After plundering my future happiness, I guess pirates were on theme.

Hey team, I made an adult decision today. This past week I’ve basically been following my cravings. With dwindling sanity, my capacity to refuse urges has been at an all-time low. Is there something delicious I could eat? In my mouth immediately. Could I go for a drink? Why not several? Do I have the chance to go home and get some sleep or stay out for one more show? Meh, who needs to rest and regenerate? YOLO and FOMO combined to create a disgusting cocktail of consumption.

Today though, with five hours between the end of Jen Kirkman’s podcast recording and my next show, I had decisions to make. I’ve had very little downtime in the past week. My body is way beyond the point of crying out for it and has instead resigned itself to blindly follow all of my brain’s baser impulses. I’ve been needing a haircut for ages. I’m back to my default Lego man locks. My beard is haggard and overgrown, to the point where it’s begun annexing my neck. The adult thing to do would be to get a haircut, then go home and relax before my late (inevitably) drunken night tonight.

What I wanted to do, however, was to go out and play Magic. A new set was released last week, so this week a local store is doing $10 draft till you drop sessions. It’s $10 to draft and the winner gets their next draft free. It often ends up with players splitting in round two and going off to play another draft for $5. I figured it might be tight, but I could get one draft in, race home and do a drive by before heading to my 7pm show. Not ideal to set me up for a long night, but more fun for sure.

I thought long and hard and decided to do the responsible adult thing. I was shaggy (it wasn’t me) inside and out, but with a quick chop I could be Mr Bombastic. I descended into the warren of pathways where my hairdresser worked and walked in the door. He was clearly very busy and told me to either come back in two hours or on Tuesday. I tried to do the responsible thing and it blew up in my face.

So I cut my losses (a.k.a my loss of a cut) and went to draft Magic instead. I DIDN’T LIE! I told you all that I made an adult decision. I may not have mentioned that after the adult decision didn’t work out, I reverted back to my hedonistic, devil may care, laissez-faire, debonair affairs. It was just up the road, so I strode up there and registered tout de suite. It was fun. My deck was hot garbage. After first picking a Deadeye Trackers, I ended up grabbing a bunch of grixis coloured pirates. I planned to get a ton of Pirate’s Cutlass and Siren’s Lookout and going HAM. Things were a little iffy and a Lurking Chupacabra came my way. There was nothing else in the pack, so I picked it mostly jokingly. I found another one in the next pack and wondered if I could grab a stack of explore creatures. I got one or two sub par ones to go along with my Tracker and Sirens. It was a mess. I had a Siren’s Ruse for pirate/explore ETB shenanigans. My two Chupacabras did good work if they could stick on the board, but I failed to draw adequate mana most of the time. It was fun, but I got totally stomped by a similar but better deck. I guess that’s what I get for making the adult decision.

Wait, did that sound like a massive consequence? I had fun. I’ve effectively learned nothing. HEDONISM ALL THE WAY.

Now let’s see how I feel at 11pm.

Mansplains trains and automobiles.

Do you ever create a monster? No, this isn’t about that time you grafted bear arms onto a Shetland pony. I mean building someone up to be evil incarnate. It’s so easy to do. We’re increasingly living in a black and white world and simple disagreements can quickly become gaping ideological chasms. I haven’t learned how to deftly cross that divide yet, to build a bridge to common ground. What am I babbling about? Story time!

I was looking for a seat at the Jen Kirkman show. I saw two seats open next to this old beardy dude, which was perfect. I had a friend coming and I could hold her a seat. I asked “is this seat taken?” “Well there’s some guy sitting in it now.” He replied. Oh right, he was making a funny. We were at a comedy festival. My grasp on reality at this point was tenuous at best. I smiled. I saw that his JFL42 app was open and that he’d seen 20 or so shows, had 12 credits. Seemed like a comedy fan. I’d never seen Colin Quinn, but I’d had him pegged as my Friday 9pm act. Thing was, Todd Barry had opened up a 9pm Friday show. I’d seen Todd the year before, but I was pretty tired at the time. I thought he was great, but couldn’t remember his jokes. I could see Barry again. Still, Quinn was an unknown quantity. My friend said he was ex SNL. Had a one man show. I love one person shows as an exploration of character and themes. Still, if this guy had seen a bunch of comedy, maybe he could weigh in.

