Comic Graham Clark is $25,000 richer. The Vancouver stand-up won the third annual Great Canadian Laugh Off on Sunday night.
Although he had some fierce competition among semifinalists Stephen Patterson, Jon Steinberg, Aaron Berg and runner-up Rob Pue, among others, Clark won over the judges and crowd with his likeable persona and sharp take on 20-something slacker life.
His set concluded brilliantly with an extended bit about his drinking binges, where he recounted the activities of "drunk Graham" and "sober Graham" and explained something called a "pickle split sandwich."
Here, in chronological order, are some of the night's highlights:
* Choosing Johnny Gardhouse as host. His angry edge reins in the crowd, which was much needed for a long show like this, where Comedy Channel cameras prowl the room and there are multiple pee breaks when the cameras aren't running.
* The crowd's tough – some laughter, but man, those silences go on forever. Gardhouse warms us up. His bit about all-inclusive vacations and hard-drinking Canucks scores.
* Is that someone farting? Or is it the microphone? Hopefully the former.
* Glasgow's Chris Forbes's opening attempt to ingratiate himself with a Toronto crowd scores ("Blue Leaf game").
* Forbes's brilliant take on green munitions absolutely kills.
* Yuk Yuk's CEO Mark Breslin, looking dapper in a suit and exercising his own stand-up skills, tells us if we need to go to the washroom during the show's taping there'll be bedpans – or we can take a dump on the floor.
* Kingston's Stephen Patterson, perfecting his sarcasm, delivers a great take on those cheesy Jeopardy intros.
* Patterson nails an autistic basketball player joke.
* Rob Pue, the eventual first-runner up (he gets a set of steak knives) comes onstage and shows us what stage presence is all about. He's electric. His material's good too, especially an extended bit about crossing the border. But some of it, at least to me, feels to PREPARED.
* Jon Steinberg, sporting a great big 'fro, delivers an excellent set – his hair removal joke gets the night's first big groan.
* Too bad about the microphone. Some of Steinberg's dryly delivered punchlines get lost in the ether. Or is Steinberg just not talking loud enough? It's unclear. But he's matured a lot since I saw him last.
* Aaron Berg shows his act has come a long way. He's honed and polished his cocky persona. Somehow his bit about steroids deflates because of Pue's riff on the same subject earlier.
* Berg's imitation of an Orillia Cougar Club is pure comedy gold.
* Graham Clark, the eventual winner, comes on. Like the competition's past winners, he's laidback and presentable, but with an edge. It's getting late and he sums up the situation with the following: "The show has crossed the line between comedy show and hostage situation." Smart guy.
* His underwear-in-drawer joke is hilarious. We're getting a good sense of his act and persona. Laid back slacker guy in Lotus Land.
* Clark's extended bit about his drunk binges keeps on paying off. It's delivered with sincerity and freshness. He's a born storyteller. And making fun of yourself is always a good gamble in these kinds of competitions. (It got a win for the Laugh Off's first champ, Jeff McEnery.)
* It's hard to follow that act, but Rochester's Joe Cumbo tries. We're just not that into it, and he loses us with his talk about strippers, drug tests and his last name. He comes back with a bit about an ex girlfriend who's now a porn star.
* Last year's winner, Paul Myerhaug, takes over while the judges are tallying their scores. He's a natural. He gets away with material that would sink dozens of other comics – date rape, infomercials for third world countries – by his incredible timing and likeable stoner persona.