TODD GLASS with Rob Mailloux, Chris Locke and Dom Paré, at the Comedy Bar (945 Bloor West). August 10-11. comedybar.ca. Rating: NNN
Sometimes veteran stand-ups can feel so comfortable onstage that... they actually lose the tension needed to deliver a solid act.
That happened to Todd Glass during his late Friday night (August 10) set, one of four shows (Saturday late night's was a podcast) he gave at the Comedy Bar.
Glass, who showed lots of control blacking out the windows and changing the curtains behind him in the Bloor West club, seemed to lack that same control with his material, which flailed around, from his casual sing-songy start until the end.
With his shaggy dog-like mug and his penchant for working class accents, Glass resembles your playful uncle, the one who likes pulling pranks and telling off-colour jokes. Fine in spurts, but exhausting and kind of monotonous for an extended period.
There were moments of brilliance, as when he did a quick send-up of old-movie-style dialogue, or when he provided an impression of his comedy friends trying to pretend they didn't do coke. Glass has great vocal chops (Pixar, take note!) and can illustrate several layers of denial in one high-pitched line.
His strongest material, besides his famous closer about one ridiculous infomercial, concerned the aftermath of his 2010 heart attack, when he had to have his pants unceremoniously yanked off. This felt honest and earned.
Too often during the show, however, he broke off a story to comment on how it was going over, or he delivered bitchy rants about fellow comics Eddie Pepitone or Rory Scovel. A parrot routine - really? - went on forever. "I think there's a bit there," he said at one point. Think? Sir, you should know.
Granted, the evening got off to a weird start, thanks to some dude who talked during MC Rob Mailloux's set (thankfully he was booted out 15 minutes later).
Mailloux remains an uneven comic who's best when he channels his negative energy - guy's got demons - into funny stuff. His material about not wanting to find his birth parents scored big; his awkward and self-conscious Todd Glass intro just made the room feel uncomfortable.
Also on the bill were Chris Locke and Dom Paré. I've written about Paré several times before, and am a fan. He's still good, but last Friday he never recovered from a shaky start, prompted no doubt from the fact that the heckler had just been ejected and the house lights had been turned on and off.
Paré's material, given the wrong tone or timing (such as this night), can come across as mean and misogynist, and his booming voice simply obnoxious and overbearing. Chalk it down to an off night. Still, after feeling the audience pull away, he could have subbed in some gentler material, and he didn't.
Locke, on the other hand, has broken through to a new level. Owning the stage and unafraid to simply stroke his belly and smile to himself, he got lots of laughs about wearing workout clothes while eating on the couch, or pointing out the difference between a "film buff" and a guy who compiles his DVD library from gas station racks.
His clever bit about music began with a dig at Pink Floyd and then brilliantly looked back at an earlier generation's music that reflected a whole other approach to work and life.
Can't wait to see Locke do a longer set.