We make a big deal in the comedy industry about “New Faces” in Montreal because the comedy industry makes a big deal about it.
TV credits are nice, but “getting Montreal” still feels like the prize aspiring comedians are reaching for, whether or not the development deals (six figures or even less) are there to be won. Not that anyone wins New Faces, anyhow. Despite what you heard from last night’s host of New Faces, Neal Brennan, there’s no reason to tell the audience that you’re “going to keep it fair” for all of the stand-ups by giving them all the same introductions. That said, if you’re going to do that, why would you then ask the audience “are you ready for a lady?” in both shows before bringing up a female stand-up in New Faces? This isn’t a competition. It only seems that way if you make it one in your head and in your attitude.
As Brennan said after the conclusion of Wednesday night’s Group One showcase: “Nobody bombed. Everybody was castable.”
Well, that’s for the industry to judge, isn’t it? And even if someone did bomb, or didn’t kill, or another death-related term so commonly bandied about in comedy, that New Face still has two more chances onstage in Montreal to make a good impression, as well as in the Hyatt lounge hobnobbing with agents, managers and bookers.
What makes New Faces also remarkable is how, from year to year, the release of the secretive list of comedians reveals just how many of them are “new,” how many are new in the same sense that the Grammys wait years to recognize “Best New Artists,” and how many of them already are appearing on your TV screens as broadcast and cable networks also are rushing to take credit for discovering the next big name in comedy.
Sean Donnelly plays off his looks quite a bit. That’s not a new move in stand-up (it comes up quite a bit, particularly with newcomers establishing themselves with an audience — what with the “I know what you’re thinking…this guy’s a cross between X and Y….punchline!), but it works particularly well for Donnelly because he doesn’t force it. Yeah. Bearded, rotund, ballcap-wearing Donnelly does look like he’d be good for small talk about sports, but he’s not. If that’s not your ticket, don’t worry, because his charm and likeability will win you over. As will colorfully descriptive lines such as this one, about having sex with his wife: “This isn’t 50 Shades of Grey sex. This is Angela’s Ashes sex.” Or this one about buying T-shirts in bulk at Old Navy: “I bought a Run-D.M.C. shirt at Old Navy. That’s the least Run-D.M.C. thing you could do!”
Andrew Santino feels like he has to wear a hat because of all the things he hates about his red hair, yet he’s also having enough sex to be surprised about that. Also surprising: The fact that men still agree to have sex in the shower, which he amply demonstrated through a big act-out.
Turns out we are ready for a lady, when the lady is Aparna Nancherla. Nancherla joined the writing staff of FX’s (soon to be FXX’s) Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell and has appeared in multiple on-air segments for that late-night series, and it shows in her onstage confidence today. I’ve been a fan of Nancherla’s since she lived in Washington, D.C., and she’s only gotten stronger and more relatable to audiences since then. Her observational humor is keen enough to key in on technology, taking something she has seen and turn it into an Instagram game: “Too Much Information, or Not Enough?”
Pete Davidson definitely is the newest face New Faces has seen in a while. Davidson is so young he was in eighth grade in 2008, so he couldn’t have voted for Obama. In 2012, he certainly didn’t vote for Romney, comparing him instead to a Batman villain. Davidson also joked about dropping out of college, but don’t worry about him. Davidson already is getting screen time on MTV2 via both Guy Code and Wild ‘N Out, and Nick Cannon talked him up big time when Cannon spoke to me earlier this month.
Kevin Christy loves seeing rich people in the audience at comedy shows, but they might not love seeing him, especially when he suggests we eat them for supper. Christy is fascinated by MC Hammer to the point of wanting to sell Hammer on the idea of selling hammers. Obvs. Christy also can be suckered into buying McRibs and any Disney movie that comes out of the vault.
Rick Glassman stood out in this group with a heavy on the meta set that was certain to make an impression on jaded comedy executives. Nothing like showing how much you know about the rules and tropes of comedy, then breaking all of them for fun, to get the industry’s attention. It also helped to walk onstage during Brennan’s introduction of him to substitute a new hand-written introduction. Definitely intrigued enough to wonder what Glassman has up his sleeves after his first eight minutes.
Josh Adam Meyers followed that up with a voice that could only belong to a former strip club DJ. Meyers, from Baltimore, also took his musical knowledge back and went old-school with it, forcing us all to imagine what it must have been like for our grandparents or great-grandparents to have sex to big-band music. Because that must have happened.
Brooks Wheelan knew he’d end up in comedy from an early age. What with his dad killing an opossum with a sledgehammer in front of him when Brooks was 7. You know. Now all growns up, Wheelan demonstrated why he’s not exactly a hit with the ladies, as there’s such a thing as being too confident and/or too drunk at the party.
