Published Jul 26, 2015"The Nasty Show" is a Just For Laughs Festival classic. As the name forewarns, it's a racy ride through the highest of taboos and the lowest of humour. It is — perhaps unsurprisingly due to the name and the miasma of cautionary descriptions — one of the shows least abandoned by indignant or offended attendees.
Mike Ward, hosting the popular verbal freak show for nine of its ten day run — with as many as three shows per night at that — seemed an inexhaustible well of depravity, a paragon of profanity. He basked in the comedic side of pedophilia, delighted in his account of dipping his gonads in people's drinks, and positively revelled in his ability as a straight man to — while not enjoying it in the way it was intended — pleasantly withstand gay porn. His ability to win over even the most timid members of his audience was surpassed only by his good fortune in being able to take his audience completely by surprise with the words "here's Louis CK!"
Louis CK — apparently on vacation from both touring and his award-winning series Louie — isn't very good at taking time off. He walked on stage with a folded piece of paper, on which were the early drafts of what presumably will be his next hour of stand-up. His brief set at The Nasty Show would turn out to be one of two surprise sets at Just For Laughs, the other being as a half hour pseudo-headliner at Midnight Surprise with friend and colleague Todd Glass.
Standing out on the bill — a challenging task especially when following a more tentative than usual Louis CK — was Canadian battle axe Mike Wilmot, at his croaky, cynical best and a surprisingly sharp, if awkward and halting, Gilbert Gottfried.
But for many audience members, other than the opportunity to see Louis CK in work mode, Jimmy Carr proved the highlight of the night. The British entertainer has one of the most voluminous collections of provocative and at times nigh unspeakable one-liners in the business. A famous stand-up comedian and panel host in the United Kingdom, Carr was a terrifying delight. His ability to deftly deflate the tension in a room, only to ramp it up again with the raising of a finger, is a quality to be admired and feared.
The beautiful thing about Carr's set was in his ability to make his audience laugh not only at his own jokes, but also — and perhaps more so — at how shitty a human being they might actually be. That may be the whole point of attending The Nasty Show. At its strongest moments, there were no political divides, no hierarchies, no holier-than-thou furrowing of brows, just shitty people, wonderfully, beautifully shitty people having a brilliant time.