Scott Thompson @ Yuk Yuk’s | Exclaim! | October 19, 2017

Scott Thompson

Yuk Yuk’s, Ottawa ON, October 19

Scott Thompson Yuk Yuk's, Ottawa ON, October 19

 

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On the precipice of recording his first standup album, Scott Thompson treated the Thursday night Ottawa audience to a fully formed and fleshed-out set on the first evening of his three-night run. After some terrific support from a portion of the region’s best local talent, including the incredibly rubbery and amiable comedy of Greg Schroder and an airtight, cerebral, crowd-pleasing performance from Trevor Thompson, the Kids in the Hall alum rushed the stage, greeting the eclectic Yuk Yuk’s crowd an impossibly buoyant surge of energy.

Immediately (and brilliantly) riding a joke delivered by the evening’s host regarding a “crooked cock,” Thompson quickly gave those in attendance a crash course on his edgy sense of humour, announcing that he once had a lover whose penis shifted to the left, but luckily his orifice shifted to the right.

Continuing with unscripted material, Thompson engaged with the crowd, asking a woman in the front row if she was worried that he might seduce her male friend, before capping off the joke by hilariously quipping, “You should be more worried about me seducing you, I am getting more curious with age.”

Thompson then launched into his typically edgy, shocking and often un-PC routine (famously exercised via his KITH alter-ego Buddy Cole), that included material on a fantasy where Justin Trudeau and Jagmeet Singh engage in homosexual sex, getting turned on at a UFC match and the time he turned down Sir Ian McKellen’s sexual advances.

But even when Thompson began to talk about his battle with cancer or an encounter with a homophobic junkie, he refused to yield from the edge of tastefulness, telling the crowd that he should have played the victim card and been the next Rose McGowan. Throughout his routine, Thomspon gave the crowd a herculean supply of manic energy, bouncing around the stage, screaming into the mic and, in turn, sweating “like Woody Allen after reading about Harvey Weinstein.”

As he closed out his 73-minute set, the audience gave the comedian a round of applause that seemingly found some clapping in adoration and others relieved that the onslaught was finally over.  And Scott Thompson would have had wanted it no other way.

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Tim & Eric @ Sony Centre | Exclaim! | September 29, 2017

Tim & Eric

JFL42, Sony Centre, Toronto ON, September 29

Tim & Eric JFL42, Sony Centre, Toronto ON, September 29

 

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Headlining the penultimate night of Toronto’s ten-day JFL42 Festival, Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim brought their “10 Year Anniversary Awesome Tour!” — celebrating a decade of the duo’s warped sketch show, Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! — to the city’s regal Sony Centre for the Performing Arts.

Opening the evening’s festivities was long-time Tim & Eric tour mate and Awesome Show editor DJ Douggpound, who warmed up the 3,100-seat theatre behind his DJ setup, punctuating his supremely droll humour with absurd air horn sound effects and purposely lame song drops. After a much-too-brief ten-minute set that featured his “new” character DJ Darkkpound (which consisted of Doug delivering jokes wearing a mask with his voice pitched down), the comedian brought Tim & Eric out onto the immense stage, causing the already energized crowd to leap to their feet (as per Heidecker’s suggestion).

Entering the stage wearing white top hats, tuxedo blazers and spandex shorts, Tim & Eric greeted the crowd with a hilarious sendup of a musical revue honouring their aforementioned milestone. After speaking with the crowd and hyping (in very Tim & Eric fashion) the upcoming debut of Heidecker’s new character, Troi, the duo directed the crowd to the stage’s big screen for a sneak peek of the very disturbing “Butter,” the season finale of their latest program Tim & Eric’s Bedtime Stories.

The duo would return to the stage to bring back some of their greatest hits, including the German industrial band Zwei Dunkel Jurgen and Uncle Muscles, before Heidecker and Wareheim wrapped up the evening with the reveal of Tim’s absurd Troi character and a closing bit that found Wareheim strutting around in a tiny silk bathrobe and Heidecker stripping down to just a padded thong.

Since their screened episode of “Butter” took up a third of their 60 minutes of stage time, and with the duo trotting out of old bits (plus, the fact that not nearly enough general festival pass holders walked out in confusion or disgust), Tim & Eric’s “10 Year Anniversary Awesome Tour!” seemed much too conventional, predictable and well-behaved to properly honour such a ground-breaking television program whose original purpose was to break every conceived convention in the medium… including anniversary celebrations.

