First impressions of 2016’s New Faces of Comedy at Just For Laughs Montreal
Back in the day, New Faces in Montreal were truly new faces to the comedy industry. That was back when six-figure development deals got thrown about and signed by young comedians even before they returned back to the States.
This dot-com comedy boom has changed much of that.
As Just For Laughs has scrambled, sometimes in recent years placing finalists from NBC's Last Comic Standing onto the New Faces lineup in July as viewers were getting to know them or vote for them on TV, they've somehow managed to keep up. They added an UNREPPED category of New Faces just to ensure that agents and managers have one pure group of fresh-faced stand-ups to which they can dream of dollar signs and paychecks and commissions together. JFL also added a CHARACTERS category of New Faces, which has resulted in consecutive years of hiring by Saturday Night Live, and now, too, by the revival of MADtv and other sketch series on The CW, FOX and cable. Both the UNREPPED and CHARACTERS groups showcase tonight.
As for the O.G. version of New Faces? Group 1 and Group 2 showcased Wednesday night. If in recent years, you could count on seeing a few of these stand-up comedians in the week or weeks to come on late-night TV, in 2016, you already could have seen these showcase sets within the past year.
But before I digress, here are some thoughts on the New Faces from Wednesday night in Montreal.
Hosted by Matt Braunger, who perhaps didn't get the crowd sufficiently warmed up with a set about his recent surgery on his ass, did manage to connect with both the New Faces and the audiences with his own fears of human contact when he's in crowds.
Joel Kim Booster, however, did smash in kicking off New Faces proper with a set you may have seen last month on Conan. "I love this country, though, it's so cute!" Booster said of Canada.
Evan Williams followed with a traditional 12-step meeting greeting: "Hi, I'm Evan, and I'm an alcoholic." At least one guy in the audience obliged with the accepted reply: "Hi Evan!" Seriously, though. "You ever try drinking when your name is on the bottle?" Williams offered. "How ridiculous is that?" The bourbon label literally is calling his name. He's sober at 19 from drugs, and got married at 21, so he doesn't quite join in when his guy friends talk about having sex. Williams does enjoy some rigorous tickle fights, and sees a therapist who had him engage in pretty ridiculous exercises to deal with the death of his mother. Yep. Some real talk here. But funny, too, if you can get into the spirit of things.
Dino Archie just turned 33. "I'm a full-grown man, but there's no proof." You can see Archie make his TV debut tonight on Jimmy Kimmel Live -- taped before he left for Montreal!
Jo Firestone can take the energy of any room and turn it into loving her and her adorable onstage presence. Even when, or perhaps especially when she describes how she relates to audiences in having to deal with rude people. Where that cabbie who tries to describe Firestone by comparing her to celebrities, though...his rudeness is up to you.
Jesus Trejo describes himself as Mexican only child who looks like a cross of Napoleon Dynamite and Pedro, and he knows it. More literally, though: Jesus, Mary and Joseph!
Matt Ingebretson lost his virginity while watching the film Hocus Pocus. Jesus, Mary and Joseph! He does have a solid financial plan that includes saving money for children, and then not having the children. Why he's making eye contact with guys in toilet stalls, I still haven't figured out. Perhaps the two of them can discuss their foot fetishes together.
Naomi Ekperigin was the first of two consecutive comedians introduced by the wrong name, but she immediately laughed it off. "Matt Braunger, Caucasian ally! If they bring back slavery, I need you to buy me." She's engaged to her "Jew boo," and too many friends and strangers are too excited to describe what they think her future mixed-race children will someday look like.
Ahamed Weinberg noted that even phones auto-correct his first name, and joked about how his parents converted to Muslim, which throws strangers off even more. "That's the secret, just being white!" He's still doing a joke about movie novelizations that reminds me too much of another comedian, though, for my liking. Wondering what else he's got.
