Before welcoming Group 2 of New Faces in Montreal upon their Wednesday night debut, host Pete Holmes asked the audience: “Be gracious. Be present. Be active.”
Holmes might also have said be wary.
For this crop of comics offered more style than substance, especially when compared to their Group 1 counterparts. And even that style often arrived couched in misdirection and expectation-bashing. Except when they were delivering you exactly what you thought when your eyes first caught a glimpse of them onstage. They’re an eclectic bunch, this group.
Hasan Minhaj. Minhaj, hot off hosting an MTV show and a global stand-up documentary, really wanted this crowd to know that he got THIS CLOSE to Michael Jordan at a party in Las Vegas. “Don’t meet your heroes. It’s not worth it.” This endeth the lesson. But not his rant against the greatest basketball player we’ve seen, because clearly, Minhaj has not left what happened in Vegas, in Vegas. And he will have his comeuppance, MJ will. Until then, Minhaj will still wear his Air Jordans. “I’d love to wear Air Gandhis, but that motherfucker didnt wear shoes!”
Michelle Wolf. Wolf has had a great year already as a writer for Late Night with Seth Meyers, her first stand-up TV credit on the show, plus several on-air cameos and supporting sketch roles. Her greatest feat to date, however, may have come in following Minhaj. She opened: “Fun fact: Michael Jordan has been on the Wheaties box 8 times. That’s more times than anyone has eaten Wheaties…that was going to be my opener no matter what. So I got lucky.” Claiming never to be in a relationship yet, Wolf said her first won’t be a muscle man. She’s only 29, which I say only because she has a lot of questions for you depending upon how you answer where you were when JFK was shot 51 years ago. So answer carefully.
Ryan O’Flanagan. O’Flanagan had fun at the expense of his botched intro, and then at his own expense, describing the harsh life lessons learned after moving away from gross roommates. He can tell if a movie will be good within its first five minutes, mostly if it includes a specific Middle Eastern singer in a sunset montage. As for detecting a bad movie, he says it happens when you hear the movie title’s name in the early dialogue. Which is true. But his tags also already came to fruition in Hot Tub Time Machine. For what that’s worth.
Monroe Martin. Martin has enjoyed plenty of screen time over the past two months thanks to Last Comic Standing, so if you care enough about comedy to have been watching, then you’re already familiar with his material about growing up in foster care, learning how to steal from his mother, and the displeasure of playing with dollar store toys. Martin also was incredulous upon learning his best friend was homophobic. “That’s not a real fear!” Martin said. Real fears have movies. Now try to think of a horror movie about gay men attacking straight men. And don’t say Hot Tub Time Machine.
Jesse Elias. A short fella, with a big floppy perm covering his eyes, you can tell he sports glasses but not much else because he looks down toward the stage and has an overly firm grasp of the microphone. Is his nervousness an act? Spoiler alert: It is. This San Francisco comic jokes about the futility of his city outlawing Happy Meal toys, about how tools are an equivalent gift to neckties for a father (both say: “keep working!”), and his strong feelings toward limited-time flavors. But he really made an impression by busting out into song while describing doing LSD and listening to “The Barber of Seville.” He followed that applause break with a closer castigating game shows for making celebrity charity donations contingent upon how the contestants do on said game shows.
Justine Marino. Marino, based in L.A. via Denver, said she never knows if she’s on a date, but she does know that she’s carrying too much literal baggage to make those dates work. “I am single, though!” She’ll say it again in case you missed it the first few times. I find that difficult to believe, but then, I don’t date Hollywood actresses that often anymore. As a single lady, Marino does believe in birth control, and demonstrates her rather poor hand job technique, in case you still had doubts. Expect to see her graduate to crazy best friend roles and eventually leading lady, if she plays her cards right. Hopefully her card-handling skills are smoother than her HJ skills.
Jake Weisman. Weisman is as colorful as his shirt, confessing: “I don’t know if you can tell by the shirt, but I suffer from clinical depression.” “Are we telling jokes? Uh oh!” Weisman jokes about how “being a Jewish” means he gets to experience both white privilege and guilt simultaneously. Daily double! At 31, however, he claims he’s no longer so much of a fan of the sex. Too soon? He remains a big football fan, though, and imagines how the first gay NFL player will inspire a wave of gay athletes, much the way Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier for baseball. Are you imagining it? Now how about imagining all of the boys attending a gay conversion camp.
Whitmer Thomas. Thomas is another tall drink of water in these New Faces, only his drink speaks Southern. Thomas explains that his fellow Southerners are simple, not cynical. His own tastes, however, veer directly into impersonations, which he launches into first with a Matthew McConaughey, one of our more popular celebrity impersonations here and now. “I just want to do funny voices and impersonations,” Thomas admitted. Which includes singing both parts of Blink 182’s “Miss You,” and even a Wanda Sykes. The audience was receptive. “Thanks. I feel weird about that one.” You and us both. But if it works…
Drew Michael. Michael has a lot more to say than a few minutes will allow. That’s not readily apparent or anticipated from the outset when he informs us that he stalked a girl for real, or even when he describes how hot “restraining order sex” is. And yet. He flips it around once he describes the power of love as a drug, not as a curious thing for you Huey Lewis fans, but as a newsworthy headline grabber more enticing than any weed, cocaine or mushrooms. And then he leaps into his theory for why marriage is an outdated concept, and before you know it, he’s off to the races about how politicians with outdated ideas can outthink themselves and deliver unto us real progress, as long as they don’t realize exactly what they’re doing at the time. Vote progress 2014!
Eliza Skinner. Skinner isn’t a big fan of marriage, either, it seems — although her problem admittedly is an inability to remain in love with any man she sees sleeping on a plane. She explored some of this territory in her performance on — coincidentally enough — The Pete Holmes Show back in March. Perhaps the real problem with dating and first dates, she finds, is the generic conversation-starter questions that men pose to her. Flight or invisibility? Which would you pick? And would you still pick that if you could talk to animals? Would you still date Skinner after you realize she makes up voices for animals, anyhow?
Matteo Lane. You know when a skinny guy in a backward baseball cap saunters onstage and breaks out into almost soprano opera singing? “That is a true story of how I came out to my dad.” Lane goes on to describe how people don’t know what to say to gay guys. Which is only slightly better than having a Starbucks barista write Potato as your name on a cup. Potato? Matteo! Lane’s set bookended the group’s night, actually, as he had a Michael Jordan reference to drop. In his case, however, it’s taking a fresh look at an old home video in which his older brother, then only 9, said that if anyone rules, it was Janet Jackson, not Jordan.