and talked about everything from her love for her dog, relationships, women, men, and lots more.
Her solo show runs until July 28 and if there are any tickets left, you can get them here. She’ll also be appearing in Montreal: An Intervention Gala on July 31.
Tons more shows still available for Just For Laughs and you have your pick of intimate solo shows or star-studded galas. All you have to do is find the one that’s right for you and get ready to laugh. After all, until the JFL fun is over, you’re in the “funniest city in the world”, right?