Just for Laughs: All-star Gala

First a couple of upbeat songs from the house band, then the familiar tune that plays while the little green monster runs across the television screen – it’s a Toronto Just for Laughs comedy gala featuring top acts from around the world, including much-loved Canadian comic Jeremy Hotz, and several sci-fi references.

There can be no comedy in Toronto without taking a couple of shots at the city’s month-long garbage strike. They decided to get the obvious target with the first shot. A team from Second City took to the stage with a dumpster and protest sign. Since Oscar the Grouch is also walking the picket lines, a puppet named David explained through song that scabs aren’t the bad guys. And in case you didn’t know, the bad word that begins with a “c” is actually CUPE.

That brought TV’s Whose Line is it Anyway‘s Greg Proops to the stage. His comedy style is wordy with a lot of syllables but still relatable. He referred to Hollywood as “an idea held by one million assholes” and joked about the qualifications of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Proops professed a love for music and related country music to the white man’s blues. He also berated a man in the audience for texting during the show and then launched into a joke about how Star Trek’s Spock never had trouble finding reception.

Proops then introduced John Caparulo. Caparulo emerged and instantly critiqued his own weight after seeing the video clips of his thinner days. His style is somewhat nervous as he moves around within a box-shaped on stage. He talked a lot about visiting his family in Ohio in February, describing the cold as “the kind of cold that makes you want to quit your own life.” He also made fun of his high school friends that insist on hunting anything, while dressed in camouflage and fluorescents. This section was the highlight with several humorous but accurate insights, including, “To be a sport, both teams need to know there’s a game going on!” And the anecdote many can relate to, Caparulo complained about having to be a Jedi to use automated faucets and paper towel dispensers in public restrooms – you know who you are.

Next up was Irish export Jimeoin, who opened with an impression of Star Wars’ Chewbacca using a stool. Unfortunately, his portion of the program was relatively shorter than the others, who each brought the laughs for about 20 minutes. Nonetheless, in his short time, Jimeoin provided some tips on storytelling and anecdotes about how others strive to screw up your story. He also did an impressive impression of a washing machine’s last cycle after comparing the aggravating differences of frontload and top-load washers.

Hotz received the hometown welcome and then exclaimed he was so glad to be home, looking at all the normal faces, because “Americans are fucked up.” He then proceeded to dash a 19-year-old’s hopes for the future by using himself as an example of disappointments to come. Having guessed the correct age of the young man and then the height of a big and tall man in the front row, he declared he should go back to working at The Ex. He closed by comparing the male anatomy to Gonzo from the Muppet Show. Possibly the most surprising contrast was his performance personality versus the relatively normal, less shy one that introduced the final act – John Pinette.

Pinette, not surprisingly, delivered a rant about food – he discussed the badness of haggis, turnips and radishes and the horribleness of gluten-free foods because apparently the flavour is in the gluten. He also provided the best argument against exercise: he doesn’t do “ups” (i.e. sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups) because ups defy gravity and he obeys the law. He then asked that the audience takeaway two things from his act: be happy in life and don’t do a colon cleanse (it’s self-cleaning, even if the pretty lady tells you otherwise).

In the end, the all-star gala delivered an all-star performance.

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