Jermaine Fowler Comedy Bar, Toronto ON, December 18

Jermaine Fowler Comedy Bar, Toronto ON, December 18
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On paper, most of Fowler's material would read rather grimly: the vast majority of his jokes drew on the depth of his tumultuous life, from an incarcerated brother to a childhood where he sometimes didn't have heat in the winter. However, Fowler had such a warm stage presence that his style felt as much like hilarious upbeat observational stand-up as it felt like open-hearted storytelling. Comparatively, the openers were ordinary, but this was a delightful show nonetheless.
 
Host Daniel Woodrow's bit about how being home-schooled gave him social anxiety was admirably candid, but his riffing about how people who drink sambuca are racist based on a loud woman drinking the liquorice-based liqueur in the crowd got more consistent laughs. Joshua Elijah followed him with several entertaining jokes about people missing fingers, including a bit about a priest who had to shake dozens of hands every day despite the fact he only had two digits, as well as an anecdote about working with a man who was missing part of one of his fingers. Aisha Brown then finished up the series of opening sets with a few jokes about aging and being insecure about her nose, as well as some well-written musical comedy including an amusingly sexual rap about zombies.
 
Within minutes after he took the stage, Fowler transformed the decent but quiet audience into an engaged and enthusiastic one with impressive effortlessness. He then proceeded to use his creative cross-genre voice to delve into everything from the unique experiences of having a twin brother to his girlfriend's brain damage from using hard drugs in her teens. The epitomizing example of how Fowler straddled two distinct styles of humour was his anecdote about how he postponed a gang fight by putting dishwashing liquid all over the sidewalks near his home as a kid: it provided as much hilarity as it did insight into his history.
 
Similarly, his narrative about working at the Billabong in Times Square exhibited his honest yet persistently optimistic viewpoint. Over the course of the joke, he went from recounting the absurdity of his boss telling the employees to protect the Billabong they worked at like it was their home, to telling a story where he could have been stabbed in the store. In addition, Fowler performed several bits that induced belly laughs. Some of the best ones were his story about breaking into the Quizno's he used to work at, his anecdote about his aunt's horribly typed comments on facebook, and his fantastic closer about how his brother Jamal had his life irreversibly changed because he had an untreated enlarged tongue. Cumulatively, this hilarious show enforced the consensus that Fowler is one of the most promising comedians to watch out for.