This is both The and A List.

With the year coming to a close, year end lists are all the rage. Without further ado, with no additional commentary, here are some things I enjoyed in 2017. I’ll at least sort them into sections. Note, they may not even all be from 2017. Maybe I just discovered them this year. No doubt I’ll forget a bunch. I’m not paying that much attention:

Movies

  • The Big Sick
  • Logan
  • Spider Man: Homecoming
  • Killing of a Sacred Deer
  • Baby Driver
  • I Don’t Feel At Home In This World Anymore
  • The Florida Project
  • Okja
  • Kong: Skull Island
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • Get Out
  • Blade Runner 2049
  • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
  • It

Television

  • Legion
  • Trial and Error
  • Dear White People
  • Crazy Ex Girlfriend Season 3
  • Master of None Season 2
  • You’re The Worst Season 3
  • American Gods
  • Catastrophe Season 3
  • Better Things Season 2
  • The Good Place Season 2
  • GLOW
  • American Vandal
  • BoJack Horseman Season 3
  • Big Mouth
  • The Katering Show
  • Rick & Morty Season 3
  • Please Like Me
  • Crashing

Music

  • Mount Eerie – A Crow Looked At Me
  • The National – Sleep Well Beast
  • LCD Soundsystem – Self Titled
  • Father John Misty – Fear Fun
  • Vince Staples – Big Fish Theory
  • SZA – Ctrl
  • Kelela – Take Me Apart
  • Jlin – Black Origami
  • Kendrick Lamar – DAMN.
  • Sylvan Esso – What Now
  • Fever Ray – Plunge
  • Zola Jesus – Okovi
  • LCD Soundsystem – American Dream
  • St Vincent – Masseduction
  • Fleet Foxes – Crack Up
  • Father John Misty – Pure Comedy
  • Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3
  • Lorde – Melodrama
  • Grizzly Bear – Painted Ruins
  • Neil Cicierega – Mouth Moods

Comedy Specials

  • Vir Das – Abroad Understanding
  • Rory Scovel Tries Stand-Up For The First Time
  • Patton Oswalt – Annihilation
  • Hasan Minhaj – Homecoming King
  • Chris Gethard – Career Suicide

Comedians I saw

  • Chris Gethard
  • Chris Locke
  • Chris Robinson
  • Gina Yashere
  • Hari Kondabolu
  • Kyle Kinane
  • Liza Treyger
  • Max Silvestri
  • Morgan Murphy
  • Rory Scovel
  • Roy Wood Jr.
  • Sara Hennessey
  • Sasheer Zamata
  • W. Kamau Bell
  • John Mulaney

Video Games

  • Cuphead

I guess now you know what I did with my time.

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More like sigh-napses.

So here’s a thing about me. I love stand up comedy, but I really don’t enjoy watching recorded stand up specials. Without being there live and feeling the collective energy in the room, the visual aspect adds nothing and I get bored. Love listening to recorded stand up, don’t like watching it. I’ve had Netflix for a while and seen a bunch of promising specials stack up on my potential view list. I’ve tried, but usually get about five minutes in before calling it quits. Yesterday I cracked the code (remembered my password) so I can put Netflix on in the background at work for listening purposes. It was great. Watched Rory Scovel’s special. Loved it. Patton Oswalt’s Annihiliation. Excellent. Judd Apatow’s special. Maybe he should stick with the film thing. So I put the question out to my friends on Facebook. “People who understand the kind of stuff I find funny, would you mind recommending specials that I’d very likely enjoy?”

Then something that I expected would happen, happened. People just chimed in with things they liked. On one hand, it was nice that people were weighing in and suggesting things. On the other hand, they also weren’t answering the question. The question wasn’t what they’d like, it was essentially “friends, do you know my sense of humour? If so, what stuff do you like that would fit in with that?” Blindly knowing what they liked didn’t help, because humour is such a personal thing and the question hinged on a kind of personal familiarity that many acquaintances (let’s be real, most Facebook friends aren’t particularly close friends) wouldn’t have. I was asking a lot. I thought for a second whether or not it was worth re-clarifying the question. Would people think it rude to do so? Was it rude for them to have asserted their opinion without having read and consisted the full question in the first place? I figured it all came out neutral I’m the wash. So I did, and a friend asked for me to further quality the kind of stuff I enjoyed so she could give more accurate representations. So I responded.

