JFL42 Review: Nick Kroll Sheds His Famous Characters and Reveals Himself Meridian Hall, Toronto, ON, September 20

JFL42 Review: Nick Kroll Sheds His Famous Characters and Reveals Himself Meridian Hall, Toronto, ON, September 20
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"I can't believe he wore blackface," Nick Kroll said suddenly and out of nowhere, prompting a roar from Canadians who are currently being led by a prime minister who seems to have been photographed wearing black and brownface a lot more than the acceptable amount of zero times. It was one of the few instances where Kroll broke from a young, but already well-honed, hour-plus that was mostly all about him.
 
Potentially surprising his fans and followers, the dynamic comedian brought us a very polished and personal standup set that revealed a lot about his true self. Truly beloved for his various sketch and voice characters, Kroll is not as well known for presenting us with his unfiltered perspectives on life and love. It's likely present in both the affection and observational bite with which he infuses his roles, but this was something of an outpouring from a naturally funny guy.
 
From backstage, Kroll warmly introduced opener Emmy Blotnick and she was simply a force of nature. The standup and prolific TV writer has a particular energy — bookish and understated on one hand, outlandish and cleverly crass on the other. Her dive into the absurdist universe of Amazon product reviews, and a story about attempting a feat of strength in an unintentionally revealing jumpsuit, are so well-crafted and memorable, she'll get you googling her for more jokes.
 
When Blotnick in turn brought Kroll out, Toronto welcomed him like the honorary Canadian he kind of is. Employing few voices or accents, Kroll's expansive set covered his life, as the youngest of four children and the only one currently without kids of his own (which didn't stop him from doing spot-on "Uncle Nick" stories about kids' bizarre behaviour, familiar to any parent). We heard about his traumatic breakup with "Kate," who dumped him harshly just before his 33rd birthday, and she became this spectre, shaping his worldview. In some ways, this experience serves as a centrepiece both for his act and maybe even the loneliest parts of his life.
 
At 41, Kroll is trying to make sense of himself, and this set reflected a man coming to terms with who he might be and why. It had all the hallmarks of compelling and humorous storytelling and, rather than highlighting the worst in us via insipid characters, Nick Kroll has written an act about a person we can both relate to and empathize with.