The Comedy Mix was far from full at this friday’s early show, and the people who bothered to show up were pretty much useless. I always feel bad for comics when a room is that completely crappy. Even the best jokes fall flat when the audience would rather be livin’ it up at some revolting Granville Street meat market.
Host Jane Stanton found this out the hard way. She started the show with a bit of audience interaction, as hosts are wont to do, and when she asked the crowd if anyone was celebrating anything, no-one answered. But, as it transpired, someone was, they just couldn’t be bothered to say so. Or, you know, laugh when things were funny.
The crowd was so utterly uninterested in the show that, during Simon King’s headlining set, I was laughing at a joke and the guy in front of me turned around to glare at me.
It’s comedy, dumbass. You’re supposed to laugh.
That said, the comics managed to pull out a pretty damn good show.
I think I enjoyed Jane Stanton more this time than I ever have before. She has a quirky delivery – she says the first part of every joke in a loud, firm voice and the punchline in an odd sort of whisper. It works pretty well for her, and it’s certainly refreshing to see something different onstage, but it can be a bit much at times.
That was not a problem tonight. She’s always very natural and fun and that managed to win over most of the audience. I did notice, though, that she played things a little more PC than she did at Darcy Michael’s Gayest Show on Earth Part Deux. She does this joke about a guy playing with her nipples, and at the Gayest Show, she demonstrated what he did to her on her nipple. Tonight, she used the microphone instead. I was a little disappointed, because the joke is funnier with that extra shock value, but given the crowd, I don’t really blame her.
I think part of the reason that I found Stanton such a breath of fresh air tonight was that Kwasi Thomas had even more trouble than she did with the crowd. It’s like they didn’t know what to do with a black guy who didn’t dress like Snoop Dogg.
Personally, I was really excited to see a black comedian who didn’t rely on schtick to make people laugh. Unfortunately, I can’t really say that Thomas was that guy. He started out as though he were, but every time the audience didn’t laugh at something, he’d revert to jokes about racism. A couple times he even changed his delivery so that he sounded more stereotypically black, just so a bit would work. It made it really hard for me to get a handle on him, and that’s never a good thing for a comic. If your audience doesn’t “get” you, they’re not as willing to invest in your jokes, which makes them less willing to laugh.
Thomas really did have some good material in the top half of his act, though. If he’d just commit to one comedic persona (preferably the non-schtick guy) and put a little work into fleshing it out fully, he’d really be onto something.
Both Stanton and Thomas were enjoyable, but they didn’t really make sense as openers for Simon King. Stanton has a really laid-back stoner vibe, and Thomas is fairly controlled kind of guy.
By contrast, King explodes onto the stage. He’s loud. He’s angry. He’s fast-paced. He’s kinetic.
And good goddamn, is he GOOD.
His act was mostly leftist ranting, and I’m not into political comedy, so that could have ended badly. But King has a way with a joke that just works. He can take a familiar subject, or even a familiar setup, and at the last second he turns it inside out and makes it into something unexpected and completely hilarious.
He’s ballsy, too. It’s not every comic who will tackle gay rights, the Holocaust and left-handed people at all, let alone all of that in the course of half an hour. The Holocaust joke, in particular, was delightfully well-crafted. Call me horrible, but I love it when a person can pull off an insightful joke about a terrible tragedy.
Plus, he managed to work Star Wars, Spiderman and Pokemon references into his act without burying the punchline of the jokes. And despite his fast-paced, rant-y style, he never talked so fast that he was unintelligible. It’s the kind of polished delivery that really gives credence to King’s reputation as the hardest working guy in Vancouver comedy.
He ended just as strongly as he began. Unlike most comics, instead of finishing his set on a joke he knew would absolutely kill, King chose a profound, yet clever, reflection on the nature of identity. It’s not something most people could have pulled off, but it really worked for him.
It’s not very often a comedian comes along who can perform and write that well. Simon King is a rare talent.
It’s love, boys and girls.
And I have yet to have a bad experience there. Last night was no exception. However, I have to admit, my four-laughs-out-of-five rests almost entirely on the headliner, Simon King.
First, let’s take a look at the host for the evening, Jane Stanton. She was, like Amanda said, working with a crowd that couldn’t seem to be bothered with what they were witnessing. It was almost like they were confused as to where they were. So with conditions like this, Stanton was bound to struggle a bit. Her comedy was excellent, her timing fantastic and she has a quality about her that makes you want to hang out with her. But the jokes were simply going over most of the audiences heads. Now, some argue that any crowd can be captivated as long as the comedy is good; essentially, that it’s never the audiences fault. I disagree with that. Stanton was just fine. It’s the audience who should be ashamed in this case.
With the start of the night already a little sleepy, it was up to former Montreal resident Kwasi Thomas to try to bring the room to life. And, once again, it didn’t happen. Thomas was clearly trying to be something he’s not; polite. His jokes were a bit daring at times, but for the most part, I could see the punchlines coming a mile away. And they were basically all very safe and crowd-pleasing (if the crowd could have been bothered to be pleased, that is). But he kept saying that he likes to touch on racial humour and make people a little uncomfortable. I never saw that, so I can only assume that he’s either too scared to do so, or he realized that the crowd wouldn’t pick up on it anyway.
Finally, Simon King entered the room and, almost as soon as he started speaking, the crowd was roaring with laughter. And the laughter never quieted. King is pure genius. He tells his jokes at a frantic pace, almost like he has too much material and he needs to cram it all in as quick as he can. It’s almost like he doesn’t even take a breath in between sentences. His loud ranting and social commentary reminded me of the legend George Carlin, if he were mixed in a blender with John Pinette. He never comes off as arrogant, but simply remains likable. And when he topped of his time with a message to the audience about the way people need to be living their lives, it was a poignant moment that proved he cares about what he does. He doesn’t take the stage for granted. He uses it to make us laugh and make us think. And that comparison to George Carlin is not to be taken lightly. King could very well become as influential to comedy as Carlin was.