Gina Yashere JFL42, Comedy Bar, Toronto ON, September 27

Gina Yashere JFL42, Comedy Bar, Toronto ON, September 27

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Launched onto the Comedy Bar stage without a host or opening act, Brit Gina Yashere was ready to do some comedic heavy lifting right off the top of her show, only to realize that she's in Toronto and doesn't have to use the same "explain yourself" tactics she might employ at shows in the U.S. We're Canadians, she realized, so she doesn't have to explain what's happening with "this voice coming out of this face."
 
After playfully toying with audience members, Yashere launched into an origin story set describing her journey that turned out to largely be her mother's journey, from Nigeria to London, where Gina was raised to be a "very British" child. She's a brilliant and naturally engaging storyteller, and tales of the cultural disconnects, first generationally, then as an immigrant to the United States, dominated the first half of her set.
 
It all flowed so beautifully from the outset that — especially without the standard comedy show structure of host and opening comics — it came across more as a hilarious one-woman show than a traditional standup act. The contrast was made starker by the fact that when she did dip into more standard fare, it seemed both less unique and not as funny as her more personal revelations.
 
When she returned, topically and in her life, to England to introduce her mother to her live-in girlfriend, it again jolted the show back to life. (Yashere's dramatic act-out of the "girlfriend meets mom" moment was particularly hilarious.) But again, she veered back to more typical topical fare.
 
Given that almost three-quarters of her hour performance surrounded her upbringing and family dynamics made it so close to a unified theme, the fact that her closer fell flat was telling. "Well, that's the show," she said after her final chunk, about peeing in unfamiliar bathrooms in Asia failed to ignite the crowd. She's as friendly and outgoing as it gets — and maybe immigrant tales don't play as well in less welcoming environs — but we would have stayed for all the mom stories she had and she could have left the rest back in the U.S.