Russell Howard / Darrin Rose / DeAnne Smith Comedy Bar, Toronto ON, June 24

Russell Howard / Darrin Rose / DeAnne Smith Comedy Bar, Toronto ON, June 24
Russell Howard absolutely packed the main space of Comedy Bar with British and Canadian fans alike, all of whom felt privileged to see the English superstar in such an intimate setting. Along with two openers who are successful headliners in their own right, Howard thrilled with his brilliant narratives and off-the-cuff silliness.
The show began with nerdy yet superbly gutsy DeAnne Smith. She quickly warmed up the crowd with her anecdote about why she has "I don't approve" tattooed on her arm in her grandmother's handwriting, quipped that she looks like a little boy, and did a joke about cunnilingus that involved her yelling "pussy!" with unabashed commitment as the punch line. After her, Darrin Rose recounted an entertaining story about wanting to steal a monkey while he was at the aptly named Monkey Forest in Bali, and comically related his amazement about the fact that parking near the Colosseum in Italy was only a euro an hour.
Together, these openers only did 20 minutes, yet for no good reason there was an intermission after Rose finished his set. Smith smartly made it seem less random by telling people to tweet about the show using the hashtag #oneeuropussy, a combination of some of Rose's and Smith's most memorable material. However, the intermission still affected the performance: although Howard was fabulous, the break diminished the momentum built up by the wonderful openers, and thus that extra level of excitement and ease of laughter was lost.
During his act, Howard maintained a juvenile joy that was contagious. For example, when the crowd told him that Toronto has a shoe museum, he giggled with genuine wonderment and caused everyone to appreciate that established part of the city in a new light. Likewise, he frequently grinned as he talked about the ridiculous funeral requests of a darkly funny teenage cancer patient he met, he thoroughly enjoyed interacting with the enthusiastic crowd, and he took unfettered delight in improvising a few stellar minutes about the hashtag the audience was using.
It was in the stories about his eccentric family that Howard consistently found both the greatest quantity and quality of material. His tale about his mother telling strangers that he was her discount prostitute was hysterical, as were his narrative about her inability to properly identify sexual innuendo, and his story about seeing his sister's movie with his mother without being warned that there was a scene where his sister gave a hand job to an old man. Similarly, his numerous anecdotes about his childish brother were also exceptionally funny.