Entries in Comedy (7)


Nate Bargatze at #JFL42

Nate Bargatze takes the stage and has an instantly disarming presence, no matter the venue.  Within moments his stories seem like they're coming from an old friend.  It's not exactly obvious but part way through the show we realize this is a big part of Bargatze's mastery of the craft.  With such casual ease he performs material that makes it feel like he isn't performing at all. 

The Royal Theatre hosted his headlining performance, and along with him came opener Sarah Tiana.  Her energetic show was a perfect compliment to Bargatze.  She had the audience losing their minds within minutes and set up a brilliant long form set.  Later in the week Nate performed at the Queen Elizabeth theatre opening for Natasha Leggero.  It was incredible to witness his ability to tailor the material to a different audience and setting. 

He lets us into his world, and has no fear in admitting how much he loves Wal-Mart.  Bargatze puts a brilliant shine on everyday life, and keeps you thinking outside your own experience.  He's never loud or outrageous, he'll ease you into a new idea and surprise you everytime.  The Nashville upbringing and laidback attitude seemed to make him a favourite with Toronto audiences.  Impeccable timing and a politely subversive perspective make him a legend, because he makes it looks so easy.


JFL42: T.J. Miller

T.J. Miller seemed to take the stage with a sense of both confidence and curiousity.  It appeared to us that a good part of his performance is improvised and that sometimes the show surpised even him with what happened.  He acknowledged that the audience may have recognized him from 'Transformers' or something and showed up to see this.  Miller made fun of the JFL42 credit based admission system, and insisted that the Air Canada and Sirius XM logos remain illuminated for his show.  

The unpredictability of this show is what made it entertaining.  The awkward rants, the ability to start a joke, get distracted and then discuss the joke and why it may or may not work make for a show that's like no other.  This felt like we were experiencing something other than stand up comedy, more of Miller's stream of consciousness.  His observations on our world, though not always amusing are certainly insightful and rebellious.  When Miller got into discussing the futility of trying to stick it to TicketMaster and the most American product on the market from Evian he's leading each and every person in the audience to question the role these companies and what they sell have in their lives.

T.J. Miller is at times tough to follow, a little wild, and certainly whimsical, but there is more to this show than it first seems.  He puts on a show like no one else, and in that he does what no one else can...


JFL42: Iliza Shlesinger

Iliza Shlesinger is in a league of her own.  It's pretty clear to those of us who'd been lucky enough to see her live at previous JFL events, and quickly became so for the sizable audience at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.  She patrols the stage with a confidence that only comes from being the sort of person that makes their own rules.  It's an enviable position to those in the audience, as she rolls out an endless list of observations on our society.  One thing is for sure, she makes some sense of our increasingly bizarre world and has us laughing uncontrollably in the process.

One of the most impressive things is her ability to include the material that made her a household name, without completely revisiting previous work.  The party goblin makes an appearance, but not in any form we were accustomed to.  It's clear to the audience that this staple material is part of what makes Iliza Shlesinger such an exciting performer, she's developed these ideas to the point where they work with improvised variations in delivery.  It's something that may be subtle, and potentially go unnoticed, but it's a major part of why she's one of our favourite stand up comedians.

While Iliza Shlesinger appears to be fearless, both in her indictments of our society, and her blunt instructions on how we can each manage to do better, she's still human.  She talks about how tough and scary life can be for women, and though it's done humourously she's still introducing her audience to a reality some may ignore, and reminding others they aren't alone.  The highlight for us was a clearly personal moment when Shlesinger's long haired dachsund Blanche unexpectedly appeared onstage drawing applause from the audience and emotional surprise from her human.  It reminded us of just how tough it must be to face crowds like that everyday, but just how powerful her words can truly be...


JFL in July: Neal Brennan at Comedy Bar July 18 2015

JFL in July is a pretty exciting thing each year, a very welcome preview of what's to come in the fall and a chance to welcome back some previous years' performers.  The one and only Neal Brennan took over Comedy Bar for two shows on July 18th, and we weren't willing to miss the chance to see one of the greatest comedians of our time.  Brennan brought his immeasurable talent in an unorthodox show, one that saw the comic utilizing three different microphones, each with a different purpose.

The show began with a mix of classic hip hop, something fitting for one of the hosts of 'The Champs' podcast, and was followed by opening act Arthur Simeon.  Simeon began his show claiming that he is in fact better than everyone in the audience, and giving concrete evidence that was both hilarious and reasonable to a lot of the audience.  The perspective of a man from Uganda living in Toronto is a very interesting and insightful one, delivered with perfect timing and a razor sharp wit, Simeon was a great choice to open for Neal Brennan.

