Just in time for an alternative to watching the Oscars, Mobtreal caught the Underground Comedy Railroad at the tail end of their 2016 tour, “UCR5 The Darkness Awakens.” And while many people were tuning in to Chris Rock taking on the #OscarSoWhite controversy in Hollywood, the audience at ComedyWorks got a treat with a sampling of Canada’s top black comics.
It started in 2012, as a way of showcasing Canada’s black comedic talent. This year marks the 5th anniversary of the Underground Comedy Railroad’s cross-Canada tour. Always timed for Black History Month, the Underground Comedy Railroad’s objective is to spotlight Canada’s black talent, which many feel are underrepresented in Canadian mainstream entertainment. In addition to the expected edginess of racial comedy on the UCR tour affectionately dubbed the “white guilt tour,” the comedians riff on a wide range of topics offering unique perspectives that everyone can relate to and enjoy. Which is perfect since, while Montreal’s audience had a majority ethnic presence, usually the audience is largely white.
While the tour typically ends in Montreal, this show was extra special as it was filmed with a 360 camera specifically for the Oculus Rift, thus bringing a very 21st Century feel to the show. Audience members were welcomed to “participate” by wearing masks. For the most part they were the Guy Fawkes masks handed out before the show. One audience member, however, sported a horse head mask, needless to say it drew the attention of many of the performers. Reggaeton was played before the show, comics fist-bumped audience members, and waitresses sported faux afros and dreads to add to the motif of the evening.
Andrew Searles, a popular Montreal comic, hosted the show and didn’t shy away from racial material, particularly with his take on the stereotypical “African aid” commercial, taking us into a future where Africa is asked to help a downtrodden America in the fight against measles. Bruno Ly, another longtime Montreal comic, took the stage lamenting the lack of privacy on public transportation. MuchMusic’s “Video on Trial” comedian, Daniel Woodrow, also brought the funny complaining about being homeschooled–“You’re only as smart as your mom,”–talking about how you can’t be gangster while owning a cat, and joked how relieved white people are at the end of Black History Month that they can go back to “doing nothing differently.”
Rodney Ramsey, who went to highschool with Andrew Searles and helped co-found and produce the Underground Comedy Railroad, talked about his “third world solutions to first world problems,” how much he hates emoticons, as well as some edgier material such as the “who do they hate more” game and his take on Black Lives Matter (“In the US you get shot, in Canada you get tickets”). Finally, the headliner Keesha Brownie enlightened us what it’s like to grow up in Lasalle in French Immersion school with Jamaican parents, offered up advice on how to avoid your friend’s baby functions.
Whether it was enlightening people on what it’s like to grow up in Canada with Caribbean parents or having to explain to people in Scotland that, yes, Canadians can “come in black” , the night was entertaining and insightful, offering comedy you don’t see every weekend. Let’s hope the Underground Comedy Railroad pulls through the station once again next year!