A Tale of Two Galas at JFL: Wanda Sykes and Alan Cumming

Just for Laughs Cumming gala. Photo Eric Myre Jen Kirkman. Just for Laughs Cumming gala. Photo Eric Myre

The Just for Laughs Galas are legendary. They are big ticket shows that feature a superstar host and six to seven other performers. They are taped for TV and sometimes, you get some wild surprises (Remember PK Subban showing up unannounced last year with beer? Yeah). I had the pleasure to attend two Galas this week and YAY FOR ME.

Wanda Sykes Gala

Wanda Sykes is amazing and I was so excited to see her. Her opening monologue focused on her life as a mother and wife, as a proud black women adrift in a sea of white people that she takes care of, because she loves them and because her wife just can’t cook. She was relaxed and she collectively owned us, setting a great tone for the rest of the night.

Tom Ballard, a comic from Australia was a little cheeky, but ultimately his plans for future fatness got the crowd going. Keith Robinson was going for outré material, framing himself as someone that is not politically correct, but quite frankly, I have heard so much about Caitlyn Jenner in the mainstream news that I eight shades of don’t care about what she has done with her body. I wish we could all just move on, and honestly, if you are calling her Bruce in your act, I’m gonna tune you out, because you are being boorish, not funny. Nate Bergatze was really good in a self-deprecating way. Tim Nutt actually did seven (7!) minutes on celery and dip, which I was not expecting to love, but I really did. He was an unexpected delight and I am curious to see his other work as a result.

Mrs. Sykes came out midway through the show for a Montreal-centric bit about being a tourist that honestly, felt like it was a bit of a ”feel good about your town” bit for the locals. I much prefer the material that comes out from her politics and her personal life, but I have a feeling that she was given stuff by a team of local writers for that one. Harland Williams (I know!) came on to a very absurdist monologue-y bit about going home with a chubby couple that…I don’t know…felt a bit forced. Sarah Millican was next and I am now in love with her. She was amazing, and I laughed out loud for the majority of her set. She has a solo show which I now wish I had time to see, but will absolutely keep an eye out for next year. The show closed with Alonzo Bodden, who was very strong, on par with Sarah Millican. His material was interesting, topical, political and hilarious. He’ll always be the rapey guy to me, in a good way (I guess you had to be there). Seriously, I wish he had had more time, because his work was great and you should try to see him.

Overall, a lot of fun, if a bit tame, but at least I got to see three new faces, or at least new to me faces that blew me away, mainly Tim Nutt, Sarah Millican and Alonzo Bodden.

Alan Cumming Gala

cumming gala. Photo Eric Myre. Just for Laughs.

cumming gala. Photo Eric Myre. Just for Laughs.

Alan Cumming, most recognizable for his role as Eli Gold in The Good Wife, is a lovely flamboyant gay Scotsman who is not only charming, but is hilarious. He is a very open and welcoming performer that lulls you into complicity with him without you noticing. This man can make an 1000-seat theatre feel as intimate as a cabaret, an eerie feat, but well suited talent for a seasoned Broadway performer, and he is an excellent host.

The line up for the show was stellar. Joel Creasey, who I happened to see the Australian spotlight show last year, was great as your sassy bitchy gay best friend. He’s a lot of fun, if you can catch him, and his bit about his twitter haters killed. Dana Gould, of whom I am already a fan, was in his element, really taking his time, and was great. It was the first time that I had seen Jen Kirkman, and she was hilarious, working off the idea of dying alone, which while it doesn’t sound like a lot of fun, really was.

cumming gala. Photo Eric Myre. Just for Laughs.

cumming gala. Photo Eric Myre. Just for Laughs.

Alan Cumming treated us to a mash-up during the half time, mixing in Katy Perry with Adele and Lady Gaga. When he opened up his voice, you could feel goosebumps, the man can really sing. He really brought the house down. In the second half, we were treated to Shaun Majumder, from NL, who’s ISIS bit honestly bugged me. He seemed to be playing to the Islamaphobic crowd and that shit don’t fly with me. Sean Cullen was saying nonsense in French and that seemed to really tickle a large portion of the audience. Personally, I didn’t get it. Brent Morin had a very bro-ey style that also didn’t really speak to me. Tod Glass, however, came out strong and smart and woke me up out of my counting the minutes down stupor, that guy is great and I love good political commentary. He reminded me of how I feel seeing Henry Rollings would be like, all the hope mixed in with all the vitriol. We ended with Orny Adams, who was practically manic and brought down the house. It was a good way to end it and I am glad I (Alan) came.

The main take-away : Alan Cumming is lovely and talented in all ways, like an filthy-mouthed Scottish triple-threat angel, Jen Kirkman is my future and I want to see a full hour with Tod Glass stat.

The two galas were part of Just For Laughs 2015.

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