I asked if he knew Colin Quinn’s material or style. “New York” he replied. I inquired further, as New York was a city (and I guess a State Of Mind, depending who you ask), not necessarily a style. “Like Bill Burr, but more of an asshole. Do you like Bill Burr?” He asked. I paused for a second and gave my usual tired “hot take”, that I thought Bill Burr was an excellent stand up who should be doing much better material for someone with his skills. Lots of straw manning, etc. “Well if you think Burr is an asshole, Quinn is more of one.” I sighed and pushed for more. Someone can be an asshole and do clever, thought provoking stand up, right? What kind of material did he do? “He’s New York, that’s all you need to know.” I considered this branch well and truly fruitless, so I moved on. We chatted about what else we’d seen at the festival. He’d loved Gina Yashere, which I wholeheartedly concurred with.

“See” he started “she didn’t do that thing I hate. You know when a gay comic gets up and all their material is about being gay? You can be gay and still have thoughts about other stuff. Like Gina. Your sexuality isn’t your entire personality.” I said I knew what he was getting at. Like when a comic smokes weed and that’s all they talk about. It’s for sure a big part of their life, but they still have a life outside of that. “Exactly. We saw this comic the other day at The Drake. She was Non-Binary something something, but she had sex with women. So I thought to myself ‘you’re just a lesbian’. You don’t want to be defined, but you’ve spent your entire act doing just that. We don’t care about what your identity is as long as you’re making good comedy, right?” I sighed, it was gonna be one of THOSE conversations.

I’m not gonna repeat the conversation verbatim, but it was a perfect exercise in frustration. I tried to open a platform on this concept of non-binary, while also navigating the original treatise on making your identity the whole of your comedy. I explained how I wasn’t there so I can’t have a full understanding of their act, but also knowing how someone identifies can certainly help add flavour to their comedy. It didn’t go well, but if there’s a silver lining, I think I got a greater appreciation of how mansplaining feels. I’d listen to what he said and start to respond, then after about five or six words he’d counter with his ideas without listening to me or hearing mine out. He was incredibly patronising, flat out assuming that he possessed a level of knowledge I couldn’t come close to matching. It was frustrating, considering I do see quite a decent amount of comedy. I quite probably spend more time watching LGBTQ+ stuff than he does (and no, I didn’t get the sense he was really homophobic or transphobic, but rather didn’t understand and wasn’t making the space to) and likely was coming from a platform of knowledge. Because of our age disparity, he assumed the position of wisdom and ignored the notion that I could actually know what I was talking about. I was frustrated and ended up telling him that since we were mostly arguing the same thing but there was still a lack of listening/compromise, we were probably better to cut it there and watch the show. I was sure he wasn’t a bad person in general, but progress was pretty unlikely to be made.

Then 20 minutes into Jen Kirkman’s performance he started chewing gum with an open mouth like a goddamn neanderthal. Fuck that guy. I’m sure he curb stomps newborn kittens recreationally.

And what? I thought I was hot stuff because I’d just bought a sweater?

It’s funny, but I can already feel the quality of this entry declining with each word. This week has seemed like an exercise in sleep deprivation. I don’t know how much caffeine I had yesterday, but it may have exceeded the amount of regular ol’ water I drank. I think back to my early 20s, how burning the candle at both ends was a symbol of pride. I didn’t drink coffee and I slept for around 5-6. hours per night. I don’t know what the appeal was. Maybe it was some misguided desire to make life an uphill battle. Like how some gamers play on hard mode. They’ll die again and again, but the challenge makes it worth it. Come to think of it, at that age every day was one little death after another. I’m not gonna say that at 30 everything’s come together, but I’m getting by.

