I have to admit off the top that humour from that part of the world really slays me! I don't know if it is their command of the English language(they do speak it so much better than the rest of us), the way they say things or the fact that they are truly a funny people…I guess it does not really matter why they are funny…they just are and for two nights Montreal got to enjoy the intelligent humour of the Brits.
The host for the two evenings was Andy Parsons and he was one of the funnier and finer hosts I have ever seen at a Just for Laughs show. Parsons was an expert at bantering with the crowd (he found a gentleman in the front row named Mark who was from Halifax but did not consider that to be in Canada…he also was a gravedigger….oh, the poor bloke!), thinking on his feet and he also made some very clever observations. For instance, he wondered why in airplanes they have a device to tell you the temperature outside the plane. Parsons quipped that he was fairly certain he was not going to step outside the plane as it was flying. He was genuinely funny but did not make the show about him; he allowed the 6 comedians who performed to be the stars. And they were. I have been to a few ensemble type shows over the years and invariably there is always at least one weak link in the group. I really cannot say that about this group.
First up was Scottish comedian Fred MacAulay who wondered why Scottish accents seemed to give everyone so much trouble. He was even mistaken for a German once in Florida. A married man with 3 children, who he professed to love dearly, he wondered why women 'punished' their husbands by banishing them to the guest bedrooms. He considered this to be paradise with a bed all to himself and a remote control he could do whatever he wanted with. Few in the crowd could resist the dry humour of this man. Second was 23-year-old Brit, Tom Allen. He was the 2005 winner of "So You Think You're Funny?" (British equivalent of "Last Comic Standing"), so you know the guy has talent. He is a very proper almost effeminate performer that people either love or hate. He does not tell jokes but, rather, tells stories or makes observations about the absurdity of human behaviour. His theatrical delivery is rather like he is having a conversation with you. This Londoner joked about how he still lived with his parents and the trials and tribulation of working in a store that serviced Queen Elizabeth. The last performer before intermission was one of my favourite British comedians, Stewart Lee. His dead pan delivery is the perfect fodder for his ridiculous brand of humour that often crosses the line of good taste, but due to his talent he can get away with it. He did a hilarious piece on the passing of Pope John Paul, the leader of Catholicism, which he claimed to be an organization of "clandestine global evil". His distinctive style definitely lends to the wittiness of his material.
The second half of the show started off with another young Brit, Russell Howard. He has so much energy that he is trying to bridle that it seems as if he is going to jump out of his own skin. While his energy level was good sometimes his jokes fell a little flat. That I'm sure will work itself out with some more experience under his belt because a good proportion of his material was funny. He joked on how he had typical British parents who once they found out he was afraid of dogs got the family a dog. Next up was the only female and the only black in the show, Gina Yashere. She was a loud whirlwind of a performer with a salty vocabulary. What is it about female stand up performers and the use of their mothers in their acts? Gina told us about her Nigerian mother who could have lived anywhere in the world but chose Brixton (suburb of London). She also confessed that she loves "MTV Cribs", but wonders how all rappers could be from the 'hood' as the 'hood' is not that big. Last and certainly not least was Jimmy Carr. I had seen this comedian at a Gala last year and he did not disappoint this year either. His material was a little less proper than what I remembered it to be, but he still retains a hilarious snobbery about him. As a change of pace he often throws in very dry one-line observations into his set. One observation he made is that why at circuses does not the man on stilts give the stilts to the dwarves. Hmmm…
It definitely was an evening full of hmmms. You often had to have your thinking caps on to get the jokes being told. I think that is what I love about British comedians; they do not dumb things down for their audiences. You have to be quick and on your toes to get them. If you were up for that then these 3 shows would have really made you spend your evening laughing out loud and not caring who heard you. Unless it was one of the Brits and they began to pick on you mercilessly….oh well!