Comedy outdoors is surreal. Comedy outdoors at Yonge-Dundas Square is insane.
But it was a great idea to kick off the JFL street site portion of the festival with a Fresh Faces line-up (of mostly up-and-coming or already arrived local talent), followed by a free appearance by Russell Peters.
When I popped by around 6:10 pm to see host Jon Dore (lookingly weirdly tanned) warming up the crowd, the square was filling up quickly. It’s a hard venue to work. The sound system is impressive, but laughter dies a quick death and the sightlines (especially without a screen to look at) are tough. Good thing Yonge between Dundas and Queen was blocked off.
“Hey - there are no distractions,” joked Dore, sarcastically pointing out the various pixelboards, and dedicating certain jokes to various sponsors associated with those boards.
I left to grab something to eat before the Lewis Black-hosted gala, and dropped by the MIS Information Tent on Yonge Street, manned by the Brit troupe DOT Information, an official-looking trio wearing purple blazers and nametags. Working on ancient looking computers, they give instructions and advice to you even if you’re not looking for it. We need to fill out this form, give a copy to the third floor at City Hall, come back, etc. etc. Great social satire, and scary because it’s not far off from the bureaucratic, red tape truth of some organizations. (You can catch the MIS Information Tent tonight, Sat, as well).
When I got back to the square, Gilson Lubin was delivering a razor-sharp set, and the crowd was packed. No worries with any of the comics censoring their blue language, even though kids were in the audience. Curious to see if the city gets any complaints.
At my restaurant and walking through the Eaton Centre, it seems like EVERYONE was talking about Russell Peters’s appearance. By now, a gymnast group called Team Ryouko was performing on Yonge. Er, what does gymnastics have to do with comedy?
More on the Lewis Black-hosted gala later. It kicked ass. Jeremy Hotz is a god. Nikki Payne delivered some good new material. And the packed Massey Hall crowd discovered there’s more than one talented performer named Bob Marley.