To that extent, I think that I appreciate little things, but still don’t recognise just how lucky I am to have them. Take yesterday for example. Toronto lately has been going through a peculiar but not unwelcome heatwave. It’s been getting up to 25 Celsius or so, which is much less autumnal than one would expect for late September. I left a show in shorts and a T-shirt last night and I was freezing. It’d dropped about 10 degrees in a few hours. I had time to kill before my next show, so I did something that’d be out of reach for many who are less fortunate. I bought a new sweater. It was 8pm on a Wednesday, most places were closed. While strolling, shivering, I stumbled upon a Winners. Discounted clothes. I didn’t need more sweaters, I’ve got a bunch. I needed one then though. I couldn’t afford getting sick this close to the end of JFL42. Not only did I get to take my time and try on a bunch of stuff, but I didn’t think twice about forking over $23 for something I needed in the moment. Yeah, I’m gonna wear it again, but that’s not the point. I’ve reached a level of comfort where I can indulge a need if I want to alleviate temporary suffering. That’s amazing and deserves my acknowledgement. Not as a pat on the back, but an understanding that things are going pretty well and any complaints should be filtered through that recognition.

With that said, I escaped an awkward situation last night, which was only awkward because I’m a dick. I sat down to a show and was chatting with the people next to me. Then a dude in the row in front joined in. As someone who joins in random conversations all the time, this should be a teachable moment. It won’t be. The guy kept talking to me like we knew each other. He eventually mentioned that we’d met at a previous festival. I vaguely remembered him. A massive comedy fan, he came out each year, bought the biggest pass and saw as much comedy as he could. Once again, this could be an alternate universe me. That’s something I’d do. Thing was, this dude was kind of a dork. Awkward, uncool and I was way too tired to force polite conversation. It was obvious that we were heading to the same gig afterwards and I really didn’t want to spend the 90 minutes between in his presence. I scuttled out quickly and ran into a friend.

We chatted, but when we got to the bus stop he was there. He just joined in our conversation and called me by name. Shit, I had given him that information. What? He asked. I exist with a coronet of male privilege adorning my dome, I’m not used to having to be wary of what information I give to people. My friend and I sat down on the streetcar and kept talking. He kept joining in as if he was a part of the conversation. I stayed on my phone, messaging another friend to at least see if she would be joining me at the gig. When the time came for my stop, I stayed sitting. He got up. My eyes were burning holes through my phone as I ignored his presence. He may or may not have looked back, I don’t know. A cavalcade of equestrians could’ve trod past and I wouldn’t have looked up. He got off. I released the breath I was holding, said goodbye to my friend and got off at the next stop. I killed time at a Subway (almost walked into an A&W until I saw him there through the window.

I don’t know if that’s really a story. If anything, it’s the story of me being an arsehole to a lonely stranger in a foreign city. So basically, I ignored the version of myself in Portland because he seemed chronically uncool.

Geez, karma’s gonna have a field day.

We even had the same book. Can she be my new bestie?

JFL42 has passed the halfway mark. We’re rounding the final four days and there’s still a ton of great stuff to come. The line up this year hasn’t been as strong as recent years, but I’ve seen a bunch of great acts regardless. Last night may have been one of the best nights yet.

Seeing Kyle Kinane at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre, I finally got to use my “Master” level reward (for attending 12 shows). It lets me skip the line and walk right to the front. It’s pretty great, but also impossible to not feel at least a little like a douchebag. What gives you the right to walk past 30 people who are waiting patiently? A little piece of plastic, apparently. I mean, I had it, was I going to not use it? You know what? On second thought, fuck those plebs. I DESERVE THIS. THE WORLD IS MY TOILET AND I MANIFEST HOW SHIT GOES DOWN. *Ahem* It was pretty sweet though, even if it played into my own latent megalomania.

