On the top floor of Jimbo’s Pub, you can find Comedyworks, an intimate little comedy club which has offered its modest stage since 1990 to now-famous stars such as Ray Romano, Montreal’s own Sugar Sammy, and arguably the funniest man on the planet as of this moment, Mr. Louis C.K (I barely recognize him in the picture with his hair.)
It’s Sunday night, the house is packed, and I sit next to a tattoo-clad gentlemen and his lovely wife. Under the neon blue lights and the buzzing sound of many voices speaking (and drinking) all at once, I overlook an eager crowd awaiting to be entertained and laugh with abandon. To laugh loud, hard, and often. To laugh among friends and strangers alike. With the gloomy weather beyond these walls, this is a perfect opportunity for a few talented comedians to brighten up a rainy Sunday evening (May 19th).
The first person I meet upon entering the venue is Mike Carrozza (https://twitter.com/mikecarrozza), a stand-up comedian who’s working at the door tonight. He’s an affable and polite young man, with the sort of infectious laugh that you can’t help but notice. When I ask him about the club, he points towards all the pictures hanging from the wall and tells me how these famous comics have all performed at Comedyworks over the past 20 years.
Before the show begins, I get a quick chance to speak to Patrick “The Dream” Hakeem. On this night, he returns to his hometown along with a few of his comedian friends from Toronto. He’s noticeably energetic, but it doesn’t take an expert to see that it might just be nervous energy. You see, Patrick is the organizer of tonight’s show, Comedians with Angles, and he confesses that he’s invited almost everyone he knows in Montreal, and yet, he can’t recognize half of the faces in the crowd (he’s pleasantly surprised at the turn out.)
There are seven stand-up comics on the program on this night, with Steph Tolev serving as the emcee.
Steph Tolev (https://twitter.com/StephTolev): Intimidatingly funny, she has just the right amount of stage presence and energy to help kick off the night.
Favourite joke: “So…I kissed my dad on the mouth recently. It went on for just a bit longer than it should have. But now I know what a real man tastes like.” The audience didn’t know whether to gag, cringe, or laugh. So they did all three. I loved it.
Jeff Schouela (https://twitter.com/hugefailure): He seems like an old pro, as if he’s been doing this for a while now. He admits that “he looks bad on paper, a comedian and single.” After all, he is 34 years old.
Favourite joke: “Why are the back-pain medications always on the lowest shelf?”
DJ Demers (https://twitter.com/djdemers) I noticed DJ walk in before the show and thought “Well, this dude is too good-looking to be a stand-up comic.” But hey, life is full of surprises! His set relies on combining sympathy and laughter (DJ has been wearing hearing aids since grade school.) If I were a betting man, I’d bet he probably went home with one of the attractive ladies from Winnipeg sitting at the front.
Favourite joke: “To get out of a ticket, I’d go full Helen Keller.”
Morgan O’Shea (https://www.facebook.com/maceoshea): Have you ever seen the film Zoolander? Because Morgan looks like he’s a model for Derelicte. His hobo-chic style goes hand in hand with his self-deprecating humour. During the other sets, I noticed Morgan attentively watching his fellows comics. It makes me wonder about the fine line between friendly encouragement and constructive criticism/judgement among stand-up comics.
Favourite joke: “I treat sex like a pigeon eats food.”
Patrick Hakeem (https://twitter.com/Hahk): His confidence on stage is apparent from the get-go. If anything, all of that nervous energy seems to have fueled him tonight. He effortlessly interacts with the crowd (I assume he finally recognizes a few of the faces). It seems that he’s also another old pro (after all, he is 34 years old).
Favourite joke: “No women ever comes home from dating me and brags about it.”
Mark DeBonis (https://twitter.com/TheMarkDeBonis): The gruff-voiced Mark displays a different brand of comedy, one more based on storytelling, almost appearing to be stream-of-consciousness. If he seems digressive and easily distracted, then I’m positive that it’s all part of his routine. The most unique comedian of the night.
Favourite joke: “Just give me the mullet, but without the back. I don’t want to party. I want business in the front and business in the back.”
Alex Pavone (https://twitter.com/MrAlexPavone): His energy levels are through the roof, which is fitting seeing as how he’s the last comic of the night. His style seems to rely a lot on physicality. In fact, he starts off with a dance (I noticed him dancing before the show even began, perhaps another form of nervous energy?) His final bit about the obnoxious girl at the McDonald’s was well-constructed, ending with a great punchline. Dude must be a riot at parties.
Favourite joke: “Australians pre-drink for an open bar wedding.”
I think it’s safe to say that we all tightened our abs that night. As a critic, I have to find both positives and dig for negatives. Yet, when a woman asked me if I enjoyed the show, I honestly couldn’t find any reasons for why I didn’t. In fact, when you find yourself laughing for over two hours, it’s difficult to find any negative criticisms. For a gloomy night such as the one last Sunday, laughter is precisely what we all needed.