Comedy is difficult. Not only is it up to the comedian to put themselves onstage, bare their soul and struggle to make an audience laugh, but what one person finds funny may fall flat with another. Watching comedians as they hone their craft and their act can be exciting for fans of comedy, and in Montreal a new monthly comedy night gives audiences the chance to do just that.
Hosted and emceed by Patrick Hakeem, Whatchu Laughing For is a monthly comedy night where comedians are invited to participate in an open mic format, the perfect place to try out new bits, polish pieces and see what makes us laugh.
For someone like myself who is still getting to know the Montreal scene, events like Whatchu Laughing For are a great way to get to know who is working in comedy in our city. Wednesday’s lineup included many up and coming comedians, including Eman El-Husseini, Bianca Yates, Zoe Daniels, Jesse Rather, Morgan O’Shea, Kirsten Rasmussen, Chris Betts and Rodney Ramsey. True to its open mic set-up, this was not exactly the list that was originally announced, but those that were not able to make it were replaced with some excellent talent.
It was Kirsten Rasmussen who drew me to the show. After seeing, and reviewing, her Fringe Festival show Blink Blink Blink I promised to my readers and to myself that I would try to see her perform again. It quickly became clear that the cartoon antics seen in her one-woman play continue into her stand-up routine, and in the best of ways. Like everyone, she was trying new material, some of which failed and some of which worked. As someone who has seen her finished work, watching the process of creating comedy was fascinating to me. As a fan, her animated retelling of drunken bar adventures and late night Kraft Dinner eating had me snorting in my beer.
It was a similar experience watching the other talented comedians whom I had not seen previously. Comedians used notes and jotted down audience reactions, which were often muted given the still maturing material. However, that is not to suggest that we weren’t entertained. Not only did the bar seem intrigued by the process unfolding under a glaring spotlight, but what we were watching was clearly funny stuff from hard working comedians.
I particularly enjoyed Eman El-Husseini, who opened the show with an act about living as a woman of Palestinian descent. The sharp witted talent is also organizing the first annual women’s only comedy festival, opening this week in Montreal, called She’s Canadian, Eh?
Also memorable for me was Morgan O’Shea, whose bit on Ja Rule was unexpected, which is often what you want from a comedian. Aside from Ja Rule, it was the classic themes of race, religion and sex that continued throughout the night. The material was largely fresh and interesting, even the pieces that are still working their way to being the funniest that they can be.
The Royal Phoenix was an intimate venue for a laid back, fun and funny show. I plan to check out Watchu Laughin’ For again, and am looking forward to watching it and its comedians grow. Many of this week’s acts can be seen at the ComedyWorks Open Mic competition in a couple of weeks, which I will be noting on my calendar. After seeing what Montreal comedy has to offer, my appetite is whetted for more.