June 17, 2009/Lakeshore Theater
I wasn't very aware of internet comedian Jon Lajoie prior to the 2009 Just for Laughs Chicago Festival. I didn't include him as part of 10 shows to see at the festival, prompting a reader to ask why he had been omitted. Without being familiar with Lajoie, I didn't feel right recommending his show, "Live as Fuck" (though, let's face it; I should have recommended it on the title alone). But the discussion prompted me to want to know more about him, so I decided to kick off the JFL Chicago festival by checking him out. I'm glad I did.
Though not typically a live performer -- having built his celebrity with internet videos and songs -- Lajoie managed to turn "Live as Fuck" into a pretty entertaining experience. It was more of a multi-media show than typical stand-up, but that seems to be the way young comedians are headed; you can't just tell jokes, you've got to combine stand-up with pre-recorded bits and play songs (both Demetri Martin and Bo Burnham came to mind during Lajoie's show). Factor in the costume changes and the whole thing felt a little like a "Weird" Al Yankovic show at times. I mean that in the nicest way possible.
After opening with a few videos and a rap ("Everyday Normal Guy"), Lajoie settled into a more traditional show. He did a few minutes of stand-up (claiming it was the first time he'd ever done it) that was more about deconstructing stand-up than actually writing a routine. It was a clever dodge for the comedian, particularly if he hasn't performed much stand-up. The bulk of "Live as Fuck," however, was devoted to Lajoie's songs performed on an acoustic guitar. He played many of his "hits" from the internet, most of which focused either on sex or drugs: "I Come Too Fast," "High as F--k," "Masturbate" and his closer, "Show Me Your Genitals." The songs were all funny enough, albeit in kind of a juvenile way; my guess is they're better served when accompanied by the music videos that made them popular. I enjoyed Lajoie's between-song banter more -- it was all deadpan-hipster irony, but it never felt like a put-on. I've seen comics try too hard to play "cool," but Lajoie isn't one of them. He came off as a genuinely funny guy, even without the magic of cameras and editing.
Most impressive was the way Lajoie handled the audience, which was loud and rowdy and seemingly already inebriated, even at a 7 p.m. show. The Lakeshore Theater, where the show was held, was clearly packed with fans -- as evidenced by the crowd's desire to turn every song into a sing-along, to which they knew all the words. More than once, audience members were shouting out in the middle of Lajoie's setups and in some cases even ruining punchlines. Lajoie, however, took it all in stride, calling out the audience when it went too far but remaining totally relaxed throughout. If he really isn't a seasoned live performer, it didn't show during the performance.
"Live as Fuck" was a good way to kick off the 2009 Just for Laughs Chicago festival. It introduced me to a new comic, who was trying something new at the same time he was bringing something a little different to the fest. Lajoie's show was confident and moved quickly (perhaps a little too quickly; some fans were refusing to leave at the end), provided several laughs and a lot of entertainment. Thanks, Rob, for prompting me to go.