One of my biggest disappointments from last year's fest was the unfortunate last-minute pullout by Greg Proops. He's a comic I've been dying to see live for some time now, and anyone I've known who's been lucky enough to see him has held it over my head and mocked me senselessly for it.
Having finally seen him, I'm very pleased to say he more than lived up to my expectations. Proops is one of those few comics you can tell is not only naturally gifted, but has a poise, stature, and work ethic that elevates him into another tier of comedian altogether. The word that kept coming into my head was 'professional'. Putting aside the obvious that he puts on a suit and carries himself with a distinctly confident swagger, his act, delivery, and quickness on his feet set him apart from comics who may have strong jokes but weak delivery, or beaming stage presence with lackluster material. Proops has it all. Not even a distraction by a guy in the front row on his phone could derail him. If anything, he seems to relish spontaneous distractions, such as intentionally awkward silences or a woman with a boisterous laugh, to add colour to an already vibrant set.
The standing ovation he received at the end was well deserved, and he kicked off the festival on a very high note.
I've had the great fortune of seeing Chanty Marostica perform numerous times over the years, but this headlining set was something uniquely special. Marostica is the first openly trans performer to ever have their own show at JFL42, and the elation on their face was noticeable right from the start. Adding to the momentous nature of the event was the revelation that they also came out to their parents earlier that day (hey Tom and Marilyn!).
A big chunk of the first half of the show dealt with Chanty's very real, very heartfelt, and very funny observations on what was clearly an important day, and kudos to them for devoting a significant portion of their first ever JFL42 headlining show to fresh, untested material. Material, by the way, that absolutely crushed, and resonated with the crowd who could clearly tell that we were seeing a performer at their most raw and vulnerable, in the most joyous and elated way possible. There was a real celebratory air in the room, and with a comic like Chanty who has the ability to pull audiences in and relate to them in ways few comics can, it's no surprise that the crowd was on their side 110%.
Any Chanty Marostica show is sure to be great, but I consider myself lucky I was there to see this one.
Passes and individual tickets for JFL42 -- which runs September 20-29 in venues across Toronto -- can be found at jfl42.com/choose-your-pass. Greg Proops and Chanty Marostica both have other shows you can check out during the festival.
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.