Note: I started to fade fast during the sets of Jordan Rock and Casey James Salengo, and afterward, talking to other audience members, I'm still undecided about how much of that was due to my personal exhaustion and how much their sets just underwhelmed me. Not even discovering mimosas like Rock has would have helped last night. I should give them both another chance, at any rate.
UPDATE: The headline says first impressions. Here's a second impression. Take a look at Salengo's set from earlier this year at Night Train.
And here's a clip of Jordan Rock at Gotham Comedy Live on AXS TV last year:
Which brings me to Robert Powell. He closed out the group with a set that wowed the audience, although I was more struck by the fact that he brought notes with him onstage, trying to be topical with jokes about Trump and about Ozzy Osbourne cheating on his wife. Far less topical or unique? A bit about Stephen Hawking cheating on his wife.
Hosted by Tone Bell, who noted that for the New Faces, doing Montreal means that "their careers will be blossoming, they'll pay off all their debts and all their family and friends will be proud of them." He joked about paying off his debt, and calling every day afterward to make them report his balance of zero!
Josh Johnson kicked things off for his group by smiling and nodding to the music just a little longer than you thought. He said he's 26 and because of his slight build: "My feet have left the ground an embarrassing number of times during hugs." Also says his white voice crushes in phone interviews. So yes, he has been mugged. He's tried learning self-defense, but he even lost a fight to a ceiling fan! His act outs won over the crowd.
Dave Ross has a bit of a split personality. Mild-mannered one moment, channeling an angry straight guy the next. His two personalities come to a head when, after questioning his sexuality during small-talk at a party, he later describes to us how he answered his own question by going on a date with a man. Both versions of Ross apparently not fans of country music, though.
Jenny Zigrino, seen two summers ago as a runner-up on the TBS competition Funniest Wins, fashioned herself as "a slightly skinner Adele." She celebrates and questions her own feminism, thanks to the fact that she gets horny when she's drunk. And this on our potential next president: "Hillary doesn't even wear panties. They're built into the pantsuit!"
David Gborie, meanwhile, is sick of talking about this election! "I just learned what a duvet cover is. I can't also find out what a caucus is." He had a very different worry about time machines. Finding love is like watching a fat guy fall on an ice skating rink, which he knows makes audiences imagine him doing just that. He doesn't have what anyone would call a real job in San Francisco, but if he can get paid to convince straight men to dance together in public the way straight women do, well, can someone pay him to do that?
Matt Donaher reminds me of the great persona of Brian Kiley. Short jokes that take sharp turns. He's done Conan twice. Here's his most recent set to put you in the mood.
Jacqueline Novak uses her physicality to own the stage and the room, pacing back and forth while exploring our obsession with the female form and her obsession with eating. She also has some thoughts about the penis and sexual moves that are worth your time and consideration. As Novak explained back in the winter on The Late Late Show, just don't try sharing pizza with her.
Randy Syphax echoed his Tonight Show set from last year, which allowed him to joke about being mixed, plus impersonations of Dave Chappelle and Richard Pryor.
Chris Garcia performed two different sets. First, some generic love of watching soccer (football) with Spanish announcers. Then, after describing how the song, "La Bamba," could never have been a hit in English, he described himself as a Cuban-American. Complaining about how unfair it is when comedians make fun of their immigrant parents, he brilliantly flipped the script by imagining instead, what it'd be like if his dad were the stand-up comedian. Talk about a creative way to spin self-deprecation!
Sarah Tollemache is getting married soon! She has jokes about that, but if it turns to be anything like her relationship with her printer, then it'll be a long road to happiness. You can see more of her from this performance on Gotham Comedy Live.
Bell brought up Tim Dillon as "your headliner" and Dillon lived up that billing. Even if, after entering to the sounds of "Thunderstruck," he said: "I asked for that song because I look like a guy who gets kicked out of a Trump rally!" Dillon is gay. "Sorry nobody." Dillon also lets you know how working a double-decker tour bus can stir up racism in anyone, and yet, he has more rage for the fake reality of Undercover Boss. The buzz and hype about Dillon is real. Clear eyes, full hearts, can't lose.