Life finds a way. I’ll meet it there in a week.

I’m tired of writing about how I’m tired, so I won’t. Suffice to say that while I’ve still got some truly exciting stuff looming with the last few days of JFL42 (Andy Kindler’s showcases start midnight tonight), I’m ready to reconnect with people in my life. It’s becoming apparent that I’ve been negligent on keeping up with friends, family and all that squishy etcetera. One of my best friends got in touch, obviously eager to talk about a recent important step she’d taken. I just haven’t had enough time for a decent skype.

Another friend came out of the woodwork, a guy I had lengthy chats with often during my transitional phase from home got in touch. I’d messaged him a bunch and hadn’t been getting any responses. Gradually I stopped reaching out. He sent me a great email detailing why he’d been so reclusive, the complications that arose, difficult transitions in his own life and apologies for pulling away. I sent a quick email saying I was bookmarking the conversation and that once life made sense to me again (under a week), I’d get back to him in depth.

I’ve had little bits of time here and there with my girlfriend, but fewer large worthwhile chunks. I haven’t seen my flatmate since this festival started. A wedding invite from friends back home arrived. It’s probably almost time for my monthly parental check in. I have good friends here I haven’t seen in over a month. Then there are the girls I had nice dates with before things got hectic. It’s reminded me that I have a life that I’ve sidestepped, but more importantly that I’ll be happy to go back to.

Quick recap done, which means it’s time to look briefly at what I saw last night. Four shows, all different in tone. First up was Ladystache, a Toronto based sketch comedy troupe. I’m not a big sketch comedy fan for the most part. Silly humour doesn’t do a lot for me, which seems to be the base of most sketch comedy. Ladystache was no exception. Just because it wasn’t quite my thing however, that doesn’t detract from the fact that it hit all the notes it needed to and then some. The crowd lapped it up for good reason. Two talented ladies Allison Hogg and Steph Tolev put together an hour’s worth of disparate sketches. A few callbacks tied some together, but the plots were all over the place. Wonderfully mad, highlights included a pushy travel agent with a propensity for The Mask re-enactments, a frighteningly accurate Björk impression and some uncomfortably funny crowd interaction. Their abundant energy overflowed, budging even a curmudgeon like me.

Kate Berlant followed, in a brilliantly bizarre parody of deadbeat philosophy, naturopathy, fortune telling and everything woo woo. A combination of crowd work and insane stream of consciousness, it was a beautifully modular set playing on the commonality of social pretentiousness. It’s the kind of show you could watch endlessly, changing with the energy of each new crowd. While I was totally on board, the seams strained a little at the hour mark. Cutting it down would’ve been nothing but impact, but my attention had trouble going the distance. She’s one to watch.

I can’t remember the name of Mike Ward’s opener, but he was fucking fantastic. Lots of great one liners that were clever, a little dirty but went down a treat. Mike Ward himself? More like Meh-k Ward. That feels unnecessarily mean, I just like words. The host of The Naughty Show in Montreal, his set felt like a comedian’s equivalent of Cards Against Humanity. Sick humour isn’t funny purely by virtue of pushing boundaries if there’s nothing in it beyond being nasty. An assortment of pedophile jokes, sex jokes and a lengthy but unfulfilling joke (apt) about putting his penis in a champagne glass. Everything felt done before, wrapped up in a traditional “ain’t I a stinker?” mentality. It was broad humour that lacked the sharpness of someone like Jimmy Carr. If you’re gonna do dirty, you’ve gotta at least compensate by making it clever. At some point I left to go to the bathroom and didn’t bother returning for the last 10 minutes.

Arthur Simeon was a hugely likeable dude. Born in Uganda, he regaled with tales of growing up in a house of 4 women, going to an all-boy’s school, culture shock and the true value of cheap bacon. With nothing following him, he continued past the hour, happy to keep going. Having seen four shows, I had to tap out and interact with my poor neglected girlfriend instead of my mistress, comedy.

Another four shows tonight then three more nights. Give me strength. Also chocolate coated coffee beans.

Is this what a break from comedy feels like?

Holy shit, taking it easy last night and tapping out after John Hodgman was the best possible idea. I can’t really be bothered doing a huge review for John Hodgman. He was charming and deliciously verbose. He wasn’t side-splittingly funny, but seeing him perform gave the same feeling as enjoying a well crafted This American Life segment. It was a comforting shift from the standup overdose of the past few days and helped me relax. I was so relaxed that I got 8 hours sleep for the first time in too long and I feel human again.

