The JFL42 comedy festival has concluded and packed up its gear for another year. The ten day long fest held in Toronto offers a unique all-you-can-see approach to the festival with it’s app based pass that works as a credit system and a vast number of pass options the idiosyncrasies of which have been expanded upon elsewhere.
JFL42 is known for having a wide variety of comedy on its line ups and really is a chance for people to explore acts that they would not actively buy a ticket for, but will check out as part of their pass.
The most avid comedy fan can can see as many as 3 shows a night 4 if they are fortunate enough to land a ticket to Andy Kindler’s Alt show– a transplant from the Montreal fest that thrives at Midnight on the main stage at Second City during the festival.
JFL 42 is also unofficially a test of strength of a performer’s solo show and in years past has been a strong indicator of who will potentially be asked to bring their hour to OFFJFL the following summer.
With the sheer number of shows it would be a near possible undertaking to cover it all or to definitively state the best shows. Yet these were the moment that best encapsulated our time at JFL42 this year.
The pint sized dynamo from the Laugh Sabbath comedy collective preformed a dominating 7 minutes that was full of her signature infectious energy and endearing vernacular. Andy Kindler brought her up half jokingly saying he discovered her and the energy of her set seemed to infuse him with a playfulness that set the tone for the rest of the show.
He calls New York home but Toronto is the city where the Juno award winner came up. His run of shows felt like a homecoming and the gritty cool Garrison venue played host to this night where all parties were feeling the 6ix love hard. Also later that night at Comedy Bar, Mereheje D.J’d shirtless with fellow Toronto Comic and professional fly individual Marito Lopez.
The Asian Canadian comic was named to New Faces at Just for Laughs in Montreal the same year as Shane Gillis. His set represented a complexity unique to that experience. The set could be a beginning of an expansion of Chan’s voice or even if it was a one off, it was special.
A lucky group of pass holders were treated to this perspective altering performance in a 50 seat venue. It was intimate and unflinching. Bowers blurred the lines of comedy into lesson and legend.
After selling out every scheduled show, this midnight show was added at this cushy and comfortable rep cinema. Despite being sick, Velez showed up for the people who showed up for him and even had guest appearances from Graham Kay and Byron Bowers.
Baker was on a double bill with Corrine Fisher. Baker delivered a very polished and poignant set that demonstrated a confrontation of her anger that was explored with a delivery beyond shouting and uncertainty. It should be also noted after another show at a different venue there was a group of fans there to see Rosebud and Corrine and not a single one was snubbed.
At Comedy Bar main space during JFL42 2018 comic and activist Chanty Marostica came out as trans in the middle of their JFL42 run. This year their tranniverary party was an important and moving celebration of their first year as their true self. Hosted by Alice Rose and Bee Bertrand that featured sets from Rush Kazi, Sarah Ashby and other members of Toronto’s Queer and Present Danger Comedy Collective which was started by Chanty to raise up and protect queer voices in comedy. The evening concluded with Chanty’s brother teaching them to shave for the first time. It was a milestone and comedic exploration of gender performance that everyone was better for watching.
The line up for the Alt show is never announced but always sells out due to the fact that a surprise headliner set is an unspoken certainty. This particular night, the audience was treated to sets by Wolf and Bargatze who were scheduled to play the 1250 seat Queen Elizabeth theatre later in the festival.
Although not officially a JFL42 act but one of the most fun shows of the festival. Mark Little who’s sketch troupe and podcast had been included in the official programming hosted this parody of the late night format with his long time collaborator Laura Cilevitz. It started at 12:30 every night of the festival and over the 10 days it featured a cross section of Toronto performers and provided them with an inventive highly character driven platform to do try something new. Best exemplified by Toronto Sketch Comedy’s enfant terrible Rodger Bainbrige in a reoccurring character entitled “ The witch.” Late Bad kept patrons in the bar utilizing the once a year 4 am last call granted during JFL42. It felt like an Adult swim show and was the sort of inventive format that emerges from the beloved tradition of Canadian Sketch. Little and Cilevitz had the natural chemistry casting agents search a lifetime for.
In the middle of the festival Kate Berlant did a run of her hour long solo show. That was so good it did not feel as though it was an hour. A captivating, contemporary performance that was a satire of modern pretentious traits. Nuanced with beautifully constructed layers to deliciously decipher