Entries in JFL42 (8)


Natasha Leggero at #JFL42

What can you expect from Natasha Leggero?  At her headline show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre for JFL42 she delivered the irreverent, outrageous show we'd hoped for.  Along with her she brought the incredible Nate Bargatze, and unexpectedly though unsurprisingly Moshe Kasher.  Bargatze delivered a unique version of the material he'd performed in his own headliner sets earlier in the week.  It was a testament to his skill to adapt and still win over the audience.

Kasher is so quick chances are you'll miss a bit of what he does, no matter how closely you watch.  He's a prime example of what we love most about stand up comedy, he's bringing real issues in our world to the conversation but in a way that is disarming and thought provoking.  The outspoken comedian treads into some territory that bordered on offensive for some of the Toronto audience, but the fact is he's addressing bigotry certainly not participating in it.  He brings a pronounced physical energy to his set, making it emphatic in a way that is a perfect compliment to Bargatze's laidback style. 

We'd been looking forward to this show for some time, but really weren't sure what to expect.  As tough as it must be with such a large audience, she lets us into her personal life and shares what a new experience getting married has been.  An interesting highlight came when she discussed meeting a long time female friend of Kasher's and the competitiveness that ensued.  The free form discussion of a real life situation that is largely relatable (we're not all travelling comedians) helped the audience connect to Leggero.

Then there were those moments where they turned ice cold.  A couple of times as Leggero delivered outrageous lines, cutting in their wit and landing close to home, she drew gasps from the audience rather than laughter.  This came as a surprise for us, after following her career we expected even more.  To close out the show, Kasher returned to the stage and he and Leggero invited a couple onstage.  The newlyweds offered up some advice for the couple from the audience, a very endearing moment serving as the finale for an unpredictable, exciting show.


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.


Kumail Nanjiani at #JFL42

Upon greeting the audience Kumail Nanjiani pointed out that this was in fact the second performance of his career in Toronto.  He noted that this was the first show announced, so these are his fans that were really on the ball and yet they lose out on the experience of the first show.  Whether fans of 'Beta Male', 'The Meltdown', 'Silicon Valley', or more likely all of the above, no one in the audience had more impact than Amir.  Nanjiani spotted the young man in the 'Make America Rage Again' hat who cheered when Kumail mentioned he grew up in Pakistan...

...and so began the only stand up show we've seen of it's kind.  We learned a great deal about Nanjiani's life through his discussion with Amir and his mother.  At one point he joked that everyone else should leave so he could talk with them.  At what point Nanjiani shifted from this honest and open discussion to his prepared material was imperceptible.  There we see his true gift for timing, and his compassionate, insightful way of seeing the world. 

A few times the material grew a little raunchy, and the knowledge that a 14 year old was present created tangible awkwardness.  Ever self aware, we witnessed the odd moment of the performer turning his back on the audience in order to be able to tell certain parts of the story of a family visit to 'Fun Land'.  It's a tale that will yield equal parts cringe and laughter should you have the chance to hear it.

In an unpredictable, free flowing, and seemingly partly improvised show there were a few standout moments.  Hearing his parents response to his stand up special 'Beta Male' was relatable and hilarious, especially considering the success of that project.  None was more memorable than his 'encore', where he offered up the last few minutes to questions from the audience.  This element showed his incredibly quick wit, and the unique variety of people that comprise his audience.

The ultimate moment was when he was joined briefly by his wife Emily Gordon, producer of 'The Meltdown'.  The show (co-hosted by Nanjiani and Jonah Ray) has just started its final season, and the two responded together to a question about how they feel about it ending, and what's next.  The openness and honesty in that tiny moment are present throughout his whole show.  Kumail Nanjiani's story, and his ability to make it relatable are what make his work powerful.  Though we may laugh our asses off, we leave thinking about real issues like race, sexism, and whether or not that show is ok for a 14 year old.


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...