I know some people who feel iffy about going to stand-up shows. They might’ve seen one too many comics bomb for comfort — or maybe once they were awkwardly singled out by a comedian doing some crowd work. Either way, they shouldn’t let some rough experiences in the stand-up universe ruin the fun for all stand-up shows — especially when there are rooms like Jokes Please! around.
Jokes Please! was no average stand-up comedy night. The poorly insulated (you will keep your coat on) but still charming and beloved Little Mountain Gallery offered a cozy seating arrangement that guaranteed a fun and casual show. No audience member was safe from some gentle, yet personal “zings” from chipper host Ross Dauk. The venue was so small that even late audience members walking through the front door were still in Dauk’s zinger splash-zone. That’s just one way that the crowd was drawn into the comedy. Another was that Dauk sent cat videos to everyone in the venue who activated Air-Drop on their iPhones. Weird, but very fun.
If you’re looking for variety, this room has everything from comics working out new material, to others running sets they’ve prepped for TV specials. If you’re skeptical about watching comics work out new jokes, rest assured that even the few punchlines that fall flat end in laughs, like when comic Ryan Williams (my personal favourite of the night) screamed into the mic after a silent pause: “They’re not all good jokes!”
Kelsey Hamilton entertained the audience with some delightfully quirky anecdotes, and Alain Williams weaved some personal material into his set, as well as some deserving jabs at the final two Harry Potter movies. MVP Jacob Samuel ran his set for the Winnipeg Comedy Festival — people pay top dollar (as in, more than five dollars) to see sets like these. Samuel spent his time telling us tales about his long-term girlfriend — but his wholesome, light-hearted bits about relationships ended with the ultimate reveal: that his relationship had ended since he’d “submitted [his jokes] to the festival,” and been accepted. While the audience roared with laughter at the sick irony of it all, there was beauty in such an honest moment of vulnerability on stage. The making-funny of things that are supposed to be sad: that is a special phenomenon largely unique to the art of stand-up comedy.
Between every comic, Dauk would pop back on stage and riff on a tangent while audience members had the chance to get a quick drink. For one of these instances, someone in the crowd abruptly stood up and announced “I’m gonna go vape,” which was met by a world of berating quips. It was a special time.
Headliner Jane Stanton, a seasoned vet in the Vancouver stand-up scene, closed the show with 15 minutes of hilarity through telling-it-like-it-is comedy. Her narrative meandered from topics on chocolate bars, dating, Vancouver, Uggs, and more. She told her jokes in a totally unique style that had her putting on crazy voices and doing act-outs that left the audience in stitches.
If you’re looking for a fun night out, Jokes Please! is a great room to get a taste of all that Vancouver’s stand-up scene has to offer. If you’re unsure of whether or not stand-up is for you, give this lovable show a try — worst case scenario, you’ll leave with a new cat video.