Archive for the ‘Just for Laughs’ Category

At the Toronto Just for Laughs Britcom gala, shirts were optional. Host John Cleese took to the stage in a drab dinner jacket and ugly tie, sans shirt – he lost it in the divorce. Welcome to “The John Cleese Humiliation Tour – anything for a laugh.” To save the $20 million, he considered a “boat accident” but refused to be grouped in with Phil Spector. Instead, Cleese produced “The Really Inconvenient Truth,” a montage of other things he could do with the divorce settlement, including: buy hundreds of Bowflexes, a tank, a U.S. election, 20 million things at a Dollarama and an endless supply of poutine. Then he introduced Mark Watson.

Within 24 hours of being in Toronto, Watson “rationally generalized” the whole nation as a people that think, “It might be shit, but let’s hope for the best.” He hoped this would work in his favour. Sharing a toothbrush is a popular topic amongst comedians, as a woman’s refusal to share something that goes in her mouth is hilarious. Watson’s extended anecdote was about kicking someone because of the sheer temptation from trying to convince yourself you shouldn’t do it.

Next up was Gina Yashere. She’s black and British; but she wonders if when her Nigerian mother was looking at the world, trying to find a new home she said, “I’m fed up with the sun. I want to go somewhere with drizzle and subtle racism.” Nonetheless, she likes to use the contrast of her accent and skin colour to confuse Americans – especially cops; they apologize for tailing her. She declares Somalian pirates are proof the economy is bad because black people have faced a fear of swimming and resorted to water-related crime.

Idiots of Ants made YouTube top lists with their skit, “Facebloke in real life,” which demonstrates what it would be like to act out the things we do on Facebook. Their first sketch was a Waldo book reading at Chapters – “There I am.” Next was the mandatory office hello and goodbye kiss, which is awkward to say the least. Then they closed by serenading a young woman from the audience, implying a night of sweet, group sex was on the horizon.

Cleese returned for the “John Cleese Telethon” because donation money is wasted on the poor and crippled; it should go to someone who will appreciate the money. As incentive, he said he would do anything in exchange for the money, such as act out favourite scenes from Monty Python. Unfortunately, the requests were more sadistic, such as having Cleese dig $10 out from underneath broken glass and, in Canadian tradition, tasering him.

Ross Noble is a consistent comedian, in that he returns to earlier jokes throughout his act. He made frequent comments about the scaffolding-style set design – “only the best for out-of-towners” – and the spirit of the house band that lurks behind the screen. He pointed out that before getting on a plane, he likes to marinate his own butt in case they crash and the other passengers have to eat him. Noble was all over the stage and blamed a chocolate Kinder high. He claimed that in Canada people are not surprised by a tiny toy in their confectionary; it’s just called a Kinder Egg, not a Kinder Surprise like in Europe.

Then came the straight-laced Jimmy Carr. His delivery of jokes is so proper, just his style is humorous. He said, “The courts wanted to move forward on female bishops, but bishops can only move diagonally.” He told a two-word joke that was unexpectedly hilarious and then expanded on it anyway. He then gave audiences a little inside, behind-the-scenes information: they feed chimpanzees peanut butter because as they try to eat, it looks like they’re talking – they do the same when making The Hills.

The final act of the night was Scotland’s-own Danny Bhoy. A wire shirt from London was causing some problems for him, particularly with stewardesses. Funnily, the flu that can be caught from swine has given the advantage to the Muslim world again. Bhoy then launched into a story about a car crash that had more interruptions than an airport. In the end, it was understood the other car’s music was comparable to a cat being sick (followed by an impression of a cat that was thrown out of the house just before it could be sick inside), the music of national anthems is enjoyable, and the post-crash confrontation made him cry-out like a child.

To end the evening, Cleese presented the last segment of his own version of The Bachelor. However, his rose recipient refused to sign a pre-nuptial agreement, as did either of the runner-ups. Luckily for Cleese, a transsexual from the audience was more than willing to sign the paper. They were married that same night on stage.

If you want real no-holds bar comedy, then look no further than “The Nasty Show.” It was crude, rude and left nothing untouched, including audience members – it was everything I expected and more from the Toronto Just for Laughs X-rated special.

The night of impropriety was hosted by Nick Di Paolo and he came out swinging. He first complained that the bright spotlight would give him melanoma and the fake smoke would cause lung cancer. Then he pointed out the size of “the tits” on one of the unfortunate souls sitting in the front row. Di Paolo admires homeless people because they can sleep anywhere without tossing and turning and believes U.S. President Barack Obama might be the Messiah because when he was elected, Di Paolo pointed at his television and said, “Jesus Christ.” He returned to the stage in between acts to share a little more of his comical wisdom; subjects included getting old and his marriage – he noted a man can go home alone, order pizza, watch Sportsnet and jerk-off 11,556 times before admitting he should get married.

