I had the pleasure of seeing some great comedians perform last weekend at Toronto’s Danforth Comedy Festival (3 more shows this weekend) and one of the stand-outs was the MC of the show at Socap Comedy Theatre (Danforth & Broadview), MAX ROSS. He’s a brilliant stand-up comic himself but he stepped up to the mic and kept the energy in the room high throughout the night and the attention on the guest acts.MC’ing is an under-appreciated (and under-respected) role during a night of comedy. Most comics don’t like the responsibility of holding a show together – keeping the audience entertained between sets and paying attention to what’s going on on stage, and revving them up again if a comedian bombs. Last Friday evening Max kept the room buzzing so I was thrilled when Max agreed to share his thoughts on comedy and how he came to the spotlight…..
Max, congrats on your appearance at the Danforth Comedy Festival. As MC for the first show I saw, you created an ideal environment for each of the comics who took the stage – that’s a tough and under-appreciated job. Do you prefer MCing or doing stand-up sets? Thank you for the compliment! MCing takes a lot of skill and experience. Of course, I prefer doing longer stand-up sets over MC’ng, but I do enjoy hosting. You are correct though, MCing is very underappreciated because the job of an MC isn’t to be the funniest comedian. Your priority as an MC is to set the tone of the show by going on stage with positive energy, getting to know the crowd and hyping all the acts the audience will see on the show. I’ve been to shows in the past where the MC was low energy and didn’t warm up the crowd, causing the show to be uncomfortable and not fun for the crowd and the comedians, so a good MC makes a big difference.
The other reason why I enjoy MCing is because you never know what kind of crowd you’ll have, so when you do crowd work, you need to constantly improvise and adapt to the situation to keep the show interesting and fun. Plus, when I’m improvising on stage, I can think of new material that I can work on later at other shows.
Have you participated in other comedy festivals such as the Danforth Comedy Festival? And if so, how was that experience? Yes, I have. In 2019, I was part of the Burbank Comedy Festival in Burbank California, and in 2022, I did Just For Laughs Toronto “Best of Absolute Comedy” at Absolute Comedy Club, Toronto. Both festivals were a lot of fun, and I would do it again. As a former military paratrooper, do you equate performing on stage and making people laugh to the thrill (and fear?) of dropping into a conflict zone by parachute? It can be. It’s quite a thrill but can be a little nerve-recking. Obviously, these are two different types of fears (public speaking and dying from jumping out of a plane…), but I enjoy the adrenaline rush of both. I used to be scared going up on stage, and I still get nervous on occasion, but I just keep reminding myself to have fun up there and enjoy the moment. Parachuting in the army was fun too… though over time, I’ve hurt my knees and back from bad landings. (Veterans Affairs believes my body pain was not service related…) Having a Polish background, have you drawn on your family and culture for your humour or do you just enjoy the great food? I love talking about my Polish background on stage. I don’t know many Polish comedians in the city, so it’s nice to be able to represent my culture. I grew up in an immigrant household, so my upbringing was more unique than the regular Canadian. And yes, I also enjoy great Polish food!
Have you been inspired by any other comics (past or present) and if so, who in particular did you relate to or want to emulate? There are many comedians who sparked my interest in stand up. Eddie Murphy was my favourite and watching his first special “Delirious” inspired me to write material and eventually trying it out.
Other comedic inspirations: George Carlin, Richard Pryor, Chris Rock, Dave Chappelle, Paul Mooney, Jim Carrey, Louis CK, David Letterman, Norm Macdonald, Patrice O’Neal, Russell Peters, Bill Burr, Robin Williams, Dave Attell, Gilbert Gottfried. Over the years, I discovered more comedians who would inspire me to get better. These comedians include Tom Segura, Andrew Schulz, Hannibal Buress, Nate Bargatze, Chris Distefano, Mark Normand, Godfrey.
Any advice for aspiring comedians out there? A great Canadian poet by the name Aubrey Graham once said, “You only live once”. If comedy is something you’re passionate about, take a chance and try it out. Statistically speaking, your first time on stage will probably be awful. That’s just how it is… but keep writing, go to open mics, and meet other comics in the city. Eventually you’ll figure it out and get better at writing and performing… or not… Welcome to showbiz, baby!The best advice I got when I was starting out was by Juno Award-winning comedian Dave Merheje (as seen on Mr.D, Ramy, Just for Laughs). All he told me was to just have fun. Comedy is supposed to be fun, so you shouldn’t feel stressed or overwhelmed doing it. Just keep reminding yourself in your head that this is fun.
And what’s your next big stand-up gig – where can we see you? Follow me on Instagram @maxrosscomedy as I post show dates there! I also post content on TikTok and YouTube @maxrosscomedy Keep an eye out for Max appearing in your local club…or on the BIG stages of comedy festivals. And if you want more great laughs this weekend, check out www.danforthcomedyfestival.com for shows at Socap (tonight, Friday Aug.11) and The Don on the Danforth (2 shows) Saturday night.