Just For Laughs Comedy Festival Review
Best of Zoofest: Noel Fielding. You have 3 more days to see this guy, and for $15 it's completely worth it.
Upright Citizen's Brigade: a good second choice for those with an open mind who like surprises.
Bill Burr is successful in his show "You People Are All The Same" at letting you know "how hard it is to not become a complete piece of sh*t". Yeah, that's his selling point...If you like angry humour involving domestic violence and a whole lot of bitterness, you might like him. Otherwise, he's just a jerk and not worth the hour of your life spent in the Theatre Ste-Catherine.
Outside of Zoofest, Chris Titus is the opposite of Burr - a good guy - even though he uses the same angry-lecture style to get his point across that the world is in need of change that isn't coming ("Neverlution" - $36.65).
John Leguizamo's "Klass Klown" entertains, but can't justify the $47 price tag for the two-hour, one-man show.
So Noel Fielding is the best bet of the fest. At his 1-hour show at the Savoy du Metropolis (69 Ste-Catherine East), you'll spend most of the time laughing and the rest completely amazed at how this guy thinks. Most people are taught to think before they speak, but it's like Fielding missed that day in school, and his words just flow continuously. This guy's so great he should have his own scribe to record every word of his baffling stream of consciousness.
Upright Citizen's Brigade: You might have to let this one grow on you. Each night is different, so you never know quite what or who you're going to get to see, but Wednesday's show featured two comedians doing a solo sketch or two each. The first guy started out with more standard open-mic-style stand-up, but I'm not sure if he was making fun of that kind of stand-up or not, because he moved into creating vocal loops and improvising melodies, harmonies, and sometimes threw in jokes in a few different genres, which was completely different from what you expect at the start of the show. You've got to pay attention because he sneaks into different characters so smoothly, moving into different tones of voice like a chameleon. The second Brigadier was completely unexpected and unique. What started out as an awkward, not (intentionally?) funny, highschool girl turned into an incredible acting display and a whole mini-play where she transformed, believably, into all the characters with their personality quirks. Those included her best friend who got fired from giving tours at a local historical building because she couldn't keep her mouth shut when she was stoned, to the art teacher with a Southern drawl who digressed into far-too-personal anecdotes with every art slide she projected. The best character was the brother, as she made an incredibly believable too-cool guy. She somehow managed to keep all the characters very clear, moving between them in scenes without making it seem fake.
Chris Titus...I want to like this guy, but his material was stiff. He was clearly acting, and it felt like he was reading a script. Speech-giving is an art. Look at politicians. Some of the material resonated, though, and when his timing worked, especially in his impersonations, he was good.
Theatre Ste-Catherine was packed for Bill Burr. I thought that meant it would be a great show, but you've got to like a certain kind of humour to like this guy. He's dark and cynical, and more depressed, and depressing, than funny.
So my Zoofest experience was good overall. It's all I hoped it would be - a mixed bag of gems and duds. The one-man shows, Chris Titus and John Leguizamo, were typically more reliable, but there's more excitement in not knowing if the evening's going to be great or a flop. Leguizamo is a great personality on-stage, even if his dancing goes on too long and he's kind of cocky onstage. The story he tells is entertaining, and only starts to feel a bit uncomfortable when you think about how true it all is. It really is an insider's view of Hollywood and film-making, and the show itself is really tight and well-put-together. It's more of a one-man-play that happens to be hilarious than a comedy show, but it's all entertaining.
The only real complaint I have with the comedians I saw at the Just For Laughs festival is how America-centric a lot of the material was. If material was about politics, it was American politics, and often American history that Canadian just don't know. It makes sense, though, because most of the comedians brought to the festival were American. The opener for Bill Burr spent his set talking about the pronunciation of poutine and basically making fun of Quebecers...to a roomful of Quebecers. That should have been endearingly funny, but it didn't come across well. If the room had been full of Francophones who spoke English or more anglophones who spoke French, he would have gotten even fewer laughs than he did. I mean, I didn't appreciate all the homosexual jokes either, or Burr trying to rationalize how it's okay to want to want to hit women (it's their fault, really) as long as you just don't do it, but you've got to know your audience...Canada isn't America. I would have liked to see some more Canadian comics, and so I have a lot of respect for the francophone side of the festival, where Quebecers are featured prominently. The shows (everything from the French Galas to the one-man-shows and French Zoofest) are well-frequented. Quebec TV follows it all religiously, and the comedians are often house-hold names. The Home-Grown Comic Competition is a great example of what the Just For Laughs festival can do for local talent, featuring all Canadians in a great comedy battle, but for the rest of the fest, the Canadiana element is pretty small. Is Canada not that funny? We've got improv, we've got sketch, we've got stand-up, and it would probably cost less to pay these guy's airfare...
The Just For Laughs festival lasts until July 25th, but you only have 3 more days to see Noel Fielding and the other Zoofest performers.
Just For Laughs