Crimson Wave JFL42, Toronto ON, September 23
Published Sep 24, 2018A refreshing hour of candid local acts, Natalie Norman and Jess Beaulieu's feminist comedy show, Crimson Wave, stood out as one of the best shows I've seen at JFL42 this year. After bantering about their weeks and working the crowd off the top, the pair introduced a series of high energy, confident comedians who all had unique material — a testament to the creativity that follows when you set simple boundaries like "No rape jokes."
Amy Bugg and Tamara Shevon were the stars of the night, in my eyes, but the common thread among all four acts was that they all seemed excited to be there — a factor that's small and sometimes hard to detect, but that has the power to make or break a show. Maybe they were all that excited to be there, maybe the audience was just particularly receptive, or maybe Norman and Beulieu do an incredible job at priming both the room and their talent, but the small crowd at the Comedy Bar were in stitches all night.
The first act was Emily Bilton, an opera singer turned comedian who toes the line between self-deprecating and self-aware with every joke. Much of her humour revolved around her appearance and her queerness ("I'm a little lesbian. But am I a lesbian, or am I just a baby? Do I eat pussy or do I just crawl back into it?") But the jokes that landed the best revolved around mortifying experiences she's had. From being doored by a small elderly woman to being breastfed until age six (which she remembers vividly), Bilton has quite an interesting roster of stories to draw from on stage, and a witty retort in response to each one.
Brandon Ash-Mohammed, creator of The Ethnic Rainbow, a monthly comedy showcase for LGBTQ+ comedians of colour, walked on stage in a sparkly shirt reading "Queen Bitch," a family heirloom, he claimed. Ash-Mohammed's not afraid to bust a move mid-joke — in fact, many of his impressions of his Trinidadian grandmother and his re-enactments of conversations with his white father about money rely upon his dance moves. A lively and confident performer, Ash-Mohammed was a joy to watch.
A recent transplant from Calgary, Amy Bugg's deadpan sense of humour and cynical takes on the world were incredibly charming. Defending the unhealthy eating habits she picked up in being raised out west (she calls gravy "steak soup" and believes it should be properly eaten from a bowl), criticizing nutritionists for recommending that she eat kale ("A leaf that tastes like a magazine") and being "way too hard on butter," and enviously wondering out loud whether the strippers working at the club she passes on her morning commute get to sleep in, Bugg's got unique takes on the mundane, with sardonic delivery that makes her routine laugh out loud funny.
A renowned comic in the Toronto comedy scene, Tamara Shevon closed the evening with high-octane tales of getting blackout drunk and being invited to cottage weekends with her white friends. Shevon isn't afraid to break mid-story, laughing at herself and the characters in the stories she tells, and cueing to the audience that she's having a genuinely good time on stage. And this energy was infectious, leaving the room feeling good at the end of a stellar night of comedy.
For a show I came into with few expectations, I left Crimson Wave feeling revitalized by the candidness, wit, and positivity of the performers I saw.