DARYN JONES and GILSON LUBIN taping their Comedy Now specials, Friday (August 22) at 7 pm at the Masonic Temple (888 Yonge). Free. 416-214-9900 (must reserve). Rating: NNNNN
For stand-up comics in this country, landing a Comedy Now special is a deep notch in the career yardstick. It's nationally televised recognition that they've achieved a certain level of success. American execs need some tape? Here you go. Aunt Alice wants to know what her nephew's doing spending his life in those loud downtown clubs? Tell her to turn on the TV next weekend.
Two of the worthiest stand-ups to score them this year are Daryn Jones and Gilson Lubin, a pair of fast-rising comics who are taping their sets on the same bill tomorrow night (Friday, August 22).
It's a smart programming move. Both have been practising stand-up for the past few years, Jones since 1996, when he was a wiseass grade 11 student, Lubin since 1998, when he was an architecture student and overheard classmates at Humber talking about an open-mike night. Yuk Yuk's regulars, both tend to make you laugh more in their opening or middling acts than the headliner. But in some ways they couldn't be further apart.
"I'm coming at the show from a different angle because I've done so much TV," admits Jones, recognizable from his eight years - the last four of them on the Comedy Network - as the co-host (with Mista Mo) of the Gemini Award-winning gonzo interview show Buzz.
"I'm excited because a lot of people don't know me as a stand-up."
They should. Jones's sets seem effortless. Sounding off on politics, dating, his parents and theatre school ("The only acting I learned there was how to act stupid when the OSAP officer calls"), he's got an immediate rapport with the audience, something he quickly learned during the TV show.
"Buzz was like comedy-school training," he says over a glass of water the day after the blackout. "I figured out very quickly what worked and what didn't. That's translated into my act. I can easily carry on conversations with the audience and not be concerned about being funny. I don't put them down or zing them. If the conversation segues into a bit, that's great."
Lubin, who caps off an excellent year that saw him kill at comedy festivals in Las Vegas and Halifax, exudes a similar laid-back vibe. But where Jones boasts a non-threatening yet smart-alecky persona, Lubin's strength is offering naive, open-eyed observations a little off-kilter.
Some of his signature bits concern his innocent misreadings of certain words. He claims he grew up thinking a "racist" was a very fast person. He thought "bigotry" was, literally, a "bigger tree."
"I lived in St. Lucia with my grandmother until I was 11," explains Lubin, whose clean brand of comedy is reminiscent of idols Bill Cosby and Dick Gregory. "And down there you didn't really see racism. You found something else to hate, like the guy with acne. You didn't think about colour. When I came up here I clued in pretty slow."
What comes across with both comics is a genuine honesty. Lubin recounts how his father couldn't spell the word Canada but, because of his drinking habits, could easily spell Canadian.
"I tried to change the joke and talk about an uncle who's an alcoholic, but c'mon. I brought him to a show once, and when I got up to leave, his response was, 'Hey, I'm not finished my beer. '"
Jones spent the first half of the year in L.A. and New York, doing the pilot season thing, auditioning and performing stand-up. His anecdotes about Americans around the war and SARS have the ring of truth.
"I was in New York during the SARS scare, and on CNN they had no problem sending their sons and daughters overseas to Iraq to bomb and blow shit up, but they were petrified that Toronto was going to sneeze on them," he laughs.
"And just look at the blackout," he adds. "In New York they're screaming about how it's going to cost them $70 billion. Here, it's, like, 'Fuck it, wanna get a beer? Sure hope it's still cold. '"
firstname.lastname@example.org Standout stand-ups Here are some other comics worth checking out at this week's free Comedy Now tapings at the Masonic Temple. See listings, page 63, for details. DEBRA DiGIOVANNI (August 21 at 9 pm) DiGiovanni's recent headlining gig at the Laugh Resort was some of the best comedy I've seen this year. Whether she's criticizing her Evian-drinking female advertising exec bosses, sharing dieting disasters or fantasizing about George Clooney and Sam Roberts, she's one funny woman. Think Dom DeLuise's niece and you're halfway there.
THE DOO-WOPS (August 21 at 9 pm) The city's best musical comedy duo (otherwise known as John Catucci and David Mesiano ) take on everything from their Italian-Canadian backgrounds, the differences between guys and girls and how not to behave at that holiday office party. If you're lucky, a big chunk of their set will include alter egos Pepe Sanchez and Jose Louis Riviera, two native Argentinians who cover rock songs and lullabies with over-the-top Gipsy Kings embellishments.
LAURIE ELLIOTT (August 22 at 9 pm) Winner of the Tim Sims Encouragement Award, Elliott's got a deliciously demented stage presence. Recently featured in The Next Big Thing, a documentary on rising stand-ups, the gritty-voiced Elliott's got great comic instincts and timing. I haven't seen her headline a set yet, but she should be ready.
WOMEN OF THE NIGHT (August 23 at 7 pm) Sure, it sucks to plunk a bunch of talented up-and-coming ( Sabrina Jalees , Renee Percy ) and already arrived (Second City's Jen Goodhue , Aurora Browne ) female comics on a single bill. Why isn't there a comparable Men Of The Night show? But this show should be full of laughs nevertheless. With any luck, a few of them will be granted their own solo special in a year or two.