Mae Martin and Brandon Ash-Mohammed on making their fellow icons laugh

“Last One Laughing: Canada” is a refreshingly silly balm to the current comedy conversation

What is a comedian’s job? It’s a question that circulated on social media this week in response to the never-ending conversation around so-called “cancel culture” in comedy.

While some high-profile comics have recently suggested that a comedian’s job is to be irreverent and push the envelope, the new show Last One Laughing: Canada—streaming on Amazon Prime Feb. 18—posits the frankly refreshing take that a comedian’s job is simple: make ’em laugh.

The show brings together 10 of Canada’s funniest people in a room to see who can last the longest without laughing. It’s adapted from an international concept first launched in Japan in 2016, which has since seen versions around the world from Germany to India to Brazil. 

The six-episode Canadian edition, filmed last year in Toronto, features Tom Green, Andrew Phung, Colin Mochrie, Dave Foley, Mae Martin, Caroline Rhea, Brandon Ash-Mohammed, Debra DiGiovanni, Jon Lajoie and K. Trevor Wilson duking it out. 

The comics can use whatever they want to make each other laugh, and based on the first four episodes screened by Xtra, the concept ends up being refreshingly silly. The show as a whole is a great reminder that in the right context, nothing in the world is funnier than someone saying “delicious cheese sandwich” in a silly voice.

LOL stands on the strength of its cast, from longtime legends like Green, Rhea and Foley to the current crop of queer Canadian stars like Ash-Mohammed, a man of many places including the Canada’s Drag Race writers’ room, and Martin (whose semi-autobiographical Netflix series Feel Good wrapped its second season last year). 

Xtra spoke to Martin and Ash-Mohammed about treating comedy like Drag Race, loving Colin Mochrie and their advice for the next generation of queer and trans comics. 

The goal of this show is to make each other laugh. What strategies did you have going in and how did those actually play out once you were in the room? 

Mae Martin: I had a lot of big plans going in. I had a strategy in my head and it all kind of went out the window because it turns out that I’m sort of a giggly 13-year-old. I really got hysterical quite early on. Being around Tom Green and Colin Mochrie— hose guys are very silly, very funny. And I grew up watching them. So it was, yeah, it was a nightmare. Like, it was really fun, but it was also awful. 

 

Brandon Ash-Mohammed: Going into the show I had just come from writing on Canada’s Drag Race. I went into it being like “this is Drag Race.” It almost felt like the werk room, and I was ready to come in and have a little, like, tagline or whatever. That’s how I went into it. And then actually being there I was just like, “What is going on?” I don’t know what to expect, this is twists and turns. This is Pan’s Labyrinth. This is comedy. I did not know what to expect. 

What is your comedy kryptonite, the one thing that will make you laugh?

Martin: Proximity. It’s when I’m acting as well—if someone unexpectedly delivers their line like close, near my face, it just makes me laugh so hard. I think proximity and very deadpan kinds of expressions—which Tom Green, of course, is the king of, so I knew he would be my kryptonite.

Ash-Mohammed: If I spent more time with Caroline. I had to constantly remove myself from her. If they had put me with Caroline Rhea for 10 minutes I would have been done. I would have been dead. She’s just such a funny person, just so whimsical, so herself. I can’t even explain it. 

What were your biggest takeaways from the experience? 

Ash-Mohammed: It’s so cool to meet some of your idols, like it was so cool for me to meet Caroline Rhea or Debra DiGiovanni and just get to like sit at their feet and hear stories and their experiences and kind of just kiki with them.

Martin: Well, definitely for the two weeks following filming, I thought about maybe becoming a teacher or a doctor. I thought “maybe this is not for me.” It made me sort of spiral into an existential despair of just like, “What is comedy?”

I think I also learned I just want to be more like Colin Mochrie. I think everyone watching it is going to want to be as uninhibited and childlike and joyful as he is. He really has, like, showcased and cemented his status as a Canadian icon, I think. And he’s so kind and just a great guy. 

Were you intimidated working alongside your peers and icons in this way?

Ash-Mohammed: I wasn’t necessarily intimidated. I was like, “I’m the ingenue. I am Fanny Brice, the funny girl. I am here to do my thing and see what happens.” I was just like, I don’t know, like, am I gonna be able to make these people laugh? I don’t know what makes these people laugh but I’ll try.

Martin: I think there’s a kind of universal comedy, shorthand and language that everybody shares. In this show, everyone’s in the same boat and it’s a great equalizer. I guess there is a different dynamic where you’re trying to make someone laugh whose comedy has directly influenced your sense of humour. So that’s definitely an interesting dynamic.

Now that you’ve conquered this challenge, what’s next?

Martin: I just finished filming Season 2 of The Flight Attendant on HBO with Kaley Cuoco, so that is coming out soon. And then I have a new TV thing in development, a couple of movies. A bunch of stuff. But mainly I’m just excited to see people’s reaction to this and then also go back on tour. I’ve got this new stand-up tour so yeah, I’m busy.

Ash-Mohammed: I’m probably going to start developing my own television show of some sort and figuring out what that is. Is it going to be a sitcom? Is it going to be something where I’m hosting my own sketch show slash travel show? That’s where I’m at now where it’s just like, okay, we’ve done all these things, and I’m gonna figure out the next step. And then also, I’m probably gonna move to New York.

What advice do you have for young queer and trans comedians? 

Martin: I think it would be the same advice I’d give to cisgender comedians: just do as much as you can, spend as much time on it as you can. In stand-up comedy, there’s no substitute for stage time. And also don’t feel you have to explain or apologize for who you are. As soon as you get on stage, give the audience the benefit of the doubt. And hopefully they’ll rise to it.

Ash-Mohammed: You have to be prepared, it’s going to take a long time for things to happen. For me, I was the first person like myself to really be doing comedy in this country. And if you’re okay with that, and that’s what you want, then do it. But it’s very hard and there’s going to be a lot of heartache sometimes. Just make certain that it’s something that you really want and just stick it out. And if you keep working on your talent, people will notice you. Because at the end of the day, what’s funny is funny. 

Interviews have been edited for brevity and clarity.

Senior editor Mel Woods is an English-speaking Vancouver-based writer and audio producer and a former associate editor with HuffPost Canada. A proud prairie queer and ranch dressing expert, their work has also appeared in Vice, Slate, the Tyee, the CBC, the Globe and Mail and the Walrus.

Read More About:
TV & Film, Culture, Profile, Canada, Comedy

Keep Reading

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16, Episode 16 power ranking: An iconic final three

Only one can win, but all three fought hard to make their case for the crown

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16 finale recap: I hear it and I know

America’s Next Drag Superstar XVI is crowned!

Queer films to watch out for this spring and summer

From a theatre troupe in a maximum-security prison to hot bisexuals sweating it out on the tennis court, spring and summer have plenty of queer cinematic fare to offer

‘RuPaul’s Drag Race’ Season 16, Episode 15 power ranking: Losing is the new winning for one queen

Who is the champion of this season’s LaLaPaRuZa tournament?