Every week, I write a column for blogTO called, "This Week In Comedy" where I feature the best shows that are coming up in the next week. The best part of the job is that I get to really delve into why I love certain comedians.
In no particular order, these are the Canadian comics that make me laugh, applaud, feel jealous, and sometimes leave me sitting in awe.
Quinn C. Martin
Typically, a comedian works extremely hard to put together an hour of material. Then, when the hour’s up, they spend another 1-3 years (sometimes more) putting together a new hour. Not Quinn. In February he did an an hour and a half, in April he did a different hour, and on Wednesday he’s doing a completely new hour of material. As an amateur to the stand-up game, it’s quite a feat to behold. That said, his ability to produce completely different shows didn’t come overnight; Quinn’s been in the game for 10 years. Now, there are many comedians on the scene that don’t really like Quinn, but it’s kind of like Microsoft not liking Apple; it really doesn’t matter if your peers don’t like you. All that matters is that he has a following that will come to each and every show he puts on.
There’s a depth to Kathleen’s character work that separates her from the rest of the pack. Often times, when you see people do characters, it’s simply an impression that goes on for two minutes. Instead, she creates nuanced figures to the point that it becomes a tad scary to watch her on stage; the details make the character come alive. And the combination of a detailed study coupled with the fact that she’s being hilarious in the process has made me…you ever see something so funny you stop laughing because you’re amazed at the comic genius at work? That’s how I see Kathleen Phillips. I refuse to believe that someone can be better at it than her.
His performances are closer to a one-man sketch monologue rather than straight-forward stand-up, and that’s a good thing. If he starts his set with an English accent, put down your drinks.
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There are some comedians that, no matter what they do, you can’t help but laugh. Chris Locke’s that guy. He’s honed a child-like, transparent delivery over the past 10+ years that allows him to deliver material that most comedians would never be able to get a laugh from. Chris has reached the point that every new comedian dreams of: he’s found his voice.
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David is a monster comedian/actor. I saw him close the show last month with an improvised song while he sat comfortably in a female audience member’s lap, channelling every single cliched pop song vocal riff ever recorded. I’d argue that his digressions are the funniest and most artistic in the business. What makes him unique is that he’s one of the most well-read comedians on the scene right now. His obscure, yet accurate, references keeps a nerd like me glued to his every word.
Do me a favour and watch the clip. See if you notice the casual way he approaches the mic, the improv off the top, the crowd work, the callback to the joke originating from the crowd work, the smooth way he transitions into his prepared material…I realize that most people won’t see this, but I do. Long story short, it’s like he speaks in punchlines. He’s putting on four shows for free in preparation for his gig at the largest arts festival in the world, the Edinburgh Fringe. Just…do me a favour and watch the clip.
Dave Merheje is something else. He’s one of the true inspirations for me as a comedian. Dave forged his own style of ranting on stage, and now he’s one of the most talented comedians in the world. I recently saw him open his set with a 10-minute rant about rappers (Lil’ Wayne in particular) that had the crowd CRYING. Even my ex was laughing, and she hardly knows who Lil’ Wayne is. The great thing about his act is just when you think he’s done a rant, he takes a breath, pauses, and goes back into the premise for more gold. If you see five comedians this year, make Dave one of them. Sweet mother of God 01:44 – 02:54 is GOLD.
If Dave Merheje can be called the King of Ranting, Jeff Leeson can be called the King of Crowd Work. A few weeks ago at ALTdot Comedy Lounge, I saw him absolutely CRUSH by simply interacting with two tables for his entire set. I’m talking, ‘five to seven applause breaks in the span of 10 minutes’ type of crowd work. I honestly don’t know anyone else that can do that. I mean, are there comedians that use crowd work to entertain? Sure. It’s a great way to engage the audience and show your vulnerability and creativity. But to have it be the best part of your act? Amazing.
Bryan O’Gorman’s one of my personal favourites. Not only does he have prepared material that kills, but he can also seamlessly improvise and work with a crowd no matter what the topic. While his presence onstage might lead you to believe he’s your typical stoner, you’ll soon realize that he’s a well-read club comedian; a rare commodity, indeed. This laid-back style puzzles amateur comedians. He’s so laid back that you think, ‘I could do that.’ But it’s not that easy. Bryan’s got to that point where he’s, ‘…transcended technique so that the art becomes an ‘artless art’ growing out of the Unconscious.’ (Daisetsu Suzuki) What the casual observer doesn’t see is how he’s been honing his craft for over five years and keeps his wit sharp by hosting a ton of shows and following current events. If I had to pick one show to go to this week, it would be this one.
Yeah, uh, what can I say that sharing the stage with Dave freakin’ Chappelle and performing on Def Comedy Jam doesn’t already say?? Gilson, honestly, has taught me sooo much about comedy. I remember bombing one night in a bar and he told me that I needed to give the audience a reason to care about me more than the game on the big screen…huge insights like that just roll off his tongue. And now with the TV show he’s on (LA Complex) getting picked up with the WB in the US and his steady touring all over Canada, I see Gilson becoming a household name all over again.
He’s a monster right now. He founded PicnicFace, has a role on that Mr. Dee show, and is in my top 3 canadian comedians right now. I remember talking to him at the Rivoli before he went on stage and I asked him about how he got into comedy, and he told me that he had his Masters in Theatre or something like that…and that makes perfect sense when you see him on stage. There is nobody in the business that moves the way he does on stage. And it’s not like he’s pacing up and down the floor to make his point. It’s subtle movements of his head, fingers, facial expressions, that bring everything together. He’s at the point where girls are coming up to him after shows and saying, ‘omg i love you on TV oooo’ and he’s like oh, thank you very much as he adjusts his cardigan and props back up his glasses. What a character man. And one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet on the scene, too.
I’m gonna play this song the next time I’m dropping a girl home after a first date,