The nine funniest stand-up acts in Toronto right now

The nine funniest stand-up acts in Toronto right now

The Superstar
DeAnne Smith

Smith is used to talking to strangers—after college, she spent time as part of an outreach program on the streets of Baltimore, handing out clean needles and condoms. In the aughts, the New York–born comic transferred that fearlessness to the comedy club, where she flirted with audience members and gave them lap dances as part of her set. Her act really blew up on her 2008 tour of Australia: her jokes energetically lampooned hipsterdom, lesbianism and her own early-Bieber-esque ’do. Since then, she’s performed on Last Comic Standing and the Late Late Show, collaborated with Morgan Spurlock and settled down in Toronto, where she’s a JFL42 regular.
For fans of: Ellen DeGeneres, Cameron Esposito

The Veteran
Mark Forward

Retiring was the best thing to happen to Forward: a year after vowing to quit stand-up in 2010, the comic was cast as a psychotic librarian on CBC’s Mr. D and invited to perform on Craig Ferguson’s show. He went on to play the irate coach on hoser sitcom Letterkenny for three seasons and to host his popular, recently wrapped eponymous podcast. This month, he’s slated to perform at JFL42—expect grim jokes with a perfect, deadpan delivery.
For fans of: Louis CK, Zach Galifianakis

The Instigator
Aisha Alfa

On Degrassi, Alfa plays the composed, put-together Ms. Grell. Onstage, she is just the opposite: frantic and fierce, ripping into MCs for botching the pronunciation of her name, breaking down the complexities of growing up in a mixed-race family and detailing her miserable dating life as a very sweaty woman. Her lewd jokes have landed her gigs with and Air Farce.
For fans of: Chris Rock, Ali Wong

The Raunch Queen
Steph Tolev

The East York–raised jokester teases comedy out of confrontation: she’s gritty and combative onstage and just as ferocious off (she nearly started a bar fight after her first open mike). She’s one-half of the raunchy sketch duo Ladystache, and, last year, she won the Canadian Comedy Award for best female stand-up comic with her unapologetic stories about awkward sex, serving wings and single life. This year, she’s trying her luck in L.A.
For fans of: Amy Schumer, Chelsea Peretti

Get Some. Photograph courtesy Get Some
The Supergroup
Get Some

Often called the Broken Social Scene of Canadian comedy, Get Some is a mishmash of nearly a dozen zany personalities pulled from the country’s worthiest troupes: Picnicface, Tony Ho, Second City, Sketchersons and the cast of 22 Minutes. Their delightfully absurd sketches pit Charlie Chaplin against his clone, pick on the rapper Pitbull and consider the after-effects of being bitten by a werebaby.
For fans of: Monty Python, Peter n’ Chris

The Pioneers
The Sketchersons

This shape-shifting troupe stages Sunday Night Live, a weekly variety show as outrageously hilarious as its N.Y.C. namesake—albeit with a Canuck twist (sample sketch: “Stephen Harper’s Day Off”). Alumni like Nikki Payne have graduated from the Comedy Bar staple to Second City revues and the screen, and 12 years of hosts include Tatiana Maslany, former mayor David Miller and almost every comic on this page.
For fans of: Saturday Night Live, SCTV

The Hustler
Dave Merheje

Growing up in Windsor, Merheje performed living-room sketches with his sister and cousin; by the time he was 14, he knew he was destined for comedy. He found his voice a decade later while visiting L.A., where he was mugged at gunpoint. The traumatic experience inspired him to ditch convention and perform his act as an exhilarating, fast-paced rant about what he knew best—street life, his Lebanese family and club culture.
For fans of: Maz Jobrani, Richard Pryor

The Double Whammy
The Templeton Philharmonic

Briana Templeton and Gwynne Phillips performed in a few plays together while studying drama at U of T before teaming up for a Fringe Fest show in 2011. Since then, they’ve inhabited dozens of goofy characters—snooty high-society women, ditzy southern belles, salad-obsessed health nuts—in online shorts for Funny or Die and CBC Comedy, and onstage at Chris Hadfield’s Generator variety show.
For fans of: Second City, Catherine O’Hara

The Sharp-Tongued Stand-Up
Rebecca Kohler

Kohler has skewered musicians on Video on Trial, written for a trio of CBC shows (22 Minutes, Ron James and The Debaters) and made festival audiences squirm in their seats since 2000. Her comedy is a stylish and sly mix of what might, in another comic register, be merely crass and graphic; her jokes are set inside abortion clinics and sex shops, and her punchlines prey on bigots and oblivious audience members.
For fans of: Sarah Silverman, Janeane Garofalo