Jay Oakerson took the stage, immediately informing women that it’s summer so they should shave their vaginas (but without using that word). He then provided a few instructions and tips about doing so. Staying on topic, he explained no vagina has ever matched the original one he imagined – of course, he envisioned it was the magical entrance to a Narnia-like world. Next was a tale of an “inter-racial, inter-species gang-bang,” followed by the story of how he lost his virginity at 17 to a demanding, more experienced 22-year-old that tickled his balls.

Then came Hamilton-native Jason Rouse; he’s the type of comedian you know will be included in a show like this, but you wish he wasn’t. His idea of funny is being as vulgar and offensive as possible. He opened by declaring the water in Hamilton would kill him before AIDS. Then he spent a minute flirting with the mic stand before launching into a series of “fucking” jokes, including a distasteful but expected impression of a “retarded girl.”

On this night, the best was saved for second-last. Jimmy Carr walked to the centre of the stage wearing a suit without a tie and carrying a clipboard, which apparently listed his jokes. “I’m from Briton – that’s how things sound when they’re pronounced properly.” Carr entertained the audience with a string of one-liners that covered a variety of topics, but regardless of what he said it sounded less crude because of his accent. He ended with three pick-up lines and the best (and the one that can be repeated in mixed company) was: “Does this rag smell like chloroform?”

Patrice Oneal closed the show, beginning with some advice: spend all your money now because there is no future; soon we’ll have to barter. His sense of humour was less rude than some of those that preceded him. He also really enjoyed his own jokes, often laughing boisterously before it was even complete. He talked about his addiction to food despite his diabetes and lactose-intolerance, as well as the reintroduction of fish into his vegetarian diet because they’re not cute enough not to eat. He also spoke a lot about his relationship with his woman, his step-daughter (the reminder of his woman’s previous relationship), and the reason men don’t screw around – it’s not good for their life. At the end, even though the red light was blinking him off incessantly, Oneal just couldn’t seem to stop himself.

“The Nasty Show” lived up to its name in every respect, so leave your judgement at the door.

First a couple of upbeat songs from the house band, then the familiar tune that plays while the little green monster runs across the television screen – it’s a Toronto Just for Laughs comedy gala featuring top acts from around the world, including much-loved Canadian comic Jeremy Hotz, and several sci-fi references.

There can be no comedy in Toronto without taking a couple of shots at the city’s month-long garbage strike. They decided to get the obvious target with the first shot. A team from Second City took to the stage with a dumpster and protest sign. Since Oscar the Grouch is also walking the picket lines, a puppet named David explained through song that scabs aren’t the bad guys. And in case you didn’t know, the bad word that begins with a “c” is actually CUPE.

That brought TV’s Whose Line is it Anyway‘s Greg Proops to the stage. His comedy style is wordy with a lot of syllables but still relatable. He referred to Hollywood as “an idea held by one million assholes” and joked about the qualifications of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Proops professed a love for music and related country music to the white man’s blues. He also berated a man in the audience for texting during the show and then launched into a joke about how Star Trek’s Spock never had trouble finding reception.

Proops then introduced John Caparulo. Caparulo emerged and instantly critiqued his own weight after seeing the video clips of his thinner days. His style is somewhat nervous as he moves around within a box-shaped on stage. He talked a lot about visiting his family in Ohio in February, describing the cold as “the kind of cold that makes you want to quit your own life.” He also made fun of his high school friends that insist on hunting anything, while dressed in camouflage and fluorescents. This section was the highlight with several humorous but accurate insights, including, “To be a sport, both teams need to know there’s a game going on!” And the anecdote many can relate to, Caparulo complained about having to be a Jedi to use automated faucets and paper towel dispensers in public restrooms – you know who you are.

Next up was Irish export Jimeoin, who opened with an impression of Star Wars’ Chewbacca using a stool. Unfortunately, his portion of the program was relatively shorter than the others, who each brought the laughs for about 20 minutes. Nonetheless, in his short time, Jimeoin provided some tips on storytelling and anecdotes about how others strive to screw up your story. He also did an impressive impression of a washing machine’s last cycle after comparing the aggravating differences of frontload and top-load washers.

Hotz received the hometown welcome and then exclaimed he was so glad to be home, looking at all the normal faces, because “Americans are fucked up.” He then proceeded to dash a 19-year-old’s hopes for the future by using himself as an example of disappointments to come. Having guessed the correct age of the young man and then the height of a big and tall man in the front row, he declared he should go back to working at The Ex. He closed by comparing the male anatomy to Gonzo from the Muppet Show. Possibly the most surprising contrast was his performance personality versus the relatively normal, less shy one that introduced the final act – John Pinette.

Pinette, not surprisingly, delivered a rant about food – he discussed the badness of haggis, turnips and radishes and the horribleness of gluten-free foods because apparently the flavour is in the gluten. He also provided the best argument against exercise: he doesn’t do “ups” (i.e. sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups) because ups defy gravity and he obeys the law. He then asked that the audience takeaway two things from his act: be happy in life and don’t do a colon cleanse (it’s self-cleaning, even if the pretty lady tells you otherwise).

