William Shatner Gala

Note: This review is from 2007

Review by Steve Bennett

Just For Laughs love their big marquee names: stars who can shift tickets but, come showtime, tend to sleepwalk their way through ill-conceived and clunkily written big-budget sketches.

William Shatner, one of Montreal’s favourite sons, is no exception. But since his whole career seems to be based on the fact he’s supposed to be a ham, at least the awkwardness is part of the joke. His opening skit was all about his hometown, so attracted laughs of recognition no matter how good the gags; and a Harry Potter sketch seemed to have been created simply because it coincided with the publication of the final book, not because the writers could actually come up with anything funny to say on the topic.

Only the finale, in which Shanter sang songs in the bad, narrative way for which he is loved by irony fans, proved entertaining, even if the contrived structure – a parody of the Live Earth concerts – did its best to stifle the fun. Still, at least there wasn’t a Star Trek parody.

Occasionally Shatner stumbled quite noticeably. He said the same joke in the Potter sketch twice, frequently forgot to call acts back on for their obligatory acknowledgment to the crowd, and managed to pronounce Ardal O’Hanlon’s first name Ardelle. Still, we love the bumbling fool…

Despite the dodgy introduction, O’Hanlon was one of the few acts to do decently, thanks to his warm routine based around Ireland and his family life. The material’s slightly silly, but delivered with an unknowing deadpan, which endeared the Father Ted star to the Montreal crowd.

There weren’t many highlights in the show: Harland Williams and Andrew Grose were slick but generally unexciting (despite Williams’ nice rhino joke); Jay Oakerson offered potential to be distinctive, but quickly went into predictable material about smoking dope and being overweight; and Jessica Kirson was loud and over-aggressive. She has a certain flair for accents and characterisations – her baby impression is spot-on – but her set seemed to be a lot of noise about nothing.

British physical comedy outfit Spymonkey, whose shows are usually a delight, struggled, too. For their short set, they came on as Hassidic Jews and performed a very old-school slapstick routine, all head-slaps and theatrical kicks up the backside, before launching into a Europop dance number. But even it all seemed too old-fashioned and, well, orthodox.

Reginald D Hunter went down reasonably well, even though his early use of the word ‘nigger’ seemed to disconcert the conservative audience. But for the rest of his set, he avoided his more controversial material, while keeping something of an edge with references to slavery – all in his distinctively calm, measured style, that stood out from most of the festival’s eager-to-please line-up.

But it was Shatner everyone had come to see, and for all the stodgy sketches, they got exactly what they wanted.

Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Montreal, July 23, 2007

Review date: 1 Jan 2007
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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