My mind feels like a well maintained engine, slick and smooth in its operation. Perhaps this is what happens when you don’t rely entirely on caffeine for brain function. After absorbing all this comedy, my brain has tried doing bits and I decided to jot a few of them down. I don’t know if I’m gonna try standup again, but I may as well keep these somewhere in case I want to revisit them. They’re raw and not tuned, in no way would they resemble the finished product. Enough disclaimer? What’s my brain been cooking up?


At some stage when being a nerd was cool again, we decided to spin the wheel of cooldom a bit more and reach for hipster status. Don’t believe me? Have you ever heard someone say “I was reading Game of Thrones (well, actually… A Song of Ice and Fire) before it was a TV show”? If you have, it was probably me.

I’ve stopped watching the show though. Great show, too much rape. Too much rape. For some reason though, people try to justify it. The number of people I’ve heard say “that’s what it was like in those days, rape everywhere.” Seriously? Game of Thrones is a book. It never happened. You’re applying your “historical knowledge” to a fictional fantasy land. Don’t try to justify the rape, it’s unnecessary and gratuitous. If you’re the kind of person trying to justify Game of Thrones rape you’re probably the kind of person who’s already spent hours trying to justify your purchase of truck nuts.

I’ve stopped watching that show though and it’s not because I’m a hipster and it got too mainstream, it’s just that I wanted to get ahead on the next big thing before everyone else. Okay, so maybe I am a hipster nerd, but I’m convinced we’re two years away at max from HBO picking up James Joyce’s Ulysses.

I’m not a “cool nerd” and that’s ok. I’m a nerd, as in loving knowledge and academia. I’m the kind of nerd who treats the site TV Tropes as a leisure activity. I’ve spent so much time on there  I’ve become a trope myself. You can find me under the entry “makes friends with the corn chips at a party”.

Because being overly critical isn’t fun. If you’re the kind of person who begins most of your sentences with “well, actually…” you probably couldn’t wait to tell everybody the Sixth Sense twist in the first act.

We get it, you’re smart and that’s great, but you don’t have to give us an unsolicited red dragon with your brain boner.

So I’m one of those guys (otherwise known as a buzzkill) and it’s hard for me to sustain suspension of disbelief. I thought I was finished, that big Hollywood blockbusters were a bust and I couldn’t enjoy a film for simply being entertaining without holding greater meaning and symbolism.

Then I saw Jurassic World.

When you see the park there are these sweeping aerial shots of this dinosaur utopia. It’s beautiful, there are kids riding little triceratopses, monorails surrounding gorgeous enclosures and a Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville. What more could you want? I saw this and my brain immediately said “I want to go there”. Now the wording here is important, my brain didn’t say “I would love to go there”, that implies some amount of conditionality. The condition being that this movie is fictional. Isla Nublar does not exist. My disbelief was so suspended that I forgot how reality worked.

No spoilers, but eventually something goes wrong. I mean, did you expect there to be no conflict? The big bad dinosaur they make gets lose and things go south. Immediately my brain started yelling “holy shit, they need to get this under control before it starts killing people”. Not because I cared about Chris Pratt (okay that’s a lie. Love that guy) and the safety of park visitors, purely because of personal investment. My brain was telling me “if the security measures take care of it and nobody dies, then regulatory bodies won’t close the park, I can leave this theatre and immediately book my flight.” My brain was so excited by this prospect that it had turned Jurassic World into a documentary.

Wait, is this what happens to Game of Thrones fans? They get so excited by the prospect of dragons it makes the whole thing seem real? Perhaps I’ve gotta reconsider my whole stance on the franchise. Now that I think about it, maybe truck nuts would look funny on my tow bar.

I do like ideas in it, but if I ever used those premises, my “tight five” would be a lot tighter than that. It tries too hard to be clever, without actually succeeding. It needs more callbacks, a better overarching theme. At least I stored it somewhere for me to tweak at a later date. Now to get back to watching real comedians do real comedy. Bring on JFL42 day 6.

Is it fair to call him the comedy equivalent of Primer?

