Comics on Comics at JFL42 2015
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Comics on Comics at JFL42 2015

Natalie Norman and jess Beaulieu, co-hosts of the Crimson Wave show and podcast. Photo by Jen Grantham.

Jfl42 opened last night, and continues until Saturday, Oct. 3. We spent the past week talking to busy local comics at (mostly after) their shows, and getting the scoop from them on who to see at the festival, because who knows good comedy better than comics? (They had no idea who else we were talking to, but most of them ended up promoting each other anyway.)

Pat Thornton

Pat Thornton. Detail of a photo by Allan Fraser.

Pat Thornton is well known and well loved in the Toronto stand-up scene. A founding member of the Sketchersons sketch troupe, Thornton’s face is also familiar to Canadians across the country for his appearance in shows like Satisfaction, and his current role on the CityTV sketch comedy series Sunnyside. (He was also nominated for Torontoist’s 2013 “Hero of the Year” contest, for his annual 24-hour stand-up routine for charity.)

We spoke with Pat outside Comedy Bar after his appearance on the Laugh Sabbath showcase.

What have you been up to? You just wrapped season 2, of Sunnyside?

Season 1B, I think that’s what they’re calling it.. Yeah, that’s coming out Sept. 27, in the sweet Sunday night slot between Bob’s Burgers and Brooklyn Nine Nine. I feel good about it. I think that, I like the show, but I think it’s getting better. I think the scripts are tighter, it’s more ambitious. We have this ruler episode that’s just, it just took all the money.

Stand-up wise, you’re going to be opening for Trevor Noah. That’s probably the most high-profile opening slot of the festival.

It’s the hot ticket. I’ve seen a very little bit of what he does, and it was good. I’m going to watch more. Everyone who was in Montreal said it was the best show that they saw there.

Are there any comics coming in from out of town or comics from in-town that you’re really excited for people to see?

Absolutely. What I always tell people is, Andy Kindler. Andy Kindler, Andy Kindler, Andy Kindler. If you’re coming in from LA and hosting the alternative show, he’s just on a different level. He’s in many ways a comic’s comic. He doesn’t have to say much to make me just start cry laughing. He’s so self-deprecating and in the moment; everything is just a tangent off another thing, and it’s just like jazz.

Awesome. Anyone else?

There are some killers coming into town. John Mulaney, Hannibal Buress, and Patton Oswalt, of course. Always go see Patton Oswalt, but I feel like everyone is going to tell you to see those guys.

Yeah, who should people search out?

Go see the local guys. Anytime you can see Tim Gilbert, holy shit. Not enough people see live comedy in Toronto, but the festival brings people to local talent, and you should see it.

Ladystache (Allison Hogg and Steph Tolev)

Allison Hogg and Steph Tolev. Photo by Chantale Renee.

Ladystache, or Allison Hogg and Steph Tolev as they are respectively known, are a Toronto-based sketch duo. They also happen to be the winners of the first SiriusXM sketch off, and the Just for Laughs Award at the Montreal Sketchfest. Hogg is a current member of Toronto sketch troupe the Sketchersons, and has performed at comedy festivals worldwide. Tolev has also performed all across the country and on international stages as a stand-up; she taped her first stand-up special at the Halifax Comedy Festival, was nominated for Best Female Stand-up at the 2014 Canadian Comedy Awards, and will be a finalist at the SiriusXM Top Comic finals on Oct. 1. Ladystache’s first full-length album, So Many Wolves, is currently available on iTunes, having hit No. 1 after its initial release.

We spoke to the duo just prior to Allison’s weekly Sunday Night Live show with The Sketchersons (Steph was also appearing that night on Zabrina Chevanne’s Things Black Girls Say stand-up showcase).

You have a full-hour set. What do you do with that?

Allison: You know what, we’ve been doing sketch for so long, we have so much material…

You have a large back catalogue?

Allison:We have a large back catalogue! We’re going to be doing some newer stuff, but we’re also going to be bringing those crazy shticks.

Steph: Doing the classics. Yeah, we’re doing all the classics.

Allison: Which is great because we haven’t done them in a while, so they’re going to be so fun for us to do.

Who are you two excited to see yourselves? Locally, or comics from other towns?

Steph: Rebecca Kohler. She’s always a killer, and she got added on, she’s doing great.

Allison: I’m excited to see Crimson Wave. They’re always great. I don’t get to see them much, because they’re always on at the exact same time as my Sunday Night Live shows. I’m really excited to support them.

