I used to love standup comedy. Back when I was in high school and we had the network cable, A&E used to have Just for Laughs highlights on and they were awesome. They even produced their own specials and hosted half- or full-hours of comedy standup. I loved Last Comic Standing in the first couple of seasons, and I even did a bit of performing back in the day when I was at university. Nothing terribly substantial, just enough to get a taste.
When I left my previous job, my team got me two going away gifts, with one being a LEGO kit to put together with Jacob and the other being a gift certificate for Absolute Comedy. Through a series of delays and exchanges, I finally got to go last night with my wife, and it was pretty good.
The setup was a bit odd. First, the night was a fund-raiser for a group building schools in Nicaragua, although not everyone there was for the fund-raiser. Second, they normally advertise that they have two or three comedians “with” an MC, a feature act and a headliner. Now, when I read that, I thought it meant 2-3 lesser names PLUS the MC PLUS the feature act PLUS the headliner. Nope, it was 3 in total last night, which mainly means they have much longer sets. That is REALLY risky in my view for an outing because if you get a comic that doesn’t suit your comic needs, you could be sitting through a really awkward half-hour of comedy while they do their set. Last night was fine for me, not sure how everyone responded though in the audience.
First up was the MC, Aba Atlas. He’s from Ethiopia, and if you search the internet, you’ll see pretty quick that one of the things he’s most known for is a video (https://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/05/03/aba-atlas-mortgage-video_n_3211415.html) of him giving a cheque to his mother to pay down her mortgage. It went near viral on YouTube as one of those feel-good videos, and I vaguely remember the story. He was the opening MC, and while he didn’t have a detailed act, he played off the audience for 8-10 minutes and seemed pretty comfortable doing it, clearly enjoying it. His best bit was about winter and handling it as a non-Ottawa-born, non-white guy.
The feature act was Nick Reynoldson who hails from Scarborough. A good portion of his act is about his physical appearance. He looks really young for his actual age, emphasizes an emaciated look by wearing a hoodie and messing his hairstyle, and plays off a weaker appearance. He was really good, and he had a few threads through the act including one about fighting (i.e. his “move” is that he runs away really fast and knows how to zig zag like a rabbit; later when he talks about having to defend his girlfriend, he says that she doesn’t seem clear that the strategy is to find an open field and start zig zagging). He was the feature act this past week, but I noted that he sometimes is the headline act and I actually liked him a bit better than the headliner.
The headliner was Frank Spadone and I found him a bit disorganized. He does some sort of Italian accent throughout the show, maybe Italy by way of the Sopranos, and he was frequently deliberately stumbling through some of the words. Starting, restarting, etc. He apparently is known for doing accents and impressions, but it wasn’t obvious last night. He also had just finished a set downstairs and it seemed like he was somewhat lost, even stopping at one point to ask, “Did I tell you about this already?” because he had covered it downstairs. Good, but not headliner-awesome. He also did some interactions with the audience, and he did a deep dive with one woman in her 60s about growing up in Italy. It was interesting, mildly amusing, but it wasn’t sufficiently humorous enough to keep going. Yet he did.
Overall, it was a good night, and I did enjoy them. But I think I’d rather seen Nick or Aba doing a headliner set than see Frank Spadone again.