I’m quickly discovering that my energy and enthusiasm aren’t unlimited resources. If my train into JFL42 was running on full steam, it’s rapidly drying out. Work today has been a hard slog through molasses, dreading the lather, rinse, repeat of work/comedy/write/sleep (or more accurately work/write/comedy/write/comedy/write/comedy/write/bed). I’ve taken tonight to chill out and I’m keeping it down to 1 gig. It’s a Monday and I’ll be finished viewing by 8pm. I can eat well, watch Rick and Morty/You’re the Worst and remember what it was to feel sane and youthful. Also weird things are happening with my reviewing. After sitting through so many performances I’m finding it really taxing when a comedian doesn’t connect with me. Being in a show where the rest of the audience laps it up and I’m sitting back peering through layers of meaning, writing and construction instead of just watching a gig is exhausting. It’s affecting how I’m dealing with what I’m viewing and maybe I need a little me time. I’ve found with every show I attend I’m getting increasingly critical about them, as you’ll see in a moment. First up in yesterday’s gigs, Bill Burr.

You can often tell a lot about a comic through their audience and if Burr’s audience is anything to go by, he’s a loudmouthed misogynist post-fratboy whose humour is broad as shit. Gutteral guffaws responded to anything spilling out of Burr’s mouth, the crowd lapping up his act. After viewing his show, 2 things came to mind. 1) You can’t judge Burr by his audience and 2) He’s an immensely talented comedian. Here’s my thing, 80% of his act relies on entrenched gender dichotomies. It’s regressive sexism, pure and simple. It’s placing ideas out there and taking a side, completely ignoring logic because it doesn’t fit with his punchline. There’s a bit about pay disparity between genders where the joke is essentially it’s ok that women earn less because men pay for everything. Checking the calendar, it’s still 2015, right? Buying into this kind of knowledge ignores the fact that men paying for everything is a symptom of patriarchal society where women were considered property, thus the notion of property needing money didn’t compute. Equalising the pay gap and breaking down this inherently sexist behaviour (on both sides) only serves to elevate humanity. This doesn’t make for an easy punchline though, so it’s left unsaid. In the hands of anyone else this material would be total 90s hack. He’s sharp as a knife and it doesn’t come through that he personally believes what he says, but I’d be surprised if his audience understood that it was meant to be a joke instead of taking it literally.

It’s just sad, really, because he’s a fucking electric comic. He knows how to push and is possibly the most relaxed performer I’ve seen onstage. He owns every moment and when he’s on a roll with solid material he feels unstoppable. His bits about the cavalier nature of a pilot during an emergency was a riot. How he’d succeed in the illuminati or why Hitler is the Hootie and the Blowfish of the dictator world were on point. The sexist stuff though? It’s dated. It’s the reason why Burr’s material won’t stand the test of time in the same way Carlin or C.K. will. Tried to watch Eddie Murphy’s Raw lately? It’s “faggot” this and “faggot” that in the first 5 minutes. It feels primordial and frankly, embarrassing. If Burr chose his targets or material a little better he’d be amazing, but I can’t imagine people looking back in 30 years and thinking “oh that is funny, women do like shopping”. You’re so much better than this Burr. I still have faith.

In different matters entirely, T.J. Miller, holy fuck. I’ve never seen a more appropriate modern approximation of the court jester. It’s obvious that he’s brilliant and the layers upon layers of meta commentary on the state of the comedy scene were a far cry from what attendees hoping to see Erlich Bachman expected or wanted. From the slick physical bits to the narratives nestled within set ups, nestled within anecdotes 4 or 5 concepts deep, there was almost too much going on to handle. Judging by the roaring laugh (of relief, by the sounds of it) responding to his declaration of more accessible stuff to follow, the crowd had no idea what was going on in front of them. Spontaneous tangents were everywhere and it was nigh impossible to tell pre-written bits from absurdist improvised rants. He went off for upwards of 5 minutes on the layers of thought behind a front row audience member’s decision to wear his Hal 9000 shirt, which of course resurfaced later in the performance. The show had more concurrently running threads than an episode of The Wire. Callbacks were everywhere, whether they were to multiple offhanded comments within his own set, or riffing on punchlines in the openers’ sets as if they were his own. He finished with a bit that would’ve literally cost him $40 or more. Madness, pure but in no way simple. Is this what transcendence feels like?

Critickled pink. I like how none of this is said with substantive authority. Like, who am I?

Because I care little enough about my own well-being, instead of relaxing, shopping for fruit and veges, eating well and having even a solitary glass of water, I didn’t. I’m en route back from a day of Magic the Gathering frantically writing in order to catch up on life before seeing Bill Burr at 7pm. 90 minutes to eat, drink water, shower, write and get into town would be a feat for a lesser human if the objective was to do any of these things adeptly. C’mon, this is me we’re talking about here. So before I get into what I see tonight, what did I see yesterday?