Steph: Out-of-towners, I’m pumped for Kurt Braunohler, he’s always so silly. His shows have been killing it since last summer.

Allison: The New Faces of sketch this year has Allana Reoch and Greg Cochrane [Hogg’s fellow Sketcherson troupe members].

Steph: And the New Faces of stand-up this year is awesome, like Helder Brum, who has been killing it for a long time. Like Jeff Paul. Who hasn’t heard who Jeff Paul is?

Arthur Simeon

Arthur Simeon. Photo courtesy of CBC.

Arthur Simeon, having turned heads at previous JFL42s, is debuting his festival full-length show this year. Originally from Uganda, he immigrated to Toronto as a teen, and his warm basso-profundo delivery is a favourite among many local comics.

We spoke to Arthur on the opening night of The Corner, Toronto’s newest dedicated comedy space, one block north of Queen and John, where he was headlining the early show.

So what are you doing at JFL42?

I’m doing two stand-up sets, and also Robert Kelly’s podcast. I’ve been doing a lot of stand-up this summer, and writing a lot of new material for this JFL42. I’m at about fifty minutes.

Anything else been keeping you busy?

I tried to do some improv over the summer, stretch myself a bit. Mainly because I’ve been doing so much writing, and improv helps keep the ideas flowing. I’m terrified of improv, so I had some friends who do it help, give me my improv training wheels.

Who are you excited to see at JFL42?

I’m most excited for my friends from Toronto doing shows. Faisal Butt has his own show; Pat Thornton and Darcy Michaels together–those guys will be great. Ladystache are amazing–Aliison and Steph are so funny together.

I’m also excited to see some acts I’ve heard about that I haven’t met. From New York, Michelle Wolf; Moshe Kasher; Hannibal Buress, of course. He’s one of the funniest people.

Crimson Wave (Jess Beaulieu and Natalie Norman)

Natalie Norman and Jess Beaulieu’s live show and podcast, Crimson Wave, is all about menstruation. But of course, with that as a jumping point, they delve into all sorts of women’s issues, issues of body image and diversity. It’s not a women-only show by any means–many male comics love appearing on it–but it’s certainly a positive space in a comedy scene that can often be toxic and male biased. The two have used their show as a vehicle for change, bolstering the successful campaign to eliminate tax from feminine hygiene products in Canada, and Beaulieu this week was the host of the Up For Debate federal election event.

We met up with the pair after their weekly Sunday night show in the cabaret space at Comedy Bar.

How was that show for you two?

Jess: That was a good vibe we had going! There wasn’t as much body talk as usual–y’know, periods, balls, libidios, etc.

By doing so, you two are giving the comics licence to open up about those things themselves, right?

Jess: Totally. We get a lot of comics who get up on stage and say, “I wasn’t going to to tell this story-but now I’m going to.”

Natalie: I did “the dirty show” the other night–and I was the only female comic on the bill. And they didn’t want to hear about sex from a woman. At our show, it’s OK for people to be sexual, talk about their bodies, that sort of thing.

Jess: I don’t like using “dirty,” because it implies there’s something wrong. We’re a sex-positive show.

How has the show changed since you started it, and the podcast?

Natalie: Jess and I are pretty free flowing on stage. The stage show has become like the podcast; we’ve evolved from doing our own opening sets, to having a discussion.

You’ve earned a reputation for having especially diverse bills, too.

Jess: Well, there’s a lot of diverse comics in Toronto in terms of gender, race, sexual orientation, and more. If you’re aware and paying attention, it’s not that difficult to book diverse bills.

Natalie: We live in the most multicultural city in the world. The comedy scene can and should evolve to reflect that.

Who’ve you booked for JFL42?

Natalie: We wanted regulars, who do the show monthly or better. There’s lesbians, bisexuals, skewing a bit older–none of us are 20. And for JFL42, they’re all women.

Jess: W’re doing a live podcast recording, too, and while our listeners love hearing the male perspective on menstruation, our guest will 100 per cent be a woman.
And who are you excited to see at JFL42?

Jess: I opened for Aparna Nancherla this spring, and she was so amazing.

Natalie: I’m obsessed with Ladystache. I’ve been at every show of theirs in Toronto in the past three years.

Jess: Of course, Dawn Whitwell, who’s our hero. And Fortune Feimster, Kate Berlant…

Natalie: And headliners like Pete Holmes, Miranda Sing, and John Mulaney.

These interviews have been condensed and edited.