“Sure. It’s really difficult to pin down (cause we’re all complex humans, right?). I like a lot of the alt/meta stuff, but particularly the kind of stuff that points to structures that exist and question why those structures exist. Really, pointing the finger at structures is basically my favourite thing about the medium.

I’m really not into silly humour unless it’s silly humour wrapped under a couple of layers of irony (Andy Kindler sort of thing). Otherwise it’s silly for the sake of silly which, meh. Same with vulgar stuff. It’s fine, but not when it’s trying to get laughs because it’s vulgar. Vulgar pointing to clever observations about the human condition and our shame surrounding this kind of thing are great (Ali Wong’s stuff was great for this).

Dark stuff falls under a similar umbrella. Borderline nihilism is fun to play with because yes humans are terrible and fundamentally do more harm then good. We’re silly creatures who trick one another into thinking we have more significance than we do and there’s a lot of humour in the baggage we give ourselves. Blatant edgelord negativity for nothing other than trying to push the envelope, however, can go suck an egg. Bo Burnham’s one of my kind of peeps for this. Also because he’s horrifyingly talented.

I like it when comics play with the format (Neal Brennan’s 3 Mics, etc), I love one person shows (Chris Gethard – Career Suicide/Hasan Minhaj – Homecoming King), great storytelling (most anything Jen Kirkman or Mike Birbiglia) and I do like wholesome stuff a bunch too, but it’s hard to quantify which wholesome stuff I like and why (Pete Holmes and Gary Gulman would be good examples of this).”

In sending this response, however, I realised it was still hopelessly ineffective. They were thin outlines and try as I may have to thicken them or add colour, there was little opacity. The breadth and depth of what I enjoy in comedy and why was hastily sketched. When I thought more, even I don’t fully understand what it is that lights up my synapses. If I couldn’t articulate my preferences with precision, how dare I expect that from others?

There’s a humbling loneliness to this pattern of thought that’s left me hanging a little low. I thought to some degree I knew myself better than this. It should be exciting that I’ve got so much left to learn about how I tick, that I have a lifetime to figure it out. At the same time, it’s kind of isolating. It makes me question how close the friendships I have are, what sort of connections I assumed were there, but may not be as solid as I’d thought.

Then the other side of me thinks I should just lighten up. Maybe listen to some comedy or something.

P.S. Never surrender.

Long weekend begins now, so this is gonna be a loose and scattered entry. In case you forgot it was Remembrance Day tomorrow, they’ve Monday-ised the holiday for some professions. Mainly banks. Our company decided to follow suit, so if I decide to take advantage of it to seek out trendy brunch spots, chances are all my juicy eavesdropping will be consumed by the “insightful” commentary of Banker Bros. I guess that’s called penance.

I feel like celebrate is the wrong word, but I plan on spending the weekend eating, drinking and letting off steam like someone who works for the weekend. I work a tedious office job, this is all I have. Going out dancing tonight, having barbecue with family tomorrow, attending a wedding on Sunday and playing Magic with friends on Monday. Also making sure not to forget about Dre the whole time. Never forget.

So Louis C.K. has put his apology out and it’s a bummer. The worst part is that he’s saying mostly the right stuff, but it’s a matter of too little, too late. For a proper apology you need to acknowledge how your actions have hurt the other party. You need to show remorse and empathy. Then you need to commit yourself to restitution, outlining how you plan to change or proceed in a manner counter to your previous behaviour. His apology mostly ticks all these boxes and likely would’ve had some impact on public opinion and reception. Would have. Timing is everything. He’s had so many opportunities to come clean. He could’ve issued this apology when the rumours surfaced or when he was called out by Tig. He didn’t. He denied it right to the last second. You’ve gotta question the contrition of someone who only apologises once their bottom line is in danger. If you’re only sorry for your actions because of how the outcome affects you, you’re not really sorry for what you’ve done, are you? Is he?

I dunno. I’m pretty burnt out on thinking about it. No, hiding away and pretending nothing is wrong sure isn’t the correct response, but I don’t have the emotional energy for this now. Really what I want to know over all else, what does Sofia Coppola think of Daddy’s Home 2? Why? Because one of the most refreshing things I’ve heard in recent memory is that one of esteemed director Sofia Coppola’s favourite films is the Will Farrell/Mark Wahlberg (he’s another piece of shit, never forget) vehicle Daddy’s Home. I’ve never seen this movie. I have no intention of ever watching it. That doesn’t stop me from being totally charmed by her admission that a dumb low brow comedy is one of her top films because she can watch it with her kids. What a nice way to give the middle finger to a holier than thou industry so concerned with personal branding. I think that’s fucking awesome. She’s fucking awesome.

