The jokes was right on the Mark at last night's Great Canadian Laugh Off, the fourth edition of the search for the funniest stand-up comic. Halifax's Mark Little took the $25,000 prize, beating out local boy Mark Forward. In my opinion, it could have gone either way. Both brought it.
Forward, second in a lineup of eight at Yuk Yuk's Downtown, showed complete confidence in his set with solid material about being reincarnated as a hamster and the non-luxurious nature of Craftmatic beds. He's always been an original comic, able to use his anger and a sense of unpredictability to get laughs. But I've never seen him kill like this before. At times he whispered confidingly to the audience, bringing us into his confidence... only to snap our expectations.
The final bit, where he discussed the environment, contained a great callback to an earlier joke about a hawk. Brilliant.
As runner-up, he wins a year's supply of macaroni and cheese. Yum.
I've never seen Mark Little perform before, but I'm sure this won't be the last time. I won't forget the tall, thin, glasses-wearing self-professed geek.
It took a while for Little to warm up the crowd with his act. He compared his sweater vest attire to a "quilted wife beater," and then built on that image to arrive at a series of jokes about Darwinian natural selection and his acne.
He won me over with an extended bit about bigotry, comparing a seemingly innocent exchange with a stranger to a trainride. Totally original. He then went on to a joke about being bullied at school (even though he was home-schooled).
And you gotta love a comic who's unafraid of showing off his smarts. One hilarious punchline concerned a French accent symbol, another contained a reference to artist Salvador Dali.
In his acceptance speech, Little said he wanted a picture of him with the $25,000 to prove to his parents that "dropping out of grad school was okay."
School's loss is comedy's gain.
Other solid finalists included Graham Chittenden, John Ki and Chuck Byrn, with okay sets by Cedric Newman, Ray Garrett and Trixx. The bigwig judges were from Just For Laughs, the Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien, the Late Show With Craig Ferguson and the Comedy Network.
Yuk Yuk's head honcho, Mark Breslin, did a more than decent job of hosting (loved the Q&A session at the end to stretch out the show while the results were being tabulated), and Jay Brown performed the unenviable task of MC'ing during the non-televised parts of the show. Guys got cajones.
For more, check out yukyukslaughoff.com/blog.