Published Oct 01, 2015The Alternative Show has its roots in the Montreal Just For Laughs festival in the late '90s, featuring comedian/actor Andy Kindler. This week, until October 3, Kindler will be hosting nightly Alternative Shows at JFL42 in Toronto. This marks Kindler's fourth year in a row attending JFL42. While his performances are just as erratic, dizzying and devil-may-care as ever, he has developed a nose for comedy that rarely misses the mark. Guests on his stage Wednesday included Nikki Glaser, Aparna Nancherla, Chris Gethard, DeAnne Smith, Kate Berlant and Chris Locke.
Nikki Glaser was first on the bill. She was given a glowing introduction by Kindler, which was unfortunately dimmed slightly by her entrance — which was for every performer an awkward jog from an emergency exit door well off of stage left. The journey for all performers seemed to last just long enough for the applause to die off in exchange for awkward silence. Glaser went out on a limb, using only new and untested material. It was likely for the best, as she had already performed two of her own gigs at the Royal Theatre, with one more to go, but the material seemed obviously unfinished. The audience not only seemed to appreciate the guinea pig treatment, but accepted it tacitly as the theme for each act to follow. Glaser was funny, but she had set the bar rather modestly.
After about ten minutes of Andy Kindler essentially making fun of his own jokes on a loop — it was funnier than it sounds — the audience had settled into a more or less happy complacency with spur of the moment B material. Fortunately, the second guest on the bill, Aparna Nancherla, was no slouch
Nancherla's set was easily one of the best of the evening. A recent addition to the writing team for Late Night with Seth Myers, Nancherla walked the line between topical and personal in a bit on cat-calling in her NYC hometown. She was multi-faceted and at times ludicrous in the best possible way. Nancherla, like Glaser, also has three of her own shows at JFL42 this year. If she was similarly saving her best material for those she certainly didn't give the audience that impression.
If Nancherla set the standard for the evening, DeAnne Smith capped it. Nobody was funnier or less predictable. The Montreal-based comedian had no shows to speak of at this year's JFL42 so seeing Smith's performance was a brilliant stroke of luck. There was a dead parents theme throughout the entire evening, started by Kindler, and Smith pursued it to hilarious effect, taking it further than anybody else, moving from deep-seated grief to sexual arousal in under six seconds. Smith takes the cake for most memorable performance at the Alternative Show so far, and it'll be a tough one to beat.