Notes From a Comedy Junkie: Recapping the NY vs LA Stand Up Debate, Colin Quinn’s New Show, Scott Thompson’s School Shooting Story on the Benson Interruption and More JFL 2018 Highlights

Sara Dahms is a comedy superfan who even goes so far as to call herself a comedy nerd. Raised on National Lampoon, John Hughes, Gene Wilder, and Fairy Tale Theatre, her life changed after her older sister showed her Eddie Murphy’s Raw in 1988. Soon after, she found Andrew Dice Clay and became a stand-up junkie for life. Eighteen months ago, she took her first comedycation to see Jeff Ross play in Miami on her birthday. Since then, she’s been traveling all over the country checking out the best comedy everywhere, a confirmed comedy addict, and now she’s agreed to share her travels with us. This is her column. In this edition, Sara heads back to Montreal for Just for Laughs 2018! Read all Sara’s write-ups here!

Just For Laughs 36 is a wrap and here are a few of the moments that made a lasting impression, including Comedy’s Great Debate: New York vs Los Angeles, The Doug Benson Interruption, Colin Quinn’s One in Every Crowd,  Doug Loves Movies, Big Jay’s WYFD, Ari Shaffir’s Renamed Storytelling Show and more!

Starting Out Strong with Comedy’s Great Debate: New York vs Los Angeles with Ron Bennington and an All Star Panel

My first show at JFL was a panel moderated by Ron Bennington that featured Doug Benson, Brad Williams and Laurie Kilmartin on team LA along with Ari Shaffir, Big Jay Oakerson and Jim Norton representing NYC set to throw down and resolve the age old debate over which coast is better for comedy. Both sides did a great job of representing their respective coasts and here are some of the hilarious arguments that were made!

Team Los Angeles:

  • LA has better weather, school systems and more buildings where Brad Williams can live without having to worry about taking a million flights of stairs to get into his place.
  • The crowds in LA are less scary and intimidating to play than NYC crowds. In LA if you bomb no one cares or even notices because nobody’s paying attention; they are all too busy scanning the room for celebrities and if the audience does happen to notice when a set doesn’t go well all you have to say is, “I was trying something new” and all is forgiven!
  • LA is the only city that can change your life overnight. New York offers a slow build of a comedian’s craft over many years of work. In comparison, there are multiple comedians the panelists know personally who have had their entire lives changed by having the right industry member in the audience at the right time. These people were offered amazing opportunities as a result of having that one hot set!
  • LA has the luxury of having plenty of greenery and trees in their world. The panel then joked that Brad Williams already lives in the trees and then told him to “Get to Keebleing!”
  • LA’s Godmother: Mitzi Shore- A strong woman who developed the talent within her comedians from the ground up at the Comedy Store, cultivating some of the most talented comedians in history.
  • The LA panel listed Brad Williams, Deb DiGiovanni and Chris D’Elia as being the hard follows in their city today and Bill Burr and Dave Chappelle as the big celebrity drop-ins for team LA.

Team New York City:

  • NYC comedians are more focused on the art of writing jokes while LA comedians seem to tell more personal stories.
  • NYC is all about the jokes. When a person leaves a show in NY they will walk away remembering the jokes they heard. When a person leaves a show in LA they remember the person or personality they just saw instead.
  • NYC has an awesome vibe to it’s comedy scene because with the exception of the Comedy Store, there are more comedy clubs in NYC that facilitate great hangs and contribute to creating a scene with a solid vibe. Most of the comedy in LA goes down in bars that feature once a week comedy nights so comedy is more of a token treat as opposed to the soul of the operation who can hurt the vibe of the scene.
  • NYC comedians are more direct with their fellow comics and not afraid to call each other out if they suck which in the end only makes for stronger comedians.
  • NYC has more opportunities for stage time so it’s the perfect place for new comedians to come and get good through lots and lots of practice.
  • Comedians come to NYC and then stay there while they are striving to be the best comedian they can be. Comedians move to LA when they are trying to move away from stand-up and get into different areas of the entertainment business.
  • NYC’s Godmother: Estee Adoram is a strong, no nonsense woman who takes the best of the best New York has to offer and then passes them to appear on her stage at the Comedy Cellar. When you see a show at the Comedy Cellar you are seeing the cream of the crop 100% of the time.
  • The NYC panel listed Dave Attell, Colin Quinn, Tony Woods and Greer Barnes as being the hardest comedians to follow and Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle as being the best celebrity drop-ins the east coast has to offer.

