While, for the average festival goer, it might not hold the same calibur of appeal as the A-list comedians, the New Faces show is highly anticipated by industry folks, comedians, and journalists, because it showcases the potential A-listers of the future.
In other words, it's a big f-ing deal to get on a Montreal New Faces show, and Boston had a chance to represent. Frankly, I'd like to think that we, as a city, discovered Myq Kaplan before the rest of the world did, since he was chosen, by Phoenix readers, as the Best Local Comedian of 2008 (suck on that, Comedy Central. Boston saw him first.)
The New Faces lineup is split into two groups (Tues-Thurs this week, one group performs at 7:00, the other at 9:15. My pal Sean McCarthy introduces everyone, nicely, on his blog The Comic's Comic) and, last night, I caught Kaplan's group, comprised of a surprisingly uniform roster of comics; mostly American, mostly white, mostly men. Hosted by Sugar Sammy, (who may have set a record for longest session of uncomfortably flirtatious crowd work ever at a show that doesn't feature tassels), the show featured some astoundingly unspectacular material. I was shocked.
These are the stars of tomorrow? This is what comedy has to look forward to? More gay jokes? More dudes who could be hipster English teachers straight out of Berkeley, impersonating "thugs" to get laughs?
Oh. I get it. See, because you're wearing a shirt from Urban Outfitters and you're "tongue-in-cheek," you can be a racist homophobic douchebag, because it's under the guise of comedy.
That being said, Kaplan, who was up first, completely nailed it. He's of the word-nerd school of comedy, and, though the material he delivered last night was mostly tweaked versions of jokes he's been telling for years, his delivery, his demeanor, has completely matured. Voice is lower and calmer, pace is slower, punchlines are more confident. As I was saying yesterday, I believe that the mark of a talented performance artist is sophisticated stage presence, is the improvement of your act as a whole, not just your jokes. In just a few years, Kaplan has gone from the twerp in the front row of calculus to the superlative class clown. He's ready for prime time. You should have caught him when he was doing Monday nights in Union Square, dummies.
Out of the other eight comedians on the show, the ones who stood out the most for me were Mary Mack and Alex Koll. Both of them, kind of weirdos. But completely self-aware, and completely confident in their eccentricities. Mack is one of my favorite up and coming comedians - she's from Minnesota, and, between the accent and the golly-gee-with-ADD storytelling, you'd swear up and down that she were affecting some kind of Hee Haw/Fargo hybrid of a character, but, she's not. She's just being her adorably wackadoo self.
I liked Alex Koll even before I learned that he won the 2009 San Francisco Air Guitar Championships
I'm not even going to bother drawing physical parallels between Koll and Zach Galifianakis, or pre-manorexic Seth Rogan, because I'm sure he's sick of that. Instead, I'll focus on the fact that he opened his set last night by proclaiming that he was a wizard, followed by a solid minute of sorcery jokes. Halfway through his 6-minute act -- literally as I was thinking to myself, this guy's zany, but not quite zany enough to be too interesting -- he said to the audience, "Let's get serious." and plucked at his head, to reveal that his mop of auburn curls was a wig. And underneath that wig. Was the exact. Same. Hair.
I'm still laughing.