Published Sep 21, 2013In the realm of underground comedy, Janeane Garafolo is a legend (early credits include The Ben Stiller Show, The Larry Sanders Show, other shows not featuring men's names, and stealing scenes in many films including Wet Hot American Summer, Reality Bites, Mystery Men and many more) but she came to Toronto as a down-to-earth person who does not feel confident about her stand-up.
Garafolo's Mod Club set was entertaining. She did an off-stage impression of Eartha Kitt to introduce herself and then marched right through the crowd to shake hands and say hello, looking nervous and eager, like this was her big break. It was a kind of play-acting from a figure many admire but it was anything but condescending; in fact, Garafolo clearly works towards inclusion.
She arrived on her Toronto stage well-versed in civic matters like construction and Mayor Rob Ford's annual "FordFest," which she needled, wondering if it was really just a beard to distract us from unspecified scandals he might be involved in. She disdainfully discussed the Bloc Quebecois's anti-immigration stoking, calling the whole province snobby and elitist. And she read news reports from a National Post she held in her hands, while peppering her set with allusions to pop culture (i.e. why no one watches TV when it's actually on any more, why young artists like Miley Cyrus should be left alone), news, and health and medical reports.
It was vintage Garafolo — urging people to be well-read, make informed decisions, and casually leading by example. And it was funny in a shambolic, spazzy way, the comedienne starting basic premises like "Adderall" and "adult cloth diapers" before veering wildly into tangents and asking us to remind her of her place.
She held a folder full of scribbled notes aloft at one point, urging us to acknowledge how hard she was trying keep things organized. Though endearing, occasionally the evening felt too caught up in process, which distracted from some hilarious material about "clipboarders" and fictional hipsters "Nina and Matt." As Garafolo buzzed around the room like a hurricane, all of it began to feel like self-defence — a subterfuge of content to keep us from getting too close to her.