Double headliner night started with future Daily Show host Trevor Noah. Was he funny? Yes. Is he an outstanding standup? Less sure. The crowd loved him. LOVED him. Every joke landed, belly laughs and applause breaks all around. He didn’t quite grab me though. A trend I find with TV people at comedy festivals is you get a ton of attendees who don’t see a ton of comedy. They’ve shelled out big bucks to see someone at a snazzy venue, so they’ll go in there with their mind already made up that they’re experiencing the divine. Because the person in front of them was ordained to grace the small screen, they must be the funniest around. Geez, this just sounds like I’m a bitter, resentful hipster snob, so I’ll give some explanation. Very few of his jokes explored new territory. I mean, one of his bits was exploring how white perpetrators of hate crimes are never given the label of terrorist. It’s undeniably true, but it’s very well trodden territory. There have been a myriad of think pieces exploring the same notion over the past few years. Former Daily Show host John Stewart already went massively viral with a heartfelt segment on that same thing. A ton of his jokes just felt like they’d been told before by other comics. The longer the gig went, the more I felt it. Here’s the other thing though, I think he’s gonna be a tremendous Daily Show host. He was charming and affable cranked up to 11. His jokes, while not hugely original, crackled with engaging energy and heartfelt sincerity. He has an enthralling presence. He might not have slayed with cutting wit, but everything hit that “funny and because it’s true but awful” note with pitch perfect clarity. His extended bit about wanting to know how he, as a black man, can interact with the police without being shot, was superb and landed perfectly. Whatever I think about him as a standup has no bearing on him as a performer. Get him in front of a camera with a team of stellar writers and he’s gonna make the show worth watching.

TV and podcast host Chris Hardwick was a different nut to crack. Admittedly I’m a fan. I think he’s an excellent, personable interviewer, but I haven’t been totally convinced with his standup prowess. He’s got great timing and is visibly descriptive. His sets I’ve seen in the past have sometimes felt a little awkward and pandery. Extensive touring over the past year or two have honed his skill and it feels much more like he’s convinced he deserves his place on stage. There’s less cringe, less reliance on his known persona and an increased use of perspective. Delving into topics like his father’s death and overcoming anxiety added depth beyond being the “points!” guy everyone expects. Not only does he finally look comfortable enough to be there, but it’s evident he wants to be there and thrusts this enthusiasm into the performance. Dabbling in crowd work resulted in utilising a front row high school student to make the rest of the crowd feel prehistoric (“holy shit. You don’t even know what grunge is”). He took a stack of audience questions, finishing off with a few older bits and a surprise (slightly cringe-worthy) work in progress. His self-described “crusty Seacress shell” still stands above his comedy, but it feels like he has nowhere to go but up.

Moshe Kasher’s Hound Tall podcast flared with some moments of brilliance, but got bogged down under its own weight. The podcast format puts a topic expert on a panel with a selection of comedians. A professor of theology at York supplied her expertise on a topic far too huge to adequately explore in 90 minutes post midnight. Her strong French accent took a little while to get familiar with, but once recognition kicked in her openness and knowledge were hugely charming. AI Madrigal, Kurt Braunoler, Joe Mande and Darcy Michael made up the rest of the panel. Kurt dominated with an extended bit about choosing religions based on what they let you fuck. Mande was on point throughout, in contrast with Madrigal who at best phoned it in. Kasher kept everything running pretty smoothly, and some genuinely interesting discussion of Indian religion and its progressive approach to transgender issues made for great listening. Well worth seeing, but as a post midnight show, things fell apart occasionally. At the end of the night, it was still in my good books.

Get it? Good book? Like The Bible? Ah fuck it. I’m no comedian.

That was probably the cruelest benign in-joke I’ve ever seen.

The festival is in full swing. For the first time in too long I got more 7+ hours sleep. Caffeine continues to be my mistress and muse, enabling me to recklessly lose myself in hours of stand up every night. Day 3 is about to commence and I’m ready to tuck in as JFL42 continues to give up the goods. Before that however, let’s look back at day 2 to see who stood out.

