Happy Birthday! Shut Up!

Legendary Rapper Yasiin Bey Begins Stand Up Comedy Career in Montreal

  • Rapper Yasiin Bey debuted his stand-up comedy act “Happy Birthday! Shut Up” at the Phi Centre this past Tuesday and Wednesday evening. Photo Andrea Cloutier

  • Rapper Yasiin Bey debuted his stand-up comedy act “Happy Birthday! Shut Up” at the Phi Centre this past Tuesday and Wednesday evening. Photo Andrea Cloutier

Montreal producer Kaytranada provided the soundtrack to an evening at the Phi Centre while Yasiin Bey made his way to the stage. He held a handful of rose petals and casually threw them into the crowd as a peace offering.

The fans cheered him as he walked around, sprinkling the ground with petals. Bey then grabbed drumsticks and sat down by a drumset. In tune with Kaytranada’s beats, he casually drummed along.

It’s as if Bey has not left the city of Montreal since surprising fans during Dave Chappelle’s sets at the Just For Laughs festival a few weeks back. Last week, he opened for Run The Jewels before nearly taking over the Osheaga Arts and Music Festival this past weekend.

Prior to the show, there was a warning that no cameras or videos were allowed in the theatre, but it was hard to resist filming the union of a legendary rap artist and a talented local producer.


Soon enough, Bey left the drumset, grabbed a red microphone from a pouch, and spoke into it, greeting the crowd before starting his show. But Bey didn’t perform classics from his debut album Black on Both Sides, when he was still Mos Def, nor did he perform any cuts from the criminally underrated The Ecstatic album.

In fact, aside from a few impromptu acapella freestyles, most of the only raps he delivered were from a fictional character of Bey’s mind: Young Baby, who mostly raps the alphabet before Mos cuts it off with a constant ad-lib “DEAL WITH IT”.

Bey spoke his mind, no matter how random the subject was, while trying to make everybody laugh during the second night of his comedy stand-up show, “Happy Birthday! Shut Up!” at the Phi Centre on Wednesday evening.

One day earlier, Kaytranada had tweeted that Bey would be performing stand up that night for the very first time. Bey seemingly enjoyed it so much, he agreed to do it again on Wednesday in front of a few dozen spectators at the Phi.

The rapper revealed his nerves at times and made jokes that got few laughs from the crowd, but as the show progressed, he managed to get a few more cracks from the audience. Even if he did repeat a number of jokes a few times, notably the Young Baby cracks, his fictional “Deal With It Records” joke, and the idea that everybody would be under rule from “ACME Co”, a play on a company name from the Looney Tunes cartoons.

Bey’s jokes addressed a number of hot topics in pop culture today, including the Drake vs. Meek Mill controversy, ISIS, and jogging in the winter. He even took a shot at rapper Birdman (formerly known as “Baby”), who is undergoing some legal trouble with fellow rapper Lil Wayne, saying that he wouldn’t ever get in business with a rapper who used such a name.

Bey also discussed Caitlyn Jenner’s transition after winning the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Games in Montreal. He has no qualms about Caitlyn, but admitted he was freaked out that a super athlete such as Bruce no longer existed, before offering this reality: What if Michael Jordan was a transgendered woman?

He also name-dropped Dave Chappelle, because he can, before changing topics. There were numerous moments in his set where Bey switched subjects before finishing his thought. Again, because he can.

He also tried to incorporate more introspective thoughts, while interweaving deep freestyles. While they didn’t guarantee laughs, the crowd was responsive, and it may have been when Bey was at his most effective.

Following the show, Bey returned to his drumset to play alongside Kaytranada before handing out roses to the crowd; which was just as surreal as Bey doing standup for 90 minutes.

While fans of Yasiin Bey will gladly jump at a new album, or even a collaborative track of his, they will also be satisfied at his new venture into stand-up comedy. He’s nowhere near Dave Chappelle (of course) and his material could use some fine-tuning, but he wasn’t half bad as a stand-up comedian.

Granted, Bey doesn’t seem to really care for a few detractors who think he should stick to rapping. He’s just going to do what he wants.

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