Published Jul 27, 2017Alonzo Bodden, one-time Last Comic Standing winner and 20-year vet of the Just For Laughs festival, opened the show with a lot of great, Montreal-specific jokes. It wasn't just a "oh, I spent ten minutes googling some local references to slip into jokes" approach, his time attending the festival for years has imbued him with a real affection for the city. He riffed on winters, Montreal's famously beautiful women (and also strip clubs), and the enjoyment he draws from the diversity of black folks in the city. It was a solid opening set until he introduced W. Kamau Bell as the host of CNN's 50 Shades of America.
As it turns out, Bodden wasn't totally at fault in messing up the headliner's show — Kamau himself incepted it into Bodden's brain by pointing out, before the show, that sometimes people mistake United Shades of America with some light bondage (or the number of states). Bodden shooed Kamau away in order to attempt his intro again.
Kamau Bell seemed to be a little off his game to start as well, thrown off by a set earlier in the evening at one of the festival's comedy gala's that apparently didn't go well. He mentioned it several times over the course of his set, but a packed house receptive to his political ideas was quickly won over. Trump was of course top of mind for Bell — as he is for many comics these days — and his political jabs came sharp and often.
But Bell also spent a fair amount of time on family issues as well, with his wife in the audience. He discussed the challenges of raising two little girls, how he's helping them navigate the challenges they face. Bell's style is loose and casual, and as he warmed to the audience, he became more open, noting at several points that he was saying things at times that he'd think but not usually express to an audience.
That comfort level made for a set that didn't feature Bell at his sharpest, politically, but at his most engaging personally.