Just For Laughs Montreal is unmistakably the biggest comedy festival of the year. It’s a privilege to perform here, and every year many, many comedians vie to be one of the fest’s “New Faces of Comedy.” As announced Monday, twenty-one up-and-coming comedians were chosen for 2014’s New Faces showcases. Many JFL headliners first entered the festival as a “new face;” it’s sort of you’re introduction to the industry. On Wednesday night, the comics were split up into two groups, for two showcases. While some seemed (understandably) nervous, or a little over-rehearsed, there were four comedians that really shined in their moment under the spotlight.
One of the standouts from group one: Randy Liedtke. Liedtke, unlike others, didn’t seem nervous at all. He commanded the stage with his playfully shy, and silly performance. Liedtke garnered a big laugh, with an off-the-cuff remark about the suddenly faulty microphone. “Is it my beard that’s doing that?” Making the most out of a short time on stage, the rest of Liedtke’s set was very well received by the packed out room. He is one of the few people that can get huge laughs out of a pun. His best bit of the night was his suggestion on how to make Yelp better: just post pictures of the food you make at home. He certainly left the audience wanting more.
Kate Berlant was another comedian who just owned the stage. Having a strong stage presence and looking completely comfortable with yourself and your material is what really set her and Liedtke apart from the group. As much as I loved Berlant’s set, I am practically clueless on how to describe it. So here I try: Berlant is one of the most unique and original comics I’ve ever seen. Her set is a wonderful hodge podge of one-liners, non sequiturs, epiphanies, and monologue-esque riffs that almost make it seem like she’s giving an absurd college philosophy lecture. Her marketable cycles of terror and realization that “people are just problems with faces,” were her biggest laughs of the night. She is definitely one to watch out for.
Michelle Wolf was the second comedian to perform from Group 2. She is also one of the only comics of the night to riff off the top with success. I had previously seen Wolf’s stand-up debut on Late Night with Seth Meyers (of which she is also a staff writer for), and was very much looking forward to seeing her live. She did not disappoint. Again, she was another comic who commanded the stage and didn’t appear nervous. She screams “likability” on stage. She also has the ability to create longer bits, peppered with sharp tags that’s entertaining throughout and never tiresome. Her bits about body shaming at the gym and the JFK assassination got some of the biggest laughs of the whole show.
The other big standout from Group 2 was Jesse Elias, another comic who’s style and delivery is incredibly unique. Elias never looks up during his set, just staring at the ground as he delivers awkwardly intense riffs. His nervousness is part of the act though, and paired with his hard opinions on subjects like candy and flavors, earned him some of the loudest roars from the audience. Elias did look up once though, closing out with a bit about the cruelty of celebrity charity game shows, and how getting help for a disease hinders on celebrities’ trivial knowledge. He’s a tiny killer.
Other notable sets: Monroe Martin, Matteo Lane, Hampton Yount, Eliza Skinner, and Jake Weisman.