I like to think that I know what is going on on Toronto’s stages, but I must admit that there are times when I am just plain out of the loop (this seems to be happening more and more often… an effect of age?).

So I was really surprised that I missed the fact that Danny Bhoy- a Scottish comedian that I look up on YouTube any time I need to laugh so hard it hurts- was doing his show Wanderlust at Massey Hall in Toronto on Friday.

So what happened was: I flaked out on my plans and bought a ticket. I did have to ask myself “What would I do if I wasn’t in Toronto?” and the answer was: I’d actually be taking advantage of the place I was in.

If I were travelling and Danny Bhoy happened to be doing a show in, say, Glasgow or Reykjavik or Ballarat, or wherever I was, I’d spend £30 on a ticket without thinking about it.  I mean, look at him in that Amnesty International T-shirt.

photo from dannybhoy.com

Why was I hesitating? I plugged my nose and swallowed the $14 of fees (fees for what, Just for Laughs, fees for what?) and booked my seat in the last row of the top balcony.

I had a lovely view of a speaker, a pillar, and the top of his head when he was stage left.  But I laughed until it hurt for 90 minutes straight.

A seat with a view

Despite having to rely mostly on my ears to follow his show, I almost fell off my seat a couple of times because I was laughing so hard (maybe his hilarity combined with a bit of vertigo will do that).

It must be tough to be a comedian in the age of social media- I mean, you get to reach a huge following (example: a Scottish comedian selling out Massey Hall), but it must also mean you’d have to come up with a heck of a lot more material a lot faster than you would have had to have done even just 10 years ago.

But though I recognised some set ups and gags (as I said, I watch clips of his shows on YouTube any time I need to laugh), that didn’t matter- still I laughed.  Maybe people who don’t realise he’s not actually coming up with everything he’s saying on the spot (he’s very spontaneous in his story-telling) would be disappointed.  But they can suck it.  This show was so finely crafted and beautifully delivered that I might as well stop trying to write.

And to top it all off, Danny Bhoy seems to have the same itchy feet as me- he’s suffered from wanderlust since he was a kid, he said (hence the name of his show). And that makes me feel like we can relate, which makes me feel special, just like everyone else. His comedy plays a lot on what he’s observed throughout his travels (he tours a heck of a lot in Australia and Canada, both “stupidly big” countries) and I think you’ll agree that his accent work is spot on:

It was a brilliant show and I laughed the entire time.  From my seat in the high heavens, I could see right into the wings, and right over the audience.  Massey Hall is massive.  Its stairwells are overheated and its balcony seats are just as comfortable as very small uncomfortable pews.

The history is palpable in that place. And I’m not only talking about waves of nostalgia coming over me as I remembered one of my first real concerts, surrounded by my big brother and his cool friends, sitting in the balcony peering down at the righteous babe herself, Ani Difranco circa 1998.

Massey Hall is a very cool old building, a rarity in Toronto- a city that seems to arrogantly knock down our ever-diminishing architectural history to build condos and malls (but mostly condos).  The Hall with red doors was given to the city by the Massey family (who owned everything, and I mean everything in Toronto at the turn of last century) in 1894.  In 1975 it was designated a heritage property.  Hopefully it will stay standing for a long while and welcome more shows and concerts that I will splurge to see.

photo of Massey Hall by Ian Muttoo