Just for Laughs 2011: Russell Peters gala “Best Night Ever”? Pretty good at least:
Bill Brownstein: The Gazette columnist has been covering the comedy fest since Mr. Methane cleared the room all those eons ago.
Overall: It was billed as the Best Night Ever. Tall order for a night without the usual stimulants. But it was a pretty good night. No one stiffed. And some really shone: frenetic Sebastian Maniscalco, deadpan Nick Thune, quipster Jimmy Carr and sad-sack Canuck Jeremy Hotz.
Host: Russell Peters can make much ado about nothing (which he did) and still have the crowd in the palm of his hand (which he had). True to form, he said his newborn baby was “cool … but she’s not a car.” And Peters will likely continue to thrill crowds at Thursday’s sold-out galas.
Highlights: Thune. Think a punk Steven Wright on guitar: “Enough is enough … it is … it is the exact same word.” And the ever-droll Hotz: “Great to be in Montreal – a city that doesn’t know how to finish a street. Je me souviens – what? When the whole road used to be there?”
Lowlights: Hard to find. People actually didn’t walk in late. So we’ll have to settle for the T-shirt-tossing disco boy who tried to pump it up at the beginning. At least they didn’t use the Bell Centre’s bazooka-firing T-shirt bozos. And I could have done without the seemingly bogus kid-in-a-wheelchair stunt
Denise Duguay: She’s a digital editor and TV blogger at The Gazette who’s hoping to meet Garry Shandling. Please.
Overall: Let’s talk about the new set at the new venue, Salle Wilfrid Pelletier of Place des Arts. The cluster of screens looked suspect at first, but became a dynamic backdrop under performance lighting. Too much so in some cases. The eye-level video screens at either edge of the stage, featuring close-ups of the comics, gave me motion sickness.
Host: Russell Peters looked sharp in a steel grey suit with white T and sneakers, and sailed just as smoothly through a solid series of bits. But the bombshell mother and make-a-wish-child routine? Nope.
Highlights: I could watch Sebastian Maniscalco talk about nothing but food all night long. Starbucks with its muffin eaters and Subway with its ditherers will never be the same. Jeremy Hotz was as great as ever. And Jimmy Carr? As brilliant as when I saw him last week in his excellent one-man show at the Gesù. Go see it. It’s called Laughter Therapy.
Lowlights: Nick Thune was very good, with his cardiganed troubadour wordplay, but he lost all momentum with a joke about his fake ID and its former owner: an organ donor. And festival stalwart Dom Irrera seemed a little overshadowed by the younger comics.
Max Harrold: He is a Gazette city news reporter with a habit – he calls it a skill – for spotting the absurd in the banal.
Overall: In a night of “just trying stuff out,” as Nick Thune said, there was much hilarity and some total misses. But variety is good, and if the jokes weren’t always clever, the comics’ glares, eyebrows and even the elaborate disabled-child-exploitation bit got A’s for effort, although that last one was a lot of work.
Host: Russell Peters smooth-talked his way into our hearts. With his Indian heritage and “stay brown” motto, he was the best source for the night’s many race-fuelled jokes. And he left nothing off-limits. On being the dad of a 7-month-old girl, he said it took him a while to fall in love: “She’s 50 per cent her mom. She could be a psycho bitch.”
Highlights: Sebastian Maniscalco’s take on new consumer habits was funny and true: “It’s all changin’, man. Craigslist. You put an ad on there to sell an area rug, inviting strangers to your house. It’s an invitation to murder.” Nick Thune was delightful: he quipped Caesarean sections are “the Delissio of pregnancy, because it’s not delivery.”
Lowlights: Nick Thune took some chances that flopped. His quip about having a 42-year-old’s ID card landed with a thud when he added the man was an organ donor. For a groaner, Jimmy Carr offered: “Osama bin Laden, jihad it coming.” As for Dom Irrera, one of his lines describes his low energy: He didn’t want to be woken from his Xanax-induced nap.