Day 2 begun down at The Sony Centre with my first headliner, John Mulaney. Save perhaps Hannibal, he’s the one I heaped high with expectation. There’s little that compares with someone exceeding what you thought them capable of. Mulaney’s material was top tier, smart and a little sassy. Can the word inoffensive be used in a complimentary fashion? If so, Mulaney earned and owned it. Marriage isn’t exactly undiscovered terrain, but he pushed it into areas that felt fresh beyond tired male/female wedding dichotomies. He milked “why buy the cow?” to rich results and questioned his own role as alpha dog at home. With a combination of left field wording and gratuitous specificity, his charisma shone bright and undeniable. The Sony Centre is a big space, but even as a speck in the distance he was personable, controlling the space effortlessly, building an instant rapport. His crowd control came to the fore when a front row audience member left for the bathroom. Unplugging the mic, he brought the house to a hush. On the fly he crafted an elaborate in-joke with all but the vacant audience member, which worked as one hell of a callback. This is what a headliner should be.

I caught The Crimson Wave next, an ensemble show with local period podcast hosts Natalie Norman and Jess Beaulieu. Like period fairies, they skipped merrily to stage tossing out tampons. The show was a mixed bag with a combination of applause breaks and muted lulls. Degrassi alum and all around hilarious Aisha Alfa killed her set from start to finish, with short song snippets and a rap in ode to the micropenis. The gig as a whole suffered a little from the space. The Rivoli is separated into tables, meaning people group in cliques of 4. If the tables aren’t filled, chairs are left empty and the room feels sparse. It doesn’t get much more intimate than period pieces, so the disparity between the room and the material dropped a weird funk on the show. I feel like there’s no way I can say it was a mediocre gig without being blamed for my white straight cis maleness, so that’s clearly on me. I love queer comedy because it’s compelling and the punchlines have a delightful habit of catching me by surprise. I love feminist comedy because it does an excellent job of dismantling grossly unfair and archaic power differentials. I’ve seen better examples of each. Hell, I’ve seen better sets from both Natalie and Jess before. It felt like an open mic. Comedy Bar would’ve been a much better venue for it.

Off to The Garrison for Moshe Kasher. If Mulaney killed, Kasher left no survivors. Kasher has this talent for attracting self-important white male fans and an even more impressive talent for eviscerating them with crowd work. He doesn’t suffer fools lightly and took great delight picking apart a loudmouthed wannabe comedian travel agent who kept coming back for more. He had the room from the moment he stepped onstage and spent the hour showered in guttural laughter and enthusiastic applause. His evocative physicality was on full display depicting increasingly disturbing examples of catcalling he’d witnessed in his travels. He questioned why we bother shielding old people from rude behaviour when they’ve obviously seen it all before, while burning an image of elderly orgasm deep into the mind’s eye of all attendees. Questioning cultural appropriation, he compared Iggy Azalea’s frank racism to the idea of a white Jewish comic unnecessarily performing tai chi in a set. Perhaps the most enthralling thing about Moshe’s performance was the fact that about 70% was crowd work. Quick witted and cutting, it made for an organic, fresh set. Perfect for his typically whitewashed hipster pseudo-intellectual crowd.

It’s 3am and between starting and finishing this piece I’ve seen another 3 shows. I can sleep when I’m dead. Dead tired that is.

Every day I rue the fact that the song Sledgehammer wasn’t the theme for the show Sledge Hammer.

First day of JFL42 down. To say I’m tired would be an understatement. My body feels like it’s been worked over by a construction team, jackhammers, sledgehammers, 80s cop show spoofs and Peter Gabriel songs. The bags under my eyes feel weighty, as if a village of Lilliputians hang desperately from them. The funny thing is, I can’t even blame the comedy gigs. Finishing just after midnight, I went over to my girlfriend’s place and caught up with her goings on over the past few days. 2am struck and I remembered that work this morning still existed. Life hasn’t given me enough problems, so I’ve been forced to make my own. Day 1 though, it’s only gonna get bigger, louder and later from here on out.

First up, Joe Mande, the self-styled “Drake of comedy”. A tongue in cheek moniker he adopted when pressed to name his JFL42 act, discovering soon later that everybody else just went with their birth name. He rolled with it all the same and parleyed it into a set about aggressive hip hop, his addiction to ISIS videos (the HD cameras, Go Pro footage and full utilisation of the Adobe Aftereffects suite), his own ethnic ambiguity and the hollow nature of his dad’s most treasured memory. His love of Shark Tank prompted some innovative business ideas involving a profitable solution for micropenis owners and a new use for lasik. The material was solid and kept the laughs rolling on, but a combination of thin walls and loud, bassy music threw off his game a little. One ponders why Comedy Bar cranked it up to 11 so close to a performance space, but it wasn’t enough to kill his vibe. Closing the set out with a story about discovering God at Jewish summer camp represented a strong start to the festival. If you’re a passholder, it’s worth checking him out.