I got to see Liza Treyger twice last night. She opened for Kinane, then I went off to see her solo show. She was fantastic. Her bits weren’t all super polished, but she had a bunch of gems. Most importantly, she did a great job of challenging existing social structures, which is kind of the point of comedy. She had this extended audience interaction piece that centred on a societal disregard for the female orgasm. She was totally right. It’s absurd that so much ink has been spilled on how to make your man spill, but so little comparatively on how to facilitate female pleasure. It’s one of the many absurd double standards that people rarely challenge, no doubt because a huge proportion of men still consider women to be chattel. She did this little bit where she mentioned that she’d just bought a book on how to help a woman orgasm. She then asked the men in the audience who’d read one. Mine was the only hand that went up. I looked around, dumbfounded. People giggled to themselves, as if it was sort of a silly notion. Seriously? That’s some exception proves the rule sort of shit.

Tonight heralds the first midnight Andy Kindler show. I’m burning the candle at both ends and it’s reaching my core. Pray for Mojo. Given my fragile mental state at the moment, I’m sure it’s gonna be bonkers. But do you know the best part? I’M GONNA WALK STRAIGHT TO THE FRONT OF THE LINE. SUCK IT, DWEEBS.

Or I could go astral travelling. Might be a nice vacation.

I only saw one JFL42 last night in an attempt to catch up on sleep. A combination of unseasonable heat and the cat being an anus made that decision null and void. So now I’m validating the lyrics to Katy Perry’s Firework. I feel like a plastic bag floating in the wind. Except it’s been previously used to hold rotting meat. Plus there’s a hole in the bottom, leaking the putrescent juices everywhere. Oh, and the meat was heavy, so the handle got stretched out till it broke. I think I may have accidentally suffocated a dolphin too. The burden of weariness is a grim load to bear.

I was thinking today how much it bums me out that “Influencers” exist. People whose job it is simply to be popular and shill on social media. It’s disturbed the natural order of being. The high school socialites weren’t meant to have viable careers post high school. They were supposed to peak at 17, then dwindle away into insignificance. Now they get free products and a shitload of money to exist and be admired. Maybe I’m just jealous. Of course I’m jealous. Sigh. I think selfie skills might legit be a more important life skill than algebra now. Too bad I’m awful at both. What viable career path is left to me?

I was also thinking today how weird it is that soft skills aren’t really taught in schools. It was oft spouted rhetoric that kids should be learning budgeting in high school. So many people don’t come by it organically and it’s pretty damned important. Knowing how to balance income against outgoings and forecast your needs is huge. Aside from this, teaching social skills would be a massive help to so many. Reading facial, tonal or conversational cues and hints could drastically change everyday interactions. Understanding how to be considerate to other viewpoints, to better interact in public or in the workplace would be a boon all across society. We’d hopefully see a ton less invasive/stalker-y behaviour. I’ve heard that at least here in Canada, consent is becoming part of the curriculum (which is amazing). This seems only a sidestep from that. Imagine how much better virtually any fandom could be. No more vicious nerds stabbing one another in the eyes with pens. What a wonderful world.

Ugh, even this paltry offering of writing has been a chore. I don’t know how I’m gonna manage to stay tethered to this plane of existence tonight. Perhaps I’ll have to bribe myself with a plate of nachos. Geez. Midnight Alt Comedy shows begin tomorrow. How long before I’m a mere shadow passing through this realm? At least plastic bags have some substance.

Here I was thinking a plastic book was called a Kindle.

After a hectic but enjoyable weekend, it’s time to rejoin the work week and discover the limits to which I can push my sanity. If I thought it was silly getting home at 1am on a work night, that silliness has been redoubled after our noisy cat made sleeping a quest and a half.

We visited an open home yesterday because it was maybe two doors away from us. We were curious to see what prices in the area were like. It’s a lovely area that, if we were looking for somewhere, would fit the bill. I’d for sure expected that something in our street would be close to a million, because I’ve been conditioned to expect anything that’s not out in suburbia to be absurdly out of reach. It wasn’t. I mean, it was more than my brain tells me homes should be (because base prices in my mind haven’t been updated since the 90s), but not by a lot. It had 2.5 bedrooms upstairs and an unfinished basement. The basement was furnished and everything, but the concrete floors were uneven, the wooden floor in the basement bedroom wasn’t 100% sealed, and the books in the bookcase were fake plastic books. Like some kind of ridiculous Anthropologie serving suggestion. The place was also pretty cute, the porch had glass doors for protection from the elements and there was a sun room in the back leading out to a grass lined path that led to the laneway. One day. Maybe. Is our generation allowed that? Or do we need to massage our expectations down to finding a nice rental? Reach for the skies, not the stars.

