Big Norm's Comedy Cookout Soul Food Comedy Festival, Toronto ON, September 17

Big Norm's Comedy Cookout Soul Food Comedy Festival, Toronto ON, September 17
Appropriately part of the Soul Food Comedy Festival, this "comedy cookout" at Comedy Bar was a solid showcase of up-and-coming talent. There was no actual food involved, but like a nutritious meal, this show kept the crowd's energy up and left them satisfied.
Big Norm was an enthusiastic host, but his animated delivery only took him so far. His jokes had strong premises, but he often milked them to the point that they felt drawn-out. Most memorably, his bit where he listed the ways that different cultures eat rice in forms ranging from sushi to biryani got a huge laugh when he said white people eat rice mostly in the form of Rice Krispies, but it was then soured by his similar material about chicken that had a weaker punch line. Worse yet, his introduction of one of the comics was awkward and rude. Having said that, his joke about Jamaican nicknames was amusing, and his material about Bruno Mars was decent, despite heavily relying on crude gestures.
Fortunately, the rest of this show was consistently funnier. With sets centred mostly around the themes of ethnicity and race, Kerby Darius, Che Durena, Keith Pedro, Aisha Brown and Chris Robinson were all so enjoyable that they made up for Big Norm's lackluster performance.
Darius and Durena both got great laughs with their clever takes on facing racial discrimination. Darius's deadpan opening joke about how it would be hard for him to buy a ski mask without the cashier assuming he was going to use it for a robbery was grimly funny, while Durena's bit about how he likes to pretend all racists are just time travellers was equally comical.
On the other hand, Pedro and Brown mostly focused on more lighthearted material from their lives. Despite being both drunk and high, Pedro was hilarious as he accidentally talked about paying for something with Diva (his inebriated combination of debit and visa), then got equally big laughs without any verbal flubs as he recounted how he ended up buying his son's rival enough pizza for his whole class. His almost aggressively confident delivery was unstoppable.
On the other hand, Aisha Brown had more of a sweet, laid-back style. She was endearingly entertaining as she talked about heartbreak, getting a doll that was supposed to look like her as a gift, and visiting her white boyfriend's cottage to "see his culture."
To end the show, Chris Robinson delivered some hilariously disgusting insights about how he copes with being in a sexless marriage, plus he depicted a woman he saw who terrifyingly ranted bible verses when she was pissed off. His clever and committed performance served as a satisfying ending to this comedy cookout, plus it showed that Robinson is clearly more than ready for his headlining set later this week at JFL42.