At various venues from Thursday to Sunday (February 16 to 19)
It’s been a cornucopia of comedy with the JFL NorthWest fest hitting venues large and small around town. With shows scheduled at the same time as each other sometimes, one has to make tough decisions. I opted to go for acts I had never seen live before. This forced me to choose Piff the Magic Dragon over the wonderful Nate Bargatze, but it turned out great.
At the Vogue, Piff, who slayed the admittedly slayable judges on America’s Got Talent, is an English bloke dressed up in a bad dragon costume who does magic with the aid of his pet Chihuahua, Mr. Piffles. Mixing comedy and magic ain’t easy. Most who try to fuse the two usually end up sounding stilted, with memorized patter straight out of bad-joke books. But John van der Put (aka Piff) could make it on his own as a standup. He does a regular show at the Flamingo in Las Vegas and he brought a real, live Vegas showgirl with him, which provided ironic pomp to his beaten-down, world-weary, and sarcastic character. The magic was damn impressive, too, especially his big multifaceted closer, the “greatest mother-fluffing card trick in the world”.
Michelle Wolf was impressive at the Biltmore Cabaret. Her pacing over a 72-minute set was outstanding, as was her writing, which is to be expected: she’s a staff writer on The Daily Show With Trevor Noah. Not a lull the whole night. For a progressive, Wolf bravely veered off into material that could be described as decidedly nonfeminist (even though she would dispute the word bravely). But I always got the sense she was following the joke rather than the herd.
Fortune Feimster was another breath of fresh air in her 66 minutes of stage time at the same venue. She had an infectious personality and great material. Her crowd work wasn’t the best; she asked the crowd in general, rather than a specific person, what interesting jobs they had. But she addressed her awkwardness, saying she has a hard enough time in person carrying on a conversation, abandoning ship after two questions, so she didn’t know why she thought she could do it on-stage. Loved her bit about her moral dilemma regarding the Chick-fil-A boycott, too. “I’m fat first, lesbian second,” she said.
The Vogue was packed from top to bottom for comedy–true crime podcasters My Favorite Murder. QHosts Karen Kilgariff and Georgia Hardstark manage to be legitimately funny and respectful of the horrors they’re relating. For this live recording, they chose gruesome tales of local serial killers Cody Legebokoff and Clifford Olson. It wasn’t easy to hear the details of their crimes, but Kilgariff and Hardstark weren’t laughing at the disturbing details or the victims. The laughs came so as not to cry, and they expressed appropriate revulsion at the bad guys. My only complaint would be that their research should delve deeper than Wikipedia. But it’s now a podcast on my radar.
Toronto’s K. Trevor Wilson is one of the hottest acts in the country. A regular on Letterkenny, he recently shot a set on Jimmy Kimmel Live. He got off on a weird footing at Yuk Yuk’s by claiming that Vancouverites brag about all the sunshine we get. Huh? Once a comedian gets a premise so wrong, I find it hard to lock into the joke no matter how funny it is. But he did have a great line comparing spring to a deadbeat parent. Wilson, in fact, was a regular comedic Vivaldi, covering all the seasons.
A big shout-out is also in order for some fine local comedians who were chosen to open for the visitors: Kathleen McGee, Eddie Della Siepe (he’s here enough that I’ll consider him a local), Chris Griffin, and Kevin Banner all warmed up the crowds admirably and showed they belong on any stage anywhere.