Studio.89’s weekly Comedy Night had no shortage of comics who’ve cultivated humour well. Hosted by Adrienne Fish, a notable Canadian comedian featured in Just for Laughs, the show presented five diverse acts. Though primarily playing the role of the host, Fish concocted a separate act of her own, and regularly intervened in between other acts for brief commentary. In order of their performance, the other four acts of the evening included Sammy Fariq, Jenny Steere-Welbourne, Camille Cote, and Ernie Vicente.
The evening begins when Fish casually walks over to the open microphone stand near the entrance of the studio. As she warns the audience of the show’s “rated R” nature, a mother and her young daughter unknowingly walk in, making an untimely entrance, to visit the studio’s café in the back. It is not long after obscenities are thrown around, and Fish’s talk of pregnancy scares and “dropping acid,” do the mother and daughter pair speedily walk out, no drinks in hand, drawing one of the first effusive laughs from the audience and breaking the ice.
Fish’s act starts with a biographical description of some of the more sombre parts of her life. An open lesbian, Fish describes how she entered her first relationship in her early twenties. Shortly after, she developed an addiction to cocaine, spent twelve thousand dollars in three months, and somehow crashed a U-Haul into a store, causing her to flee to Toronto when she could not afford the damages.
“That was a more fucked up part of my life. But now, I just stick to weed, lots of it,” Fish quips, “and MDA, and acid,” she adds with a half-smile. “Don’t do drugs. But do a little bit of drugs,” she advises the audience paradoxically.
In all fairness, I was aware of the show’s obscene content, yet I found some of Fish’s jokes delivered in a distasteful manner. Making references to “sucking dicks” is one thing, but also pantomiming it is another. The latter, I thought, was an uncomfortable addition to her act. I think there is a fine line between crudeness and humour (which is not to say that they are mutually exclusive). Surely, crudity can be humorous as slapstick comedy exemplifies. But in Fish’s case, the balance was tipped in favor of crudeness. The crudeness of her jokes were overdone, and as such, this took away from the comical aspect of the joke itself.
Second in line after Fish, Steere-Welbourne’s act was one that I personally enjoyed, given her deadpan style. Her unique way of speaking forces the audience to listen. She speaks fast, has a slight lisp, pauses awkwardly, and is one of the quirkier comics I find of the bunch. If you don’t pay attention closely, her rapid-fire sentences can fly over your head. I admit that I may have missed a sentence or two because of this.
Mortician by profession, I chortled along with the audience when Steere-Welbourne described how she likes to call herself an “undertaker.” Though legally correct, the term undertaker has a broader social usage, particularly in wrestling, and she invites the audience to picture The Undertaker from WWE. Obviously, The Undertaker, burly and intimidating, and Steere-Welbourne, pale and mother of one, could not be further apart—and trying to draw an impossible connection between them is where the humour lies.
But Steere-Welbourne makes light of her profession, focusing on white privilege: “It’s hard making a living as an undertaker. In the winter time they cut my power off, and I didn’t even know they could do that to white women. Like, do you know who I am?”
Steere-Welbourne also had a poetic side. When she started to talk about sex, she labeled herself to be “emotionally a virgin”—an odd description that prompted the academic in me to contemplate its meaning. Steere-Welbourne didn’t elaborate much on this, but I thought it was an interesting idea; one can still remain emotionally virginal by not experiencing the mixed emotions said to be typical after losing one’s virginity in the common sense of the term.
Ending the show was Vicente, a Filipino comedian whose style was interactive and audience-inclusive. From time to time, Vicente asked the audience questions and went off on the responses. At one point, Vicente even nonchalantly asked me “what type of Asian” I was. For this comedian, shyness and hesitancy was not part of his style. I thought it was a strength of Vicente to include the audience into his act, since it gave his performance a relevant direction, something which the other acts lacked.
The evening concluded with remarks from Fisher appreciating the audience and the comedic crew. I left the show with a generally good impression of its performances. After all, humour comes in all forms, and the comedy show’s heterogeneous roster bears testament to that adage.