Published Feb 10, 2014Black History Month is hilarious, am I right? One of Toronto's newer venues, not typically used for comedy, Baltic Avenue was host to the first stop of the 3rd annual Underground Comedy Railroad Tour. Listed as a "Black History Month Event," the nine-city tour smartly launched in Toronto before rolling out to the rest of Canada. The cast of the Underground Comedy Railroad Tour is made up by a host of familiar faces; you'd know them as either MUCH culture-mockers or commercial actors. Gilson Lubin as the capable host, with guests Andrew Searles, Daniel Woodrow, Rodney Ramsey and Keesha Brownie. (Headliner Trixx, who has been heavily promoted as the "face" of the event, did not appear.)
The room was friendly, keeping the overall experience upbeat, and that is largely due to Gilson's ability to speedily win over an audience. With him at the helm, you're inclined to like whomever follows just a little bit more. Whether it's explaining his reluctance to perform in a town called Slave Lake, or informs you that before he came to Canada (he's from Saint Lucia), he thought a racist was a "really fast person," he lets you know right away what you're in for.
Overall, the night's theme was a glimpse of what it's like to be black kids in white Canada. It works best when avoiding a "black guys do this / white guys do this..." approach, but sometimes it just goes there, and sometimes it even works. When used sparingly, white guilt and accents (notably Keesha Brownie's patois) can get some great laughs. Daniel Woodrow, for example, was raised by white parents — "never beaten, only grounded" — and enjoyed some unique skills as a result ("I know how to swim"). Other comics went for more broad cultural commentary, such as Rodney Ramsey, who lamented his own childhood expectations of the future: "Who'd have thought that in 2014, porn and music would be free but plastic bags would cost money."
In the end, funny is funny, be it racially driven or not. Most in attendance were satisfied, and I'd gladly see this show when it blows through town again. The evening lasted a little more than two hours, and if UCRT can carve it down to a tight 90 minutes, it's one worth catching.