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.