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The Very Best of Just for Laughs’ New Faces Showcase

Montreal’s annual Just for Laughs comedy festival is the biggest of its kind in the world, with over 350 artists performing over the span of a couple of weeks. It’s the kind of overwhelmingly scheduled event where you can see Maria Bamford, Todd Glass, Mike O’Brien, and Chris Gethard in one night. But perhaps the greatest joy of JFL is discovering new talent, the unfamiliar names that could very well be the festival’s future headliners.

Twenty comedians from across the United States took the stage at Montreal’s historic Monument-National theater on Wednesday night for the New Faces showcase — a series that has given rise to some of the most prominent names in comedy today, including Amy Schumer (2007), Jimmy Fallon (1996), Ali Wong and Jerrod Carmichael (2011), Pete Davidson (2013), and Michelle Wolf (2014). Below, the most promising stand-ups from the 2018 crop.

https://youtu.be/sTlmSYQGY6A

Rosebud Baker
A sardonic blonde clad in black, Rosebud Baker brought serious New York vibes to her set; you could practically smell the stale cigarette smoke when she stepped out onto the stage. That’s a compliment! Baker’s no-nonsense, wickedly dirty routine cut through the evening like barbed wire. “I am straight,” she professed, “in spite of this pussy-eating voice.”

Emmy Blotnick
This bookish New York–dwelling Jew took a real shine to Emmy Blotnick, whose relatively quiet, almost sheepish voice belies her cutting sense of humor. (I don’t want to spoil her wonderfully blue jokes about The Rock.) Her opening bit about superhero movies had the audience in stitches: Don’t guys realize, she joked, that when they take women to movies with titles like Captain War: America Man, they’re just giving them two and a half hours to contemplate who else they could be dating? “No more three-hour movies about Happy Meal toys fighting on a rock,” she declared. Amen.

 

Kenny DeForest
“Keep it going for the white race, everybody!” DeForest, an affable bearded white guy based in New York, joked as he took to the stage. DeForest — who recently took over hosting duties for Hannibal Buress at the Knitting Factory’s weekly comedy series — is the nice white guy next door, a sort of everyman with a straightforward, matter-of-fact delivery that goes a long way when your jokes are centered on the inherent creepiness of men and why they should all feel terribly guilty about it. Speaking of the male sex organ, DeForest quipped, “If I see a woman I’m attracted to, it fills with blood. What is this, a horror movie?”

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Jourdain Fisher
This “nonthreatening black guy number two,” as Jourdain Fisher introduced himself, talked about growing up in Greensboro, North Carolina, in a family that owned a funeral home. “When I heard gunshots growing up,” he quipped, “that meant it’s gonna be a good Christmas.” Fisher killed with his closing bit about how white people have no “natural predator,” thus feel the need to make up shit like Game of Thrones. In a white-guy voice that Boots Riley would approve of, Fisher mused, “What if there were zombies and dragons?”

Erica Rhodes
A diffident blonde who, from a distance at least, is a dead ringer for a young Maria Bamford — with the high, pinched voice to match — Erica Rhodes has a cerebral style that manifests in lots of wordplay jokes. After disclosing that her father uses a wheelchair, she remarked on the head-scratching concept of the fundraising walk for Multiple sclerosis. It seems “disrespectful,” she said, adding, “Sorry, dad. When I have an idea I run with it.”

Paris Sashay
This D.C. native, now living in New York, announced her frisky, good-humored energy right on her shirt — a white tee with the word “Paris” in black block letters printed all over it. With a voice and laid-back vibe that reminded me of Wanda Sykes, Sashay began by taking a moment to acknowledge and appreciate one positive by-product of Trump’s election: the spectacle of two factions of white people, the president’s supporters and critics, who vehemently despise each other. It’s Martin Luther King Jr.’s other dream!

Usama Siddiquee
If you’re looking for a pick-me-up, look no further than Usama Siddiquee, who brought such exuberance to his set it almost tired me out. A Texas-bred, New York–based comic with a madcap energy, Siddiquee has an uber-confident stage presence — which I guess you’d have to, with a name like that. “My name is Usama,” he introduced himself. “No relation.” Observing that these days, we often assume the worst of white guys, he asked a white man in the audience to say “hi”; when the man obliged, he turned to the rest of us and said, we all heard just a whisper of the “N” word there, didn’t we?

