Steph Tolev is one of Toronto's fastest rising comedy kingpins. She co-founded the award winning sketch comedy duo Ladystache, has performed at many of the world's most reputable comedy festivals and has made several televised appearances, all without ever releasing a stand-up album until now. Her debut, Hot N' Hungry, is terrific. In typical style, Tolev lays down a barrage of horrifying images, brilliant stories and infectious enthusiasm for the grotesque. It makes for a hilarious hour of anxiously perverse scream-laughing.
Hot N' Hungry is heavily based on Tolev's experiences as a comedian and high octane human in downtown Toronto. The subject matter — while being completely bonkers and larger-than-life — bears a strong familiarity for anyone who's spent a decent amount of time in the city. The cat calls, the smells, the landmarks, the drivers and sloppy night clubs/vomit receptacles all figure into Steph Tolev's panorama of regrettable scenarios.
Tolev also delves into her Bulgarian background for self-deprecating comedy gold, citing her distinctive gruff voice — a comedic trademark — and the drawbacks and benefits of various masculine mannerisms in day to day life. The array of characters she seems able to audition for, mistaken identities at Halloween shindigs and the sexual appeal of $2000 in tuna all play a role.
Tolev has a propensity towards physically animated and vibrant performances. While many comedians struggle with making a live, intimate performance translate to strictly audio recordings, Tolev's material clears that hurdle effortlessly. While there's nothing quite like seeing Steph Tolev perform live, her leap from the stage to your headphones loses as little immediacy and humour as may be possible in this medium.
Hot N' Hungry is a fast-paced, high-energy gut full of laughs. It is a brilliant step for Steph Tolev and a hysterical, permanent addition to Toronto's comedy scene. (Comedy Records)