Glenn Sumi’s top 10 comedy shows

Comedy Bar, February 15Forward infuses his storytelling with a conflict that sets up a mini-drama, a sort of internal dialogue,.

Comedy Bar, February 15

Forward infuses his storytelling with a conflict that sets up a mini-drama, a sort of internal dialogue, in each joke. His anniversary set, delivered straight but with a hint of a grin, included bits on middle-aged Swiss Chalet servers, dogs vs. old people, and a jaw-dropping closer that combined peanuts, chipmunks, domestic abuse and a cheesy Foreigner song. Nobody else could do this material – the sign of a great comic.

JFL42, Sony Centre, September 19

Riding the success of her hit TV show, Schumer absolutely crushed it at her JFL42 headlining set, effortlessly doing an impression of a Miss USA contestant and describing what it was like to be photographed next to starlet Dianna Agron at a Lakers game. Best was her crude bit of audience participation where she polled the crowd for sexual expressions she’d never heard. Thanks for the Alaskan Pipeline and the Crimson Pollock, Toronto.

Second City, March 11

The most consistently funny Second City show in years took on such timely topics as crazy weather patterns, the urban/suburban divide and (hey, it was almost a year ago) our crack-smoking mayor. Directed by Chris Earle, the brilliant cast (including Craig Brown, Sarah Hillier, Ashley Botting and Connor Thompson) made each word and image count, especially two hilariously contrasting sketches about men and women’s behaviour. A revue for the ages.

JFL42, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, September 24

Notaro didn’t expose her double mastectomy scars to the crowd like she did in NYC, but she revealed an awful lot of honest stuff nonetheless, like bombing in Vegas, videotaping Santa with Kyle Dunnigan (long story, beautifully set up) and the idea of swimming in a public pool while having diarrhea. All delivered in her signature dry, uninflected voice. One of the best around.

Comedy Bar/A Pring Thing, January 10

James Adomian deserves to be on this list for headlining Yuk Yuk’s OUTrageous Pride show and a series of stand-up sets at Comedy Bar in January. But he also gamely took part in this improvised riff on Robin Hood featuring his swishy Sheriff of Nottingham character and a first-rate cast of players including Jan Caruana, Alastair Forbes and Mike “Nug” Nahrgang, who proved they were “up” for anything – including a bulge-measuring contest.

JFL42, Queen Elizabeth Theatre, September 21 (late show)

Part of the joy of a Birbiglia performance is the way he connects his stories. In this standout show he talked about everything from being arrested for having a suspended licence to swearing at a Muppets Just For Laughs gala and insulting director David O. Russell at an awards show. It all had the cohesion of a well-written play. Opener Chris Gethard warmed us up with hysterical jokes about Gator Land and life on the wrong side of the tracks in New Jersey.

JFL42, the Garrison, September 25

Smith was on this list last year, but she just keeps getting better, and her profile got a big boost in 2014 from appearing on NBC’s Last Comic Standing. Whether she’s ridiculing Toronto’s hipsters, chronicling her anxiety ordering a drink at a trendy cafe or getting the audience to sing Eye Of The Tiger and hold her up while she crowd-surfs, Smith is a total charmer.

NXNE, Comedy Bar, June 20

Yo! The NXNE edition of Rapp Battlez was one of the most exciting things I saw this year: part sketch show, part rap concert, part cage match. It’s hard to know what to single out: Miguel and Freddie Rivas‘s street thug hosting? Dan Beirne and Kirsten Rasmussen‘s throwdown (as MC IT and MA Dial Up) or Evany Rosen and Alex Tindal competing as Woodstock vs. Woodstock ’99? Or was it Jon Blair‘s rap about TV’s Blossom? Can’t decide. But I want to experience this show again many times in 2015.

Buddies in Bad Times, June 28

Producer/host Andrew Johnston pulled out all the stops for this World Pride edition of his queer-friendly show, bringing Drew Droege to headline. Droege was more effective playing a put-upon server than his infamous alter ego, Chloe Sevigny. And the biggest surprises were two of the openers: sassy emerging comic Aisha Alfa, and Katherine Ryan, a Canuck now based in the UK who brought down the house teaching us how to imitate Beyonce.

Comedy Bar/Empire Comedy, November 30

Gulman isn’t the edgiest comic, but his observations ring so true and he delivers them so clearly and passionately that you’re immediately on his side. Hotel restaurant omelette station chefs grapes vs. grapefruits assholes at Trader Joe’s – I’ll never be able to think of any of these the same way again.

Jay Brown at Yuk Yuk’s too many times to mention – a class act Mark Little doing a hilarious impromptu Q&A with author Megan Amram at Comedy Bar (November 7) Shannon Laverty finding the perfect balance of raunch and professionalism at She Unleashed at the inaugural She Dot Festival.

A few weeks before Ghomeshi-gate, Jian Ghomeshi introduced “my good friend Lena Dunham” at a live JFL42 event before the Girls creator explained she’d just met him that day. Burn!

Bill Burr at Massey Hall (March 9): all cockiness, no laughs.

Nick Offerman at JFL42 (September 20): about as funny as Stuart McLean’s Vinyl Cafe. And that fucking annoying giggle….

Rebecca Kohler at Comedy Bar (November 7): not one word out of place.

John Hastings at Yuk Yuk’s (January 3): won over a blase crowd through sheer energy and talent.

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