During the Montreal Zoofest & Off-JFL festival I got the opportunity to see three great stand-up comedians whom I should have known previously.
First off, it was Aparna Nancherla, who is of Indian descent. I was interested in seeing what she had to say as an ethnic woman in comedy. American born and currently living in New York city, Aparna spoke about her experience living in a city that makes many attempts to bring a person to their breaking point. After a great bit about being cat-called in unique and creepy ways, Aparna tackled a topic not often candidly discussed in a stand-up routine: depression. Though the crowd went silent when she first announced that she struggles with this illness, she quickly turned it around into the next joke effortlessly. While watching Aparna, I was in awe that someone dealing with this illness is still making a big name for herself. She’s not letting it hold her back, but allowing it to fuel her quirkiness and realness.
I also got to check out Jermaine Fowler. At only 28, Fowler has already managed to do a set on Craig Ferguson, make reoccurring appearances on the Eric Andre show, and star on Bojack Horseman and Robot Chicken. Fowler told a variety of stories which left the crowd with incredulous looks on their faces, but through his sincerity and humility you knew that they were true. Fowler recounted what it’s like being a twin and having extremely young parents. Being a black American, Fowler also recounted the experience of participating in a Black Lives Matter march and noticing that after a few miles into the wrong neighborhood, some crack heads wanted to join the march. Fowler also spoke about how his friend got wrongfully arrested and was easily bribed by a bag of chips and quickly returned home before he could inform his friend’s mother of the bad news.
My Off-JFL adventure also included L.A. based comedienne Beth Stelling. Stelling is a writer on Judd Apatow’s new show Crashing, but the audience was not expecting Apatow himself to open for her!
Just like Jermaine and Aparna, Beth spoke about her life candidly but was still able to keep things light with the crowd. Topics ranged from being raped by another comic to her own mother’s experience buying a Playboy at a small town grocery store in order to get a copy of her daughter’s interview inside.
What I was able to take away from these three shows is that stand-up comedy can be used a device to voice what’s in your head as a type of therapy. Your audience is made up of complete strangers, but the relationship and connection is evident. All three shows were brilliant and will not be forgotten.