 

In the end, the group seemed to agree that New York was probably the better place to get stage time and develop as a young comedian and LA was the better coast to move to once you are experienced and ready for that development deal!

Ron Bennington Stands His Ground and Scott Thompson Talks Surviving a School Shooting at Doug Benson’s “Benson Interruption” in Montreal

“The Benson Interruption” is a show in which the host, Doug Benson and comedian Mark Forward would bring a third comedian onto the stage who would either tell a story or go into actual written material and then…. Doug Benson and Mark Forward would take turns interrupting them all throughout their set. Ron Bennington described the experience as, “keeping comedians on their heels” due to the feeling of being pushed back by the funny yet frequent interjections coming from the hosts. Ron may have felt like he was being kept on his heels, but you would never have guessed it with how he maintained complete control of the stage. Bennington even kicked Mark Forward off the stage at one point and made him go sit in the audience! Bennington then replaced him with an audience member who Ron felt had funnier remarks! It was hilarious!

“The Benson Interruption” closed with one of the co-stars of “The Kids in the Hall,” Scott Thompson. “The Kids in the Hall” was a staple in my household growing up in the 80’s and 90’s. My sisters and I loved to quote their hilarious and eccentric characters and in fact, it’s still a frequent occurrence for me to say, “I had the pear dream again!” at completely random times or to sing, “Hey, hey, hey! Hee, hee, hee! I’m the Flying Pig!” whenever I see a long line forming. All of the cast members hold very special places in my heart; especially Scott Thompson. Thompson was the very first openly gay person I ever “met” in my life. His character, “Buddy Cole” introduced me to the fact that other sexualities besides heterosexuality actually existed. Scott was not shy or covert about his sexuality and that was completely cutting edge for the time. It turns out that Scott Thompson is still finding ways to keep his stage presence edgy and ahead of its time. There, on the stage of Just For Laughs in Montreal, for the very first time in front of an audience, Scott Thompson shared that he is, in fact, a survivor of a school shooting!

With no prior issues or red flags, on just another ordinary day in a suburb of Toronto, 16-year-old Michael Slobodian walked into Scott’s high school, Brampton Centennial Secondary School carrying two rifles in a guitar case and opened fire. Scott joked that the reason he hasn’t shared his story and tried finding the funny within it sooner is that he doesn’t want anyone being able to do the math and figure out how old he really is, but he’s ready to start workshopping it now! Humor heals so I am happy to hear that Scott is finally ready to talk about his experience through the cathartic medium of comedy. Thompson laughingly shared how he remembers “saving” a female student who was wounded and bleeding by getting her into the safety of a classroom only to be peeved by the fact that he later found out that this student was only suffering from a mere flesh wound and yet still received all kinds of attention and popularity for it. This probably irked Scott because his scars were hidden on the inside, far away from view and there they remained unnoticed or acknowledged by his peers until this very moment!

In the end Michael Slobodian took 3 lives, including his own and injured 13 more on that tragic day in an otherwise quiet community. Being that I am a middle school counselor the issue of school shootings resonates with me on a very personal level, but in reality it’s an issue that affects everybody who loves anyone who works at or attends a school. I am SO proud of Scott Thompson for allowing himself the patience and time it took to work through the grieving process and to get to a place where he finally feels comfortable enough to approach the topic on stage. I feel honored to have been a face in the crowd for his first reveal of this traumatic event he survived as a teenager and cannot wait to hear his story again in the future as he continues to workshop and perfect it. Scott is definitely onto something big here and this is a story that needs to be told, especially through the comedic lens of the great, Scott Thompson who was definitely more than a “Kid in the Hall” on that fateful day in school! Godspeed and good luck, Mr. Thompson!

 

Colin Quinn: One in Every Crowd

Colin Quinn took his show “One in Every Crowd” to the Just For Laughs comedy festival and completely blew me away with his material. Like the philosopher kings Plato wrote about thousands of years ago, Quinn seemed to have a love of knowledge and intellect that came through in his writing and was evident in his comedy.

Much of his writing was rooted in observation, modern as well as historical social commentary, and included scattered gems of playful, personal stories being peppered throughout his hour. Although Colin touched on politics, he never really pontificated for one political party over another as his genius was more centered around comparing and contrasting various civic systems of the past and present. Quinn then put a cherry on top by painting a picture of how he would improve each of these systems if he was in charge of the future.

