JFL42 Mike Lawrence Bad Dog Comedy Theatre, Toronto, ON, September 18

JFL42 Mike Lawrence Bad Dog Comedy Theatre, Toronto, ON, September 18
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After acknowledging that he'd recently taken his longest-ever break from stand-up (a few weeks) to get married and go on his honeymoon, Mike Lawrence spent an hour vainly trying to regain his footing.

Toronto's Rebecca Kohler had a great opening set, with sharp observations about the recent and possibly trendy upswing in people who like to talk about gluten. Much of her set revolved around being a woman in her "mid-to-late twenty/thirties" and the pitfalls of being single, childless, and dating sex weirdos while many of her friends have gotten married and started families and are kind of smug about it really.

Where Kohler's performance clearly had a structure and arc, Lawrence came out and struggled to find his sea legs again, sputtering into new stuff about being a newlywed. His passion for Taylor Swift's "Shake it Off" and disdain for U2's Apple stunt were both fresh but he didn't really connect conflating them. That said, Lawrence is likeable with a schlubby nerd charm that he rode around like a prize horse.

He showed off his Green Lantern embossed wedding ring and said that, before the show, someone in attendance actually recognized him from a matinee screening of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in New York City. He peppered some crowd work with allusions to sitcoms like Full House and Family Matters and, probably like many visiting comics, made kind of awkward Rob Ford jokes, clearly not in the loop about the mayor's health. Actually he deserves credit for sticking to his guns and taking Ford on even harder after being informed of his diagnosis. Somehow, that worked.

Lawrence was totally endearing but directionless, wringing his pop culture sponge over us in drips and drabs but never really owning the room. He revealed a lot about himself, including some pretty raw dating stuff that had impact, but the best moments were silly and he clearly revels in randomness. The no-net, pseudo-improvised set can be breathtaking when it works but it didn't quite click for Lawrence here.