Harmontown Queen Elizabeth Theatre, Toronto ON, September 27
Published Sep 28, 2016This particular trip to Harmontown was led by a goofy GPS. The live, improvised, freeform discussion and skit podcast helmed by Dan Harmon (Community, Rick and Morty) careened around the theatre for two hours, with Harmon and his crew basking in the adoring glow of their loyal audience and occasionally hitting comedy pay dirt.
Improv master Jeff B. Davis is Harmon's wickedly sharp co-host and his job, it would seem, is to magically cut through a lot of unfocused conversational clutter — Harmon tended to sputter into premises, trying to articulate them for a while — and find joke diamonds where anyone else would've hit coal. How many times did Davis do this? Every time. Whether it was physical humour, breaking tunefully into satiric song or conjuring precise accents, Davis captains this ship, no question. Harmontown games master Spencer Crittenden also took a seat on stage, but mostly just observed the proceedings, only occasionally flicking out a tentative joke jab.
Crittenden did open up the proceedings by describing an odd Uber experience while visiting Toronto, which elicited a prolonged bit about Toronto attitude and previously unobserved stereotypes about the city. It kick-started a rambling, meandering trip through various topics until Harmon introduced Kumail Nanjiani and Emily V. Gordon on stage to drive up the comedy quotient significantly.
The couple were very sharp, finding punch lines out of thin air. Nanjiani even finished a joke about masturbation that he felt compelled to clean up in his own set earlier in the evening, when he realized his cousin was actually in the audience.
Harmontown brought up audience members for fodder, including Jeff, a guy who carried enough antacid on his person to kindly share some of his jar with Harmon. There was Onya, a local Irish/Canadian comedian who co-runs a successful Instagram account celebrating veganism, who was ostensibly brought up on stage to clarify the news story about the recent and tragic death of Inuit artist Annie Pootoogook, which Harmon just mangled beyond comprehension. Even the friendly crowd recoiled when he tried to mine jokes by pretending to be a brute who couldn't negotiate her "funny name."
It was symptomatic of an uneven night that was designed to celebrate the spirit of the moment. There were huge laughs, sure (the callback heavy Onya biopic was incredible), but, when even Harmon began checking his watch about 90 minutes in, it became clear that our time wasn't totally well spent.