Montreal 2008: Best of the Fest. Really?

Most of the industry just got to Montreal, Just for Laughs still has four nights to go, but that’s not stopping them from jump-starting and continuing to schedule a nightly showcase at Comedyworks as "Best of the Fest." How would they know? Was someone judging? These are rhetorical, moot questions, as this showcase isn’t all that different from the continuing "Bubbling With Laughter" shows. Both feature professional stand-up comedians. Perhaps the Bubbling lineups have more veterans, perhaps the Best Of shows feature shorter 7-minute sets.

But perhaps James Smith put it best when he took to the stifling hot, sweaty, packed stage last night and looked around the room, exclaiming: "So this is where they hold the Best of the Fest!?" For the remainder of his set in the early show, Smith did what I’ve seen other comics do already — namely, not tailor their sets for the Canadians in the audience, but toward the Hollywood and New York agents, managers and show-business types watching from the back of the club. Smith devoted his first set to the Democratic presidential campaign in America.

John Mulaney, likewise, had no problems beginning his routine with the description of an odd subway encounter he had…in Long Island City, Queens…following that up with his take on Law & Order (so ubiquitous on American TV screens, but do Canadians get to watch a gabillion episodes a day?), though it didn’t matter since he sold the audience with his impressions of that show’s stock supporting characters.

Host Ryan Stout opened the proceedings boldly, even saying at one point that he liked how the audience felt "laughter mixed with shame." It could also have been Stout’s attempt to produce an American version of Jimmy Car, inadvertantly or not.

What else? Matt Kirshen had the audience wondering which of his British accents was supposed to be the "funny" one. Hannah Gadsby provoked many laughs through her explicit sexual truths. One audience member laughed often and loudly at just about every facial expression Sebastian Maniscalco made. And Erin Foley proved she could’ve held her own on this season’s Last Comic Standing, even if her bit on a billboard advertising the wrongness of rape reminded me of having watched Ricky Gervais tell almost the same joke (not alleging any nefariousness, just pointing out the parallel thinking). Paul Foot, on the other hand, didn’t quite impress with his rehashing about people who have "Baby On Board" signs on their automobiles. Maybe someone will challenge him on this week’s LCS? Oh, what’s that? Little birdy says yes.

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

View all posts by Sean L. McCarthy →