Sean and I were very lucky to spend the weekend at the Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal. We saw Dave Chappelle, Ellie Kemper’s Unbreakable, All-Star Comedy Show, where she hosted Michael Che, Chris Hardwick, and Margaret Cho (among others), and the Alan Cumming Gala, where he hosted the likes Joel Creasey, Todd Glass, Orny Adams, Jen Kirkman, and Dana Gould (Rob Schneider was announced, but a no-show). And then later that night we happened to upon a surprise show by Aziz Ansari, so we had ourselves a weekend.
Dave Chappelle was awesome. All-caps awesome. AWESOME. We’d seen him before at the Funny or Die Oddball Comedy Festival in Chicago (with Flight of the Conchords!) and found him even more hilarious in person than even his brilliant show of yore, Chappelle’s Show, suggested. The fact that there was a surprise appearance and performance by Mos Def made it, like, astronomically all-caps awesome.
We looked forward to each and every performance and I was wiggling away in my seat just pleased as all get-out to see Mr. Alan Cumming live and in person. My love for him is immeasurable, and in fact, upon reflection, I can’t even tell you where it comes from. It feels like it’s just always been there. And he’s so much more than his American film credits would have you believe (he was Nightcrawler in X-men 2). If you have Instagram, you can hear Sean and I singing along on his post – live from Montreal, it’s Saturday night on Broadway. And while all of the acts that he hosted were excellent (Todd Glass being a particular favourite, since Sean and I happened to sit beside him on our recent flight from Los Angeles to Montreal, and when he went into a bit about a crazy lady on an airplane who ate a KitKat with deliberate and infuriating slowness, we gave each other accusatory but conspiratorial looks). However, there was one act that I was much less enthusiastic about.
So there’s this excellent documentary you may have seen simply titled Comedian. And it’s basically about Jerry Seinfeld, post-Seinfeld, after he retired all his old material and is now on the comedy circuit, trying out new material. It’s an incredibly insightful look at the comic’s creative process, the writing and the honing and the practise. As I love stand-up, I adore this film. It doesn’t hurt that it includes bits from other comedians I really admire – Colin Quinn, Gary Shandling, Chris Rock. It also features a young comedian called Orny Adams, up and coming but already the ego on this kid.
It was painful for me to watch this kid beg for celebrity, a complete unknown talk about all the jealousy he’s encountered. And then stand him beside Jerry, who is bigger than big but doesn’t seem to have an ounce of ego to him, and is humbling himself night after night in front of audiences, and even he is kindly shaking his head at Orny’s hubris. In Comedian, Orny Adams is actually chasing his frist spot on the Just For Laughs Festival line-up in Montreal. And I hated every minute of his footage. Hated it. He was such an annoying douche, complaining about how he mysteriously wasn’t famous yet, though none of his material made me laugh in the least. Of course, when the audience fails to laugh, or only laughs politely, he blames them. They’re all wrong, he’s still right. When senior comedians offer him advice, they’re cocksuckers. There’s not a humble bone in his body, or, as far as I can tell, a funny one.
I took away a lot from this particular documentary: respect for the craft, and a better understand of the crippling insecurity behind most acts, but I also took away an astounding dislike of Orny Adams. Rewatching the documentary today, I see he’s even more annoying that I remembered him. But watching him on stage on Saturday, his set was near-perfect. Tight. We laughed. I don’t know if he’s grown as a person, but he’s definitely grown as an artist,