Two Blacks, a Jew, two Arabs, a Chinese man, and an Italian walk into a comedy club. Well, that can be the start of a joke OR the line-up for Just For Laughs The Ethnic Show.
The Ethnic Show opened the JFL festival in fine form to a jovial and excited crowd. With some rousing music by Killa Jewel, host Alonzo Bodden took to the stage and did a round up of some recent US news related to black issues. Among other things, he discussed Rachel Dolezal (that’s the white woman who was in the upper echelon of the NAACP) and recent police shootings. However, in his opening banter, he reserved his sharpest comedy for the audience members who came in late at sat in the front tables, including Tony from “the Old World — Italy” and a group of colleagues who all work in “finance.”
First on was Frank Spadone (we interviewed him HERE) who talked about growing up Italian and families in particular. He focuses on his family for his jokes, though personally, my favorite was his description of the highlight of the Italian funeral.
Next was the wiry spring Rachid Badouri, a Moroccan who grew up in French Canada. He’s a very physical comedian and can contort his face in a way few can. In particular, he discussed his father’s inability to grasp culture and his description of a Parent Teacher meeting was a masterpiece of a tale when a crazy Moroccan meets a crazy French teacher.
Dan Naturman struck me as a bit more low key than the others. He talked about life in New York, gay marriage (and why it wouldn’t work in some places), and probably pushed the audience the most with some borderline offensive jokes about Canada and French Canadians. I think he stayed on the right side of the border.
After a break and a video of the Yid Life Crisis guys, Bodden came back with just as much flair and strength with his assessment of rapey vs. creepy. Then he introduced Gina Yashere who I thought brought the show to a new level of quality. She discussed her adventure finding her “roots” in Nigeria, only to decide that she’d made an error. Her line of the night was about “Nigerian CSI — can’t solve it.” She also explained her germophobia in hotel rooms so convincingly that I am probably going to take her tip about how to use the remote control.
Ahmed Ahmed’s humour focused first on the images of Muslims in the news, the social media power of ISIS, and his dating life. He was more pointed and biting in his jokes than the others, but his imitation of a 20-year-old’s pout was spectacular.
Finally, Australian Ronny Chieng had a series on his family and his girlfriend. When he moved away from personal topics, I found he was even funnier, such as when he talked about how airline travel has changed and what goes through his mind when he stands in-line behind an Asian family when crossing customs and immigration.
Overall, the Ethnic Show was very funny. I thought all the acts were consistently good in different ways and the host extremely strong. The comedians represented a range of ethnicities and through their humour, the common frustrations of life — families, airline travel, tindr, and food — could be appreciated by all. I also appreciated that the jokes about the news were about very contemporary events as opposed to things that happened months ago. This made the material feel fresh.
Two things to note, though. Some comedians get a little shouty and this is a pet hate of mine. Shouting sounds terrible in a microphone/sound system and it doesn’t make me feel more emotional about the topic at hand. Reduce shouting. Second, I didn’t really feel anyone go for the jugular. Everyone had material that was more of a lovingly amused by quirks and foibles sort. My hunch is that there isn’t enough time for the comedians to feel out and develop a rapport with the audience that would allow for enough trust that the most offensive jokes are not intended to demoralize and destroy.
The Just for Laughs Ethnic Show is at Club Soda from July 8-19. Click HERE for tickets.