Next it was down to The Rivoli for Rachel Feinstein. I’d never heard her material, but I figured it’s hard to go wrong with a comedic “Jewess”. She led off with her laments over a creepy Texan hotel pick up driver and his disturbingly clumsy attempts to have sex with “his first Jewish”. She delved further into dating woes with a comparison of Douchebags and Tools. Without a doubt, the highlight of the set was her bizarre story of Jenna Jameson and her attempts to have sex with the same “Jewish”. Each new development upped the ante, with Feinstein’s impression of an old salty sea dog killing the crowd with every line. Her bit about the Amish hand job was priceless. As a precursor for her first Comedy Central hour special, it’s an excellent portent of things to come.

Last up was Brian Posehn. Admitting to literal diarrhoea issues, the energy was low but somewhat fitting for his constant depictions of his shitty decaying body. Apt choice of words illustrated his stories with almost horrifying clarity, haunting the crowd with accurate depictions of angel cum, getting new tits as a 31 year old male and his perverse joy at leaving his son scarred with patricide. A decent, but laconic set which functioned as a night cap of sorts.

Day 1 done.

Humour is a funny thing.

JFL42 is almost upon us. When I day almost, I’m staring at a night that starts in T minus 90 minutes. 3 comics tonight, then a continual barrage of 3 comics per average each night. Being me, still a kid at heart and excitable brain meats, I failed hard at sleeping well last night. The two alcoholic slushies I had didn’t exactly keep me restful either. I’m running on some other level right now. My heart is beating an extra few times per minute and life seems filtered through a luminescent haze. That could also have a bit to do with the dress your own donut bar plus free cake today at work. OR MAYBE I’M JUST HAPPY, OK? LET ME HAVE THIS ONE.

Ahem. Self-care should be a concern right now, but to be honest I’m operating a little more self-careless. So much to do, so much to think, so what’s wrong with casually tossing out Smashmouth references like it ain’t no thang? Joe Mande, Rachael Feinstein and Brian Posehn tonight. I’ve a right to kick it up a couple of notches.

There was a stack of books left on the lawn outside my house this morning. Having seen the open home signs by the basement apartment to our right, I can only assume the former occupants moved out and the landlords dumped their sundry on the lawn. Books, some French, some English. Physics books, graphic novels and a few on dictatorship. An Ayn Rand novel and a copy of Mein Kamph gave me pause. Was I living next to secret monsters for longer than I realised? I guess the signs were there, those weird arm bands they kept leaving on my porch, that strange silly walk they had, the fact that they used to dress up as ghosts even when it wasn’t Halloween. I guess they were a little weird, but never connected the dots. Dumb. Of course this wasn’t true. Of course my neighbours weren’t secret Nazis. Mentioning the copy of Maus I picked up makes it pretty evident they were just sociology or politics students. Less exciting for sure.

Have we gotten to a point where we can regularly make jokes and roll with referential humour about Nazis yet? I’m asking this seriously, no levity involved. If we’re not laughing at the victims, but at the absurdity of the Nazi mentality? Surely it’s just a known quantity in society that the kind of anti-Semitic vitriol is abhorrent and anyone who would genuinely follow that rhetoric is not a qualified human being? Do we get to forever tarnish their legacy by using the absurdity of their world view as punch up? Isn’t that righteous in itself? Shitting on how ludicrous they were to even think such low thoughts? Their regime no more than the ravings of a madman made real? I dunno man. Being Jewish doesn’t mean I can speak for the rest of them. I’m just one person far removed from the suffering. Does my opinion even matter in this case?

Did it just get unkumphtable in here?

To soon-ema. It’s a theatrap.

How often do you revisit movies that you loved in your younger years? It’s a hard idea to face, something that you held in such high esteem turning out to be a sticky turd pile. It’s so easy to hold this glossy veneer though, your views and expectations age as you do and hopefully your humour does too. Caveat: No longer finding farts funny seems less of a symptom of ageing and more because your humanity has slowly drained out of your tightly puckered hole.

All of that preamble to say that I just came out of a MUFF Society screening of Drop Dead Gorgeous. When I was in my mid teens, I had a massive crush on Kirsten Dunst. Cute as pie and she chose some pretty fun movies to star in too. They weren’t all gems. I’ll admit to watching Crazy Beautiful and whatever the one with Sisqo was (how awesome is it that my phone already had the word “Sisqo” in its autocorrect dictionary?). Drop Dead Gorgeous was my favourite though. A mockumentary based on teen pageants, the script was killer with humour that wasn’t afraid to delve into darker areas without being gratuitous or exploitative. I probably watched it 10 times or so, something which would be a mammoth feat in our time starved culture these days. Going into the screening I had no idea how it’d hold up.

