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Top 10 Comics To Check Out At JFL42, Toronto's Comedy Festival
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Top 10 Comics To Check Out At JFL42, Toronto's Comedy Festival

Picture of Sasha Erfanian and Connor Titmarsh
Updated: 27 September 2016
On September 24th, JFL42, Toronto‘s comedy festival, is bringing 42 of the world’s funniest acts to town for ten days of humor and mayhem across the city. From talk show hosts to movie stars to internet celebrities, chances are there’s a performer who can tickle your funny bone. With dozens of shows packed into just ten days, here are our ten picks for some of the festival’s top comics.

TJ Miller

With a mane of ruddy red hair, TJ Miller is a lion of slacker comedy. Currently starring in HBO’s Silicon Valley as pothead and blowhard ‘business man,’ Erlich Bachman, Miller has also had turns in a number of films including Transformers: Age of Extinction and Mike Judge’s Extract. Next year, Miller will be starring in Marvel’s Deadpool as ‘The Merc With a Mouth’s’ partner, Weasel. But that’s not Miller’s only alter-ego. He also plays a murderous, alien talk show host in his web series, The Gorburger Show, in which the titular fuzzy, blue monster interviews musicians and satiates his bloodlust upon his hapless Japanese crew. Gorburger might soon be making the jump from YouTube to boob tube thanks to a pilot order from HBO. Miller will be performing on September 27th at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre and doing a live taping of his podcast at the Royal Theatre at midnight.

Pete Holmes

In addition to Nerdist head-honcho Chris Hardwick, Toronto will also play host to Pete Holmes of You Made It Weird fame for JFL42. As intimate as it is funny, his podcast brings in a variety of comics and entertainers for discussions about their craft, work ethic, and existential angst. Holmes also has plenty of nerd cred thanks to his turn as the bumbling crusader himself on CollegeHumor’s parody of Nolan’s Batman films. His defunct talk show, The Pete Holmes Show, also produced skit series like ‘Ex-Men‘ and ‘Street Fighter Red Tape’ where fantastical characters matched wits with bureaucracy. While the talk show ended last year, the cancellation provided him an opportunity to develop a pilot for HBO alongside the great Judd Apatow. He will be performing on the first and second of October at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Iliza Schlesinger

Crowned the first female Last Comic Standing in 2008, Iliza Schlesinger has been on a roll as of late with two Netflix distributed comedy specials War Paint and Freezing Hot, released in 2013 and 2015 respectively. Her favorite battlefield is the war of the sexes with many of her bits poking fun at the way women are when men aren’t around and vice-versa. Schlesinger will get a chance to gather more grist for the war effort now that she’s been chosen to host TBS’s new relationship-based game show, Separation Anxiety. She’ll be going onstage for one show at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre on September 25th.

Patton Oswalt

One of the festival’s eight headliners, Patton Oswalt is a well-known face on both TV screens and silver ones with recurring roles on The King of Queens and The United States of Tara as well as providing the voice of Remy the Rat in Pixar’s Ratatouille. While known for his brilliant takedowns of popular culture, particularly Star Wars, Oswalt’s stand-up also delves into more personal issues like his struggle with depression and his atheism. After the show, new fans should check out his memoir, Silver Screen Fiend. Published this past January, the book details Oswalt’s four year ‘movie addiction’ in which he aggressively devoured classic movies at the New Beverley while striving to break into stand-up comedy. He’ll be performing at the Sony Centre on October 2nd.

Dr. Katz Live

Running for four years in the late nineties, Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist was a critically lauded animated series on Comedy Central. The show followed a neurotic psychoanalyst (comedian Jonathan Katz) as he endured the ramblings of his patients, who were often stand-up comics reciting their material, and reacted. This year being the show’s 20th anniversary, Dr. Katz has made a comeback with a series of live performances where Katz interviews comics like Emo Philips and Margaret Cho. For JFL42, Seán Cullen, Doug Benson, Andy Kindler, and Scott Thompson from Kids in the Hall will all be taking a seat on Dr. Katz’s couch on October 3rd at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Trever Noah

Jon Stewart’s departure from The Daily Show left a gaping space in everyone’s late-night television lineup and Trevor Noah is the guy slated to take over The Daily Show on September 28th. This makes his September 26th show for JFL42 at the Sony Centre his last before taking over the desk. Born in Johannesburg, Noah has had his hand in numerous comedic endeavors, radio shows, podcasts, stand up — he has done it all. His observational comedy draws inspiration from his upbringing often touching on race and ethnicity. Don’t miss the chance to see Trevor before he starts on The Daily Show.

Doug Benson

Doug Benson, a veteran of the JFL scene, is bringing his podcast Doug Loves Movies to JFL42 this year. Often recognized for his role in the documentary Super High Me or his popular podcast Getting Doug with High, Doug’s comedy has always been the sort to get people talking. If you are into long conversations, the sort you may have had with friends later into the evening after getting ‘friends with high,’ Doug is right up your alley. He has been releasing a comedy album each year for some time now, so there is plenty of material to check out before putting a token down for his show on October 3rd at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Jake and Amir

Over the past eight years, you could have found Jake Hurwitz and Amir Blumenfeld starring in the aptly titled CollegeHumor series Jake and Amir. Before and since things wrapped up there a few months back, they have been hosting a weekly podcast called If I Were You, the only advice podcast on the internet hosted by them. The often ridiculous questions are met with equally ridiculous answers as these two deal with troubles ranging from how to sleep with your best friend’s girl without him noticing or whether or not you should tell your mom that you accidentally killed your family cat by bringing it on the trampoline as you jumped around. This time around they are doing a live podcast October 1st at the Royal Theatre and also have a second stand up show scheduled for October 2nd at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre.

Kate Berlant

Kate Berlant is a hard comic to pin down. Describing her with a simple sentence or short paragraph would be doing her work an injustice, but I’ll do it anyway or at least try to. Kate’s surreal avant-garde stand-up has earned her popular spots on comedy festivals throughout North America. She has been recognized as a comic to watch on a variety of top lists and continues to be one of the most engaging and interesting comics in the loop, slowly gaining popularity as her unique style reaches larger and larger audiences. If you’re looking for something a little different or want to take a chance on someone you otherwise wouldn’t decide to see, let Kate Berlant be that comic. You won’t leave the theatre disappointed. She has shows on October 2nd at the Rivoli and the 3rd at Comedy Bar.

Rhys Darby

You might immediately recognize Rhys Darby for his role as Murray the bumbling manager of a two-piece band in the offbeat musical comedy Flight of the Conchords. More recently, Rhys wrote and starred in the Netflix series Short Poppies. He brings the same charming accent and observational comedy to the stage, and he will do it many times this festival with a whopping five shows throughout this JFL42 festival, all of them at the Royal Theatre. His three stand-up specials have showcased his unique outlook on the world, and with this many opportunities to catch him during the festival, there is no reason not to see at least one, if not two, of these surefire shows.