Published May 06, 2017Not enough people know about the Crom Comedy Festival. Self-described as "DIY punk," the shows of its Toronto edition are held in obscure venues around Kensington Market, and it's a safe bet that you haven't heard of most of the up-and-coming alternative comedians on its lineup. Though the American festival declared that this will be its last year, this hidden gem is still very much alive this weekend. Featuring talent hailing from everywhere from Montreal to San Francisco, this show headlined by Ben Kronberg was a glorious testament to the fighting spirit and passion of independent comedy.
Though more than half of the audience was made up of comedians who were on the festival, everyone on stage gave it their all. Host Mike Carrozza quipped that the difference between standing in the painfully bright spotlight and being in the shadows was "like hell, versus we all feel like a family," he joked about replacing the word touché with "2 Chainz," and he spun a great absurdist bit based on the quote "If you give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day," which got more ridiculous as it evolved.
Next, Aliya Kanani performed a genuinely joyful set about her last name rhyming with "punani" and the brutal ways that rappers speak about sex. She laughed and grinned so much throughout her set that the audience couldn't help but have fun along with her.
Everardo Ramirez then took the stage to talk about how he was far too white to look like a man called Everardo Ramirez, plus he hilariously admitted that he knows more about Howard the Duck than almost anything else. Like Carrozza and Kanani, Ramirez is clearly destined to move up in the ranks of the Canadian standup scene.
Brooklyn native Drew Anderson started off the American portion of the show with one of the best performances of the night. His quirky, coyly delivered material about how he knew Lance Bass was gay, being turned on by the voice of Bop It as a kid, and his horrible grandmother claiming that Barry Manilow had a "gay face" was all outstandingly original and funny, and his closer about the bizarreness of Buzzfeed articles was even better yet.
Turner Barrowman also killed with his joke about thinking his grandma was cool as hell when he was a kid because he was emo and she told him she was "ready to die," and he got everyone into fits of laughter by reading negative online reviews of his mother's book along with the bitter rebuttals he wrote in defense of her.
After Nicole Conlan incisively joked that Colorado invented school shootings and talked about how personal trainers are complete scammers, Adrian McNair brilliantly quipped that the host of the show looked "like John Belushi fucked Michael Cera" and delivered some astutely funny material about navigating the world as a biracial man. His writing was razor-sharp, and his confident delivery carried his punchlines to even higher heights. After a bit of average riffing about the Property Brothers, Andrew Michael was also solidly funny as he shared his story getting married at a farm that had a piece of the Twin Towers and a working cannon on the premises, as well as an elaborate T-shirt idea based in his experience as a T-shirt screen printer.
Ben Kronberg's headlining act was as odd as fans would expect. He repeatedly trailed off in an awkward way that seemed intentional yet stunted his act at times, and he backed himself up with a score of guitar music that was cool but occasionally went on for too long. Having said that, his comparison of the lengthy comedy show to an orgy that had lost its energy packed a hard-hitting punch, he pulled off many uniquely smart physical gags involving the mic cord, and he held moments of silence for effect beautifully.