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Black is Back!

In Montreal, that is. Longtime Montreal fest favorite conquers a gala hosting spot.

The biggest showcase in the Just For Laughs Montreal Comedy Festival is always its gala nights, with the English language nights toward the close of the festival. Oddly enough, the second night Lewis Black hosted on July 23 [he filled in for an ailing John Cleese the night before], might have been the most Canada-centric of the galas.

That was in no small part because Black tailored his own material at the beginning and between the guest stars to comment on various things Canadian -- such as the country’s Prime Minister, Stephen Harper likely being a great source of material for comics who miss George W. Bush for precisely that reason.

Having just come off a 40-day tour of Canada, Black adapted his take on New York winters -- “you want to slit your wrists just so you can see color” -- to describe the desolate Canadian landscape. “Drive from Toronto to Thunder Bay and -- THERE’S NOTHING! Drive from Thunder Bay to Winnipeg, and what is there? EVEN LESS!” Black ranted at top volume.

The Canadian aspect didn’t transfer to the other stand-ups as much, with Canadian native Tim Nutt by definition having the most Canadian point of view. Nutt is definitely ready for American prime time, and at very least could carry a Comedy Central half hour special -- he’s like a gentler, more intelligent version of the self-proclaimed “redneck” comedians back in the U.S. For instance, when arguing with his wife, Nutt says, it’s all over when she says, “well, it would have been nice” -- “as if bitching enough could turn back time to before you did something. At this point, her options are forgive me, or go away.”

Ubiquitous TV personality and actress Aisha Tyler’s roots are in stand-up, and she was the most animated performer in the gala. She delivered rapid fire takes on aging -- that is noticing your own body aging once you pass 30. “Once you have a mortgage, you shouldn’t have to go back to Clearasil,” she said, commenting on the phenomenon of adult acne. “Anything injures you now. ‘I lifted a case of soda, and now I’m peeing blood.’” Her show stopper, commenting on why she doesn’t have kids (she’s been married 15 years, since college), was about taking out her nieces and nephews for a day. “When I got back, I just shook them upside down and threw them back in the house -- they’re her problem now!”

The show also featured an old Vegas pro, Bobby Slayton, who nonetheless won over a hipper and younger Montreal audience with raunchy material about marriage and sex. He had a lot of fun with the drummer of the house band, who seemed to have no clue about when he might want a rimshot to punctuate a joke -- almost like Fred Armisen’s and Chris Kattan’s old SNL skit.

And lastly, something of a novelty act, Dan Finnerty and the Dan Band, entertained largely through force of personality, with Finnerty and his duo singing and dancing their way through songs by Shakira, Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera, playing up their average guy lack of athleticism or grace. This didn’t require much comedic invention but confidently grabbed the audience nonetheless.

The show also included Jester site favorites Marc Maron and Aziz Ansari, as well as a group with some buzz, The Improvised Shakespeare Company (separate review may appear later), although these were missed in order to also take in the Facebook show (see separate review).

Just For Laughs -- Montreal Comedy Festival coverage sponsored by

Eric & LaNita Hazard; Irving & Sonya Rozansky.




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