Published Sep 23, 2018As two seasoned comedians with vastly different performance styles, Tim Dillon and Janelle James made an interesting pair to co-headline an hour at Comedy Bar. James' charming neuroticisms pulled the audience in, while Dillon's anger pushed them away. In tandem, they made the evening an emotional rollercoaster ride.
James was the star of the evening, in my book. Pacing back and forth on stage, she told tales of learning to sleep with one foot out of the covers despite fear of monsters, the difficulty of dating a younger man in the age of "sexting," her attempts to figure out if her adolescent son is gay, and the judgment she receives from other mothers who ask her how she can handle leaving her children when she goes on tour. ("It's easy. Like this: 'Peace!'" she said, holding up two fingers.)
James has had a slew of interesting experiences from which to draw in her set, and while none of her jokes were wholly original, she carried an endearing, friendly demeanour that made her enjoyable to watch.
Taking her place on stage, Dillon make it clear from the get-go that he is done putting up with bad audiences. Despite describing the room as having the energy of a #MeToo convention, he seemed to rely upon his viewers a lot throughout his 30 minutes. After taking a seat on stage, he opened by asking the audience what they wanted to talk about, before quickly rejecting the one idea offered (Israel/Palestine).
He went on to ask those in the front row what they did for a living, only to hit them back with: "It doesn't fucking matter." Asking a JFL staff photographer to take his photo more quietly and demanding that an audience member stop coughing, Dillon proved himself to be comfortable with crowdwork and negging — but it seemed to constitute 80 percent of his set and left me wondering whether any of his bits had been written in advance. While undoubtedly bold, edgy and self-aware of his own negativity, Dillon relied too heavily on meanness in his set, and it missed the mark for me.