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Nina Tarr
This SoCal native just oozes L.A. One of her bits, which would likely go over better in a West Hollywood club than an 800-seat theater in Montreal, is a character she calls Plastic Surgery Face — a woman with a permanent duckface who talks in a voice she describes as “BILF”: “Baby I’d like to fuck.” “Are you my Uber?” she whined. Tarr can manipulate her voice and her face into hilariously twisted impressions, like her set-ending one of Robert De Niro’s face while giving a blow job. Try it sometime!

Ron Taylor
Originally from Detroit, Ron Taylor has an appealingly scrappy vibe — he began his set by describing his early days in Los Angeles, when he lived out of a van and stole precious shower time from women he’d meet on Tinder. “If you’re looking for friends,” he warned women on dating apps, “go to the park. This is the internet! We’re here to fuck!” Taylor’s energy and ease is infectious; he’ll let out a cackle after one of his own jokes, and his enjoyment boosts ours. Plus he’s got a kick-ass abortion joke, after which he defensively declared, “Y’all can kiss my ass; that’s funny.” No argument here.

Zach Noe Towers
“I am super gay,” Zach Noe Towers announced at the start of his set, “in case there are any deaf, blind people in the room.” An L.A. transplant from the Midwest, the skinny, blond Towers has the boyish irreverence of Please Like Me‘s Josh Thomas, and the flippant wit of the “asshole” played by Max Jenkins on High Maintenance. “I was raised super Catholic,” he divulged. “Anyone else … get molested?” (Relax, it was a joke!)

Jeremiah Watkins
Now based in L.A., this lanky blond from Kansas is a great voice artist; he started his set with a side-splitting impression of Kings of Leon — “if they were lost in the woods.” Watkins uses the whole animal in his act — his stringbean of a body and his remarkably versatile voice were both put to good use. And his Michael Caine impression could go toe-to-toe with even the sharpest British comics.

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RIDE LIKE THE WIND

You probably never heard of the Aeolian Ride – Aeolian means “carried by the wind” – but now you can be in it! This is a wind-propelled bicycling experience, started by artist Jessica Findley, who was inspired when her jacket inflated behind her while she was riding her bike. She wanted to expand the experience and also to do something happy in the wake of 9/11, “to bring senseless joy to a world that had experienced senseless pain.” She used her own money to make “billowing” costumes and recruited riders to wear them. This year the Aeolian Ride, which can best be described as a moving work of art, is celebrating its 10th birthday with rides in cities all over the world, from Montreal to Rio. Proceeds from the NYC event go to 596 Acres, a group dedicated to providing access to community land and assisting neighborhoods in land-use issues. Tickets include admission to the party on Governor’s Island.

Sun., Aug. 17, 12:45 p.m., 2014

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Of Montreal

Of Montreal’s vibey, spirited energy offers a type of rock that plays with electric guitars and tambourines in familiar yet refreshing ways. Hailing from Athens, Georgia, their sound has evolved over the years but still has an unmistakable element, one that is reminiscent simultaneously of vaudeville and the 1970s. The band is a part of the eccentric Elephant 6 Collective — which also claims acts like Circulatory System and Neutral Milk Hotel — and will certainly send the crowd whirling with their animated, nostalgic riffs and loud, amped-up vocals.

Sun., May 11, 9 p.m., 2014

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Young Galaxy

Young Galaxy might be a celestially-inclined dream pop band from Montreal, oft-compared to Galaxie 500 (fitting) and Pink Floyd (I don’t understand), but their Polaris-nominated, synthesizer-studded album Ultramarine was a sublime descent into the dark side of doomed ‘80s new wave. As frontwoman Catherine McCandless lets her soaring Kate Bush vocals fly, she sings of the evening’s pretty boys to come, qualifying, “For you I am a gangster” on “Hard To Tell.” Let’s see if she delivers the same promise to the Knitting Factory Brooklyn. With Mister Lies, Brothertiger.

