At the Comedy MIX, Yuk Yuk’s, and the Vancity Theatre from February 20 to 23. No remaining performances
Even if you didn’t go to every show at the just completed JFL NorthWest comedy fest, chances are you saw more comedy in the past fortnight than in most two-week periods during the year.
There were shows at theatres big and small throughout the festival, but clubs usually provided the best experience. You were closer to the performer, sipping beverages, sharing a laugh with friends at a table. Vancouver is fortunate to have two world-class comedy clubs, so I stuck to the Comedy MIX and Yuk Yuk’s and still managed to see many of the big names who headlined the theatres, doing shorter drop-in sets.
The MIX on February 22 was a solid show from top to bottom, with the suave MC Patrick Maliha getting the crowd perfectly pumped with confident yet self-deprecating crowd work. The standup veteran can do an hour with seemingly no act and still kill. It’s harder than it sounds. On this night, he was kept to a tight 10 off the top and a few minutes in between acts, keeping the show moving and on-track. Middler Levi McCachen was smart and super funny, talking about not your usual subjects. Granted, his love of the craziest conspiracy theories isn’t smart, but his take on it is, managing to make fun of them while also claiming support for them.
Headliner Kurt Metzger said he could only muster “just-got-off-a-flight energy”, but still was hilarious. Like McCachen, he was able to think way outside the box, giving his take on “classic news”, dolphin dicks, Hollywood morality (it’s easier to get on the Supreme Court than it is to host the Oscars), religion vis-à-vis Jeffrey Dahmer, Jared Fogle’s prison justice, and a retrospective on Saddam Hussein (“Looking back, weren’t we a little rough on him?”).
Over at Yuk Yuk’s on February 23, I missed Chris Griffin’s opening set, but headliner Steve Rannazzisi’s act was strong. He’s a self-assured New Yorker—confident but never cocky—whose wife-and-kids material was for everyone, not just fellow parents. Too often when a comic veers into family material, dread overtakes me, but not with Rannazzisi. He also talked about his father’s late-life obsession with online porn without getting gross.
For three late nights, Andy Kindler’s Alternative Show hosted drop-ins from the festival. Highlights over the run of nights were Liza Treyger, such an open book and so naturally funny, Rory Scovel surprising Todd Glass with some positive heckling, Scovel’s own “contractually obligated” appearance, Victoria-based Chelsea Lou’s stories of teaching and coming into her own in her 30s, the Jewish Sophie Buddle talking about stumbling into being a Christian camp counsellor, Simon King’s speed-round impressions, and Natasha Leggero’s Marie Antoinette shtick as an oblivious rich snob and uninvolved mother.
I also managed to get to the Just For Laughs Film Festival portion to see Roy Tighe’s riveting new documentary Never Be Done: The Richard Glen Lett Story at the Vancity Theatre on February 20. Filmed over a nine-year period, the movie shows Lett at his worst, best, and most cringe-inducingly funny. Hopefully, it will be streaming somewhere soon, just like the various standup specials by many of the names listed above.
And for those above who don’t have online specials yet, it’s just a matter of time. In the meantime, look for them at a club near you. It’s the best way to see them anyway.