Best of JFL

Published on July 29th, 2013 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Just For Laughs Montreal: Joan Rivers Gala

A 5:00 p.m. gala? Why not?

Even before the first glimmer of her outfit’s first sequin was visible, Joan Rivers had the Place des Arts audience eating out of the palm of her hand.

While the crowd skewed older, it wasn’t to the extreme you’d expect from her fanbase or a Saturday matinee crowd. They were polite, though, not giving big reactions for anyone other than Rivers. It was clear who they were there to see, and Rivers proved them wise.

She took some swipes at her own age (80), saying she could go at any time. “How lucky would you be?,” she asked the audience, promising they’d be perpetual dinner party guests should she drop dead on the stage.

Her top-of-show monologue was characteristically harsh towards other women, from easy targets like Paula Deen, all the way to Mother Theresa and Princess Diana.

Rihanna has had “more black asses on her face than the seats in the back of Rosa Parks’ bus,” she said.

And on Taylor Swift, “nine guys in nine months, figure out why you dumb bitch.”

“Are we on?,” Rivers asked a few times throughout her remaining segments, to nobody in particular. The cameras seemed to be always rolling, but Rivers took the opportunity to go rogue and fill time regardless, much to the delight of the crowd (and the chagrin of the poor stagehand who had to walk onstage to put an end to it).

Josh Thomas brought some cheerful likability to the stage, with tales of life as one of two gay sons (the fault of his father’s “bitchy sperm”), his creepy level of love he has for his dog, and the behavior of atheists.

Laurie Elliott talked marriage and aging, and shared her foolproof (yet inconvenient) method of making her breasts look perky.

Colin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood did a multi-gimmick improv game that had some awkward moments, but ended on a big laugh and should play better on television.

Jen Kirkman was introduced by Rivers as someone who “hates children” and is “the Casey Anthony of comedy”. The upfront knock to her likability couldn’t have helped her, but she ultimately had one of the better sets of the night (which, incidentally, included no material about being childfree).

Lynne Koplitz had an uphill climb with her material on aging, which at that point in the show had been well-covered by Rivers and Elliott, and touched on slightly by Kirkman. The comics all submit their sets to the gala producers in advance, yes? Koplitz may have been better served if this trend had been spotted and fixed with either a material or lineup switch.

Tom Papa took the show home as it inched towards the two-hour mark, with a predictably solid set mostly about life as a dad, and keeping his kids occupied (“I do weird stuff with people I make”).

The gala – or portions of it – will air on CBC during the 2013-2014 season.

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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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