You may be asking yourself where our Day 5 article is, well, we didn’t go to any shows on Day 5. There in lies the rub with festivals. You may be tempted to stay out very late and push yourself too hard but I know my limits. I start doing that, I get snippy and don’t laugh. I may not get to see every show I WANT to see but if I push myself too hard I wont enjoy it, if I don’t enjoy it I deprive the artist of an audience member who will enjoy it and a fan of a chance to see something they enjoy and that's bad mojo all around. That’s just my personal take though, your mileage may vary, just do what feels good for you.
Back into the game tonight though I started with a real treat, Matt Braunger with D.J. Demers opening. Both are great light hearted and welcoming comedians. After a day off they were the perfect duo to get my laugh wheels back up and spinning again especially on a night where the weather took a turn for the weird.
Arriving at The Garrison the weather loomed over us, at some point last evening it rained but the moisture never really left the air. Over the course of the day the moisture hung onto the heat which, somewhere around 4 o’clock turned oppressive. Unsure if it was going to rain or the weather was going to snap and suddenly turn cold I met my wife at 6:30. The front bar had not yet opened but they were letting in JFL attendees to head straight into the performance space. The lights were newly on and the heat was already starting to become uncomfortable in the room. The space itself is a great one, I had previously seen DeAnne Smith there and it has a good sized stage for bands or acts with professional lighting and sound equipment. The well stocked bar at the back makes it easier to lubricate the audience. If you are looking to book a space I would recommend it but this evening the it was more than a bit stifling.
By the time D.J. Demers went on stage we were already exhausted from the heat and dripping with sweat. Demers, A Canadian performer from Kitchener who moved to the states and has performed on Conan and America’s Got Talent has previously performed at Yuk Yuk’s and Just For Laughs Festival. He’s appeared on CBC’s The Debaters as well as having released his own Juno nominated comedy album [Indistinct Chatter].
Having spent time living in Toronto he was able to immediately que into the audience and charm us with some home town annoyances. Again, I’m going to avoid spoiling material should he use it again but it immediately resonated and we all felt it deep inside us. His style is conversational and observational in a manner that is inviting and comforting. He touches on relationships, sex and living with physical challenges in a way that is engaging and approachable. Being someone with a disability myself the way he discussed requiring hearing aids reminded me of how I handle my epilepsy. He took something that others might mine for sympathy or treat as an impediment and used it as a tool to empower his comedy. I know for next time to watch for Demers and try and catch him headlining. There’s still a chance you can see him as he’ll be performing at the CraveTV comedy special taping this Wednesday (the 26th) so if you have the token use it to get to see him right away.
Leaving the audience laughing despite the oppressive heat D.J. welcomed Matt Braunger to the stage who received an uproarious cheer right out of the gate. Many were, I suspect, fans of his awesome podcast Advice From A Dipshit or his numerous TV appearances. Braunger, who is a MADtv alum, has performed at festivals from Just For Laughs and co-founded the Bridgetown Comedy Festival also has TV credits ranging from commercial work to diverse shows like iCarly, Agent Carter, Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time and his amazing turn as Bob in Take My Wife (which has a scene in season 2 where he helps beautifully illustrate the pains of the comedy world again no spoilers, go watch that show, it is amazing and stars two of my other favourite funny people Rhea Butcher and Camron Esposito).
Matt’s performance is engaging, energetic and overwhelmingly positive. He put the audience at ease with references to Toronto tying it into his mix of observational humour and story telling so the audience had reference points. His professionalism was truly astounding, he had the vibe of the room and knew just the right pressure points knowing when to break for a remark about the heat, take a pause to let the joke sink into the room or draw a parallel between the subject of his material and Toronto. Braunger never strays into hack or route material, in fact he makes a point of avoiding it. He praises the way his wife gives him a jab to the ribs from time to time and to be honest it’s refreshing. In my marriage I contend my wife is the funny one, always with a zinger or a silly aside that breaks the mood. The entire “being married is a pain” bullshit that many comedians rely on not only is insulting it simply doesn’t resonate with me and seeing his spin on the subjects of marriage, dating and the male courtship rituals was a joy to behold plus he knows just how much to dig into a bit with the perfect amount of specificity to really make the joke really resonate with authenticity. Very aware of his position as a white male in comedy some of the most biting material is reserved for the subject of harassment and it left the audience in stitches.
Matt is a tall man, clocking in at over six foot he is impressive on stage with a commanding physicality but is very aware of his body and how to use it. I am of a like age and after a certain point with a certain body you have very little choice but to embrace it and embrace it he does. He uses his physicality on multiple occasions to immense comic effect and his expressive face adds extra punch to every joke. Truly a pleasure to watch if you have the chance go and see him live. It’s one of the most fun times you will have all year.
So, despite the heat and the damp these two were able to get a sweaty moist audience roaring with laughter. That’s something that is no mean feat.