Sam Jay Comedy Bar, Toronto ON, May 24
Published May 25, 2018"That's some funny shit. It's funny, it's smart and it's layered," Sam Jay bluntly told the audience after a risky joke, releasing the crowd's collective tension in a sucker punch of laughter.
With contrarian premises that have earned her comparisons to Patrice O'Neal as well as casual confidence that can make an audience follow her anywhere, it's no wonder that everyone's saying that Sam Jay is going to be the next big thing. Her devil's advocate arguments on behalf of privileged beliefs paired with her actual progressive views as a gay black woman allowed her to carefully walk the line between cringe-worthy outspokenness and tongue-in-cheek wit.
Jay's openers were far more absurd and silly than she was, but they were still fitting choices for this show. Chantel Marostica began the show with a bang with their new joke about how people are probably just transphobic because they keep mixing up trans people with public transit, plus their pun-filled series of impressions were a ton of fun because they embraced the simplistic nature of short impersonations.
Sara Benincasa was also enjoyable, but not as funny as Marostica. Her storytelling structure was solid, but most of her opening observations about Canada and her Canadian relatives were more like charming vignettes than jokes. Having said that, Benincasa showed her comedic potential better in her bit about a restaurant's mac & cheese special. Her riffs about the dish got unexpectedly surreal and physical as she envisioned the future of both mac & cheese and Earth itself.
Sam Jay's material about everything from why she got divorced to why she can't wait to see black serial killers was nuanced and complex, yet still felt like it was just coming off the top of her head. In the middle of her set, Jay wisely urged us not to try to retell her jokes to our friends because they would inevitably come out wrong. To joke about how lesbians are too emotional to have sustainable relationships and poke fun at how most women's defense strategies against rape are badly thought out, you need to be exceptionally charismatic and clever, but above all, still compassionate for the underdogs inherent in the tenuous topics you tackle. It's not an easy feat, but Sam Jay has the rare talent to pull it off.