Alice Wetterlund came out of the gate strong by announcing her football fandom, then revealing what exactly it is about NFL players wearing pink for breast cancer awareness that really grabs at her heartstrings. Wetterlund also imagined what the person who advertised on Craiglist for a roommate charging only $5/month must have been imagining him- or herself.
Sam Morril caught some flack this year from a blogger for one of his jokes, but did that stop him from telling it here? Heck, no. In fact, Morril told that joke, commented on the blogging brouhaha that followed, and tagged the whole situation with more jokes. Afterward, the booker sitting next to me was astounded. That was the joke that caused all this fuss? Yes. Oh, fussy Internet. Morril also performed a bit in which he figured out how he’d infiltrate a hate group and slowly reveal himself to them. Good, bold choices.
Derek Gaines is 28 and black with no kids, but he lives with his mother. You decide which is the good news and which is the bad in that scenario. Not up for debate: The recurring biscuit commercial jingle that Gaines sings for his supper as a closer. It’s a catchy tune, and you’ll remember both it and him.
Byron Bowers is one of the more engaging personalities and stand-ups you’ll see in this year’s crop of New Faces, presenting a narrative thru-line for his set here. Bowers let us know he just wants to be great enough someday to make up for any inappropriate behavior he exhibits later in life. He cited past examples such as Beethoven, Walt Disney, Michael Jackson, Oscar Pistorius and Martin Luther King, Jr., saying of the latter: “He used to bang chicks on the side and take naps. But in one of those naps, he had a dream!” Bowers may not dream of a day when there is a black magician, but it won’t take black magic for him to go far in show business.
Adam Newman just recently made his debut on Late Show with David Letterman. Here, he chose to do that set, but bookended it skillfully with dirty jokes to open and close. Would you rather have the Heimlich maneuver or a finger in the butt? Just think about it before you answer.
Fun fact about Ian Karmel: The 6-foot-3, 300-pound performer from Portland acted in the original TV pilot for Portlandia. Not yet a fact but probably will be one soon: Karmel will land another pilot. Question is: If Ian Karmel doesn’t think his name fits his body type or personality, what stage name should he choose for his future TV credits? Anything but Juicy Lucy.
Gina Brillon, a Puerto Rican from the Bronx, has never had the stereotypical accent that you might think a woman of her background would have (think Rosie Perez). That said, even those women have to break the accent if they want to have an adult job, right? Right??? Brillon, who won a holding deal through NBC’s Stand-Up For Diversity competition, also confessed that she still has a thing for macho men. Not macho, macho men, like the Village People. The real machismo.
I remember first seeing Damien Lemon in a Lower East Side comedy club masquerading as a comedy club, in the basement performing to an audience of about six. Lemon killed back then. And he’s moving on up the career ranks now, with a spot on MTV2’s Guy Code to his credit and more to come. Not even a crying baby could knock him off his game. And there was a baby who made his or her little baby self known to the audience with yelps in the middle of Lemon’s set. Also snapping him back to reality: Lemon jokes about attending three different weddings this year, and how it’s affecting his eight-year-relationship with his girlfriend.
Dan Gill has a perm, a mustache and a plaid shirt. But he’s not the hipster Ron Burgandy. He’s not even from San Diego. He’s from Iowa. Gill proved that the only real way to watch the 1990s movie Congo is in nine separate YouTube video installments, has an obsession with Waldorf salads, and lets us all in on the strange world that makes Disney character Goofy a widower
Dave Stone, from Atlanta, wants to know if you can take a “fat day” off from work. Not sure about that, particularly if you’re not even nearly the largest performer on the lineup. One thing’s for sure, as Stone notes: “You can’t diabetes if nobody diagnoses you.” He also lives in a van, and he knows what you have to say about that. It’s not like that. It’s nowhere near the river. That would have given him a natural place to shower, though.
Esther Povitsky: One of these days, Little Esther will have to grow up, or she’ll have to decide to embrace that name to her fullest and make the act and personality fit the name. These in-between years are just awkward for everybody.
Mark Normand‘s confidence has grown leaps and bounds since joining Amy Schumer’s tour as her regular opening act, and it showed here in Montreal — memorable new joke about Google searches coming up on your Facebook page as ads — stop snitching, Google! I sometimes forget that most people haven’t seen as much of Normand as I have, living in NYC. That’ll change. You’ll all catch up to me soon enough.
Andrew Schulz is a native New Yorker, born and raised. That’s what that means. But Schulz thinks New York City has given him a false sense of superiority and of the world around him. Thankfully he has visited more than a few national parks to understand America and the world from a different perspective. Expect to see a lot more of Schulz on your MTV this year and in the future, hosting shows and commenting on others. Don’t expect to see him go tandem skydiving again. He’ll let you know why.