Don’t know how you feel yet about self-fulfilling prophecies, but it certainly seems as though Montreal’s Just For Laughs successfully read “The Secret” when it comes to its New Faces Characters showcase. JFL created the Characters showcase a few years ago with boasts that you might find the next Saturday Night Live cast member there, and SNL indeed has hired New Faces as featured players each of the past two seasons. Two of those cast members were stand-ups, which is an added curiosity turned fun fact. But that’s neither here nor there.
Here we are, however, in Montreal with a showcase that each summer gives us more of an impression of what SNL auditions must be like inside 30 Rock. Except Montreal’s audiences laugh a lot more often than Lorne Michaels does.
Here are my first impressions from the 2015 New Faces Characters. Your impressions, naturally, may vary.
Matt Barets presented us with a couple of insufferable characters — a guy called The Listmaster, and a guy in a coffee shop who updates everyone on the bad news notifications alerting his laptop — plus a darkly absurd guy who hosts the in-house cable channel for a hotel.
Lyric Lewis, a member of The Groundlings, proved a year and change doesn’t make an “ice bucket challenge” less funny in the right hands, explained sauce charges to a customer at the fictional Nugget Kingdom, and offered up a wine presentation from a Syracuse student.
Marques Ray, also a Groundlings member, nailed his audition as a guy named Emilio who walks by a movie set and launches into impersonations of gay Robert DeNiro, high Tom Cruise, Manny Pacquiao, Johnny Depp and Prince. He also portrays a TV news correspondent, and has a character about a guy whose wife is going into labor.
Sudi Green‘s characters also included an audition within her audition, as “Tammy Faye Exxon” yearned to join the Real Housewives franchise. Green’s other characters: A one-woman feminist show; CNN’s Christiane Amanpour; a ballerina; and a “fat” version of Jasmine.
Will Stephen, a veteran of CollegeHumor original shorts, made the house take another look at itself with his TED talk about nothing; delivered an all-star version of Hamlet with impersonations of Adam Driver, Jimmy Fallon, Ricky Gervais, Woody Harrelson and Matthew McConnaughey, and Robert Durst; a film discussion by a guy who says what “If I Was In It”; and an audition by Sufjan Stevens for the musical Grease.
Jon Bander, from the UCB and Magnet Theaters, used the audience to great effect by inviting them to role play a session on bullying; before that, he also portrayed a Southern attorney with a weird way of defending a pedophile.
Punam Patel‘s characters wondered how Mother Teresa would react should she find herself uninvited to a potluck in Heaven; managed a Dairy Queen; played chess competitively while dealing with hypoglycemia; served up BBQ as a husband, and worked as a TSA agent.
Phil Augusta Jackson made the crowd sit up and pay attention as his community theater director was asked to step up and step into all of the roles of his production. He closed with a delightful bit about a guy who desperately cannot open his peanut butter jar.
Alison Rich started writing for SNL last season. But she has several of her own characters who deserve their time in the spotlight: Among them, a girl who gets reasonable when she’s drunk; a woman trapped in a fitness commercial; and as herself, falling in love with a centaur (half-man, half-horse). “Yes, I’m the second person with a horse bit!” she acknowledged playfully.
Don Fanelli opened with his improvised slam poet routine, then had some fun with a guy who writes really short songs on his guitar, then bent time with a Memento-style joke about a talking rat in a bar. Layers upon layers of tags to unwrap backward!
I’m not sure if any of these characters will get hired by Lorne, but they should get picked up by someone making a sketch show, or looking to cast a breakout supporting scene-stealer in an upcoming sitcom or movie.