Just for Laughs, Day 1
As the Just for Laughs comedy festival gets into gear, our Comedy editor sends impressions of New Faces, Colin Quinn and more.
Thu Jul 25 2013
Photograph: Alexander Michael
The spirit of Just for Laughs might take over when you bump into people on downtown Montreal drag Sainte-Catherine Street at the Hyatt (the hub where most of the comics and their reps stay) or even when you find cohorts in line to board the plane from NYC. For me, this time it happened in a shuttle downtown from the Trudeau airport, kindly provided by JFL and full of comics including Colin Quinn. He gave the rest of us an improvised, completely fabricated tour of the city as we went, making up tidbits about monasteries and “Old Town,” ranging from the plausible to the ridiculous. When he saw an Indian restaurant and welcomed us to Little India, our driver—who had been silent the entire ride—suddenly spoke: The street name that our guide concocted was wrong, but indeed the street was a de facto Indian district. Quinn laughed and beamed at the rest of us. Even a broken clock (that is very full of shit) is right twice a day.
Comedians, by their own admission, have few practical life skills. During one of the New Faces showcases, Ian Karmel of Portland, Oregon, talked about how he can only create funny metaphors—which don’t help in a fight with his girlfriend. “Maybe you don’t know me! Maybe I’m a block with a question mark on it and you’re a Mario who can’t jump high enough!” He then cycled through all the things that might pop out of him—a mushroom, feather, a coin, a different-colored mushroom—and finally pounded his chest and hollered, “There are a lot of mushrooms in here!”
Thanks to another of the New Faces, Dan Gill, we now how the 1995 flop Congo was made to be viewed: “In nine separate YouTube files.” Gill—who had some great, strange specifics about eating salad and man-cave decor—also provided this puzzler: “You guys ever wonder if your mortician has been born yet?” Many New Yorkers held their own during these shows, including Gina Brillon, Mark Normand, Aparna Nancherla and Adam Newman; the latter proved that impeccable timing can make jokes I’ve heard many times before feel fresh.
Hopping from room to room, it was nice to hear smart material not only about addiction to technology but the overload that accompanies it. Kurt Braunohler had our favorite quip on the matter: “I haven’t seen Instagram today. Does anybody know if the sun set?” (Braunohler’s entire set at the Alternative Show killed; nice to know he’s not wasting away in L.A., and those missing the Hot Tub host should watch for his appearance at the Bell House in the fall.)
Ah, Andy Kindler. Tunneling through his subconscious—that is, listening to his act—never gets old. Watching him squiggle and kvetch and analyze and analyze and analyze the crowd’s reactions endlessly is a lesson in staying aware of the room you’re in. Attempting to get the agents and comics schmoozing during his Alternative Show: “If I hear one more peep out of you…I will continue, but I will be enraged!” And, at some point when he felt the crowd’s response was lackluster: “I like what I’m doing. Now, if you guys are having a bad set…”
If there’s a young man beside you on a high stool while you sit in a low chair and you hear that young man rasping a bit between laughs, you think probably that wheezing noise is a laugh or maybe, just maybe, that is a cry for help. Maybe it is a last gasp, an indication that oxygen is needed, that perhaps this man is about to topple onto you. But you dare not turn to look (much less stare) for fear of making a man with a stoma or a breathing difficulty or something you never really ascertain feel self-conscious about his very audible respiratory ailment.
Okay, guys, that item is not about you, it’s about me. And I am all too excited to see who or what may crush me tonight.
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Editor: Marley Lynch (@marleyasinbob)