Review: Dreaming of Rob Ford (East End Performance Crawl)

Dreaming of Rob Ford, about the follies of Toronto’s mayor, kicks off the East End Performance Crawl

Crows Theatre’s East End Performance Crawl opened last night with the world premier of  Dreaming of Rob Ford, a monologue created and performed by Mike Daisey.

Daisey is a monologist. He’s famous – or infamous – for The Agony and the Ecstasy of Steve Jobs which led to a scandal that he referred to a couple of times last night.

Local media has had quite a few articles that talk about the scandal but you don’t need to know about it to understand and enjoy Dreaming of Rob Ford. He opened his piece with a definition of schadenfreude that included an explanation of long German words and how they come to exist that was brilliant. Why schadenfreude? Because it’s not the Canadian way. He sees Canadians as reasonable people, emotionally low key and polite. Schadenfreude is new for us.

Dreaming of Rob Ford is only tangentially about Rob Ford. Most of the the show is tangential. Daisey says something that triggers something else and he’s off down that path, riffing on something that caught his attention and then on to something else.

The first half of the show is fast and very funny. Daisey’s humour has a sharp edge that I like. His use of language is impressive. He chooses exactly the right word every time and uses language in a way that we don’t often hear anymore. He made me think of a smart and articulate professor doing a brilliant stand-up piece while sitting at a desk. He said that he isn’t being paid enough to stand up.

I tried to take notes but gave up early in the evening. Daisey’s brain works too fast for my hand. There were a couple of things that I did manage to note. In response to Ford’s lying, he said “He’s an addict. Of course he lied. Addicts lie.” He then said that it’s in the User Manual of Addiction – addicts lie. I love the idea of a User Manual of Addiction.

The second half of the show is a bit slower, a bit darker, still funny but not ‘pee your pants’ funny. Just as well. Two hours of hysterical laughter would be too much. Daisey talks about being asked to come to Toronto to perform in the festival. He says, almost as a throw away line, that it came when he was seriously considering killing himself. He offered to do a show about Rob Ford without knowing much about him, so he read everything he could find about Ford and decided that the way to really understand him was to come to Toronto and smoke crack.

He described driving around with someone from the festival in search of a crack house, and was told “don’t say crack house!” So he refers to it as a house where crack is smoked. He describes the abused Ikea sofa, the drugs served from an Altoids tin, waking up in the morning and not knowing where he was.

Is it true? Did Daisey really smoke crack in Toronto? I don’t know. I don’t think it matters. Whether this was real life or an imagined experience it gave him a context for Rob Ford. I’m a big fan of monologues and Daisey is a master of the genre. It felt as if he was improvising on stage, as if this was all off the cuff, performed without a script. That’s terrific acting.

There are only two more performances of Dreaming of Rob Ford so clear your calendar, buy your tickets, and go see a master at work. Daisey has said that he will only perform the piece in Toronto so act fast.


  • Dreaming of Rob Ford is playing at the Big Picture Cinema (1035 Gerrard St E.) until May 23rd.
  • Performances are at 8 pm
  • Tickets are $40.00
  • Tickets are available online and at the door.

Photo of Mike Daisey courtesy of the company