Sophie Buddle and Gavin Matts host Barely Legal, a secret stand-up show held on the first Friday of each month. With an ever changing lineup, this platform showcases a wide range of performers, from local talent to more established comedians from abroad. Without openers or headliners, the sets were instead piled with weaker sets at the beginning and end of the night and the strongest in between.
The May 5 show was held at Slice of Life Gallery, which offered drinks and craft donuts to attendees. The venue was small without being cramped, despite selling out seats, necessitating a wall of bodies in the back. A haphazard stage made up of a few boxes covered by a rug sat in the corner, with rows of benches and chairs scattered around it. While the performers seemed sometimes unsteady, to the audience the stage felt more like an elevated plane of a living room than a stack of crates.
Buddle wasn’t able to host this instalment so Matts MC’d alone, warming up the audience with a short innocuous set before introducing the first performer, Kyle Bottom. Being the first set, Bottom required an easiness and confidence that he lacked. Each joke was an island and he did not buoy this choppiness with compensating material. His marijuana jokes were banal and his homelessness bit was disrespectful.
Randee Neumeyer, another local, followed Bottom with a similar lack of continuity but dissimilarly observant humour. Her lack of flow sometimes acted to punctuate her sharper points, but that seemed more of a happy accident than an artistic choice.
Third was Langston Kerman. Hailing from NYC, he brought an experience and culture of audience participation into the space. He lifted the energy and never let it fall, expertly eddying his set around the audience. At times it felt like he was phoning it in, but he is so talented that his phoning was still quality comedy.
Then came Michelle Buteau, who had the strongest set of the night. Also from NYC, she carried over Kerman’s energy with a set that was organic and strong, gracefully bounding through topics between audience interactions that she ensured lent themselves to her material.
Corey Michaelis was able to build up to and execute each punchline but not build on their momentum, resulting in a mountainous set. Alternately, Ashkan Mohammadi built his set up halfway and then plateaued. His set was not low-energy and engaging like Ron Funches, but drawling and heavy-lidded.
Jacob Samuel’s comedy was consistent and well executed, with no exceptionally bad or good pieces. Finally, Chris James closed the night with a well-meaning but slightly boring set and acted as a stand-in host for Matts, who had to leave early.
In the end Barely Legal was a surprisingly good comedy show. Despite the hosts’ absences, it was well-curated and organized, and Buddle and Matts were able to both bring in incredible comics and make a platform for local comics to hone their craft in a generous space.