Review: Comedy Brawl 2013 Round One (Empire Comedy Live)

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Some good laughs are waiting for Toronto at Empire Comedy Live’s Comedy Brawl 2013

I am wary of stand-up comedy, and I rarely seek it out, but I am very glad I caught some of Empire Comedy Live’s Comedy Brawl 2013, held at their new venue—Johnny Jackson.  The venue is intimate and, much to my relief, above ground!  I’m used to those dank and subterranean places where one usually sees stand-up. 

The menu at Johnny Jackson is standard pub fare and the service is friendly and efficient.  The air conditioner took a while to work its magic.  You may find yourself feeling a little moist.  Personally, I enjoy being in the midst of sweaty, beer-swilling hilarity.  But seriously, it does get quite warm. 

The format of the Comedy Brawl is this:  There are 8 performers, a host and a final headliner.  After all 8 performers have done about 6 minutes on the stage, there is a voting process. You choose your top 3, hand in your ballot, votes are counted, and it is revealed which 3 will move on to the next round.  

The evening (with host Jordan Sowunmi and comics Ben Beauchemin, Bernard Higgins, Dave Code, Mary Valencia, Amanda Day, Ethan O’Reilly, Jack Burton, and Jess Beaulieu) featured a decent mix of male and female comics, and some diverse styles.  There was some manic energy, some politeness and restraint, some slick showmanship, and some good-natured depravity!  Most of the material was confessional—a lot of self-deprecating humour and personal neuroses.        

ComedyBrawl-AmandaDay 2My favourite performer of the night was Amanda Day.  She was by far the most sexually explicit.  Her material would have been crass if not for her exceptionally charming delivery.  There is alchemy at work in her comedy that turns the potential trashiness of the content into something oddly insightful and endearing.

The headliner that evening was the very charming Andrew Ivimey—whose material was more observational than confessional, his content the most culturally insightful.  I do not mention that to make it sound superior in any way; I only wish to illustrate how his material suitably contrasted the other performers.

The stage was illuminated from the side by a single spotlight.  This was somewhat distracting.  I find that stand-up works best with bright and even lighting, so that we can clearly make out a performer’s whole face. The uneven lighting made faces a little hard to see.  This can be alienating, but your eyes will eventually adjust. 

The content and energy of the evening is up to chance.  But at only $5, a night out at Comedy Brawl is a chance worth taking.  I had a lovely evening.


  • Toronto Comedy Brawl 2013 Round One is playing at Johnny Jackson (587 College Street) until Jul 24
  • Shows run Mon to Thu at 8pm
  • Tickets are $5, available at the door
  • For more information, visit the Comedy Brawl 2013 page on the Empire Comedy Live website.

Photos of Jess Beaulieu and Amanda Day courtesy of Empire Comedy Live