It did though, I openly guffawed and clapped through the screening. Having not seen it for maybe 15 years, the whole script reeked of familiarity. The lines came back to be and held just as much promise as the first 10 times. The film has a fantastic cast. Aside from Dunst, there’s Allison Janey, Amy Adams, Denise Richards an Adam West cameo and tons more I didn’t even pick out. All those things I saw in it through my Dunst shaped rose tinted glasses held strong. Not only that, but lines I was too young for at the time suddenly made sense.

The experience was of course enriched by the work of The MUFF Society. I’ve tried in vain to attend previously, but some calamitous divine intervention has always gotten in the way. I was determined to move heaven and earth to get there tonight and I’m so stoked I did. There was a photo booth complete with props and cut out movie quotes, there was a trivia contest with legit great prizes (I wanted that teen princess sash, goddammit) and a crowd who was so enthusiastic they weren’t afraid to shout out their favorite lines. Maybe I need to defy the pantheon more often and hey to more screenings.

I still feel like revisiting old favorites is a coin flip. Things may have come up heads in this case, but am I really brave enough to revisit Mortal Kombat or The Mask (home of my first screen crush, Cameron Diaz)? Somebody stop me.

If we ran around Church Street, would that qualify as Rainbow Road?

The topic of videogamifying your life isn’t something I’m a stranger to. Today I discovered a new avenue to take this predilection down. I’ve recently become enamoured with jogging in lieu of public transport. I’m no superhuman, but thankfully my training is paying off and the thought of movement with speed doesn’t rock my mind with full blown terror. I’m fortunate to be at this point, but it hasn’t come without work. By no means is this a complete transformation. Fuck off. Sometimes I’m just too tired after a day of work to even think of hitting the pavement. Thing is, with work being a handy 4.5km from home, if I can drag my butt off to the bathroom to change into a pair of shorts I can usually get myself out and onto the footpath with a bit of speed. It’s a convenient way to get around and, if you’re travelling under 5km, usually takes about the same time as public transport. This makes sense if you can imagine running diagonally (a direction that public transport doesn’t go) instead of my legs hitting the ground at a train’s pace (which they don’t do). Utilising my best Pythagorean judgement, I find the path of least distance and see how quickly I can trace it.

So that’s a basic explanation of what jogging is. Great. I apologise for what may have been the least interesting thing I’ve written on here (and I’m sure it faces some stiff competition).

The videogamifying aspect I referenced in the first sentence comes into play in so many ways. When I’m jogging, I think constantly about how I’m feeling. How are my energy levels? What’s hurting? Sure, by breath is coming in raggedly, but is that worsening the more I run? Or is this my base level of breath intake while jogging? I’ve often found that I can be panting like a dog, but 5 minutes later I’m still panting and I’m no worse for wear than I was 5 minutes prior. So I’ve got all these meters to check on, the next is figuring out my rate and how to best utilise it without depleting everything else. If I need to speed up, that’s gonna throw off that careful panting balance and I’ll actually be hunched over, resting my palms on my knees. The most exciting part is looking ahead and tracing your best line of movement. It’s almost like bullet-time in that you can see all the options in front of you and need to establish how you’ll best react to them. Unlike bullet-time however, this all comes in real time, which is a bit of a rush. You’re constantly weaving in and out of obstacles (pedestrians, mostly). If everything’s crammed, a half second turn to your left establishes whether or not there’s room on the road to quickly skirt the footpath blockage.

Today I had the joy of following in another runner’s wake. This guy was probably a tad fitter and faster than me, but the drive of having a goal to follow meant I kept up pretty well. Whenever a traffic light called us to stop, it allowed me to catch up that second or so I was behind him. I’d see the path he took and quickly analyse whether or not I could manage to shoot through the gaps he took (sometimes accelerating with a short burst, like the rush repeatedly tapping a button as fast as possible). If not, I’d need to find a quick auxiliary route. It was a thrill, like running a race just to keep pace, closing the gap inch by inch. My body wanted me to slow down back to its normal rate, but I kept up until he took a right at Bathurst.

Next time I’ll take the fucker out with a green shell.

End scene. Until next year that is.