I’ve seen 14 comedy shows since Thursday. I’d say it’s getting ridiculous, but honestly it was ridiculous by day two. It’s become an art just getting around. Yesterday I managed four and a half shows. I’ll explain. My friend and I saw Jenny Slate together at 7pm. Rachel Feinstein at 9pm. Maybe ten minutes into her set, my friend turned to me. “She’s doing her special. I just watched this before interviewing her last week. I’m gonna get out of here and see if I can catch Roy Woods Jr.” It dawned on me that the reason why her material wasn’t killing for me as hard as it had been last time was because it was the same material. Damn Rachel, that’s a bit of a faux pas. We caught an Uber at 9.40pm and managed to get into Roy’s 10pm show. Aisha Brown was opening and destroyed like she always does. So fucking talented, I’m surprised she hasn’t left for LA yet. Roy had been sold pretty hard by one of my comedy encyclopedia friends and he didn’t disappoint. A solid set the whole way through. So glad I managed to sneak him into my lineup.

We’d both booked into the 11pm Ali Siddiq show and didn’t want to lose our credits, so we caught another Uber and sped over there. It was so hot and sweaty. The fan was working overtime and sounded like am airplane about to take off. Ali was more of a storyteller than strict stand up. I got pulled in quickly, but he lost me on his second joke, a rape joke that was unnecessary roughness for very little payoff. It took a while to work back into his set, but it was pretty fucking fascinating. He talked about growing up in a culture of violence and his experiences in the prison system. He was a riveting storyteller, and I found myself being won back over. Then at the end of the show, he started “rating” individual audience members on their performance. It was a super novel and enjoyable bit. The Garrison is one of the few intimate venues where comics aren’t blinded by the lights and can actually see the crowd. Ali’s post script showed that he was paying attention to how people were perceiving his act, something which audience members often neglect to appreciate. It created this unique aspect to his set that bonded that specific crowd with their memories of the night. Altogether, quite great.

Tonght is a light night. Maybe I’ll just see the one show. I was gonna tap out entirely, but a 7pm show opened up that I was raring to catch. I’d be kicking myself if I didn’t pounce on the chance. I’m sure my sanity can stretch that little bit more, right?

Personally I think I hit a house run.

Well folks, turns out I’m old. I had a spicy burrito and got heartburn, which was mildly irritating for the rest of the night. Alas, my youth has fled and with it, my innocence.

I swear I never used to get heartburn before I reached my late 20s. Perhaps New Zealand had a natural invisible barrier that protected me. Or maybe my body, before growing ancient and feeble, produced the necessary antacids on its own. Now we just have Tums, which honestly I’m kind of fine with. If my reward for suffering mild heartburn is to eat candy, then SEND ME THAT HEAT, BABY. However last night as I was out and about to watch comedy, I didn’t have Tums on me. I sort of wanted ice cream to combat the burn, then I started questioning a world where my desire for ice cream stemmed from anything but a desire to be eating ice cream. Ice cream is like frozen joy. It’s the laughter of a child distilled into a foodstuff. It tastes like refracted light, but also sometimes you get weird flavours like garlic. Ice cream should be the reason for anything, rather than needing a reason for ice cream.

N. E. Weigh.

If it wasn’t apparent by now, I’ve reached the point of the festival where my rational mind has fled. Perhaps due to sleep deprivation, alcohol or too much caffeine, last night I went on a dumb Full House joke tear. It started out so simply:

Already reached the point of the festival where I’m doing bits in regular conversation. May Stamos have mercy on my soul.

Cute, right? Because Stamos’ catchphrase is “Have mercy”? I thought so. Primarily I just liked the idea that Stamos would be so method that to this day he still said his catchphrase in everyday life. Don’t worry, things got worse:

At Thanksgiving is John Stamos all “Have Merci”?

