The festival begins, and my task has been laid out: chronicle my experiences at one of the best comedy festivals in Canada, and make it seem somewhat enticing so that I can justify being here and hopefully get people out to see more shows. I can do that.
Problem is, reviewing comedy shows is a tad redundant. They are all sort of one-time only things, and even if a performer has multiple shows, who is to say their next ones will be as good/bad? Not fair to judge on that curve. I've had my comedy reviewed before, and every time it's been wrong to some degree, even if they liked me.
So nuts to that -- I'm going to approach this a little more scattershot. I'll give brief summations of the acts I've seen, and maybe give you a better idea of what an evening of JFL42-ing is all about. I'm also not going to "review" the shows with some kind of rating system. As a comic, I know reading a star review does nothing but fill my heart with poison, and as a reader all you'll learn is I either was in a good or bad mood that night, and justifiably ask, "who cares what this idiot thinks?"
My name is J.D. Renaud, a guy who actually enjoys comedy and going to things alone, so use that as your baseline of what I'm all about.
What I will be reviewing is the audience of each show. JFL42 audiences are a wild and varied bunch, and I think they are worth documenting. I've seen some dizzying highs and horrifying lows from audiences in this festival, and it's high time some of them were commended, and some others shamed. Perhaps if you like the sound of one of the comics, you yourself could be in the audience of their next show and either turn the tide or add to the fun. Either way, the harsh finger of justice is pointed at you, potential audience member.
Normand is a pro, and it shows. Tight material, very prepared, delivered like a comic who sees an entire open mic show of people scrambling to fill time and just shoves them all out of the way with confidence. He probably could have done another half hour with ease. Not everything landed the way he might have wanted, but he endeared himself to the point that it really didn't matter.
Audience Review: I would describe them as "attentive", which is not entirely a compliment. Everyone was listening, laughed when they needed to, then politely stopped. Not Normands' fault a 7 PM Thursday crowd were not exactly a rowdy bunch, but he held himself together in front a a room that needed to be told that smiling does not give comics the same jolt that laughing does. 7/10
Mausner & Gilmour both took to their co-headlining sets with ease, and utilized their time to pack a considerable amount of laughs and charm in their own unique ways. Gilmour played off the audience's expectations expertly, even calling them out for applauding too much to great effect. Mausner brought speed and intensity into the mix, and made great use of multimedia for their closer. Not hard to see why they both tied for Homegrown this year.
Audience Review: Small, but mighty. A little over half-full, but with the energy, attentiveness, and general good attitude that if it HAD been full, would have been any comic's dream crowd. These two deserve bigger houses, but those who knew to find them already got the score. 4 and a half stars
I've gushed about Chris Locke before, but I'll just reiterate my previous points: One of the funniest people out there, brilliant with his prepared material and off the cuff, and just in general a damn delight to watch live. Calling out the very real fact that as a local Toronto comic he was taking some liberties in how long he planned to riff and make light of the festival itself was refreshing after a long night of comedy. No two Chris Locke shows I've ever seen have been the same, so there's no excuse not to at least see him once.
Audience Review: We have our first heckler, folks! People, please, if your life has taken you down a dark path and you choose alcoholic outbursts at comedy shows as a means to cope, ruin your life in the back of the room, not in the front. "Julie", as Locke renamed her, did almost everything possible to sabotage everyone else's night. Too bad for her Locke didn't have the time nor the energy to let her have her way, and the collective will of the rest of the crowd didn't let the tide shift away from enjoying the show. Audience grade was A-, "Julie" and her enabling boyfriend get an F.
J.D. Renaud is a writer, comedian, producer, and visual artist originally from Oakville, Ontario. You can follow his weird thoughts on Twitter at @jdrenaud.