Build Your Own Instagram Comedy Festival

Graphic by Erin Sass

Welcome to The Bull & Bear’s very own Build Your Own Instagram Comedy Festival! What an amazing crowd we have here tonight! How’s everyone doing? Did I hear stressed? Anxious? Same! But hey, that’s why we’re here from The Bull & Bear to provide you with some laughs. Do you miss the feeling of sipping beer (the cheapest one with the highest alcohol content, of course) at a bar on Saint-Laurent while watching amateur stand-up and praying they don’t bomb so you won’t suffer second-hand embarrassment? Or, do you feel nostalgic for cracking up at McGill improv or a Bring Your Own Juice sketch that your friend’s friend from residence is in? We need live comedy now more than ever. With a seemingly never-ending news cycle of tragedy, sometimes we have to take a step out of it and be silly together. This year, Montreal’s Just for Laughs Festival was virtual and free, giving us all a taste of some top-notch comedy. Looking for some more laughs? Peruse this three-day lineup of the best comedy acts on social media.

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Day 1: Punching Up Comedy

Opening Act: Jordan Firstman

We’re opening the festival with a fan favourite: legendary impressionist Jordan Firstman. Jordan has skyrocketed to Instagram fame over quarantine with his eighteen “seasons” of groundbreaking, culturally relevant impressions. Firstman does it all, from hard-hitting political impressions such as the fly on Mike Pence’s head’s publicist to the straight guy in an argument (second slide), eliciting the memory of disgruntled boyfriends overheard in line at Café Campus. 

Firstman even graces us with the inner monologue of Montreal’s favourite seasonal celebrity: autumn leaves (slide 5). If these outstanding impressions aren’t enough, check out his highlight reels of  “secrets” where people submit their deepest and darkest confessions for Firstman to riff off of, alleviating any shame while guaranteeing you some gasps and laughs. 

Headliner: Ziwe Fumudoh 

Ziwe’s iconic Instagram live shows have been one of the best things to come out of quarantine, landing her a variety show to be produced by A24 for Showtime. Based on her Youtube show Baited, Ziwe interviews guests bluntly, asking them questions about race like, “how many Black friends do you have?” to which most guests awkwardly stall, eventually answering “four to five.” With her quick witty comments, fabulous outfits, and top-notch catalogue of facial expressions, Ziwe will make you laugh…sometimes at yourself. More importantly, Ziwe’s show reveals how much anti-racism work still needs to be done in the world, especially in an era where activism can seem like it starts and ends with an Instagram story. Ziwe’s shows are live, but you can watch all the recorded ones on her channel and make sure to check out her new single Make it Clap for Democracy, the voting anthem all Americans need.

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Day 2: Dramedy 

Opening Act: Benito Skinner

Let’s start this day off strong with some sketches by @bennydrama7. Benny’s wide array of characters can take you out of our current horror movie reality and make you feel like you’re on a hiking date with Canada’s Shawn Mendes, hanging with McGill’s own Grimes, or even like you’re cramming for finals in a “real-life” university library. Benny will take you into his world with impeccable acting, joke delivery, and wardrobe, as well as a wig collection that would make Moira Rose quake. You can find more of his hysterical sketches on Instagram and Youtube

Headliner: Cat Cohen

Now that we are all warmed up with giggles, it is time to welcome the Queen of the New York City comedy scene herself, Cat Cohen. Over quarantine, Cohen has brought her dazzling musical comedy show Cabernet Cabaret to the hottest venue in town: Instagram live. Adorned in a bedazzled dress, Cohen dances around her apartment drinking a martini as guests pour in to hear her hilariously relatable songs and jokes which recount her millennial life, now mostly consisting of glamorously sleeping until noon and doing Zoom therapy. Her live shows are now being streamed by the famous East Village gay bar and nightclub, Club Cumming, bi-weekly, with a stacked lineup of special guests.

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Day 3: Good-old-fashioned-fun 

Opening Act: Minor Motion Pictures 

For our last opener, we’ll head to the cinema for Minor Motion Pictures. Creator Jeffery Self will take us back to the Golden Era of Hollywood with his ten-minute masterpieces. The films star the best in showbiz, shot from their own homes with whimsical illustrations standing in place of Hollywood sets. Jeffery Self brings us motion pictures of all genres, so you can have your pick! In the mood for a crime film noir? Check out The Barbara Collins Story. Musical comedy? Laugh your heart out to Silly Girl. Western? Tune into Johnny Couture. You can even carve out half an hour for a triple feature event! 

Headliner: The Pit Improv

Let’s finish this festival with something strong, but also close to our hearts: McGill’s very own Pit Improv. There’s nothing homier than gathering on the couches in the McConnell basement for some high-quality improv. Thankfully, the Pit is bringing us the cozy comedy we need right now with their Zoom improv shows. It’s great to watch comedy from the famous Instagrammers of the world, but sometimes the best talent is in our own backyard. Like The Pit on Facebook for info on their upcoming virtual shows, where you can gather with McGill students to laugh and chat in the comments section. 

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What a fantastic festival! A truly perfect lineup! I hope you laughed your way through––or at least smiled to yourself once or twice. This year has been bleak, and sometimes it feels wrong to laugh when there is suffering all around us. Comedy is a powerful tool to help us cope with the intensity of our world, look at situations in a new light, and escape into the joyousness only laughter can bring. It can be hard, but allowing yourself to smile and laugh is healing. One day we’ll all be able to laugh in the same room, but for now, let’s “lol” in the comments section together.

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