Gilbert Gottfried @ Yuk Yuk’s | Exclaim! | September 14, 2017

Gilbert Gottfried

Yuk Yuk’s, Ottawa ON, September 14

Gilbert GottfriedYuk Yuk's, Ottawa ON, September 14
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Returning for the first time since his popular run of shows in 2015, Gilbert Gottfried helped pack Yuk Yuk’s Ottawa with a raucous and eager-to-laugh crowd. As Thursday marked the first of his four nights in the nation’s capital, the Brooklyn comedian was greeted with deafening chants of “Gilbert! Gilbert!” long before the first comic hit the stage.

Opening the show was the evening’s host, Toronto comic Jeff Paul, who jumped upon the penetrating energy already present, bulldozing his way through a set that highlighted his self-deprecating humour. Up next was Ottawa’s Michael Lifshitz, who cleverly gave the engrossed crowd a bevy of twists regarding his customary jokes about his disability.  Local comic Chris Borris followed up with a laidback (but well-written) delivery that unfortunately lost a portion of the room, while his compatriot Dave McConnell absolutely slayed the audience with his acerbic one-liners.

When Paul returned to the stage to introduce the evening’s headliner, the crowd leaped up to give Gottfried a rare standing ovation as the diminutive 62-year-old hobbled to the stage. Although looking frail and unassuming, Gottfried authoritatively greeted the crowd with his iconic voice, perhaps revealing the intention of many of those in the audience, “You came to see me, you saw me, now get out!”

As he segued into an absurd stream-of-conscious rant about losing his pet turtle behind the radiator before describing a scenario where little people would be jumping on top of a rusty crowbar jammed into his eye, Gilbert was met by much confusion and a bit of revulsion from the now-tempered crowd. But being the veteran comic that he is, Gottfried got the house roaring again when he delved into a bit about Canada and our insistence to cover perfectly tasty foods with maple syrup.

After a typically strange run of prop comedy bits, Gottfried closed his 45-minute set off with traditional setup and punch line jokes that often straddled the lines of politically correctness, expertly demonstrating just how easily he can find a laugh no matter what his mode of delivery may be. As Yuk Yuk’s helped him close out the show with a second standing ovation, Gottfried disappeared to the back of the club, ignoring the crowd’s wild chants for an encore and showing the audience that, when it comes to his uncompromising persona, Gilbert Gottfried will always brilliantly be Gilbert Gottfried.

Bridget Christie- Stand Up For Her | Exclaim! | August 2017

Bridget Christie

Stand Up For Her

Bridget ChristieStand Up For Her
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Netflix has helped bring attention to a number of British comedians, with specials from Jimmy Carr and Stewart Lee gaining a wide North American audience over the past five years. But if anyone deserves the exposure the streaming service can bring, it’s Bridget Christie, the celebrated humourist, writer and standup.

On her first special in both North America and England, Christie chooses to shape her entire act around one specific theme (a common practice in the UK), brazenly skewering the stereotypes, issues and inequality faced by women throughout history.

In 50 completely absorbing and acerbic minutes, Christie never comes off apologetic and she never makes the viewer feel like she’s saying something out of line or taboo, as her scope moves from the Biblical Adam (“Eve was created to laugh at Adam’s jokes”), the Christopher Hitchens’ essay on how women are not funny (“He tried to prove his theory by not putting any jokes into his essay and then dying”) and the ridiculous Bic for Her pen (“Before they were invented, women could only use their menstrual blood”).

Performing at London’s 320-person capacity Hoxton Hall, Christie keeps the gracious crowd captivated with her quick-fire wit and intelligence, demonstrated by her unique narrative style that often finds her coming off as if she’s discovering these truths in real time, helping her deliver the absurdity of men’s ideals around women, in which she sums things up brilliantly: “I’m not going to stop talking about feminism until short, fat, bald, pissed, sweaty women have the level of self-worth and self-confidence [as men do].”

Even if you find Christie preaching to your own personal choir, Stand Up for Heris delivered with such a level of confidence, intelligence and common sense that you can’t help but coming out of it feeling a little more enlightened, informed… and sore from laughter.

Tracy Morgan- Staying Alive | Exclaim! | July 2017

Tracy Morgan

Staying Alive

Tracy MorganStaying Alive
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Staying Alive, Tracy Morgan’s glorious return to the stage, isn’t just a recounting of his 2014 near-death accident, it’s a celebration of his recovery. Kicking off with a wonderfully executed title card showing Morgan strutting down the street to the music of the Bee Gees, à la Saturday Night Fever, Morgan inserts a joke where he pays for an lavish coat in cash, pulling money from a cloth Walmart bag, while giving the viewer insight into just how real and honest this special is willing to get.

