Published May 16, 2015Friday night showcased a famous actor/comedian doing some work and a comic on the rise presenting his brain on drugs in the tiny Cabaret space of Toronto's Comedy Bar.
Mary Lynn Rajskub — known to action fans as Chloe on 24 and to comedy nerds as a long-time standup and one-time cast member of Mr. Show — is in Toronto filming… something, so she's popped into a few Comedy Bar shows recently in order to put in some work getting her standup chops back. And while some fans may be looking for a polished performance from someone as stage-seasoned as Rajskub, to others, watching comics work on stage in low pressure environments provides fascinating insight into the process of writing comedy.
She seemed at first confused by the not-even-40 people gathered before her when a mention of her 24 legacy got a tepid response but Mr. Show turned out to be the comedy nerd audience's sweet spot. She riffed on why she was doing this — "hey, aren't you a famous performer of stage and screen and now you're not even headlining the Comedy Bar?" — and joked how easy it is to spend even the large amount of TV money she's earned. She rallied around Taylor Swift and explored the contradiction of plaid-wearing Canadian lumberjack types who turn out to be surprisingly articulate.
Headliner Myq Kaplan's biggest challenge might be keeping track of — and reining in — the speed of thoughts in his head. "I will try to close all the parentheses," he commented early in the set and it was a telling moment — sometimes he took off on a tangent that led to another tangent that led to a distracting bit of wordplay and then another tangent — but his mental bread crumbs were sufficient enough to almost always get back to where he started.
Kaplan loves wordplay more than almost anything else, and while he's less self-deprecating than a vet like Andy Kindler, their commonalities in a love of language and a self-awareness of their craft mark them as similar types. Kaplan's recent Netflix special is titled Small, Dork and Handsome, which is fitting, and a riff on not liking pot seemed to fit a nerdy, shy persona one might ascribe to him.
However, further explorations of drug use and jokes about his current sexual circumstances showed a deeper, more complex sophistication than the Batman shirt he revealed under his hoodie might suggest. His dislike of smoking pot actually turned into a discovery of — and fondness for — an Amazonian psychedelic called ayahuasca. (Turns out pot is not the gateway drug — not liking pot is the gateway drug.) Tales of his sexual exploits also indicated that this is not your typical basement-dwelling nerd.
Seeing comics like Rajskub and Kaplan in such a tiny space — about a third the size of the Comedy Bar's main room — certainly added to the intimacy, although both are more than prepared to kill the main room at shows the rest of the weekend. This was a special treat for those lucky enough to peer in on some comic minds at play.