Jo Firestone / Moses Storm JFL42, Toronto ON, September 20

Jo Firestone / Moses Storm JFL42, Toronto ON, September 20
8
Engaging in varied forms of crowd work to inform very strong prepared material, Jo Firestone and Moses Storm each put on uniquely interactive and funny sets at the Garrison.
 
Storm is due to appear as a character on the hit show This is Us, and his theatrical background shone through in his physicality, array of voices, and somewhat multimedia performance. The centrepiece of his act was a video presentation, featuring outtakes from the time his single, poor mother of five attempted to stage a kitchen calamity in hopes of winning cash on America's Funniest Home Videos, and it was somehow both endearing and harrowing to view this archival family footage of a desperate person trying to teach an acting class for toddlers.
 
Earlier, Storm told us about an experiment he attempted in recent years, where he engaged in one-on-one standup, delivering his material to a single audience member for the sake of a more conversational tone. Though he admitted it was a failure, he wanted to show us why.
 
When he asked for an audience member to join him on stage, after a few beats with no response, we made eye contact and I agreed to sit in a chair across from him on stage. Up close, Storm looked at me and told funny bits about entitlement, hypocrisy, and bold exits, and I laughed and nodded, as I would've in my regular seat.
 
Things did take a weird turn when Storm asked me what I did for a living and he learned that I was a journalist who covered music and comedy. "Ohhhhh, so you're reviewing this show," he realized, which made the crowd howl and Storm act nicer to me than perhaps he'd planned to. His surreal closer involving a prop sweater is best seen to be appreciated.
 
Jo Firestone's blood type is comedy; she is naturally and effortlessly hilarious and there are few scenarios imaginable where she wouldn't be the funniest person in the room. There is a slightly harried bent to her on-stage persona where, as she acknowledges, her voice suggests a person who may be on the brink of an emotional breakdown, even while asking people in the audience what movie they last saw. The intensity with which she searched for the correct answer here was compelling.
 
As displayed on her recent album, The Hits, Firestone is extremely quick when it comes to mining humour from crowd work. It's a wonder to behold really. At the Garrison, another seemingly innocuous poll of what people might've had for lunch that day turned into an oddly stressful exchange with a fellow who insisted he had eaten "Nothing." Though she'd hit humiliation paydirt, Firestone made an artful display of balancing ridicule with empathy, while remaining mindful to make the interaction ridiculously funny.
 
She capped off her somewhat abbreviated set (perhaps Storm went long because of me, somehow) with her own one-on-one idea that was comedically more rewarding than the earlier exercise we'd witnessed and, like a magician, Firestone conjured huge laughs out of thin air.