Last night's gala, the fourth of five at the 21st anniversary Just for Laughs festival, was perhaps the best gala I can remember seeing. Since 1998, when I worked at JFL, we've gone to at least one gala per festival. Starting last year, my sister, mother and aunt have done An Evening at Eve's Tavern as well. This year, I also saw one of the Bubbling with Laughter shows, which was the least impressive of the three shows I took in.
Just for Laughs Gaga featuring Tina Fey
Saturday, July 19, 2003
The gala started with Bobby Badfingers, a reprise from an earlier gala. Granted, great finger snapping, but once you've seen him do 'Wipe Out,' you're pretty much good. So the extra two numbers, complete with forced audience participation, was a little on the lame side.
The gala really started with the predictable 'Live from the St-Denis Theatre...' and the smart, funny, gorgeous Tina Fey ensconced behind the Weekend Update desk. Her update was almost entirely Canadian - including a shot at the latest census data in which thousands listed their religion as 'Jedi': "although the data on religion has to be disregarded, Stats Can is happy because they now have a count of Canadian dorks." Also, she brought up the fact that it's now legal for Canadian doctors to prescribe medicinal marijuana: "and in related news, actor Woody Harrelson has applied to med school at McGill."
After what she referred to as her "9,999th" Anna Nicole Smith joke, Fey said she was about more than trashing celebrities, and broke into 'Let me Entertain You.' Great singer, great dancer, and the best part? After all these years of wondering what news anchors are like from the waist down... Fey emerged from behind the desk in fishnets, a leotard, and fake fat legs and butt. As soon as the pic is available, you’ll see what I mean.
The first comic was Suli McCullough, whose best bit was letting us in on the fact that the guy inside Barney is black: “think about it – he’s 6’8” and dances, he wears a purple fur coat with green trim, and his girl’s name is Baby Bop. He’s Tyrone-asaurus Rex.”
Next up was Dave Coulier, who was the least annoying cast member of Full House. His act consists primarily of impersonations of cartoon characters, including Bullwinkle, Scooby Doo and Shaggy. These voices are dead-on, and very funny. He did get in a couple of good actual jokes, including “I’m so excited to be here. I wrote an act this morning and everything. Some of these are time-released jokes. You’ll get them in the car on the way home.”
Colin Quinn, an SNL alum and former Weekend Update anchor, was next, and came across as relatively funny but mainly drunk. Best bit? “To be an intellectual in the US these days all you have to do is say ‘yeah, but there’s a lot of stuff the government isn’t telling you.’ Right, like they’re telling you?”
My personal favourite of the night was Lee Mack, a Brit who was introduced as “adding another notch to his Commonwealth bedpost.” His act included a couple of great physical bits, which are obviously less funny when recounted textually (but the Riverdance from the waist up bit is something you can visualize). Best bit? Can’t decide – could be “I remember my Nan’s last words. She said to me, “what are you doing with that hammer?” Or it could be “I am being blamed for the death of the Queen Mum. I got home, turned on the TV, and the announcer said ‘if you’ve just turned on your television, the Queen Mother has died.’”
The last act before intermission was Tina Fey’s brief introduction to American culture (prefaced by a great bit about a conversation she had with a fellow-New Yorker about how sad it is that Americans know so much about Canada, but Canadians have no concept of American culture). Her presentation began with a map showing the “4 states – California, New York, Chicago and Hillbillyville.” She covered freedom of speech, gay marriage (as long as it’s to a person of the opposite sex) and freedom of religion – “Christian, Jew, or constantly under surveillance.”
1st act after intermission was Otis Lee Crenshaw (aka Rich Hall), a convicted felon from the “Darwinian rewind button, Tennessee.” Best bit – “Shania Twain? ‘That don’t impress me much.’ Shania, you’re Canadian. Anything impresses you. Maple syrup impresses you. ‘So you’re a rocket scientist. That don’t impress me much.’ How can you not be impressed by a rocket scientist?”
I overheard a lot of people say their favourite was Mitch Fatel, who was really good (but I still prefer Lee Mack). Some of his best: “I like small breasts. They have personality. It’s like they’re saying ‘Hello! Can I help you?’ No thanks, just looking.” And, regarding women who say ‘I usually wait six months before sleeping with a guy’: “how does that work? Do you e-mail me or something?”
Next up was Barry Julien, the only local on the bill. It wasn’t his best set ever, but he didn’t altogether bomb, I guess. Nothing really worth repeating, though.
We had a surprise guest next, when Tina Fey came on a one half of the country duo ‘The Staley Sisters.’ Other half – Rachel Dratch of SNL. The premise is that these sisters tour, singing their dead daddy’s inspirational songs, including ‘She was hangin’ laundry:’
She was hanging laundry one fine day
When her shoe she bent to tie…
Old grey cooch, old grey cooch, I saw Gramma’s old grey cooch that day…
The last comic of the night was Louis CK, whose best bit was on the guy with the sign that says “Honk if you love America.” “Sure, I love my country, but no guy with a Magic Marker is going to tell me what to do. Makes me want to walk up to him with a sign that says ‘Lick my ball if you love Jesus.’”
The show ended with a great a capella group called Naturally Seven. They were fabulous – rock solid despite a couple of technical glitches.
All around, a great show.