Published Jul 25, 2019New Faces is one of the most popular showcases at the Just For Laughs comedy festival every year, and for good reason — the artists are green, excited to be there and doing material that's not yet become worn out. This year's showcase, hosted by Crashing's Pete Holmes, proved no different.
While every performer in the showcase — Dan Licata, Dewayne Perkins, Isabel Hagen, Kevin Iso, Logan Guntzelman, Matty Ryan, Punkie Johnson, Shane Gillis, Shapel Lacey and Tyree Elaine — kept the audience in stitches, a few stood out from the pack.
Isabel Hagen's self-proclaimed "very active resting sad face" will sit with you. The comedian performed a sardonic few minutes about the pains of breaking up and the difficulties of navigating conversations about where she went to school (um, Julliard? Ever heard of it?). In one of her best bits, she makes a compelling case against kill shelters ("It's unnecessary — when you evict your tenant, you don't kill them!") Hagen is down-to-earth, endearing, and laugh out loud funny.
New York-based Kevin Iso exudes a casual, effortless demeanoir on stage that immediately put the audience at ease. He threw out hilarious one-liners about the U.S. education system and what math word problems should really be about (Instagram, not trains). The most notable segment of his set, however, were his spot-on impressions of substitute teachers struggling through students' last names: first, a white teacher working through his own last name, and of an African substitute teacher struggling through "Hopkins."
Window air-conditioning units are just accidents waiting to happen — at least that's what Chicago-based comedian Matty Ryan believes. The witty performer combines observational comedy with animated impressions for a highly watchable set. His impression of a German kidnapper describing the contents of a lunchable to an American child was notably good.
Shapel Lacey has had a strange life. Growing up black in a predominantly white part of Arizona, he laments not having any black friends or consuming any black culture as a child. So when he finally moved to L.A., where he's currently based, and ran into the lead singer of the Counting Crows with his first black friend, he was in trouble. Lacey has a slew of oddball stories and spot-on impressions to match, and is a uniquely funny watch.
Los Angeles comic Punkie Johnson's 20-year marriage is based more on a bare minimum of tolerance than on love. Over the course of just a few minutes, the audience got an earful of her insights into married life — it's a subject that's commonly used for stage material that can feel overdone, but Johnson's insights were fresh and delivered with unforgettably high energy. Why do social codes say one woman in a lesbian marriage is the "man," and why does it have to be her, despite her beautiful knees and chronologically descending toes? And why, oh why, does she have a bubble in her pussy?