Do you think if Dave Coulier had a tumour he’d go to the specialist and be all “cut it out”?

If John Stamos was a Colosseum editor, would his judgement be “Half Mercy”?

To be honest, I had to do a little bit of research for that one. I didn’t really know the veracity of the film Gladiator and whether or not the emperor would judge the games. Turns out the title was called “editor”. The moar you know, eh?

Do you think if Mary Kate/Ashley Olsen were Westworld hosts working at the brothel and a guest asked for A Sex they’d be all “You got it, dude”?

I’d always remembered that Dude Ranches existed, but I had no idea what Dude really meant in this context. Was it just a cowboy? Once again, I did some more research (okay, so I went on Wikipedia) and discovered that Dude is another name for city slickers. So then I needed to figure out some kind of scenario where MK&A would not only be in the (wiki wiki) Wild Wild West, but in some kind of service position. I’m watching Westworld at the moment and it clicked. Then I realised that despite them being fully formed adults with realised existences, the world might cringe a little at the idea of former child stars being sex workers. Which is stupid, of course, sex work is real work and people are overly too averse to sexuality. So I softened the language to the childish “A Sex”. Also because it sounded funny to me.

Do you think if Jodie Sweetin asked some guy for his daughter’s hand in marriage and he said no she’d be all “How Rude” and marry her anyway?

I just wanted an excuse to think about this sublimely written article about why that song is such a pile of fuck.

Also maybe I need to go get ice cream now.

Someone in Toronto has the tagger handle Faygo Freak. Hey, if you know what you like…

Day three of JFL42 and the past 24 hours have been, in the words of the great philosophers Shaggy 2 Dope and Violent Jay, pure motherfucking magic. In all my plotting and planning pre-fest, the constant back and forth with PR, my anxiety over seeing all the acts I wanted to see, I think I lost sight of the quintessential truth: I love to laugh.

I know it sounds ripped from a terrible dating profile. Who doesn’t enjoy laughter? Really though, being totally enmeshed in stand up comedy does something fundamentally good for my heart. I remember being on a cruise once and going to a seminar held by a comedian on the importance of laughter. He said something about one minute of intense laughter being equivalent to 20 minutes of cardiovascular exercise. I’m sure that’s bro science more than anything, but he led the entire crowd on joined, sustained laughter for a minute. It started out fake, but soon enough the small giggles became real laughter. Roaring laughter. By the end of the minute, I was sweaty and tuckered out. Maybe there was something to this.

When I get stuck into stand up that resonates with me, I’m a sweaty laugh-er. I’ll rock back and forth, I’ll shake uncontrollably and sometimes just vibrate, my body humming as I gasp for air. It actually helped me meet some good friends on my way to Toronto. I saw this couple taking a selfie and asked them if they wanted me to take a nice photo for them instead. I took the photo and they asked me “were you just in Pete Holmes’ podcast recording?” I replied in the affirmative. “Thought so, we noticed how hard you were laughing and thought this guy gets it.” I haven’t seen those two in ages, but they’re awesome people who I’m so stoked to know.

Chris Locke induced that kind of laughter in me last night. He’s a Toronto local with a rambling style. Brilliantly scatterbrained, he has structured material, but also is content to follow random thought patterns to find the funny. He’s a total gem and well worth checking out. Morgan Murphy also had a bunch of great bits. I was impressed by her ability to put jokes together and subvert audience expectations. One of her jokes started “My doctor told me I can’t have kids” and followed it through to a great punchline without denigrating the medical profession, pregnancy or parenting, all through the magic of clever wordplay. She had this great bit about how we tend to judge people with voices we’d deem stupid (say Vocal Fry or Valley Girl kind of stuff) when it has no bearing whatsoever on their intelligence. It’s so true and can easily be seen in those who treat non-native English speakers like idiots. Of course they’re not stupid, they just have a whole different hurdle to reframe their thoughts through than you do.

