Mae Martin / Sabrina Jalees Comedy Bar, Toronto ON, January 20
Published Feb 03, 2016Mae Martin and Sabrina Jalees's show was as much a testament to their enduring friendship as it was to their independent proficiency in stand-up. The two comedians' onstage reconnection after months of living on different continents was as heart-warming as it was entertaining, and their respective half hour sets were both wonderful.
Martin and Jalees kicked off the show with an impressively long and well-executed dance and some exuberant banter, then each comic did a rapid fire interview of their friend. The questions ranged from "How long can I stay in your apartment in Los Angeles?" to "Was 9/11 an inside job?" but the whole thing was playfully funny, especially because the lights and music made it feel like the high stakes rounds of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?
Following the interview, Jalees (pictured) segued into her stand-up by announcing the change of pace with comical candour, then quickly delved into her material. Though Jalees was a bit out of practice because she had been busy writing for television, she was generally impressively fluent in her set. The only sign that she wasn't was occasionally checking notes, but she did it so subtly that it didn't interfere with the show.
The bulk of Jalees's set was centred around gender and sexuality: Jalees found humour in a child mistaking her for a boy, recounted a rare occasion in which she was aroused by a man, and did some unique material about the absurdity of homophobic bakeries refusing to serve gay customers. Additionally, she joked about women being discouraged to do period jokes, and told an anecdote about a taxi driver getting upset with her for speaking to him in Urdu. Her delivery was confidently relaxed and off the cuff, and her writing was vividly funny.
Mae Martin also talked a lot about gender and sexuality, but her style was very different. Engagingly clear yet endearingly awkward, Martin's complex stage presence was delightful. During her performance, she amusingly compared the gender spectrum to the characters of Beauty and the Beast, talked about how people assume she only likes girls, and recounted the time an interviewer asked her to explain why she's gay with great poignancy and even more humour.
The other major topic of Martin's comedy was her family and childhood. Martin's jokes about her mother's neuroticism and her inheritance of her anxious tendencies, her discussion of her progressive upbringing, and her series of stories about her mother's drunken friend were all distinctive and absolutely hilarious. Her storytelling and flair for finding funniness in vulnerable moments made it abundantly clear why she's had such success in the UK, and I hope we'll get to see her more often here in her native country.