In the end, the all-star gala delivered an all-star performance.

Jon DoreJon Dore made two announcements at his first of two shows at The Rivoli as part of the Toronto Just for Laughs festival: 1) Everyone in attendance wasted their money on tickets to his show when they could have put it towards tickets to Sarah Silverman’s event; and 2) The Jon Dore Television Show will not be renewed for a third season on the Comedy Network. But as everyone bitterly pointed out, The Keys to the VIP will be back next season.

The opening of the show provided some Dore on “midget” (Andre Arruda) violence. That was the first hint that nothing would be off-topic at “The Jon Dore Television Show’s Writers and Jon Dore of The Jon Dore Television Show Stand-Up Comedy Show Show” (yes, that’s the title). Of course, 10 minutes into the performance Dore declared he was out of material so he jumped into the “racist” joke he’d saved for the end.

First in the line-up was Laurie Elliott. “Queen of the awkward stage entrance,” she overacted her way to the stage from the rear of the audience. Elliott radiated a nervous energy and wore a smile that spread from ear-to-ear. She had a slow start, but got better as she became more comfortable on stage. Her early delivery undermined some of the punch lines; nonetheless, her best joke was used in the beginning of her act when she described how her husband was mistaken for a murderer. The remainder touched on lewd pick-up lines, truck-stop hookers and excrement.

Dore then returned to the stage to show scenes from the TV show that were cut because they were too controversial. The star of one was “Roger, the aborted baby fetus” and the other featured a community-friendly swastika. You can form your own opinions based on those descriptions.

Next up was Mark Forward. He slowed the pace, taking a lot of pauses in between speaking and gradually building to the punch line. One segment opened with, “The brain’s crazy, eh?” His best joke explained why we should not give serial killers nicknames because they may have had a different one in mind. The low points included Michael Jackson humour as an instrumental version of “Man in the Mirror” played in the background and a one-sided conversation with the stage furniture. Forward ended his section with a suicide joke. Then he and Dore acted out an absurd Santa role-playing skit that ended in violence.

Finally, Steve Patterson took the stage as the third performer and announced, “This is the best celebration of a cancelled show ever!” He explained that joining a gym is like applying for a job, wondering what you have to say to be turned away and then giving amusing examples. Patterson also made a very true but amusing point that Gatorade commercials always feature athletes even though a whole other market of people use it as a hangover remedy. It turns out Patterson was the highlight of the night.

Dore returned to the stage to close the show. No subject was too controversial, as he attempted to joke about civil rights, the Holocaust, racism and stereotypes, miscarriages and Hiroshima; then acknowledged, “I’ve said some horrible things tonight.” He even attempted a game of spin the bottle, which transformed into an opportunity to interact/insult the audience. One wonders if the constant presence of a beer bottle in his hand may have been a contributing factor. After a shot of Jägermeister, Dore pointed out that this was the only occupation that allowed you to drink while working even though he’d probably be drunk by the end of the night.

The show concluded with a skit that started with fake fishing and evolved into spitting beer and groping Patterson. After almost three hours, this felt like overkill. To that point, the show seemed to be operating without a clock, starting 20 minutes late and turning a 10-minute intermission into almost 20 minutes.

In the words of Prince Philip, comedic sensation Danny Bhoy is that “funny Scottish fellow that looks like a bloody Indian.” He’s not wrong, but the keyword here is funny even if it is an understatement.

Bhoy opened his five-day run at the St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts’ Jane Mallet Theatre in Toronto last night as part of the city’s Just for Laughs festival. His humour is personal and observational and he often has to pause before completing a joke to overcome his own giggles; but he always delivers. Bhoy enjoys interacting with the audience, asking the crowd to shout out their occupations or seeking fellow Scotsmen before launching into a relevant anecdote. However, as the boisterous group tried to become too involved in directing the show, Bhoy jokily reminded them it wasn’t a workshop as he had the mic and spotlight.

What is sure to be a popular topic this week, Bhoy commented on the garbage strike. He pointed out nobody informed him it was happening, so he was surprised every public bin along the street was overflowing or taped-off. He also touched on the “credit crunch,” which is another topic that will be prevalent at this week’s event. However, his funniest moments are accompanied by personal stories and experiences. He talks wittily about his experience picking up women, pokes some fun at Americans’ way of speaking and revels in Scotland’s accomplishment as No. 1 on the list of the world’s worst diets – it’s better to be starving than be Scottish, Bhoy points out. He’s easily sidetracked onto related stories but always returns without prompting to finish the original tale; except once, at which point he took the opportunity to declare he gives a “seamless” performance.

The show climaxed in its closing when Bhoy described the first and only time he met the Queen. This was side-splitting humour at its best but I can say no more as it will ruin it for those of you who will see him over the next few days. (Hint: go see him in the next few days)