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culture

Just For Laughs 42: The Best of the Fest

The JFL42 comedy festival is over for the year. Here's a rundown of the acts that impressed us most.

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Comedian John Mulaney. Photo courtesy of Just For Laughs.

A pass for this year’s Just For Laughs 42 was the gift that kept on giving.

The pass got its owner not only a seat at one of the festival’s three headlining shows, but also access to a virtually unlimited buffet of comedy. The impressive lineup was constantly expanding. A surprise midnight show at Second City from Joe Rogan sold out quickly, and Andy Kindler’s Alternative Show at Comedy Bar provided a regular opportunity to see high-profile comedians like Aziz Ansari and Marc Maron in a more intimate setting.

There were surprisingly few hitches this time around. The rush tickets could have been made available a little longer before showtime, and Todd Glass’ recorded pre-show announcement was getting grating long before it was eventually abandoned, but these things hardly detracted from what was otherwise a well-run festival.

Here’s a rundown of some of the best moments from the past ten days.

Best Headliner: While Family Guy Live and Sarah Silverman were hardly disappointing, Aziz Ansari wowed audiences—or at least, all the single people—with over an hour of material on the topic of modern dating. Some may have found the subject matter a little tiresome after a while, but it led to some great interactive moments, such as when Ansari read some text messages exchanged between a young man seated near the front of the Sony Centre and a potential girlfriend he had recently met. (Her: “You have the hair of Michelangelo’s David.” Him: “And the penis.”) Ansari’s frustrations were best summarized when he said, “Basically, it’s statistically impossible to find happiness, and we should all just jerk off and go to bed.”

Best Opening: As if the presence of a DJ on stage at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre didn’t make it obvious enough, Hannibal Buress made it clear when he strode out: “I don’t have an opening act. So for the first fifteen minutes, I’ll just do sort of okay.” Then he decided to take a mulligan on the intro, this time enacting his dream entrance, which involved running down the aisles slapping outstretched hands.

Best History Lesson: Colin Quinn’s show, Unconstitutional, was a surprisingly enjoyable dissection of the American constitution. It frequently returned to the idea that the whole thing was written while everyone was getting soused at a bar. As for Quinn’s politics, he made things clear by saying, “I’m pro-gun, pro-gay-marriage, pro-death-penalty, pro-abortion. What does that make me? Anti-overcrowding.”

Best Rob Ford Joke: It was interesting to get the take of an outsider like Joe Rogan, who said: “My first reaction was, ‘Well, Toronto’s going to get a new mayor.’ And then I see a video where he’s drunk and asking ‘Where’s the party at?’ and I’m like ‘That motherfucker still has a job!?’” He suggested that Ford may want to consider becoming the King of Florida.

Best Set: John Mulaney began with a riff about how Bloor is so ubiquitous in the city that it must be some kind of monster we’re all forced to pay homage to. Then he spent some time talking about the meaning of childhood. With his observations about how afternoon cartoons always ended with a buzzkill (“Donahue was the opposite of cartoons”) and how kids are never asked what they think (unless it’s the accusatory, “What do you think you’re doing?”), he seems poised to soon become a household name.

K Trevor Wilson in a still from his "Complaint" video for CBC's George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight

K. Trevor Wilson in a still from CBC’s George Stroumboulopoulos Tonight.

Best Local Comic: A burly, bearded “man-mountain” with a rumbling bass voice and deliberate delivery, K. Trevor Wilson wasn’t an obvious choice as an opener for mercurial headliner Sarah Silverman, whose two-show night at the Sony Centre drew thousands. But his self-deprecating references to looking like a contractor rather than an entertainer, and stories like the one about his late-night trek down an icy hill on a cocktail of drugs, charmed and delighted the crowd at the early set we saw.

Wilson also impressed on multiple occasions at Paul Provenza and Troy Conrad’s late-night Setlist Show, an “improv for stand-ups” showcase where a wide variety of festival comedians tried their hand at creating impromptu material around one-line joke ideas projected on a screen by the producers. Wilson, who did some acting as a child and gained sketch experience as a founding member of Smells Like The 80s, was able to use his slow-build style to take perverse ideas like “3 Tips for Rhino Sex” and spin them into a filthy finale the audience went wild for.

Best Audience Interaction: Mark Little was a highlight of last year’s festival for us, primarily because of his stand-up. This year, while he did stand-up sets, including one at Andy Kindler’s hot-ticket Alternative Show, Little’s collaboration with fellow Picnicface veteran Kyle Dooley was the big draw. The pair did a seven-night run of early shows at Comedy Bar, and while it was hard to tell what parts of their story about a “prom gone wrong” were scripted and which were improvised, they clearly went out on a wire when Little waded into the audience to begin removing eyeglasses and hats, ostensibly over Dooley’s objections. Audience members tweeted rave reviews for the two—even those who found themselves wearing someone else’s prescription lenses until the end of the show.

Best Lines:

“I don’t think babies like me very much. Have they said anything to you?”

-John Mulaney

“My dad was a doctor, which means I was a hypochondriac. How else am I going to get his attention?”

-Marc Maron

“If people could read your thoughts, would anyone here have a job Monday morning?”

-Bill Burr

“My uncle Colin runs a summer camp for kids about to be molested. And he loves it.”

-Anthony Jeselnik

“The only white guy who can call me ‘brother’ is Hulk Hogan.”

-Hannibal Buress

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