This morning I had the pleasure of seeing an In Conversation session with Jenny Slate. She was a wonderful guest, thankful for her success while giving rambling heartfelt answers that obviously weren’t pre-written soundbites. She was candid and it was fascinating listening to her chart how her career had changed as she’d aged, the environment in which her standup flourished (I had no idea she was a contemporary of Aziz, Mulaney, etc) and how she found herself actually having a voice in her work. A great way to spend an early Saturday morning.

I’ve also been appreciating seeing so many of my festival friends. Going to a gig and discovering someone I know is there too. Catching up and hanging out, comparing festival experiences. As always, when I go alone I love talking to strangers about their perspectives on comics they’ve seen. This year has been no exception. It’s such a pleasure making acquaintances that I see throughout the rest of the fest. It’s my favourite time of the year for a reason, after all. For all the stress getting here, it’s been well worth it.

Just for Flasks, then?

And we’re off. JFL42 is in full swing and it just so happens to coincide with the busiest part of my work year. *Half-hearted cheer*. If by some grace of a higher power (or substance abuse) I manage to not go insane, these next ten days could be quite fun. Or the beginning of severe dependence issues.

John Mulaney was a hell of a way to start. The consummate comic, sure to be a palate cleaner before the cavalcade of straight white dudes thinking that edginess for edginess’ sake is a novel point of view. His opener Max Silvestri was great. It was easy to see why Mulaney picked him to open. He had a similar physicality and vocal playfulness. His punch lines were creative and well set up. I’d be happy to check him out during the rest of the festival, though realistically I’ve already seen half of his set.

Mulaney himself was everything I’d hoped. He’s a total professional and cripplingly funny. There was this bit he had about wanting to be friends with everybody that resonated so strongly with me. For a split second I thought I was the one onstage, but then wondered why I had such an impressive wingspan. His material was excellent, in the sense that it was specific and personal enough to be novel, but broad enough to be relatable. He had this phenomenal extended bit about school assemblies (in particular the stranger danger ones) that was perfect. I finally got to hear the full iteration of his Trump horse loose in a hospital bit, which really sung when taken out of its truncated late-night form. It was impressive to see how much he did with so little too. One of his stories involved a Mick Jagger impression. Thing is, there were no extended diatribes or anything. A few words here and there, maybe a short sentence. The level at which he sold that impression though, was something to behold. Even if it was a word or two, his posture shifted, mouth morphed, voice and demeanor instantly recognisable. I’m sure he spent hours refining it, but he sold the shit out of an impression that at times lasted fewer than three words.

I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not actually doing coverage this year, that this whole festival is purely a leisure activity. I’m so reigned to my previous mentality that it feels like my duty to work the system and try to catch everything I can. To make sure I’m seeing a diverse range of acts and really taking advantage of what the festival has to offer. Without door list privileges this year, I need to expend much more mental energy ensuring I get all the acts I want. Ironically, not doing press almost feels like more work.

Wait, if this is for fun, does that mean I can relax and have a drink? This might not be so bad.

Of course I wasn’t paid for this. I did it all for the love (and maybe The Nookie. Same diff).

JFL42 starts tonight and it’s basically my favourite time of year. Toronto’s Just For Laughs is still a burgeoning festival, but it’s got the potential to be one of the greats. Due almost entirely to the amazingly unintuitive credit system. If you’re new to the festival or haven’t figured it out yet, I’m gonna lay out a basic primer.

The way it works: Unless you bought a solo ticket, you probably got a couple of credits to play around with. Get yourself registered on the JFL42 website and get started. Go to the “calendar” section. You’ll see all the performances collated under date tabs, sorted by time. If you want to book a performance (non-headliner. Basically anyone not at the Sony Centre), just click the “reserve” button next to their name. You can go ahead and book for any date in the festival. If there’s something you really want to see on the last day, you can go ahead and book that now. Safe, yeah?

Here’s where it gets snazzy. When you arrive at your performance, you can go to the My JFL42 section of the site, go to Reserved Shows and “check in” at your show (up to an hour before the show, I believe) and you’ll get your credit back. You can then use this to book more shows. You starting to see the bigger picture here?