Photo credit: Benoit Rouss for JFL

Some of the topics he delved into included the things we teach our kids in school vs what Quinn believes we should be teaching them, what currently is against the law vs what should be against the law and lastly, how we currently punish convicts versus how Quinn believes we should be disciplining and punishing our criminals.

In addition to all of his genius social commentary, Colin Quinn also told a few jokes about the heart attack he survived less than six months ago and these were the jokes that connected to me the most. I too survived a heart attack. I was four years old and the attack occurred during my open heart surgery. I have been a fan of comedy my entire life and yet this was the first time, after all of those years, that I have ever heard anyone take on this subject matter and find the funny within it! Colin Quinn did just that and he nailed it! BRAVO!!!! He struck comedy gold by finding the truths that I have always felt quietly to myself and then bringing them to the light and allowing the jokes to flow! A few of the premises of this subject matter that he was able to completely crack me up with included the very real feeling of being on borrowed time that comes along with surviving a heart attack and the very real experience of being the youngest person in cardiac rehab. I have been the youngest person in my doctor’s waiting room my entire life so I knew exactly what he was talking about and I don’t think I have ever laughed harder than I did at that joke…. and I have heard A LOT of jokes in my day! Colin Quinn’s “One in Every Crowd” was amazing! Thank you for taking the chance to share your experiences and for providing me with the comic relief I have been waiting 34 years to experience!

Greatest Guest Spots:

Deanne Smith Kept the Comedy Coming during “Doug Loves Movies”

Deanne Smith was a newcomer to “Doug Loves Movies” and was not shy about her lack of general knowledge of movie trivia. Since she really didn’t know anything about movies she decided to focus on being as funny as possible instead. She got a ton of big laughs at the jokes she told at the expense of herself and fellow panelists. Smith also came up with the funniest call back that all of the comedians ended up using as well. It started when Deanne didn’t know an answer so she guessed, “Mo money, Mo Bitches” which got a big laugh. It wasn’t long before she didn’t know another answer so she guessed, “Mo Money, Mo Bitches 2.” It was hilarious and variations of this movie title soon became the go to guess for everyone who was at a loss for an answer. Deanne Smith may have felt out of her element when it came to movie trivia but she was the perfect example of how to handle yourself whenever you feel out of your element. She channeled the things she did best and had as much fun with the experience as possible! Well done!

Photo Credit: Benoit Rouss for JFL

Tony Hinchcliffe Gets Audience Confessions on Big Jay Oakerson’s “What’s Your F@%king Deal” Crowd Work Show

Tony set his sights on a young female sitting in the front row. He started asking her questions about her love life. He wasn’t doing a bit, just asking legit questions and almost as if he had mind control, she and everyone he spoke to would answer him openly and honestly. It eventually came out that her most recent hookup was sitting just a few tables over so naturally Tony started to engage with him. This young man then revealed that he is in fact…..married!!! He then shared that he also had two kids and his wife was home with them while he was out at the club! The crowd went completely ape shit!!! Tony just kept peeling the onion away one layer at a time and the story just kept getting better and better! And then, with perfect resolution, the young man revealed that he is actually in an open marriage and his wife is perfectly ok with the whole thing… and all was well in the world again! Well played, Tony Hinchcliffe! Well played!!!

Chris Distefano Explains Why His Dad is the Best at “Ari Shaffir’s Renamed Storyteller Show”

The theme of the night was “fights” and Chris Distefano told a story that honestly needs to be recreated and filmed with Colin Quinn cast in the role of Distefano’s father. The story began on September 11, 2001 in Brooklyn, New York. A young Christopher Distefano’s mother had been working in one of the towers and after a series of emotions and events, Chris ends up smashing a chair over a classmate’s head! As a result of this transgression, his Catholic school wants to expel him… but Distefano’s father has other plans!!! His badass, ex-con of a father rolls in and makes the head priest of the high school an offer he can’t refuse and saves the day! Chris Distefano had the entire crowd cracking up the entire time! He is a phenomenal story teller. This was the best story I’ve ever heard and I totally want to hear it again!

 

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Sara Dahms

Sarah Dahms is a comedy superfan hails from Chicago and travels all over the country checking out the best comedy everywhere.
Sara Dahms
Sara Dahms
Sarah Dahms is a comedy superfan hails from Chicago and travels all over the country checking out the best comedy everywhere.