TIFF is done. The festival I thought I’d bypass entirely ended up absorbing me more than I expected. I guess my more recent preoccupation with television and scatterbrained internet browsing has been better suited to my small attention span. I kind of forgot that I really enjoy getting enveloped by a good film. Something about planting myself in front of a screen and being forced to take in as many narrative clues as possible fits the way I like to take in my entertainment. The pressure of doing so within an environment devoid of external stimuli fits the goal even better. After discovering a source close to me could get me free tickets, I crammed a fair few films into the last week of TIFF. I’ve talked about one or two, but here’s a full (brief) recap:


A Turkish horror movie filled to the gills with dark visuals, sadistic violence and a bleak depiction of the underworld. It looked pretty, but all of that gloss couldn’t hide certain narrative missteps, severe pacing issues and a rather nonsensical plot. The characters were fundamentally unlikeable, which killed any desire to root for them and dampened the terror of what was to come. You could see the seeds of something there, but without illuminating them correctly they failed to grow.

Looking for Grace:

The storytelling technique was another take on that whole Rashomon vignette structure. There were narrative overlaps, allowing for alternative points of view and a bit of humour along the way. The film plodded along quite nicely, with some genuinely charming moments. If you took the film as a collection of its little story circles and character developments, they added up to something with a nice taste to it. Ultimately as a whole though there wasn’t much to linger on. The summation of the film came out of nowhere and by the time it appeared, most of the film’s content had been proven kind of meaningless. It’s not often you leave the cinema with a feeling of “oh, that was it?” and smile. I wanted to like it more than I did.


Speaking of messy endings, Zoom was a riveting enough film to excuse the its one fault. A recursive plot of three interlinked narratives, feeding off one another. Relentlessly funny, daring attempts to subvert known conventions, it went out there with everything on show and came away looking pretty flash. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it to anyone looking for a rapid, challenging but hilarious film. Great fun for possibly not the whole family, but maybe one you could laugh through awkwardly with your angsty teenage art school kid.


Helmed by the makers of the horror anthology V/H/S, was another horror anthology. 5 stories interlinked (noticing a theme here?) by a whiskey voiced radio jock as the characters independently headed south along deserted highways. The 4th story was a bit of a dip, but the rest were all great short tales to jump into. The 3rd story in particular, Accident, was possibly the greatest 20 or so minutes of my entire festival. So tense and darkly comic, it showcased a mastery of the genre. I’m happy to throw out the word “brilliant” without calling on hyperbole. The whole anthology is worth a viewing when it inevitably gets mainstream distribution.


A Polish film tackling the rigours of living in the face of grief. A coroner, his anorexic daughter, the spectre of his wife and a physical therapist/medium are at the centre of this bleakly comic but genuinely moving tale. Slow moving and sparse, but fittingly so. Its sense of comedic timing was impeccable, especially as a counterpoint to its grim subject matter. I left this one with a smile plastered to my face.


I’m biased here, because I would watch almost anything with the gifted and stunning Julie Delpy. The plot wasn’t anything fresh or new, but it showed just how far you can get with some real talent on hand. The casting was impeccable, with a slew of laugh out loud moments. Things got pretty dark, but always enjoyable, culminating in a predictable but earned ending. It wasn’t breaking any new ground, but I loved it all the same.

Lace Crater:

A horror comedy about a girl who has unprotected sex with a poltergeist only to find herself dealing with the consequences. GhostTIs, STDemons, whatever you want to call them. It was a promising idea that I failed to last through. 5 minutes into the film the constant steadycam style shooting made me feel physically ill and I had to leave before I blew chunks on the rows in front of me. It’s a bummer, I was really looking forward to it, but just felt too nauseous to handle.


A road movie I had trouble staying on board for. A woman faces trauma and meanders around the United States trying to find herself. I really enjoy the sense of discovery in filmic road trips, but this one failed to lock me in. After the initial hump, things just kind of work out for her. It seemed like a cluster of tropes stapled together, but with the stakes failing to elevate high enough, I couldn’t get invested. Nothing wrong with the acting, but the characters weren’t particularly compelling. Diane Kruger was great and held things together, but even with Norman Reedus and Lena Dunham on hand, the actors couldn’t fix the film’s structural flaws on their own, try as they might. A kind of disappointing end to an otherwise enjoyable festival.

Previous times I’ve gone to TIFF I’ve waited through needlessly long lines and a ton of hype. It was kind of nice to stay away from anything large. Attending on my own, I could just turn up 5 minutes before showtime and find a seat in the middle of the cinema without issue. While my selection was uneven, I did see some gems among the dross. Free tickets though, I’m not complaining about a thing.