Don't get excited, I'm not about to rip on half the New Faces... I haven't seen them yet. I get my Group 1 showing on Friday. But it's like the Gods of JFL wanted to welcome me to town, so my first show was Group 2, featuring a ton of my pals and faves - Hasan Minaj, Michelle Wolf, Ryan O'Flanagan, Monroe Martin, Jake Weisman and Justine Marino.. and hosted by Pete Holmes. Pete did an amazing job setting up the room - a notoriously stiff audience - so everyone had a solid or above average set. (Again, sorry, no gleeful schadenfreude here) But I will give a shout out to the folks who really knocked it out of the park.
Michelle Wolf - Holy mother, did she kill. Michelle is just a great all-around comedian. Her jokes are mainly standard setup-punch/misdirect but her unique voice is so strong in every single one of them. The perfect mix of familiar comfort and delightful novelty. And I'll grudgingly bring up gender just to point out that Michelle is what I see the next wave of female comedians being, namely not "female" just "comedians." Of course her material comes from her unique viewpoint, which happens to be filtered through the experience of walking around the world as one of us girls, but that's it. There's no pandering, no trying hard to be "not girly", there's just telling the funniest jokes she's got.
Jesse Elias - The feeling in the room during the first bit of this Bay Area comedian's set was, "Is this a gimmick?" With his bushy hairdo hiding his lowered face and a sort of nervous kid affect, you could feel everyone being not quite sure what to do with this. Then he addressed it with a joke about how his father always told him he needed to make eye contact and it was off to the races. He just built strong momentum throughout, as he tackled totally silly topics with a completely "I never thought of it that way!" approach. For example, that lemon and lime are the good girl/bad girl twins of the flavor world.
Drew Michael - His set didn't hit as hard as Michelle's or Jesse's (possibly because the room was getting tired by then) but it was my favorite. I just really liked him and less than half way in, I had that "I want to see more of this guy" feeling. If I can put my finger on anything, it was the confident, matter-of-fact honesty. Whether he was the hero or villain of the bit, he didn't veer toward either false self-deprecation or aggressive bravado. I mean, he got away with a pretty good chunk of material about how he once stalked a girl into dating him. If you can get the crowd on your side for that, you're doing something right.