When Habib Siam told us that Jean Paul, the second performer and producer of Wha’ Ha’ Happened Was…, playing now at the Toronto Fringe Festival, couldn’t come to the July 6th show because of a family emergency, I panicked. Spending the next eighty minutes with one guy on a mic wasn’t exactly what I had signed up for. I feared boredom, but I was wrong. The show went by in a flash.
It still didn’t quite match my expectations, but it also exceeded them. To me, Habib’s July 6th one-man show was more like very honest, interesting, and self-ironic storytelling. It’s not fair to give away his punch lines but I can mention that he made fun of big issues and perhaps some smaller, but very annoying ones.
Breakups over mail and SMS, commitment issues, immigration and misspelled names, smuggling mangoes across the US border, what people think of stand-up comedy in Lebanon (where Habib was born), and I’ll stop there. You can find out the rest yourself from Wha’ Ha’ Happened Was…
I peeked at the other viewers during the show. They had warm and thoughtful smiles on their faces. Many of us chuckled and openly answered his questions, even when he asked about –legally– smoking pot and sweating on the coldest winter days.
His honesty and self-irony rubbed off on us.
With all due apologies, I’m making one exception to my no-spoilers rule. To me, the highlight of the show was a story about how the world is at the same time too small and too big. Canada brings us together, even though some of us were born oceans apart and didn’t know too much about each other.
During one of his comedy tours, Habib slept in an Airbnb at the home of a Japanese woman, who had landed in Canada only a few days before they met. A generous host, she offered him breakfast but wasn’t quite sure what exactly to give him.
“Do you know what hummus is?” the Japanese homeowner asked Lebanese-born Habib. “What???” Habib screamed in his mind. “Do you know what sushi is???”
This was one great laugh among several others! In the beginning, Habib explained to us that the expression “wha’ ha’ happened was…” announces that something out of the ordinary will follow. His eighty-minute performance reminded me that any life is extraordinary if we take the time to tell and listen to its story.
If you go, and I hope you will, please share your impressions about Jean Paul’s own performance. Personally, I stopped at my favourite grocery store on my way home and bought both mangoes and hummus. Perhaps to stay in the moment for the rest of my evening?
- Wha’ ha’ happened was… plays at SARAH’S CAFE
1426 Danforth Ave.
- Tickets are $13, including a $2 service charge. The festival also offers a range of money-saving passes and discounts for serious Fringers.
- Tickets can be purchased online, by telephone (416-966-1062), from the Festival Box Office at Scadding Court (275 Bathurst St.), and — if any remain — from the venue’s box office starting one hour before curtain.
- Content Warnings: mature language; not recommended for children.
- The Fringe Festival considers this venue to be accessible.
- Be aware that Fringe performances always start exactly on time, and that latecomers are never admitted.
- The Toronto Fringe Festival is scent-free: please do not wear perfumes, colognes, or other strongly-scented products.
- Wednesday July 3rd, 6:30 pm
- Thursday July 4th, 6:30 pm
- Friday July 5th, 6:30 pm
- Saturday July 6th, 7:00 pm
- Sunday July 7th, 6:30 pm
- Monday July 8th, 6:30 pm
- Tuesday July 9th, 6:30 pm
- Wednesday July 10th, 6:30 pm
- Thursday July 11th, 6:30 pm
- Friday July 12th, 6:30 pm
- Saturday July 13th, 7:00 pm
- Sunday July 14th, 6:30 pm
Artwork by Scott Martin