Just for Laughs Preview: The Alternative Show with Mark Forward

The Alt Show is a can’t-miss event every year

What: The Alternative Show with Mark Forward
Where: Comedy Bar, 945 Bloor St. W
When: Thurs. Sept. 21 — Sun. Sept. 24, 11:00 pm
Why you should go: See the best acts of the festival doing more experimental material

EVERY YEAR at Just for Laughs Toronto, the Alt Show is a can’t-miss event.

After a long day of shows, the 11:00 PM start time might feel a bit daunting. But the truly die-hard comedy nerds know why it’s worth staying up for.

The worst-kept secret about the Alt Show is that you never know who might show up. In past years, festival headliners would make surprise appearances, either to try out material that’s more experimental or that plays better in a smaller, more intimate venue.

But if you want to see the big stars who might drop by, you have to earn it. Some acts will deliberately test the audience’s patience – doing the same bit over, and over, and over – running the full gamut from funny, to tedious, to funny because it’s tedious. In 2019, Jon Dore hilariously kept repeating “Yeah, but cats are gross though”, apropos of nothing, throughout his set – and then returned later in the night to do it again.

It’s not for everyone, to be sure. But nothing beats the feeling of knowing the material is meant to amuse the other comics in the back of the room more than the audience, and you’re in on the joke.

Throughout most of the festival’s history in Toronto, the Alt Show has been hosted by the legendary Andy Kindler. This year marks the second time that local favourite and Letterkenny star Mark Forward is taking over MC duties.

“I look at it like it’s a placeholder,” Forward says. “It will always be Andy’s, until I hear otherwise or he is dead.” He quickly adds “Headline: Mark Forward wishes Andy Kindler was dead!

The big names who might stop by are not the only draw, says Forward. “I love seeing the local talent get a shot.” Plus, “I love it, personally, because I can do whatever I want, and it’s different every night.”

Forward is notorious for showing up to the Alt Show in increasingly absurd costumes – in 2019, he came out on stage dressed as the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man. He says “I have a closet like Mr. Dressup at home, and uh… Amazon is a beautiful thing. And, you know, when you have costumes, you don’t have to write as much.”

Forward is perhaps most recognizable as the perpetually exasperated Coach from Letterkenny. Asked if audiences are surprised by the difference between that character and his on-stage persona, Forward says “Yeah, I think there’s a huge difference, and I usually start up the show that way; don’t expect what you’ve seen on television. And it’s great if they come from seeing me on TV to come see me live. I think it’s all good. You know, God… the world is dying. The planet is dying. So, let’s just come out and have a laugh before our faces melt. You don’t have to worry about having grandchildren anymore. Let’s just have a good time.”