It’s comic vs. comic and place vs. place in this ‘battle for the laughs’ comedy show
Hosted by Danish Anwar and performed sporadically in cities across the world (this time at Yuk Yuk’s), Your Hood’s a Joke is a “roast battle” where comics attempt to decimate each other’s communities. Each round enlarges the combat area, with this outing’s first round featuring two cities, then two provinces, two countries, and two continents.
The show bills itself as “uncensored,” and warns, “While we pride ourselves on smart comedy that punches up, there will be no restriction on what can or cannot be joked about. Please exercise discretion if you wish to avoid hearing jokes about sensitive subject matter.”
While this is a questionable “out” for bad behaviour, basically indicating “if we say something reprehensible, it’s your fault for being here,” I found that most of the “offensive” material was, in fact, at least gamely trying to punch up. The diversity of comics on the bill also helped mitigate the possibility of the night turning into simply a cringe-worthy edgy bro-fest.
One of the nicest things about the roast format was that it largely prevented my least favourite part of comedy, the audience vs. comic back-and-forth heckling, because the two comics are focused on each other rather than the audience.
This stood out in stark contrast to the beginning of the program, where warm-up comic Jacob Balshin’s entertaining jokes about Bulk Barn and other terrible jobs were sidetracked by his obsession with provoking his desired level of laughter and cheering from the audience. This led to him stopping the flow of his set several times to attempt to direct the audience’s response, and to some uncomfortable exchanges between him and a couple of substance-assisted audience members.
After the warm-up, with the pressure lifted off the audience to perform for the comic, and the comic performing with the mediating factor of their fellow combatant, I was able to relax and enjoy the roasts. Before they started, Anwar delivered a self-assured monologue about his hybrid identity and four passports, roasting each facet of himself. Rock-paper-scissors was used to determine order, with most contestants clearly seeing the value in going second. Audience reaction at the end of each round determined the winner.
The first round, Brampton vs. Mississauga, was the most lopsided; Salma Hindy, repping the ‘Saug, had clearly done her homework and killed it with some well-placed jabs about Patrick Brown and her opponent’s loneliness, while Amish Patel took a more laissez-faire approach and got stuck cycling through a couple of general concepts multiple times before giving up.
British Columbia vs. Saskatchewan was a very even battle, with Jeewan Gill and Braydon Lynch wearing their respective province’s sports jerseys. Gill’s rant on the deep boredom of even the most “exciting” Saskatchewan facts was answered by Lynch’s sass about Vancouver’s out-of-control rents and its “solution” to the homelessness problem. It was a set of familiar topics delivered with panache; Gill’s over-the-top incredulousness at a terribly-built bridge in his foe’s province was a highlight.
Phillipines’ Big Norm bested Italy’s Sebastiano Fazio with his jokes about the country’s colonialism and infractions committed by priests; though Italy returned the volley with fresh jokes about the other country’s flagrant misogyny, a couple of jokes that punched down lost him some audience sympathy.
Finally, Carol Zoccoli’s South America took on Dan Rosen’s North America, and it briefly appeared that things were going to get physical. Instead, we were treated to a near-tie, with gentle but pointed needling about North America having all of South America’s resources contrasting with jabs about the US as being the Regina George of countries.
Overall, I found the roast format to be a successful one. It keeps the combat squarely on stage, and pokes fun at stereotypes and power relationships in a thoughtful and effective way, as long as the participants are curated well. May the best hood win.
- Your Hood’s A Joke plays at Yuk Yuk’s Toronto (224 Richmond St. W)
- The next show is Friday, November 8th at 10:30PM.
- Tickets are $15 and can be purchased online.
Photo of a previous iteration of Your Hood’s a Joke provided by Danish Anwar (centre)