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Published on July 26th, 2009 | by Sharilyn Johnson

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Just For Laughs: The Alternative Show

The Alternative Show is one of those “sure things” of the festival, and with its midnight start time typically ends up capping off my week in Montreal. All the comics have gotten to know each other and are slightly loopy from the lack of sleep, and the paying audience usually only fills the main level, leaving the balcony for us laminate-clad folks who just didn’t get enough of host Andy Kindler at the State of the Industry address.

It became clear off the top that Kindler has a following in Montreal, something certainly not lost on him.

“This is a very vocal crowd and I don’t enjoy that,” he said.

Reggie Watts & Jon Dore double up at Saturday night's Alternative Show

Reggie Watts & Jon Dore double up at Saturday night's Alternative Show


Jon Dore kicked things off alongside surprise guest Reggie Watts. They each did their own standup set simultaneously, ignoring the existence of each other. It went on just long enough to start being enough, and then they came back out for an encore. Hilarious.

“Maybe I’m old school, but I found that very distracting,” Kindler said.

If slapstick is included in the Alternative Show does that mean it’s cool now? I sure hope so. Josh Fadem fell down, got tangled in the mic cord, split his pants, got stuck while taking his sweater off, fell down some more… and did manage to get some jokes out in the process. Hooray for physical comedy, and a secondary hooray for having a special mic brought out for him to screw around with instead of causing problems with the normal one (is it wrong of me to notice these things?)

Aubrey Plaza, who is new at all this from having to learn standup for her role in Funny People, had some good stuff about old people on the internet, and New York City being “the only city where I’m afraid of having trash blown into my mouth.” During the week many were hailing her fast progress, but as should be expected there’s some work to do on the presentation side. Her awkward/blase/depressed tone works, but we could do without all the “umms” and then breaking that character by giving us a relatively chipper thanks/goodbye at the end.

Matt Besser brought out his Jason Yellow character (the no-armed deaf and blind comic) from North America’s Best Comic, one of my favourites from that show the night before. It was weird enough to work well, although Besser seemed to have forgotten about one of his characters traits. His “braille” setlist was taped to his leg so he could read it with his bare foot, but he kept looking down at it instead. But I think everyone was laughing too hard to care, so let’s move on.

Nick Kroll’s initial “what’s uuuuup Montreal!” gangsta schtick was hilarious unto itself even before he promised his set was “goona be a lot more Goldblum-y than that.” I can’t wait to see his newly pitched show about a bilingual hat called Fedora the Explorer.

And while I’m at it, allow me to burn one of Matt Braunger’s best lines: “Wild boys! Wild boys! Sorry, I have Duran Tourettes”. Runner up: “Since you guys have 15 sex shops for every 1 sex shop in this town…”

Marc Maron began the final set of the night with a tale about himself, Kindler, and Eugene Mirman getting lost while driving to a Target in the outskirts of Cincinatti — wherin we learn that he does a fantastic Kindler impression.

Maron moved onto a chunk very close to my heart, about his experience in Winnipeg a few months ago. “What the fuck is this? how many times can someone show me the windiest corner in North America?… I fought the urge to go up to people and say ‘you can just GO. Get on a bus or a plane or a train and just GO someplace where there’s coffee shops and black people…'” (I’m a former Winnipegger and did finally realize a few years ago that I could indeed just GO.)

He closed with a story about what must be the craziest woman he’s ever met on the road (I hope), who wanted him to help deliver a letter to the Governor at 1:30am because he’d saved her from Mormons. Or something like that. The crowd loved Marc, cementing my suspicion that everyone who loves Andy also loves him. A great way to bookend the evening.

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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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