Sunday night of the Toronto trip had been scheduled for dinner at the CN Tower, but then I got a message saying, “Hey, I jut got an email about this comedy festival on Sunday. We should totally do this.” I’d first heard of the Oddball Comedy Festival last year when Chris Hardwick was one of the performers. I looked at this year’s lineup and got right on board.
The tickets claimed the show started at 5, which was kind of true. The second stage had performers starting that early. As you can tell from the picture above, the main stage didn’t kick off until 7:10. To make matters worse, they weren’t letting people in to the pavilion, so you couldn’t even find your seat, leaving the 16,000 person strong crowd to battle for the limited shade on an unusually warm afternoon.
Once things got going, though, the show did not disappoint. Other than the first 2 comics, Mark Normand and Katherine Ryan, I was familiar with all of the performers, so I had at least an idea of what to expect. Sadly, the same could not be said for my travel companion Hayley, who, despite coming up with the idea of attending, had heard of Amy Schumer, but had never seen her in anything. Normand and Ryan put on entertaining sets, followed by Michael Che, the current Weekend Update anchor on SNL. His was a brand of humor that did not play well with the British contingent of my travelling party, but I found him to be quite good.
Following a theme, the next performer was Che’s cast-mate Jay Pharoah. Jay struggles sometimes on SNL because he is a stand-up rather than a sketch guy, so it was good to see him shine in a more natural environment for him. He was followed by Jim Norton, who I always find fascinating despite his long time association with Opie and Anthony, who I do not enjoy.
After a brief intermission, we entered what I am calling the Comedy Central part of the show. Anthony Jeselnik, Nick Kroll, and Amy Schumer all have, or recently wrapped up, shows on the cable outlet. If I had to pick a set that I liked the least, I would go with Jeselnik’s. His brand of comedy doesn’t really mesh with my sensibilities, although he was a big hit with the English. Schumer, after her big movie hit over the summer, was the obvious draw for many in attendance. After her set, as Aziz Ansari took the stage as the headliner, the crowd starting filing out. Granted, some of the crowd had been there for 5 hours at that point, but still… you can’t wait another half hour?
Anyway, I had a blast and, again, lament the fact that I never see live comedy in my home town. I’ll certainly keep an eye out for the festival next year and, if the lineup is half as impressive, I’m definitely down for another go around.