People say comedy's subjective, but I've been on about half a dozen juries judging funny and there's seldom an argument about who deserves to win. We're not judging who's funniest – period. We're judging who's funniest on any given night. As anyone who knows comedy will tell you, so much depends on the particular chemistry a comic has with a particular crowd.
All of which is is a roundabout way of getting to my judging duties last night (Wednesday, April 9) as part of the semi-finals leading up to Yuk Yuk's Great Canadian Laugh Off. All week, stand-up comics from around the globe have been competing against each other for a spot on Sunday's finale, where the winner pockets bragging rights and a cool $25,000.
As everyone said last night, it was a tough round to judge. Hamilton's Kyle Radke has sharpened his act considerably and delivers his material with a nasty streak that's very entertaining. It's a little too polished for me, though – it needs a bit more spontaneity, or at least the impression of spontaneity. New York City's Ashley Strand seemed fearless delivering lots of political material, with a nice bit about a Sex Museum at the close of his set.
For me the revelation was Chris Brooker, a goateed red-headed bloke from Manchester who's full of energy and spot on delivery. Lucky for him that he followed another comic's putdowns of all things British. He got back at him in spades, relishing the word "dodgy." Other good bits included a meditation on the differences between the British and North American definitions for the word "toss" (you won't eat breakfast cereal in quite the same way again). And the wording for a joke about a black light masturbatory session was pure poetry. Too bad some of his material was too Brit-oriented for the local crowd.
Winner was Steven Patterson (not to be confused with Steve Patterson, another Yuk Yuk's comic), whose cleancut act betrayed a wickedly dark sense of humour. I've seen his act several times, but it always seems fresh, particularly his joke about having sex on his "loft bed." The set-up to his joke about Jeopardy contestants was pure gold.
Patterson competes on Sunday with Monday's winner Joe Cumbo (from New York City), Tuesday's winner Jon Steinberg (who's clearly gone to the Steven Wright Deadpan Delivery School) and the others who'll be decided this week in the runup to Sunday's big show.
Stay tuned here for more.