Wed., Nov. 6, 7:30 p.m., 2013

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OFF THE WALL

Check out rare skater flicks 
You’ve seen Dogtown and Z-Boys, Kids, and Paranoid Park, all movies in BAM’s Skateboarding Is Not a Crime series. But chances are good you might not have tonight’s three short films checked off your list: The Devil’s Toy, a 1966 satirical documentary by Claude Jutra about the skateboarding craze sweeping Montreal; Fruit of the Vine, Coan Nichols and Rick Charnoski’s 1999 movie about skating empty swimming pools, shot on Super 8, and, the first skateboarding movie ever, Noel Black’s 1965 Cannes prize-winning short Skaterdater, about a young skate rat in love.

Sat., Sept. 21, 2, 4:30, 7 & 9:30 p.m.; Mon., Sept. 23, 7 p.m., 2013

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Braids

These Canadian art rockers have been shaking walls with their fierce harmonies and intricate synth strains since 2011 debut Native Speaker, and their latest, Flourish // Perish promises to shake things up further. Originally from Calgary, the band is now based out of Montreal and have come off international tour with new inspirations and bold, experimental new sounds. Expecting driving rhythms, angelic harmonies, and fuzzed-out instrumental breaks.

Mon., Aug. 26, 8:30 p.m., 2013

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Of Montréal

Poutine and smoked meat sandwiches are everywhere, street art trends ever toward the whimsical (anyone seen the Ent walking around lately?), and we just got our first bike share. Yes, New York is following in the footsteps of Montreal, our culturally hot neighbor to the north. See how seductive those footsteps can be tonight when Les Ballets Jazz de Montréal performs as part of the Celebrate Brooklyn! series. Classically trained but inclined toward the modern, this ballet troupe is known for its group precision and feel-good performances. Tonight, the company presents Benjamin Millepied’s Closer, Wen Wei Wang’s Night Box, about the many trials of urban life, and Barak Marshall’s Harry, a group narrative set to Israeli folk songs and traditional music.

Thu., Aug. 1, 8 p.m., 2013

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Majical Cloudz+Gobby

With a name like Majical Cloudz, you go in expecting horizon-leveling psychedelic hijinx, cocks on socks, general mayhem. Then you actually get a whiff of what Devon Welsh and Matthew Otto cook up in Montreal, and it’s of a distinctly more intimate nature: high-impact atmospheric minimalism married to archly conversational vocals that exist somewhere between Stephen Merritt, Arab Strap, and Morrissey. There’s a watercolor or wallpaper thinness to this music, for a while, until there suddenly isn’t—everything congeals perfectly, and tunes like “Turns Turns Turns” seem like they’ve always been a part of you.

Tue., May 21, 8:30 p.m., 2013

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Akufen

Brooklyn positioned themselves as jokesters from the outset, with a venue name that comments directly on independent electronic promoters’ tendency to withhold venue information until the day of show. TBA, meanwhile, remains on an burgeoning stretch of Wythe Avenue, and despite the confusion the name might cause, they’ve been booking top-tier talent. Montreal’s Akufen is no different. A pioneer of the short-lived blog boon “microhouse,” Marc Leclair has a knack for recycling, slicing and welding an inordinate amount of disparate sample sources to form a surprisingly danceable whole.

Sat., May 4, 10 p.m., 2013

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Doldrums+Friends

Montreal’s Airick Woodhead, a/k/a Doldrums, released one of the most interesting DIY-spirited electronic pop albums of 2013 so far, Lesser Evil, an 11-track collection inspired in equal parts by experimental noise and his ear for addictive warped melodies. The record floats from explosive bass-centric moments like “She Is the Wave” to the more tempered ethereal falsetto of “Sunrise” and intricate percussion of “Holography Sandcastles.” It’s out via Arbutus Records, the label currently at the center of Canada’s vibrant avant-pop community; Woodhead plays songs from the record in New York tonight.

Sat., April 13, 9 p.m., 2013