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Published on July 23rd, 2009 | by Sharilyn Johnson

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Just for Laughs: New Faces

This is my 5th Just For Laughs Festival, and amazingly last night was my first ever New Faces show. New Faces is relevant primarily because of its former relevance. It’s a relic leftover from a past reality, when agents and managers would flock to Montreal (still happening) to hand out sitcom development deals to the first unknown to impress them (not happening). Does this one-stop-shopping show, always scheduled so it’s the first thing industry people see after flying in, still need to exist in this format?

I wasn’t the only one to notice how the show’s heat factor has worn down slightly over the years. Host Dan Levy reminded the sparse crowd that in recent years New Faces has been hosted by the likes of Drew Carey, Anthony Clark, and Kevin Pollack.

“I think it’s clear there are no development deals left in Hollywood,” he said.

The lineup:

Moshe Kasher
A unique look and a unique style, delving into fast-paced rants that can’t not get applause breaks when he stops to take a breath. Would be interested to see him in a few years.

Al Jackson
Comfortable conversational style, talking mostly about his experiences as a school teacher in Miami and having to teach sex ed. Led into a bit about erectile dysfunction (“like trying to put a marshmallow into a coin slot”), which was not as cringe-inducing as you’d think it would be. I’d watch him for an hour.

Duncan Trussell
Took a risk by opening with something new: a bit about the creepiness of the JFL mascot and how it haunts his dreams. It paid off, though he lost the easy-to-lose crowd somewhat by going into a tangent about letting suicidal people die.

Pete Holmes
One of the few recognizable names on the bill didn’t disappoint. He established his character firmly, efficiently, and hilariously. His “I act like ‘fun dad'” bit is golden. 7 minutes, and we know without a doubt who this guy is. This is how a New Faces set is done — and 10 years ago, he’d have had a deal inked by sunrise.

Andrew Lawrence
I can’t imagine he’d be offended by being called “odd”, because there’s no other way to describe his awkward appearance and speedy yet monotone delivery. The lone Brit on the bill did talk about his appearance (a common theme through the evening, as it’s requisite part of the young comic’s repertoire) and his relations with his girlfriend. Response to him was positive, but could I handle an hour?

Renee Gauthier
Insert standard “bold female” descriptor here. Brazen? A firecracker? You get the idea. She’s polished, energetic, and went balls to the wall when delivering her musically-inspired opener and closer. She’s definitely a performer, and probably the most cast-able one on the bill.

Rory Scovel
When he took the stage and asked for “more applause for Dan,” I cringed. I’m in the camp that views that type of solicitation as an amateur move, and when you’re trying to impress a very jaded industry it’s best to erase all reminders that you’re relatively new at this. People I was with LOVED Rory, and I did like a few bits (like holding surprise parties for blind people), but for some reason I just didn’t connect with him.

Eric Krug
By contrast, Krug initially gave off an air of calm confidence that suggested he’s been doing this a long time, whether he actually has or not. A bit about celebrity knights being forced into service as actual knights was fantastic, and his closing audience participation bit about guessing who quotes were attributed to – Anne Frank or Tupac – could use some beefing up but is a great premise. My only complaint: rushing to spit out a very racist joke (about how black people don’t work hard) before bolting from the stage. Dude, you were doing so well. Why??

Dan Ahdoot
Why is Dan on New Faces? He’s young, but he certainly isn’t new. Wasn’t he on the first season of Last Comic Standing? It was pointed out to me later that he doesn’t have representation, so that could be the key to his name on the bill. Regardless, he spit out a solid 7 on his Iranian/Jewish heritage and being single. Nice to cap of the show with a sure thing.

This was half of the New Faces lineup this year; I will be seeing the other group later tonight, and will of course report back.

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About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.



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