In crappy economic times, we really need to laugh, which is why the city's comedy clubs were packed this year. Once again, stand-ups take over the first few spots on this list, and it's good to see that a once white scene is gradually becoming more diverse. Here's what cracked me up this year.
1. Louis C.K.
Diesel Playhouse, December 5
The world's funniest complainer took ranting to a new level with his beautifully crafted insights into argumentative three-year-olds, the marvels of air travel and stupid Starbucks conversations. I'll never say "That's amazing!" again, Louis, except to describe your act.
2. Alec Mapa
Buddies in Bad Times, May 3
For his bit on Fear Factor Filipino food alone, Mapa would have made this list. But We're Funny That Way audiences also got his story about headlining a gay cruise, his impression of Bush as Mommy Dearest and gossipy dish about Vanessa Williams, George Takei and Rosie O'Donnell. Can't wait to hear his Prop 8 material.
3. Nubian Disciples Of Pryor
14th anniversary show, Yuk Yuk's Downtown, April 27
The TTC strike the day before didn't prevent Kenny Robinson's monthly show of (mostly) black comedy from blowing the roof off Yuk Yuk's. Comics egged each other on, the audience whooped with national pride and Robinson kept it all under control. Curious to see how the room's material will change now that there's a black man in the White House.
4. Mike Birbiglia and Shaun Majumder
Yuk Yuk's Downtown, July 25
Just For Laughs' best move in its second year was expanding to some of the comedy clubs for longer, more intimate sets. Ultimate underdog Birbiglia has a relaxed slacker style all his own, and his act contrasted perfectly with Majumder's sharp, machine-gun-fire routine, which covered, among other things, "lazy racism."
5. Slap Happy
10th anniversary show, Bad Dog Theatre, October 17
It's been a while since all four members of this improv troupe shared the stage. But it was worth the wait to see them put their twisted imaginations to work for a two-part improvised show, the first a loose but clever bit that gave us Rita MacNeil as a French lesbian, the second a retro roller coaster inspired by guilty-pleasure songs. Come back again, please.
6. The Kids In The Hall
Massey Hall, June 4
Rather than recycle old material, the KITH delivered new sketches (some with favourite characters) and obviously enjoyed themselves. Their bit about converting obese Americans' fat into oil was pure gold, and Mark McKinney's vitriol-spewing head-crusher ended the show with a subversive send-up of the Kids' post-troupe careers.
7. Bitch Salad
Buddies in Bad Times, December 9
Andrew Johnston, the hyper-energetic producer/host of this monthly mostly female comics show, has proven that even the most jaded, seen-it-all Church Street types will throng to see live comedy when it's done right. Rebecca Koehler, Laura Landauer (as Celine Dion) and Dana Alexander killed, as did Johnston's sliding trombone skill (which was not what you're thinking).
8. Kathleen Phillips Is Besides Herself
Diesel Playhouse, June 19
In this space last year, I pleaded for a full-length show from the queen of character comedy, and Phillips (helped by producer Jake Labow) exceeded my expectations. Each character was rounded and achingly real. The videos were a howl, as was opening act Katie Crown.
9. Asian Invasion show
Winter Garden, July 24
Just For Laughs added lots of colour to their lineup this year, especially with this showcase that included great sets by slick host Sugar Sammy and cocky headliner Jo Koy. But they were almost upstaged by the upcoming KT Tatara and the funniest guy to come out of Welland, Ontario, John Ki. Maybe next year the show can add some women.
10. The Imponderables
Comedy Bar, November 22
The Imponderables have often relied on slick production values, but they showed that they've finally found their comedy voice in this solid Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival set. Wedding band members giving sex advice; Where's Waldo as Jason Bourne; a dream sequence run amok - this was clever, sharp material delivered impeccably. Their exit was a hoot, too.
The Sketchersons' Gary Rideout Jr. and partner James Elksnitis for creating the coolest exclusive venue for comedy in the city, the Comedy Bar.
Alana Johnston; Keys To Invincibility In Verbal Argumentation
Approximately 3 Peters
Jason Alexander at Just For Laughs: George isn't funny. Second City's Barack To The Future: let's go back to the old days, please; Uncalled For's Fringe show Blastback Babyzap!: all style, no substance.