Spring arts preview 2017 comedy critics' picks: Shows welcome the weird and sassy

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      JFL NorthWest ends next week, but the unofficial festival keeps on truckin’. Too many highlights to mention, including Owen Benjamin at Yuk Yuk’s, Bryan Callen at the Comedy MIX, and Miranda Sings at the Centre, but here are some shows not to miss.


      Jim Jefferies

      At the Orpheum from March 1 to 3

      It wasn’t long ago that Jefferies was playing midnight shows at the Rickshaw. Now look at him: three nights in the grand Orpheum.

      The Draw: In the not-so-grand tradition of Doug Stanhope, Jefferies is comedy’s latest degenerate sage. The Aussie takes great pleasure in putting voice to our deepest, darkest thoughts and manages to be funny while doing it. Sometimes sober.

      Target Audience: He can hold both popular and unpopular opinions. No matter where you stand, he’ll have you thinking he’s made a great point. A comedian with his balls will lose some interested bystanders, but his real fans can take it.


      Sebastian Maniscalco


      Sebastian Maniscalco

      At the Vogue Theatre on March 11

      Another comic blowing up in front of us is this guy. Sometimes he goes by only his given name, which you might too, if your family name were Maniscalco.

      The Draw: He’s almost Brian Regan–like in his rise, selling out theatres all over North America without a big presence on TV. And like Regan, his show appeals to all ages.

      Target Audience: If you find yourself saying things like “What’s wrong with people?” and “Aren’t you embarrassed?” this is your guy. Those questions also happen to be the names of his specials.


      Marc Maron

      At the Vogue Theatre on March 26

      This may come as a surprise to those of you familiar with the interviewer and actor, but he’s a standup comedian, too. Okay, that’s not much of a surprise—Maron’s been entertaining audiences (or doing his version of entertaining) for decades.

      The Draw: Maron’s always been an acquired comedic taste, but his podcast is in the mainstream, attracting a much larger audience. In November, he headlined Carnegie Hall. And as everyone knows, that takes practice.

      Target Audience: Do you find yourself caught up in your own head? Take a break and listen to a real professional navel-gazer.


      Conjure the Night

      At the Vancouver Playhouse on April 2

      Granted, not specifically comedy, but who doesn’t laugh when they get their mind blown? Besides, it’s not often Vancouver gets a major night of magic.

      The Draw: The Amazing Randi, Shawn Farquhar, Camilo the Magician, and Matt Dillahunty all on one bill. Randi is a legend. Farquhar (originally from Maple Ridge) is a two-time world magic champ who’s fooled Penn & Teller and Ellen DeGeneres. (One of those is a much harder feat than the others.)

      Target Audience: If you live in a world of wonder and can handle not knowing everything, it doesn’t get much better than this.


      Harland Williams

      At Yuk Yuk’s from May 11 to 13

      A Canadian master, right up there with Jim Carrey and Howie Mandel. He was, is, and always will be a weirdo of the highest order.

      The Draw: You’ve heard of a face for radio? Williams has a face for comedy. It helps that he’s also got the voice and warped sense of humour for comedy.

      Target Audience: His career on celluloid is mythic. His oeuvre includes Half Baked, Dumb and Dumber, There’s Something About Mary, and the classic Freddy Got Fingered. No doubt he’ll draw from those fans, as well.


      Russell Howard

      At the Rio Theatre on May 16

      The British are coming, the British are coming! It seems each year more and more comics are crossing the pond our way. The latest is Howard, best known (over here, anyway) for his work on the TV shows Mock the Week and Russell Howard’s Good News.

      The Draw: His Round the World Tour is literally that. He plays 82 shows in 19 countries over six months. The sun never sets on his act.

      Target Audience: Expand your world-view. It’s always nice to get an international perspective.


      Gerry Dee

      At the Vogue Theatre on May 17

      Quiet. All eyes up front. Mr. Dee is coming to town. The sitcom teacher (and former real teacher) regularly tours the country with his standup. Don’t worry, you won’t be quizzed on it.

      The Draw: Canadian TV takes its lumps, but Mr. D is consistently one of the funniest shows on the air.

      Target Audience: Teachers, students (past and present), parents. That about covers everyone. Dee’s comedy tentacles reach far and wide.

      Rich Vos



      Rich Vos

      At the Comedy MIX from May 25 to 27

      A new regular at the MIX, Vos is a pro’s pro who delights in making audiences laugh and doesn’t care a bit what they think of him.

      The Draw: His New Jersey swagger makes him sound like a tough guy, but he’s a pussycat.

      Target Audience: Fans of his hit podcast My Wife Hates Me, which costars his Canadian wife, Bonnie McFarlane. (Come on, MIX, bring her in one day!)


      Ali Wong

      At the Vogue Theatre from May 25 to 27

      Wowza, nobody expected this. Two years ago, a virtually unknown Wong played Yuk Yuk’s. And killed. This year, she’s playing three nights at the Vogue. That’s almost unheard-of.

      The Draw: She’s a sassy, dirty powerhouse in a tiny package. And even tinier now that her baby is out in the world.

      Target Audience: No doubt her Netflix special, recorded when she was seven months pregnant, has brought her a legion of new fans. She’s also featured on the CNN series The History of Comedy.


      Gary Gulman

      At Yuk Yuk’s on June 9 and 10

      The crowning weekend of the season is Gulman’s first visit to Vancouver. The Boston big man has been around the block, but in an ocean of terrible Netflix specials, his It’s About Time hour was one of the best of 2016. Maybe even the best.

      The Draw: Gulman revels in taking a subject and peeling away its layers methodically, really getting into it. The New York Times (or, more accurately, a writer therein) called him “one of the country’s strongest comedians”.

      Target Audience: Comedy aficionados will love catching him in the intimate club setting. Who knows, next time he might be doing a Jim Jefferies and playing a huge, impersonal theatre.