The judge’s rulings are final. So I’m going to withhold final judgments on some of the New Faces until further review. At Montreal’s Just For Laughs, the New Faces have to deal not only with the pressure of a large foreign comedy club, but also with the added nerves of performing for all of the industry people who likewise stand and sit in ultimate judgement from the back corners of the bars, ready to make or break a comedian’s career. Wow. What a build-up, eh? First off, let it be acknowledged that nobody bombed last night. Referring to my Simon Cowell Playbook, I can definitely also say, however, that several of the comedians need to do more to make a lasting impression, if they want that impression to be a positive one.
Host Greg Giraldo killed it, both in his opening remarks and also, at the halfway point, after he threatened a particularly persistent idiot heckler, surging into several minutes of high-power comedy. "Maybe I can get a show called Washed Up Hacks Stomp On 60-Pound Dickbags," he wondered aloud. Giraldo also reflected on how important this night was for "these kids," and what it means about his career that he’d be calling the New Faces kids.
Among the kids, the two real stand-outs from last night were Sean Patton and Brendon Walsh. More than a few people asked about Patton afterward and wanted to know what I knew of him, considering that he’s based in New York. I have another post coming shortly on that aspect, but can tell you that he delivered a strong set from the get-go, opening with having to call in sick with a case of "the roars," followed by a case of "the beatboxes." With the crowd on his side, he paused for a beat. Then exclaimed: "You motherf%$#ers want to to fight me???" It was the best way I’d ever seen him introduce this bit about how to defend himself in an unexpected fight scenario, and it got a big laugh. He closed wih a weird and wild ode of what his ex did to his broken heart. Messed up, to say the least. As for Walsh, he proved to me once again that the Austin comedy scene seems to churn out very creative and clever comedians. Walsh’s opening line: "Just like every other comedian, I have a fictional girlfriend, and we’re having problems. It’s rough." Walsh also has some very mean pranks up his sleeves, so tell puppies and Gene Hackman to watch out. And he can end any hopes of being forced to sing karaoke again just by taking on "Zombie" by The Cranberries.
For the record, though, current Last Comic Standing finalist Iliza Shlesinger scored not one, not two, but three applause breaks during her brief performance. Someone recently commented on my site that she’s like a female Dane Cook, and waching her live, I can see that comparison. Take it for what it’s worth. And right now, I can tell that some of you are taking it to either extreme. Suffice it to say, she’s physical, she likes playing with sounds, she attacks the stage and has immense stage presence. It’s a lot for some to take, I know. I get the sense that Shlesinger is trying to prove a broader point that she should be on TV more, in any capacity, whether it’s stand-up or acting. I do know this: You’ll be seeing a lot more of her on your TVs this summer, and in the clubs this fall.
Chelsea Peretti and Ira Proctor both delivered decent sets. Proctor’s could have been better if the crowd had cooperated with him. Harris Wittels suffered from an unfortunate microphone malfunction, but recovered well enough to deliver a ballsy routine that even the band used as a callback, to hilarious effect on an unsuspecting Giraldo later in the show. There was a moment during Michael Palascak’s set when I closed my eyes and thought I heard Mike Birbiglia. Tu Rae’s deep voice had his routine down to a couple of key phrases, "know your limitations" and "do the best you can." Is that his advice for his career, too? Discuss. And Erik Griffin, taking the stage last after midnight, didn’t get to play to a full and engaged room. They and the other New Face in this group (Seaton Smith) will get a second opportunity to make a first impression on Friday.