Walking out in front of the crowd at the Count Basie Theatre in New Jersey, Morgan wastes little time getting real. Decked out in a white John Travolta suit, the Bronx-raised comedian delivers a touching and riotous set that often resembles a one man show, as he recounts his life-changing experience, beginning with his time spent in the afterlife, musing on how he met God, Ol’ Dirty Bastard, Notorious B.I.G. and Michael Jackson.

Throughout the 60-minute special, Morgan’s material never comes off entirely mind-blowing or astute, but it does come from actual events that Morgan never shies away from reciting, from asking his doctor if his dick still worked, to recovering from brain trauma and informing his speech therapist that “This is the way I’ve always talked.”

But Morgan is resourceful enough to avoid sticking completely to his accident and its aftermath, instead he uses this experience to parlay into jokes describing family members who visited him during his hospital stay, about how his wife shamed him out of feeling sorry for himself, and how, when he returns to heaven, Jesus will be the cool guy at the party hanging with his comedian friend, Jimmy Mack (who perished in the same crash).

Although there are stretches that finds Morgan rambling and unfocused, there’s truly no other special out there quite like Staying Alive for its candour, swagger, intelligence, touching truth and for its ability to laugh at mortality and to revel in beating death.

Sam Kinison- Breaking the Rules | Exclaim! | June 2017

Sam Kinison

Breaking the Rules

Sam KinisonBreaking the Rules
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During his short career, Sam Kinison occupied the rarified air of being a comedian who was both beloved by his peers and adored by his ever-growing legion of fans. And although his allegiance with the L.A. hair metal scene, appearances on Married… With Children and friendship with Rodney Dangerfield now deeply embed Kinison in the late ’80s, Breaking the Rules shows just how clever, groundbreaking and shocking his material really was during the peak of his career.

A former preacher turned standup, Kinison’s first HBO special shows the Houston comic screaming through a set that that comes off much less taboo, but at the same time, much more politically incorrect for 2017. But that’s what places Sam into his own category, as splits his jokes into two categories: his problems with “demon women” and his vast knowledge of the bible.

Kinison even melds the two in his bit where, if Jesus was married, his wife would have never believed the story about going out with his buddies and not returning for three days. Recorded in 1987, just as his career was taking off, Kinson’s material about cheating on his wife and his trysts with several women are surprisingly overly confident, self-effacing and completely misogynistic.

While there’ve been countless hack comedians since who’ve tarnished Kinison’s style, it’s fascinating to hear the audience’s pure shock when he tells them how to perform successful cunnilingus by spelling out the alphabet with one’s tongue, or when he speaks about the grossness of Christ’s crucifixion. Though at the time Kinison wasn’t as dirty as Andrew Dice Clay or Eddie Murphy, he was certainly the perfect foil to help break down the PC age of the late ’80s. Plus, bonus points for burning out long before fading  away.

Exclaim! is reviewing every standup comedy special currently available on Netflix Canada, including this one. You can find a complete list of reviews so far here.

Garfunkel and Oates- Trying to Be Special | Exclaim! | February 2017

Garfunkel and Oates

Trying to Be Special

Garfunkel and OatesTrying to Be Special
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Just from its premise alone, Vimeo’s 2016 release, Trying to Be Special, the second TV performance from musical comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates, stands as quirkily original.

Laid out in the show’s cold open, the duo of Kate Micucci and Riki Lindhome concoct the ludicrous idea of putting on a comedy special in order to raise money to “record their own comedy special.” After a brief fake-out opening set by Anthony Jeselnik, in which he expectedly insults the duo on performing old material, Garkfunkel and Oates enter the stage next to an oversized thermometer designed to measure audience applause.

Over 60 minutes, Micucci (on ukulele) and Lindhome (on acoustic guitar) perform some of their best known material (from their four LPs and various YouTube clips), including “Pregnant Women Are Smug,” “Fadeaway” and “Fuck You” (with the latter enhanced with a joyous crowd kazoo-along). Although the duo come off confident and inventive during their performances, their between-song banter and jokes unfortunately feel a bit awkward.

After a mid-special highlight that covers hilarious crass songs about handjobs (“I Don’t Understand Jobs”) and post-secondary sexual experimentation (“The College Try”), Garkfunkel and Oates hit their stride, combining clips from former tours, hilarious song intros and animated video for a song about Lindhome freezing her eggs (the Emmy nominated “Frozen Lullaby”). On Trying to Be Special, Garkfunkel and Oates prove that they’re industrious, clever and possess just enough crowd control to give this comedy special the same energy and panache as any classic concert film.