No way to see all the greatness of Global Comedy Fest

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      At the Cultch Historic Theatre and various other venues, from Wednesday, September 23, to Sunday, September 27

      Trying to squeeze 46 shows into five days is no easy feat. That’s exactly what the Global Comedy Fest did between September 23 and 27. And if you’re a big fan of the art form, it can be a frustrating experience knowing what you’re missing. But still, with a little creative planning and a lot of disregard for my circadian rhythm, I was able to catch 12 of them.

      Two excellent shows that flew under the radar took place at the Cultch. One was called Out of Bounds My Ass, which ran for three nights, featuring 12 comics and six experts. On Friday, the topic was race. Host Glen Foster, who represented white middle-aged rage, brought on Iranian-Canadian Reza Peyk, Filipino-Canadian Art Factora, Jamaican-Canadian Cedric Newman, and African-American Kevin Avery, who each performed standup comedy with a racial theme. Then University of Toronto professor Minelle Mahtani sat down for a short and serious, yet not without laughs, talk on the importance and perils of such humour, followed in turn by a panel discussion that was a perfect balance of comedy and thought-provoking debate. The other two nights centred on politics and religion. With more publicity and fewer competing big-name shows, this could be a popular series. Comedians are the layman’s philosophers, after all, and it’s fascinating to hear the thought that goes behind the jokes.

      Following Out of Bounds was San Francisco sketch troupe Comedy Noir’s series of roasts with a twist. They are, essentially, Comedy Central Roasts mixed with Steve Allen’s scripted talk show Meeting of Minds: fully costumed skewerings of historical figures. So on Friday, Adolf Hitler was hammered by Caligula, Joan Rivers, Idi Amin, George W. Bush, John Wayne Gacy, Klara Hitler, Anne Frank, and the Marquis de Sade, with Jeff Foxworthy as the host. With the tag line “Dark done right” and a viewer-discretion warning, you knew what you were in for.

      Rivers (in an excellent impression by Mari-Esther Kaplan) said, “Charlie Chaplin called. He wants his mustache back”¦ And his family!”, and that was one of the tamer lines. As in roast tradition, everyone on the panel was fair game, so the Gacy character (played by Nick Leonard), who entered to the chorus of “Where the Boys Are”, turned to the host and said, “Jeff Foxworthy, you are smarter than a fifth grader. You’re not buried in my basement, are you?” And, of course, the honoured guest got a shot at everyone. Foxworthy (played by Comedy Noir cocreator Kurt Weitzmann) announced the man of the hour: “Now the reason we’re all here—and a lot of people aren’t.” Hitler (played by cocreator Howard Stone) went through the dais: “Anne Frank”¦ Nice kid. Probably didn’t have another book in her anyway.”

      Space doesn’t allow for the many other highlights of the festival, including the three-hour Comedy Death-Ray at the Vogue, the Saturday late show at Yuk Yuk’s, the Jimmy Pardo podcast and game show at the Westin Grand, and Andy Kindler’s talk show, also at the Grand.

      Next year, how about a longer festival or fewer shows so a comedy nerd can get to everything?