As they say in France, que sera sera, je ne sais quoi — which translates into not one but two cliches. As for French Canada and Montreal, what better way to close out the 25th anniversary of Just For Laughs than with a gala hosted by native son William Shatner. What’s that? You didn’t know the Shatner came from Montreal? Neither did I, my dear readers. Neither did I. The fest’s grand finale (though the festival continues with a couple of shows on Sunday, Saturday night represented the blow-out of blow-out spectacular shows across the board) had the city’s streets teeming with comedy fans, and other people, too. Let me share a few salient points and thoughts from Saturday night…
Is there a stage past post-ironic to describe the public persona of William Shatner, especially when he "sings" Canada’s rock hits? Or is that simply called ironic? Where is Alanis when you need her?
Zach Galifianakis doesn’t need a piano to be funny, although it certainly adds a little something something (perhaps that je ne sais quoi?) to observations such as: "At what age do you tell a highway it was adopted?"
I now have very mixed feelings about Canadian stand-up Gerry Dee. Why? Dee rocked the televised gala audience with his set Saturday night, but I had the strange sense that I had seen and heard it all before — mostly because I had seen and heard it all before, as his 6-7 minute set virtually echoed the televised sets he had performed this year for both Comedy Central’s "Live at Gotham" and NBC’s "Last Comic Standing." Most stand-ups understand that any set they’ve done on national TV gets "burned" (aka retired), so what does this say (or what should I take it to mean) about the rest of Dee’s material? Like I wrote, mixed feelings.
Bill Burr deserves a development deal, or a big break. I saw him crush both at the Shatner gala and much much later, past 2 a.m. Sunday, as the final comic in the "state of the fest" showcase, devoted to (as the program says) "this year’s breakout acts and must-see talent." He actually closed both shows, for good reason. He literally is sincerely funny and brutally honest onstage.
What are the odds that out of several hundred patrons, the most drunken and annoying one gets seated front and center? Most comedy club customers will say they may fear sitting there for fear of getting picked on by the comedian. But the same is true for the performers, as the New Faces 2 showcase demonstrated Saturday night at Kola Note, with a guy talking to (and sometimes blurting out and yelling at) each of the comedians, publicly apologizing each time until he got kicked out of the show. As host Tom Papa discovered, every square inch of that customer’s table was occupied by empty beer bottles. "Two hundred beers and a sailor with low self-esteem equals chaos!" Papa said.
The name "LaQuisha" always seems to get a laugh (New Face comedian Geoff Keith proved that again). Must be the "qu" sound. At least that’s what the comedy textbooks say.
New York stand-up Kurt Metzger politely informed the Canadians "why America is like, the best country": We own the moon. "Where is the weird Quebec separatist flag on the moon?" Eh? Metzger also made a somewhat compelling case for why God could be a woman. I shan’t dare repeat it here and now.
As New York stand-up Matt McCarthy (no relation, well, not to me, anyhow) and I decided, Montreal is like the French Texas of Canada. Just a little bit different. Acts like it’s its own country. And as the other McCarthy said during his New Face showcase, "I have never seen so many churches and strip clubs in my life. Make up your minds!"
Speaking of Texas, New Face stand-up Lucas Molandes showed yet again that Austin breeds very smart and clever comedians. His closing bit on the war in Iraq involved a sexual conundrum between a raccoon and a cat, but he apologized by saying, "Sorry folks, I just read ‘Animal Farm.’" A couple of his other touchy observations: Native Americans made the dreamcatcher, "but the one dream they couldn’t catch was the American Dream." And reading Anne Frank’s diary "taught me you can’t hide from your problems." Yikes! Still quite funny, though.
Also quite funny: Tommy Johnagin. His performance could be used as evidence that "Last Comic Standing" does indeed find and put promising comedians on TV.
Andy Kindler really is the comedian’s comedian.
Joey Kola’s and Bobby Kelly’s impersonations of a female voice sound oddly similar to an impersonation of Joe Pesci. I don’t mean that as a funny like a clown way, either. Just funny. And that’s a wrap for now. Time to catch a plane back to JFK.