Just for Laughs this year was so jam packed with incredible talent at every level from headliners to showcasers and an outstanding list of concept shows, and even with a full team of Interrobang writers we could barely scratch the surface. But we made sure to cover all three stand up New Faces events, showcasing the hottest new stand up talent- both repped and unrepped (sorry New Faces: Characters, we tried but couldn’t get tix). This year the repped New Faces got to show their skills at two shows at the gorgeous Monument National- the oldest theater in the city- in front of two completely sold out crowds of industry folks for two separate shows.
The Unrepped edition of New Faces, for those without management or other representation, was a bit clusterfucky by comparison and I agree with many of the comments made by Sean McCarthy of The Comic’s Comic who wrote about the various problems in detail. I won’t rehash it all here, but running the show at 11:00 at night, against some of the big celebrity shows coupled with some ticketing mishaps resulted in a half empty theater and there were rumors that many who wanted tickets were turned away. Despite the sparser-than-it-should-have-been crowd, the Just for Laughs team picked an excellent slate of comics who did not let the circumstances affect their great performances. And while some were critical of the choice to bring comedy legend George Wallace in to host a New Faces show, I thought he was hilarious, he got big laughs from the audience, and in his own inimitable style, was able to pick up the energy in the room considerably.
After you attend a New Faces show at Just for Laughs, everyone you run into wants to know who killed, and who bombed. Honestly, nobody bombed and I’m not just saying that because I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade. Everyone did great. But there were some who stood out from the pack, that were talked about the rest of the week outside every theater, at every party, and around the Hyatt Lobby. There were 32 comics performing as New Faces, and I liked them all, loved more than half, but picked the top ten power stand outs based on performances, crowd and general buzziness around the festival.
The talk of the festival irrefutably goes to Tim Dillon and Robert Powell who got the biggest audience responses at the repped New Faces shows. Powell closed the first of the two shows with a non stop barrage of jokes that got huge laughs and multiple applause breaks. Tim Dillon closed the second show, and after watching him perform his set at the New Faces callback auditions at the Creek and the Cave (and burn the roof off that joint in front of a packed but small house), it was an absolutely pleasure to see him set a huge theater on fire with his material. It’s fortunate none of the other new faces at to follow Dillon because he wrecked the joint- a real powerhouse with a giant future.
There were other stand out performances from all three shows, like Joel Kim Booster who opened the first show with a killer set (which by the way you can watch, because he did the set on Conan in June), and Evan Williams who followed Joel with a very original take on bragging to his friends about the action he’s getting– with his wife. Jo Firestone is such a pro on stage, she probably should have skipped New Faces and gone straight to one woman show, and Comedy Store regular Jesus Trejo told stories about growing up that have sitcom written all over them. I’d seen most of the New Faces perform before but Trejo stood out as the funniest among those who I was seeing for the first time. Jenny Zigrino is one of those comics who comes out swinging and will hold the audience in her palm no matter what she talks about (yes even periods, people), and we can’t do a list without mentioning Josh Johnson, who has some killer material and is going to be a serious powerhouse as he continues to develop. His ceiling fan fight is an absolute scream, and I’ve seen him do it twice now, both times flawlessly. Both Matt Donaher from the New Faces Show and Casey Crawford who performed on Unrepped did short, one or two liner set up/punchline jokes, using a lot of word play, and it’s not easy to impress a room full of industry with wordplay. But both Casey and Matt kept the audience guessing with setups that led you in one direction and punchlines that you weren’t expecting. Their personas (and comedy) couldn’t be more different and I don’t mean to lump them together, but it’s just so unexpected to have two guys deliver such surprisingly original sets using short form jokes.
There were so many other performers dominating in various areas. Sarah Tollemache stood out for her incredible originality, we love David Gborie’s clever phrasing and writing, Jacqueline Novak‘s ability to get across the intense passion behind a simple act like ordering pizza kills every time, Chris Garcia‘s hilarious La Bamba in English bit was super strong, J.B. Ball’s Fairy Tales, Casey Jones‘ very strange take on his mom’s dating life, Dino Archie’s superb delivery, Muslim-American comic Ismail Loutfi’s completely unique point of view were stand outs for us, and Neko White always impresses.
Congratulations to every single New Faces Performer and to the Just for Laughs team that selected them. We’re looking forward to following all 32 careers.