By: Stephen McGill (@steve_mcgill) –
As the second edition of JFL42 descended on Toronto it brought with it some of the finest comedians into the city. Taking place over the course of nine days through several venues throughout the city,, Toronto buzzed with one-liners, sketches and all-around goofiness.
Janeane Garofolo opened the festival at the MOD Club, and her set ran haphazardly through her material, which inevitably ended up scattered around the stage. She made an effort to directly engage the audience talking back and forth with a couple of people in the front row. Her material ranged from descriptions of a hypothetical Brooklyn hipster couple and their adult cloth diaper industry, breaking down a list of her strengths and weaknesses, and how terrifying that people consider Oasis to be classic rock. Despite a bit of trouble holding a strong narrative, she managed an excellent set.
Next set of the event was Jerrod Carmichael at The Comedy Bar. Toronto-based comedian Gilson Lubin opened the show and ran through a quick set of racially tinged comedy, mostly about how defensive he is of the word “Black” when applied to natural weather phenomenon. He kept his material quick and punchy and managed to leave a good impression. As Carmichael took the stage, he received a warm welcome from the capacity audience, and launched into his set of incredibly misanthropic material. As a peer of Daniel Tosh, things got uncomfortable fast. Rattling off a series of jokes about abortion and battered women, he garnered an increasingly nervous response from the crowd. It only made it worse that every time he felt he went too far he punctuated the joke by apologizing for it, which proved to be particularly cowardly.
As the night continued, Marc Maron took the stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre. Maron, who is widely known for his lengthy career in comedy, and his successful “WTF Podcast”, had Los Angeles-based comic Andy Kindler open the show, who ran through a quick set of awkward self-effacing comedy that often touched upon the comedy industry itself, that got the crowd nice and warmed up for Maron.
Maron’s embittered comedy style had the crowd in stitches, running through stories about autoerotic asphyxiation, prostate exams, and whether he hates atheists or vegans more. His smooth pace had the crowd eating out of his hand by the end of his set.
The next night, the Rivoli hosted Etobicoke-based comic K Trevor Wilson, who had gotten rave reviews opening for Sarah Silverman.
Toronto-based comic Dylan Gott opened the show and he made a decent impression, but with jokes felt dated, like disparaging pineapples on pizza and talking about camp.
K Trevor Wilson however was a revelation; his slow, deliberate pacing was perfect, and driving through a fantastic set relating to drugs, sex with fat people, and an absolutely fantastic piece about playing the penis game during Christmas mass, cemented Wilson as one of the highlights of the festival.
After his excellent comedy special last year “Whisky Icarus”, Chicago-based comic Kyle Kinane provided a solid set at Yuk Yuks.
For some reason, Yuk Yuks felt fit to have not only an opener, but also an MC. Filling the MC duties was Christophe Davidson, a Toronto native who was unable to move past the ‘90s. With stilted jokes about how girls are so crazy and how unrealistic The Notebook was, it got old quickly.
Opener Alex Nussbaum, who while an improvement, was still stuck in the ‘90s Jewish comedian mould. He delivered some solid bits though, including a fantastic piece on the Matryoshka Dolls, which he described as an important lesson in disappointment for children.
Kinane then launched into his set with a very telling mutter about how comedy needs more white, bearded entitled comedians. What followed was an hour and a half of some of the funniest comedy of the festival, considering his special only aired last year, it was remarkable that he already had an entirely new set. His pacing was perfect and his material was just self-loathing enough that even some slightly off colour jokes landed well. From talking about road trips across America, winning at drugs, and an utterly hilarious piece about saying, “God bless you” to a cat, Kinane stole the show.
As the festival slowly winded down, my JFL42 experience ended with Hannibal Buress at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.
The New York-based comedian has enjoyed a solid wave of buzz after a couple of high-profile specials. He passed up on having an opener, electing to take the stage with a DJ. After coming on in the manner you’d expect for a comedian, he changed his mind and decided that he wanted to enter like a rapper, as he pumped the music up and ran up and down the aisles as he gave high fives.
His fixation on rap music pervaded his set as there was many hip-hop references, including a significant portion of his set that dissected popular rap songs, like Kanye West’s ‘Mercy’ and Eminem’s ‘Love The Way You Lie’. While some of his set did drag on for a bit, there was a stand out piece about booking a private parade in New Orleans and the logistics around it. There were also excellent bits about an injury received trying to chase down a new York Cab, and resisting getting suckered in by time-share salespeople in Florida. Overall he put on a good set, and with refinement he can only improve.
Overall it was an excellent festival, and despite the strange manner in which tickets were organized, it was still a heck of a lot of fun. Now to look forward to who they’ll bring next year.