Oddball Comedy Tour with Amy Schumer, Aziz Ansari, Anthony Jeselnik Molson Canadian Amphitheatre, Toronto ON, September 6
Published Sep 07, 2015Oddball Comedy Tour wasn't just two shows: it was a colossal spectacle. Featuring 14 comedians and running for nearly five hours including all the breaks, the audience of nearly 16,000 definitely got their money's worth from these massive shows. Having said that, performances suffered from conditions that are well known for interfering with comedy. Nonetheless, the comedians persevered to diminish these faults as best as they could.
The first issue was the lack of intimacy: unlike music concerts, comedy suffers when performed in a large space. The grandiose atmosphere conflicts with the fragile, honest nature of humour, and high ceilings cause the laughs to scatter, thus weakening the connection between the comics and the audience. However, it was essential to sell thousands of seats to finance such an incredible lineup, and the audience was occasionally a fascinating entity in its own right due to its sheer size. Thus, it was a minor price to pay. Moreover, the comedians cleverly combatted this issue throughout their performances. Half of the comics did crowd work to make the audience feel closer, Anthony Jeselnik joked about the jumbotrons, and co-headliners Amy Schumer and Aziz Ansari riffed about the giant moths that had gravitated towards the spotlight to make the show feel more personal. Thus, the flaw was minimized.
The earlier, small stage show also suffered from a classic mistake: doing comedy in broad daylight. Though the comedians all had great material, a good deal of it was edgy or dirty, and thus a fair amount of the crowd didn't feel comfortable embracing it on such a stunningly sunny day. Nonetheless, bless their hearts, the comics soldiered on until gradually they got the audience to support them in their gritty material. Big Jay Oakerson's strategy of graphically describing disgusting sexual subject matter, then telling the crowd that they may as well get on the bandwagon was especially effective and hilarious.
Big Jay Oakerson's hosting of the main stage show was just as unapologetically funny, though his excessive use of the phrase "clap it up" sometimes made his transitions between comics sound too rehearsed. Following him, Mark Normand provided amusement with some light-hearted observational material about Jewish people, as well as a simple but smart comparison of finding out your kid is gay to finding a french fry in your onion rings: "It's not what I expected, but I like these too." Likewise, Katherine Ryan did some entertaining observational material about her Jewish ex and how Beyoncé has redefined how to be sexy. Next, Michael Che thrilled the audience with his sharp yet relatable set, even though his joke about why he'd be okay with marriage between a man and a goat was several years old. Jay Pharoah also delivered a very memorable set, which included him dubbing a white guy called George as "honorarily black," as well as a spot-on Eddie Murphy impression. Jim Norton then closed the first half of the show with a gutsy performance about how society is terrified of making jokes about Caitlyn Jenner, and how he welcomes Trump just because he has absolutely no filter.
The second half of the mainstage show brought out even more killer comedians. Anthony Jeselnik created brutal hilarity with his signature slyly-delivered one liners, and Nick Kroll comically retold how he soiled himself merely a day before he flew to Toronto. After Kroll, Amy Schumer came onstage to fanatical applause, and began her set with the material she has reused for her last several talk show appearances. She then delved into some refreshing new jokes about what it was like to be in Rolling Stone, and compared washing her baby niece with doing a quick swipe on Tinder. Lastly, Aziz Ansari ended the show by tackling big topics like the "All Lives Matter" hashtag, how awful it is that literary classics gather dust while we go through endless internet content, and the numerous inconveniences women have to put up with to control their reproduction. Despite all of this wonderfully hard-hitting material, the funniest moment his set, and in fact the entire night, was when Ansari swallowed a bug. The honest disgust combined with his quip about how this had never happened once in his 14-year career was hilarious.
Additionally, there were several splendid performers at the small stage. Mark Little delighted the crowd by jesting about how there used to be ugly weirdos in boy bands, and by wittily criticizing America for insisting on renaming toques "winter hats." Moreover, Rebecca Kohler performed an enjoyable set about the updated Canadian sexual education curriculum, and Faisal Butt talked comically about the obvious limits of choosing a name for his child. Finally, Rob Mailloux closed the small show with some solid material about being adopted, why it's horrifying to make a woman keep a baby that is the product of rape, and why he disagrees with the naming of the Washington Redskins.