Michael Che Place Des Arts, Montreal QC, July 25

Michael Che Place Des Arts, Montreal QC, July 25
Photo: Dana Edelson
When Michael Che kicked off what was supposed to be his 40-minute set, he looked chill. He sounded chill. Inhumanly, impossibly, mind bogglingly relaxed. At first the audience was wary, sensing something was amiss with the performer, the normally clean-cut, direct anchor for Saturday Night Live's "Weekend Update." He seemed a stranger to an audience who may have expected the suit and tie they were accustomed to seeing him in on television. It was weird. Che didn't appear to have any sort of plan. He appeared uncentred, apathetic and very, very tired.
What followed was a performance entirely unfiltered, unrehearsed and unrepeatable. It wasn't so much a performance as a conversation. Michael Che was in no hurry, spending nearly 15 minutes speaking to Canadian tank drivers — and becoming hopelessly confused as to what exactly British Columbia was — ten minutes speaking to a journalist, and over 20 throughout the set speaking to a wealthy father and his son about sex, money and the importance of them sharing their porn preferences with one another.
He seemed genuinely interested in the audience members he spoke to, and spent most of his time sitting on the lip of the stage, eye to eye with the front row, asking them questions until he could find some way to twist them into manically cackling red-cheeked, embarrassed versions of their former selves. It never took long. Che was absolutely uproarious from start to finish — which came about 20 minutes over his time limit.
When the calls first came from the wings for Michael Che to wrap things up, he ignored them. Then he asked for more time. At one point, Che blamed white girls for gentrifying Brooklyn. "Do you know how much money I'd need to gentrify a poor white neighborhood? My neighbourhood was gentrified by baristas!" One wonders after hearing a stellar ten minutes of Che's prepared routine what the remainder would have been like. But it is difficult to imagine a louder, more satisfied crowd than the one Michael Che reluctantly waved so long to on Saturday night. Beyond any doubt, the unforgettable performance was one of the best of the fest.