Some of the most fun we have at Alma Mater is when Laughing Mater rolls around. The monthly comedy night has brought some of the funniest comics from around the country to our neck of the woods, and this month presents an embarrassment of riches. That's right, this weekend we'll be having not one, but two nights of Laughing Mater, so your Saturday and Sunday comedy plans are basically settled.
First up, on Saturday night, we have the hilarious Steph Tolev as headliner. Tolev, originally from Toronto, moved to LA just four years ago, and has been tearing up the scene ever since.
“Coming to LA, and knowing no one, I really had no choice but to go do shows every single night and say, you know, 'Here's my comedy!',” says Tolev. “I think that helped. And here, I'm more in the alt scene, whereas in Canada I always thought I was a club comic. Now, I guess I'm more of an 'indie' comic, but I would've never considered myself that.”
As a stand-up, Tolev is brash and unabashedly honest, drawing from her life for comedy that's wild and strangely relatable. Tolev's a torrent of energy, owning the stage as she talks about things like sex, body images, the insanity of dating, and the pros and cons of eating a slice of pizza that you dropped on the ground. All of this personal and sometimes graphic material is peppered with a good amount of silliness, but Tolev says that some audiences still have an odd way of reacting.
“I feel like LA's way too sensitive for their own good,” says Tolev. “I don't know what it is, but I get more 'oohs' and gasps than I've gotten anywhere in my life. I make fun of myself, and people start feeling bad for me. Like, no, I think this is funny, and I'm going to talk about what's funny to me. Yes, I can be quite crass, but at the end of the day I'm not saying anything that people haven't heard before. I mean, I hope I'm not teaching people about their genitals, because that would be upsetting.”
Still, Tolev says, she can't stand the thought of being anybody but herself on stage.
“I feel like right now we're in a transition, where people can see through someone not being genuine, and they don't like it,” says Tolev. “For me, I want to be real, because I find it more interesting and it's not hack if you're telling something from your own life. … It took me a while to get that vulnerable on stage; I think it was around the six-year mark that I was getting a bit of a hint of myself, and it just felt better. I always get a much better reaction when I tell a story just the way it happened, instead of fabricating it or add a weird ending to it.”
The next night, on Sunday, sees Jamali Maddix taking the stage as headliner. Hailing from the UK, and being half-Jamaican with a bushy beard, Maddix has experienced his fair share of racism from morons who mistake him for a Muslim terrorist. Maddix explores race relations in a way that's both incisive and has a light touch, nimbly exploring hot button issues without ever selling out the message that's getting across.
It's this humor and fearlessness that made him the ideal candidate to host Hate Thy Neighbor, a Viceland documentary series that examines extremist groups. To speak with people who belong to – among other classifications – recognized hate groups, and to sometimes be confronted by them, takes a hell of a lot of nerve and conviction. To then make it all entertaining and insightful is a sign of what makes Maddix such a great comedian.
Steph Tolev and Jamali Maddix will be joined by some of the great roster of Laughing Mater regulars. If you've never made it down to Laughing Mater, you've got two fantastic nights to get acquainted with the best comedy show in Tacoma.