Also when the fuck did we decide to forgive Mel Gibson? Never forget. Never forgive.

When do we get Just For Lives and Just For Loves?

That’s over. Around 4.30am I put my half-finished Guinness down on the Comedy Bar counter, content with ten days well spent. 33 shows between seven venues. So many performers and differing comedic styles. Late night beer, burritos and Uber rides. Half-dead days at work spent replacing bodily fluids with caffeine. Looking at leftover wrist stamps from the previous night’s shows and wondering how long a stamp has to last until it’s officially a tattoo. Plotting, scheming and general sneaky tactics trying to contort my schedule to see everyone I could. Running into friends constantly, or making new acquaintances that I’d constantly see at gigs across the festival. The highs and lows of those ten days, getting to a point of exhaustion and finding my second, third and sixth winds. Straining humour muscles to the point where I wondered if I knew how to laugh anymore. It was a period almost removed from reality, surreal, even.

I remember my initial reaction to this year’s lineup being pretty lukewarm. The last few years have had such big names, that it felt sort of underwhelming. Much smaller acts, lesser known comics this time around. The ratio of female comics however, was a vast improvement. While the 42 in past may have had around 12 or 13 women, this year it was closer to 20. There’s still work to be done, but it’s something. Instead of looking at a colour chart filled with white male comics, JFL42 this year had an array of diverse voices. We got to hear from comics who are known, but not massive. Hari Kondabolu was fantastic, with clever structures and punch lines. I had high hopes for Shasheer Zamata and she fulfilled all of them, adroitly skewering societal stereotypes. Liza Treyger was amazingly sex positive and smartly crude. Keith Pedro, a local doing opening sets, totally crushed it. Gina Yashere had used her awesome niche perspective to bring insightful comedy to her act. Ali Siddiq was a compelling storyteller, offering experiences so far from my own that it was hard not to get pulled in. Morgan Murphy had maybe my favourite joke of the festival. Insanely tight joke structure that began “my doctor told me I can’t have kids”. Outstanding stuff.

As JFL42’s biggest fan, it was hugely gratifying to see the festival go from strength to strength. The app this year for the most part did was it was supposed to. Getting rid of the GPS function and need to check in at venues streamlined the process significantly. Occasionally one of your credits would get stuck in the aether, but it was the exception to prove that the app ruled. The reward tiers for those who went hard were a nice touch. The Master level reward was actually a huge boon. Being able to skip the line at venues was a massive privilege. Earning the reward four days in meant the rest of my festival was a total breeze. It may have encouraged a bizarre (and frankly worrying) burgeoning megalomania, but now that the fest is over I can revert to my plebeian ways once more.

Some thoughts: I know it’s an institution, but is Second City the most frustrating comedy venue in Toronto? Uncomfortable, dinky little chairs at tiny tables in a venue where comedy is leveraged to encourage table service. Having servers constantly moving around (and it’s not their fault, it’s their job) is almost as distracting as hearing the constant beep of debit machines as the show winds to a close. The whole structure does wonders to undo the magic of being sucked into a performance. Can we please find somewhere else to put the Alt Show next year? On a more positive note, opening up Comedy Con to all passholders was magic. The In Conversation chats were like Inside the Actor’s Studio without James Lipton’s ego. Some fans got weirdly entitled during the Q&A segments (sorry Birbiglia), but there were also incisive questions that opened up amazing responses. The Toronto comics absolutely shone alongside their international counterparts. Whether performing opening sets or headlining slots, it proved how lucky we are to have them on tap all year round. If you’re a local comedy fan and still haven’t seen Chris Locke do a longform set, you’ve got work to do.

A huge thank you needs to go out to everyone involved. From JFL42 programming staff for putting together a fantastic diverse lineup, to customer service who were always quick to respond and pleasant to deal with. To ticketing staff and volunteers, putting in late nights and taking everything in stride. We’ve sincerely got something special going on here. See you next year!

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.