Published Aug 01, 2016Carrie Fisher hosted Just for Laughs' final comedy gala of the fest on Sunday evening. She was in full possession of her typical irreverent flair, joking incessantly about Star Wars while bemoaning her sci-fi claim to fame at the same time. Her early acknowledgement of the JFL writers who prepared her jokes — as they do with almost all of their gala hosts to a large extent, comedians or not — stole a bit of the magic her appearance could have had, honest as it was. Nevertheless, Fisher was a decent host, despite always being a little slow to return to the stage between acts, making for some awkward silences between performers.
Of all the evening's performers — Brian Posehn, Cristela Alonzo, Ivan Decker, Nathan Macintosh, Jim Norton, Joel Creasey, Celia Pacquola and Ronny Cheng — only a few really stood out.
Brian Posehn was first to hit the stage and, deciding to keep the Star Wars theme rolling, devoted his entire set to his topsy-turvy relationship with the franchise. He was funny enough, but the material was a bit late. There wasn't a person in that auditorium that hadn't heard the stories of letdown and betrayal of the Star Wars prequels ad nauseum. The little twist involving Posehn liking The Force Awakens didn't really provide enough extra material to make the diatribe fresh and interesting.
Australia's Celia Pacquola started her set off strong. Her musings on the perks of being single might not have amounted to mould-breaking stuff, but she was funny, relatable and exciting. It carried her through most of her short set. However, her closing joke was a little bent out of shape. It began with a tirade about how much she hates toe rings. After ranting, she took a breath and promised to tell the audience why she hated toe rings so much. The audience was invested, they wanted to know. She then began to build towards an explanation, only to launch into a diatribe on why we don't call rings we wear on our fingers "finger rings." While that led its way into all the obvious fingering puns — which were quite funny — it left one to wonder why her hate wasn't directed at these "finger rings" instead. It proved a rather weak segue, leaving the audience to wonder why she wasn't able to think of a clearer reason for hating toe rings.
Ivan Decker probably had the most solid set of the night. His Seinfeldian observational humour on the credentials needed to cut mangos, fear of spiders and love of sliders was — like Pacquola's material — very safe, no surprises here. However, he was a brilliantly confident performer. His bit pointing out the insanity of how we market soap to different genders was a definite highlight.
Cristela Alonzo was particularly funny when tying in the Star Wars theme. Her thoughts regarding romantic comedies and science fiction — she finds the latter more believable — were hilarious. The idea that two people as good looking as those featured in romantic comedies can't find love is insane to her. In her words; "Ewoks are more realistic than Julia Roberts playing a hooker."
Wrapping up the evening's parade of feature performers was Ronny Cheng, who has a unique outsider's perspective on North American Asian stereotypes. Or as he would say, he has a thoroughly typical ridicule for Asian stereotypes, being that most people in the world are Asian. By rule of numbers, people from Asia are the norm, stereotypes or not. In his words, "If we decide we want to drive with our feet while dancing to 'Gagnam Style,' that's the new norm" and we had best get used to it. Cheng was clever, unflinching and witty.
While every comic performed reasonably well at Fisher's gala, there was an unfortunate absence of any feeling of surprise or excitement once the ball got rolling. There were no wild cards; the closest thing to a loose cannon was the host, and she was sticking to a script the whole time.