Homegrown Comic Competition, a Comedy Network presentation at the Just For Laughs Montreal International Comedy Festival, is basically American Idol without the annoying commentary from the judges and, bonus, nobody sings. Comedy scouts go across Canada looking for the next great Canadian stand-up comic and their best finds compete on stage for the privilege of being a winner and having a special presence at JFL as well as their own showcase on Comedy Network
The host was Canadian stand-up comic Jon Dore of Canadian Idol fame. This was a particularly challenging assignment as his being able to get the crowd energized before and between sets was crucial to providing these young and probably extremely nervous stand-up comics with the best possible audience. He also had to make sure he did not quite kill enough to take the limelight away from the comics in competition and keep the audience entertained as the results were tabulated. Jon Dore was masterful at this task.
The stand-up comedians in competition in Homegrown Comic were Todd Allen, Steven Crowder, Mark Forward, Jeff McEnery, Jeffrey Yu, Greg Cochrane, Steve Ditata, Andrew Iwanyk, and Rodney Ramsey. Most comics had a good set and three or four had a solid set.
Greg Cochrane, second up, started off extremely strong but then made the mistake of trying to showcase every comedy style he can do instead of simply doing a set. I really think this killed his chances as the judges, all talent scout and producers from the comedy industry were probably looking for a set and not a series of disjointed bits and pieces. I had Steve Ditata as the winner as I really enjoyed his style, look, and Winnie The Pooh and Christopher Walken bit. My second pick was Montreal comic Rodney Ramsey while my third pick, tied with Todd Allen, Andrew Iwanyck, came in second by only a single point.
The winner of the Homegrown Comic Competition at Just For Laughs was Mark Forward. I did not have him in my top three but my guest, not a comedy junkie such as myself, had him as the winner. She rightly pointed out Mark Forward had the most self-assured, polished set and that he looked and sounded as if he was a veteran more than a young stand-up comic looking for his big break.
Particularly original was runner-up Andrew Iwanyk who did a few jokes in Mandarin with a very funny way of translating his jokes. This was a set where timing and set-up were crucial and Iwanyk showed he had that down in spades.
A bit of free advice to Jeff McEnery would be not to let them see you sweat. A nanosecond after finishing his set McEnery clearly looked totally bummed out by his performance. This killed any chance he had of anything at all. If you tell the audience you were not very good the audience, and the judges, will believe you. Next time, put a smile on your face and walk off as if you think you killed.
The Homegrown Comic Competition is good ticket that allows stand-up comedy fans to discover their next personal favorite.