2013 Humber Grads Stand-Up Showcase aka Payback Time!


Last night I was asked to attend and “evaluate” the second night of a stand-up comedy showcase exercise put on stand-up guru Larry Horowitz, for half the graduating class of the Humber College – Comedy: Writing & Performance program.  An exercise I recall a little more than I would like.  In fact, when I went back to my blog posts from last year to see what I had to say about my own performance in the showcase, this is all I was able to extract:

 If at first you don’t succeed…swear & curse a bunch, have a good cry, insult others who did better than you then immediately regret your bitterness, jealousy and resentment, wallow in self-pity, do harmful things to your body and mind… and try, try again.  – April 5th 2012

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Suffice it to say, I wasn’t pleased with my performance. Nor was I please with the results I’d got back from the evaluators who, like I tonight, had watched the showcase. And therein lies the beauty of time and experience. Oh how the tables have turned! Get ready, class of 2013, to feel the wrath of …the evaluator; someone who is taking your art and judging it on a completely subjective basis.   And watch out! I’m gonna be REAL subjectiv-y!

In all honesty, there were a number of strong acts last night. A cut above the rest was Darren Springer, whose mix of the wonderful and the absurd is just such a delight.  The bit about his father’s tone as he’s been trapped in the trunk of a car in Columbia is the perfect contrast of the ordinary in extraordinary circumstances. A classic comedy convention, but so well-delivered with such ease and comfort; you get the sense Darren really loves being up on that stage.

Other great sets tonight included the closer for the evening, Ryan Dillon – who’s got storytelling embedded in his genes, I’m sure. (Ryan’s a Newfoundlander.)  Sitting on a stool, he took us on a sad, sad, hilarious, but very sad journey growing up without a father – with a little insight into the airline industry.  (Did you know that if your parent is an airline employee, and they die, you get a free trip to DisneyWorld?!) Sarah White knocked the crowd dead with her sexy Star Wars switcheroo.  Colin North also had me giggling about his dead dad.  Come to think of it, dead dads were a bit of a recurring theme tonight.   Dead dads, and being a socially-awkward, ill-at-ease, unable-to-maintain-relationships-with-the-opposite sex, relatively dysfunctional human being.

That and masturbating.  There was a lot of talk about jerkin’ it.  It was a Humber show, after all.

I was impressed by the variety of voice work – lots of fun accents by Samia Darkazalli, Liron Jacobs and Jay Freeborn, who went into an elaborate bit about Pokémon, which normally I would care less about but because of the energy of the delivery and the fun wordplay, it stood out to me.  I’m a sucker for wordplay.

Ben O’Neil and his musings on the Kraken fit perfectly into the realm of the ever-increasing market share of nerd humour/culture.  Love it or hate it, you can thank (or curse) BBT for that.

It’s no surprise that I wasn’t a fan of the comparing women to dogs elements of the show or the multiple bits about racism, even the ones that were meant to call racists out on their shit, it’s just… I didn’t see a fresh take on it, and until then, I’d rather stick to what the pros have already said on the subject, rather than the not-so-deep musings of early-twenty something suburbanites.

That being said, it’s no surprise the acts that stood out to me can frequently be found performing in dives around Toronto to work on and improve their craft.  There is such a striking difference in quality and in confidence between those who perform stand-up regularly, and those who maybe memorized their set a few hours before last night’s showcase.

So, for those of you who do work hard, and practise a lot, and still didn’t get the grade-result you were looking to achieve in this exercise, don’t worry.  Even if you don’t end up performing stand-up in the Industry Show, don’t worry.  I said Don’t Worry! If you work hard you can totally get in Fresh Meat, have a live and professional taping of your set available to pitch to festivals, get an agent, book a Fringe tour and get a full-time administrative position at the CBC.

Trust me.

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