If you’re a filthy casual, it’s entirely reasonable to see the headliner you’ve chosen and one or two other acts over the course of the next ten days. If you’re a true madlad, you can realistically see three or four shows every night for the next ten days. It takes commitment and planning, but it’s very doable. Ready to go down that rabbit hole with me?

Familiarise yourself with the schedule. Learn who’s performing once or twice and who gets a five day run. Plan around your limited acts and smooth out the rest of your fest with the resident comics. Someone like Rachael Feinstein (who you should see. She was fantastic last time around. Amazing Jenny McCarthy story) or the Lucas Bros are playing a heap of shows over the first couple of days, so if you don’t catch them on that first day, you’ll get ample opportunities. There are also fantastic local acts who are well worth seeing. Comics like Courtney Gilmour and Chris Locke are so fucking talented and if you live here you owe it to yourself to catch one of their gigs. Bad Dog Theatre is an awesome local improv theatre and they have a run of excellent shows all bookable by passholders. I paid $15 last week to see Toronto, I Love You. You can see it with your pass for no extra cost this Friday or Saturday. Please do, it’s an outstanding show and supporting local comedy is important. Fringe darlings Sex T-Rex have a couple of shows during the festival too. Catch them if you can.

Your flexibility depends on how many credits you have. If you have two credits and want to max out your experience you’re basically living show to show. Get in line for your 7pm show, check in and book your 11pm act. Get in line for your 9pm act, check in and book your 7pm act for the next day, lather, rinse, repeat. If you have 4-6 credits you have more leeway. 2-3 credits should be enough for your day by day bookings and anything surplus can be used to book acts that seem like they’ll sell out. Anyone who’s been on TV or has a podcast is usually pretty popular. This year they’ve also opened Comedy Con acts (more intimate Q&A sessions with popular performers) to general passholders, which is amazing. They’re during the day, so if you can take advantage of that (looking at you, students and hospo workers) please do. It’s an awesome privilege. The weekend ones are sure to sell out quickly (Bill Burr already did). So use those 2-3 credits to book your daily acts and anything surplus on those tentpole acts you don’t want to miss. The 2-3 credits can fill in the gaps with those great but frequent acts like the aforementioned Rachel Feinstein. Some venues will fill faster than others too. The Queen Elizabeth Theatre (QET) is pretty damn large, but it definitely sells out for huge acts.

Venue distances. This is important. Comedy Bar, Bad Dog Theatre, The Garrison and The Royal Theatre are all relatively close. You could leave a 7pm show from any of the above venues and public transit to a 9pm show without trouble.
If you’re trying to go from any of these to the QET or vice versa you could make it if the stars align just so, but might want to Uber.
The Garrison to QET is probably quite doable by public transit.
Rivoli is probably doable on public transit from The Royal, Garrison or QET, but might be a stretch for the Bloor Street venues.
Yuk Yuks and Second City are stretching the limits for the 7pm/9pm/11pm split by public transit and might be better to Uber/rideshare or something.
Shows at the Sony Centre and QET often run long, so make it a lot harder to keep that 7pm, 9pm, 11pm schedule going. Going from a 7pm headliner to a 9:30pm show is more realistic.

Special note on The Alt Show with Andy Kindler. The unsung gem of the entire festival is Kindler’s midnight Alt Show. It’s a total delight and really lets comics let loose with bizarre, off the wall material. One of my most treasured memories is having watched Pat Thornton once repeat the words “Cookie Chips” for five minutes, becoming more hilarious with each iteration. There’s no public list of performers, but it’s the place to be for big name drop ins. In previous years it was at Comedy Bar and The Royal, which made it possible to get there after a 10:30pm show. It seems to have been permanently shifted to Second City, which is really hard to reach after a 10:30pm gig. IMHO it’s worth carving out the time in your schedule (even if it means cutting an 10:30pm/11pm show in favour of waiting for the Alt Show) to witness this spectacle.

Hope to see you out there during the festival, or failing anything at the Comedy Bar post fest wrap up on the 30th. Have a blast and enjoy the fuck out of the next ten days.