The Comedy Mix Pro-Am: Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2011


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I had yet another great night at The Comedy Mix this Tuesday, the first time I have seen a pro-am night at the venue.

Even before the show started, I was excited to see that the place was packed. It’s good to know that it doesn’t take a big Canadian headliner to draw a big crowd in this city.

The night was MC’d by Kevin Foxx, a comedian who knows how to work with the audience. Every time he came on stage, he joked with and about someone in the crowd and it always paid off. I’m looking forward to see him do some more time in the future. He will be hosting at The Comedy Mix from Thursday to Saturday this week, so if you get a chance to head down there, you won’t regret it.


If you would have asked me to write this review after Kevin Foxx’s first five minutes, I would have completely disagreed with Brian. I was not feeling it. His crowd-work was definitely solid, but that’s almost never enough to win me over. I’m a writing girl; if the jokes aren’t really well crafted, I’m not interested. Thankfully, though, Foxx quickly and magnificently proved that I’d read him wrong. He’s a talented guy. Definitely a natural onstage, vaguely reminiscent of my dad (in a good way,) and just generally enjoyable. So if you do check him out this weekend, don’t make my mistake – give him five minutes and he’ll impress the hell out of you.


The first comic Foxx introduced was Andy Canete, who I had the pleasure of seeing for the first time last week. Canete had good timing, even though his jokes were hit-or-miss. He’s got an Average Joe quality about him that I think really resonates with the audience, and I find that makes him more relatable and, in some instances, funnier.


It’s a pity that Canete’s Chilean charm didn’t win him the gales of laughter his jokes deserved. He’s the kind of guy you can’t help but like; his delivery is great and he’s engaging onstage. But the audience didn’t really give anything back, which I found irritating.


Up next was John Cullen. Now, this guy…this guy is good. Cullen, like comedians Ivan Decker and Ben McGinnis, proves that younger guys can be just as funny as even the most seasoned comics who have been telling jokes their entire lives. College students will probably take away the most from Cullen, but I think he absolutely has the chops for a wider scope of audience. He’s energetic when he has to be, but calm and collected when his jokes take a slower pace. He’s another one to keep your eyes on, Vancouver.


I agree wholeheartedly. Cullen is excellent. And with a couple more years of writing and practice, he’s going to be phenomenal. Just one question, though – did he borrow Ben McGinnis’ cardigan for the evening? Or do they just shop at the same store?


The only female comic of the night, Vanessa Lever didn’t quite have the room roaring with laughter. She had her moments, for sure, but what I liked most about her was her ability to tell a story. In fact, most of her set was one long story. It’s hard to get on stage and tell jokes, but to string them together in a coherent tale must be even harder. I don’t know if she takes part in any storytelling competitions, but I wouldn’t mind seeing her take a shot at one if she did.


Lever struggled a bit to get the laughs. She’s natural onstage, though, and she has a quirky charm about her. I think she’s got definite standup potential, she just needs to workshop hard. In the meantime, though, she should definitely consider Story Slamming, if she doesn’t already.


The fourth performer of the night was Ruven K. Honestly, his material didn’t work too well. But, I admired how well he recovered when a joke bombed. He mocked himself and made the crowd feel less uncomfortable, and for that, he deserves credit.


Honestly, I really enjoyed Ruven. He’s kind of unusual, a little off-beat, perhaps, and I respond incredibly well to that. Some things certainly didn’t work as well as others, but overall, I really wanted to see more of what he could do.


Tom Shibaoka was next, and he absolutely owned his set. His material doesn’t cover a wide range of topics. In fact, he really only talks about the differences between Japanese and Canadian cultures. But, he’s just so damn funny. I don’t quite know how to explain it. It’s one of those cases where you just have to see him for yourself.


Okay. Here’s the thing. Shibaoka’s material is very limited. And that, as I’m sure you’re slowly learning, is a massive pet peeve of mine. But I have a feeling that Shibaoka has jokes on other subjects that he just doesn’t tell because his Japanese vs Canadian material kills every single time. Can’t argue with a guy who knows what the audience wants. So, where I would ordinarily be scolding him, I reluctantly have to say…hell yes. See this guy.


Last, but certainly not least, was Ivan Decker. I’ve seen Decker several times and I never cease to find him funny. But he told some new material this time (or, at least, I haven’t heard it) and again, he killed it. But the best part was that I finally connected with his humour, something that I found was lacking the previous times I have seen him. He’s always funny, but this night in particular, he became relatable, which is hard to find with a lot of comedians. So, to comedy fans, you need to see him as soon as you can. And to Decker, if you’re reading this, brilliant job!


I was kind of hard (okay, pretty freaking hard) on Ivan Decker the last time we saw him. Well, ladies and gentlemen…I’ve got to revise the score. Ivan Decker 1, Amanda 0. Dude brought the house down. He had me laughing so hard I couldn’t breathe. There were tears in my eyes. It was an amazing set.

I think part of the difference was the location. Decker is HUGE onstage. He fills the room with his confidence and charm, and that can be overwhelming in small spaces. It works magnificently at the Comedy Mix, which is huge and always draws a decent-size audience. Another part of the difference was the crowd-work: he did a bit, but he didn’t spend too much time on it, and he did it very, very well.

It’s not very often a comic can force me to revise my entire opinion of them in the space of half an hour. Decker managed it. Touché, sir.  Touché.

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