Published Oct 19, 2013The Royal Theatre made its comedy debut when Aisha Tyler came to town, and the soft-seat former rep theatre is a great alternative for shows bigger than the intimate Comedy Bar. But since it's only a curtain in front of a movie screen, Tyler was reduced to a "dog run" of space — she had maybe two feet of width to pace in front of during her hour-plus set.
Opener Ali Mafi made an immediately strong impression — the large, gay Muslim comic spent some time on his first impressions of Toronto, a city more welcoming to him than American culture seems to be, and not just because he sampled his first poutine. (And not his last, from some overnight twitter photos.) He peppered some crowd work — including flirting with a guy in the front row, later returning after Aisha's set to give him a phone number — with identity-oriented comedy that left no ethnicity nor personal disability unmocked.
It was surprising to learn that Aisha Tyler had never performed stand-up comedy in Toronto before — after all, the actor, TV host and podcast queen has filmed several movies here, and lived in the city for almost a year during the making of sci-fi series XIII. Having taken recent a break from stand-up to focus on six other jobs, including co-hosting The Talk, voicing Lana on Archer and producing her Girl on Guy podcast, Tyler was loose and convivial on stage.
Her conversational set found her contemplating new issues in her life now that she's on the other side of age 40, including her near-20-year marriage and how much she loves booze (but how little booze loves her as she gets older). This wasn't an album-ready set by any means — the woman who was the only black Friend has just one comedy album out, 2009's Aisha Tyler Is Lit — feeling more like a lead-up to a tighter, more focused set. Instead we got Tyler enjoying her first love and sharing that with her fans. Sure, there was some rambling; yes, punch lines could have been tighter; of course, marriage sex and weekday hangovers aren't the most original topics in comedy history. But Tyler is a naturally charismatic performer and is instinctively very funny. For those who've been itching to see her north of the 49th for a while, that was plenty.