Filed under: Reviews
The first time I saw Al Val perform, she was getting roasted by a vicious panel of her peers at one of Todd Van Allen's "Write 'em Up" shows at Comedy Bar; she was being torn apart by the zippers on her pants. The next time I saw her perform, it was on a Zoom comedy show before a panel of blank boxes, half of whom were muted, and the other half were doing their evening chores while watching comedy as one, in the pandemic, was wont to do. She mimed eating corn with her prop mic, and it was frickin' hilarious because she just owned the weirdness of the moment. Most recently, I saw Al performing in a packed room with a roaring audience of fans and friends. People who've found her on a stage somewhere in Toronto -- through word of mouth, or maybe at Pride, or at Just for Laughs Toronto -- have all found their way to enjoy Al at the top of her game.
If you've not seen Al Val perform, it is a riotous experience. Every performance is a full tilt roller coaster ride of laughs from one of the funniest and friendliest people in the world of comedy. Her act is full of physical comedy, sharp wordplay, and amazing crowd work, along with a self-awareness that is at once powerful and always engaging.
Al Val has been working her way up through the scene for years, and you're as likely to see her at an open mic or a small show as on the screen as part of CBC's The New Wave of Comedy or at a world-class comedy festival. There are certain comedians who commit to the grind, dedicate their life to spending every moment they can on stage, and it shows. Their act is polished and refined but also, it's kind of empty. They have no "there there", but while Al puts in "the reps", she is deeply personal and personable, giving her comedy a connection that goes beyond vague observational nonsense into something truly engaging.
On this night, she performed the second sold out Big, Brave Comedy Taping, and it was perfection. Allie Pearse opened the show, warming an already receptive audience to the perfect temperature to start a comedy taping. Al has had an incredible 2 years and change full of experiences performing not just around Canada but also overseas in Norway, and that connection to the audience was on full display.
Al was flexing her material: some were jokes that were finely honed favourites, while others were newer bits but no less magnificent. When audience members' reactions generated comedic moments, Al knew to lean into the moment. Tonight, there was a particular laugh that is both a blessing and a curse to a comedian because it's terrific fodder for the mill but also once you hear it you can't unhear it and it's sitting there in your head. Al bounced from moment to moment, working the laugh and other audience reactions seamlessly into her material ending on, I have to say, my favourite of her bits -- one I would straight up fund to make into a feature-length film.
When cut together, with the right audience, mix, lighting, edits, and most importantly the right performance, a comedy special is something magical. Al Val's Big, Brave Comedy Taping has all the components to be magical, and will be showing up on YouTube in the near future. I can't wait to see the finished product, and you should do yourself a favour when it comes out and enjoy every moment of seeing a performer rock.