NXNE COMEDY at various venues, June 12 -June 16. NXNE wristband or $10-$20 per show. nxne.com.
This is the year NXNE gets serious about comedy. Last year's fest amped up its laugh factor by featuring 70 comedians at the Lower Ossington Theatre, but the 2013 comedy cohort has nearly tripled in size and been better integrated into the overall program.
For the first time since comedians were added to the bill back in 2010, comedy's been elevated to an official "stream" in the festival (alongside music, interactive, film and art). Roughly 200 comics and sketch troupes are scheduled to perform in 10 venues, all of a sudden making NXNE Comedy one of the largest comedy festivals in the country.
While NXNE Comedy isn't rivalling Just For Laughs' 1,500 shows just yet, the solid lineup features some big-name international talent and culminates with a stacked bill at the Danforth Music Hall on June 16 - part of the Extra Series - that features headliner Donnell Rawlings (best known for his recurring role on Chappelle's Show) alongside heavy hitters Nick Reynoldson, Trixx, and Dave Merheje.
But just like with bands, the fest is a great chance to discover local talent on the make, like Hunter Collins's wonderfully offensive left-field irreverence and Bryan O Gorman's silly character work and observational stoner humour, which has recently taken him to Europe and around the Yuk Yuk's circuit. (You can catch the two together at Vapour Central on June 15.)
Beyond traditional stand-up, the fest offers some genre-pushing fare, like Egg Zeppelin, a long-form improv show in which Kris Siddiqi and Marcel St. Pierre actually cook and serve breakfast onstage, and Strip Comedy, a high-stakes show where comics doff an article of clothing for each joke that misses the mark.
On top of all that, there are three comedy panels in the Interactive conference, and a number of comic selections featured in the film portion of the fest.