Upon taking the stage Brennan announced that the first microphone would be used for one liners, and admittedly for reading tweets he'd previously posted.  'Skrillex looks like he got his hair cut...' Brennan began, '... by one of his songs.', was one example we absolutely loved.  Moving on he pointed out that the second microphone would be used for the so called 'emotional shit', long form pieces about very personal, very real situations regarding his own depression, and coming to terms with his relationship with his father.  Brennan's ability to speak about the hardest, rawest, and most private things in his life is part of his remarkable skill as a writer and performer.  He was able to describe depression in a way that allowed those unfamiliar to understand it, while keeping the story funny enough to keep the audience from shying away from a difficult subject.

Finally Brennan's third microphone was used for what he referred to as classic stand up.  This was where he included the observation that the world needs to do away with the like and dislike functions on the internet, especially on YouTube.  He noted that Beethoven's Fifth Symphony has thousands of dislikes on the streaming site, and accurately claimed that these opinions are clearly from the people least qualified to review the work of the legendary composer.  He then clarified that they were probably just opinionated people from Calgary, and then casually pointed out that usually in that joke the commenters are from Tampa, but it was tailored specifically for a Canadian audience.

Without initially realizing it, Neal Brennan provoked a great deal of thought on serious subjects.  From depression, to race in America, to celebrity culture, Brennan offers such an informed and insightful perspective that he's impossible to ignore.  It may be odd for some to consider that a writer, director, and comedian might be one of the great minds of our time, but that's an idea we were sold on by the end of his set.  Saturday night left us wide open to the possibilities for what's coming next from Neal Brennan and JFL42 in the fall.

Get your passes!


JFL42 - Sept. 17-27, Toronto

Thanks to JFL42, Toronto had the opportunity to host some of the best comedians in the world over the last couple of weeks.  It has to be a rare occurance that such a diverse and well rounded lineup of hilarious individuals could be organized, but JFL42 pulled it off. We managed to see some of our favorites, who we've been dying to check out, including Dave Attell, Iliza Schlezinger, Chris D'Elia, Nikki Glaser, Brody Stevens and  Pete Holmes.  The interactive pass system worked flawlessly, making it easy to check out a variety of performances at the 13 venues all over the city.  

The first show we made it out to was the legendary Dave Attell at Queen Elizabeth Theatre.  After a fantastic opening set from Christina Walkinshaw, the man himself graced the stage luggage and all. Right away commenting on how great Toronto will be once it's finished.  The crowd adored him from the beginning, absorbing every line of his dry, sarcastic and hilarious set.  A true master of his craft, never miss an opportunity to see Dave Attell.

The next day, we headed to the Mod Club for the wonderful Nikki Glaser.  We weren't quite as sure what to expect as we mostly knew Nikki from a couple of podcasts and watching her kill on @Midnight. Fellow New York City funny lady Sabrina Jalees opened, and she was on fire.  Basically both of these women had us in tears from start to finish.  Nikki Glaser's bit about her surrogate Brenda is one of the funniest things we've ever heard, and we are officially going to follow every project she's a part of from now on.  Brilliant.

We checked out Iliza Shlesinger's final show in the city at the Garrison.  The place was absolutely packed, and she had a captive audience that seriously learned as much as they laughed.  The Monday night date crowd was treated to an interesting experience as she ran down the difference between anothers dream wedding and her dream break up.  She proves relentless in her take on both women and men in 2014, and provides great insight and intelligence on subjects that each find confusing; the other.  She delivered a bold, hilarious, and downright genius performance just a short time before filming her second live Netflix special.

The second last show we saw was someone we've been dying to see for a while now, the extra friendly, super hilarious Pete Holmes.  From the second he hit the stage it was clear he was having as much fun as we were.  The sold out crowd loved every minute, from his old roommate who drank too much milk, to how long it would take him to make love to Ryan Gosling if they were stranded on an island together, there were nothing but great moments with Pete Holmes.  

JFL 42 also brought Chris D'Elia for his first ever performance in Toronto, and one that we will never forget.  Brody Stevens opened with an amazing set that was tailor made for the city, and showed that he'd spent time here and enjoyed it.  D'Elia showed his natural talent for performing by running entirely new material, and comfort with his audience by going back to the planned beginning of the set part way through the show.  There's a sense that Chris D'Elia is on the rise, despite being one of the bigger names to have appeared at the packed Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

To conclude, thank you JFL42, for bringing so many of our comedy heroes to Toronto.  It was way too much fun.  Who's joining us next year?