Whenever I visit my favourite city (Los Angeles) I always try to go to a comedy show. They are plentiful and cheap and boast stars both well-known and obscure. So I thought I should extend my knowledge to Vancouver's comedy scene which, according to many of my friends, has gotten really really good over the past few years. The occurrence of the JFL NorthWest, Vancouver's comedy festival (a partnership between Just for Laughs and NorthWest Comedy Fest ), is the perfect opportunity. Some big stars like Margaret Cho and David Cross have already performed but Wanda Sykes, Tim Meadows, Janeane Garofalo and many more are still to come.
One of the best things about the JFL NorthWest fest, though, is that it features SO much local fare, including improv, stand-up and acts which defy category. My introduction was last night at the intimate and packed Hot Art Wet City gallery where Graham Clark performed his show Instagraham. Clark is likable and hilarious and the audience needed almost no prompting to start chortling and guffawing at almost everything he said. The concept of the show is pretty simple: Clark loads up the feed of his Instagram account and explains and makes jokes about the photos he has posted. Yup, simple, and it works surprisingly well. (A similar show at the Uprights Citizens Brigade in LA based on Facebook has been wildly successful for many years.)
The best thing about this show (besides the many truly weird signs and objects Clark finds) is the casual and low-key format. "It's all part of my master plan to invite you all over to my house and watch me take a nap," he says. If he did, I bet it would be pretty funny. Clark isn't trying that hard to impress anyone - he's just riffing and reminiscing and chuckling at himself and the world. He spends anywhere between a few seconds and a couple of minutes on a photo, so nothing gets old or tired. You might see: a very serious Muppet Magazine, a disgusting (but free!) microwave, a sexy Garfield, a free bra promotion.
After a while he invites a couple other comedians to share their Instagrams and the dialogue becomes a conversation. The first guest had started his account just for the show and had madly posted a dozen photos, mostly over the previous few hours. Staying in a Victoria hotel room next to some escorts? You wouldn't guess it from the photo. Anyway, you get the idea. The show is laid-back and funny and has great ambiance and camaraderie. I think it's because Clark isn't incredibly angry or trying to be dark or controversial. He's amused by the world and knows how to share it.
JFL NorthWest continues until February 27 at venues all over Vancouver so get out and see something. Find the lineup and schedule here.