Yesterday was an exciting day, after a flurry of activity in the morning (including a great interview with Jackie Kashian which will be airing in a couple of weeks) I got to cheer on a friend in the SiriusXM Top Comic competition and follow that up with an exciting night at The Alternative Show hosted by the ever hilarious Andy Kindler.
The late night meant this morning when I got up I was running on fumes. I had hoped to go to Jackie’s The Dork Forest podcast recording but wasn’t able to make it. I’m just going to have to pick it up from Band Camp as a premium episode when it becomes available, that’s the price of 2 or 3 am nights several days in a row. For people who are starting to slow down like myself, it really takes its toll, but the price was worth it.
Returning to JFL42 this year the SiriusXM Top Comic competition had the near capacity audience at the Winter Garden very excited. The competition, which had been running for some time, was whittled down to eight finalists. Kyle Brownrigg, Sophie Buddle, Brittany Lyseng, Myles Morrison, Chanty Marostica, Alex Pavone, Nick Reynoldson and Ryan Willams. Proceedings were being hosted by Ben Miner of Canada Laughs who did a great job of keeping the audience engaged and laughing between the sets.
Recorded for air later, this year’s proceedings had a richer pot and were a bigger opportunity than ever. First off, the prize money was $25,000 but added to the pot was a featured booking at Just for Laughs in Montreal, JFL42 next year and Just For Laughs Sydney in Australia! On top of all this, the winner also gets their own special!
The show itself was simulcast on SiriusXM with listeners able to cast a vote as the show progressed and a final opportunity to vote after the last act while a panel of judges (including friend of the podcast Peter Hill who appeared on our Robin Williams A Night At The Met episode) graded the sets and combined with voting arrived at a final winner. The first set of the night was performed by last years’ winner Gavin Matts. Matts, who has since moved to L.A., turned in a fun loose set performing some new untested material as well as comfortable material he had worked on in the past. He kept up the good job that Ben had started earlier of warming up the audience and getting them ready for the eight finalists.
I’m going to try to keep my recap of the performers brief, I highly recommend you check out the recording of the competition when it becomes available. Nick Reynoldson was the first competitor to take the stage, his high energy set was fun and bouncy keeping the audience on its toes and maintained a self aware and lively performance. Next was Myles Morrison a tall strapping lumberjack of a man who did a gentle and sweet set that touched on religion in one of the most enjoyable ways I’ve seen in years. Kyle Brownrigg followed lighting up the stage with sharp with and fun banter taking on white privilege, nicknames and the insecurity of men. Following Kyle was Ryan Willams, a bombastic act that was super high energy but never alienating. There was a relatability and the energy always felt like a kind of bouncy yelling you could get behind since the material was all something you could easily sympathise with. Alex Pavone, a Woodbridge native who relocated to New York City, provided a hilarious set that joked about being a Canadian in New York and included one of the most pin point accurate impersonations of an animal I’ve seen in my entire life. Chanty followed up Alex with a heart warming and high energy set. Their loose and riffy nature was spiced up with local Toronto references and included some great physical comedy moments. Brittany Lyseng’s set that followed was at once honest and self deprecating and hilarious while still making material from her struggles working in the construction industry. Lastly was Sophie Buddle who’s tight hilarious set was lightly blue and maintained a bouncy energy that would obfuscate some very sharp and dark jokes.
After all eight finalists had gone up the judges were faced with no easy task of arriving at a decision. It’s clear that everyone of those contestants deserved a spot on that stage and everyone of them performed their heart out to the point I could have easily been convinced anyone of them deserved the prize. While the judges deliberated Maria Bamford took the stage and performed an amazing set that kept the audience rolling in the isles in anticipation of the winner. Bounding about the stage it was easy to see why Maria is so respected as a comedian.
Leaving the Winter Garden I killed a bit of time before arriving at the bustling Second City theatre where Sharilyn Johnson showed me the best seats in the house. Andy was once again on fire, the full room ate up his material that riffed extensively on Trump, Hitler, Dane Cook, Bill Maher and Louis C.K. in the most merciless manner.
The guests for the evening started with Deanne Smith who recounted a personal story that made the audience laugh and squirm at the same time. Joe Mandy followed with a highly charged loose set that took the time to poke fun at our own local embarrassments on the way to skewering those in the states with a personal take that was uniquely his voice. Jackie Kashian followed, a serious pro she gave us a loose and heartfelt set that was topical and powerful. The Cooties followed performing three songs making it clear why Reggie Watts loves them so much, they were a delight who I will be tracking down to listen to more of. Finally we closed out the evening with the acerbic charm of Todd Glass who kept up a barrage of humour that left the audience reeling.
Once again, for the comedy nerd, I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to go to The Alternative Show. You get to see comedians in a loose and easy setting performing as much for themselves and their peers as for the comedy enthusiast.
Matthew Ardill & Jason Deline
Partners in crime we collaborate to create the Comedy Album Book Club, a deep dive into comedy history.