09/27/2013 08:11 EDT | Updated 11/27/2013 05:12 EST

Trying to Enjoy a Smartphone-Based Festival With My Sad, Old Phone

#JFL42 (Just for Laughs for the Toronto crowd) is a digitally-focused comedy festival -- and really, it's very cool. Very Gen Y. It kicked off last Friday, September 20, and ends this Saturday, September 28.

The festival has three headliners (this year they're Sarah Silverman, Aziz Ansari and the cast of Family Guy live) plus 42 other stand up acts (hence JFL42). Depending on the pass you buy, you get credits for one or all three headliners, plus four additional credits to reserve shows with. This can all be done on your smartphone. Reserve shows, pull up your barcode, get scanned in, check into the show, tweet, Instagram and drain your battery.

Here's the cool part: when you check into shows on your smartphone you get a credit back, which you can use to reserve another show right then and there, ostensibly making every pass an unlimited one.

If you don't have a smartphone, you can print off your tickets and bring them to shows, but to be honest, you're really not getting the full festival experience that way. I mean, the name of the festival has a "#" in it.

So, I thought it was kind of funny that upon entering the theatre, you know after the Facebook log on, and the barcode scanning, and the whole mess, an announcement came over the speakers that was something to the effect of:

Hey, don't be rude. Turn off your phone. It's a show. Enjoy the experience.


Up to that point, I'd done almost all my scheduling on my phone (more on that nightmare in a second), tweeted and Instagrammed my little heart out trying to CONNECT with people at this festival that's supposed to be all about connecting. And then, you scold me? Nay, you use the mom voice to make me feel bad for even considering using my phone during the show?

I'm all for turning devices off during shows. If I'm at the movies and people are texting with their phones as bright as car headlights, I get all HULK-SMASH. Not as angry as this guy, who called 9-1-1 when someone used a phone during a TIFF screening, but a regular, unselfish amount of annoyed.

But I've specifically been encouraged to bring my phone to this venue. So, what gives?

To the festival's credit, they know that no matter what they say, people will still be using their phones. In that spirit they make cute announcements like. "No flash photography. A non-annoying amount of non-flash photography is allowed, but only if you upload the photos using #JFL42."

Look at this totally crappy photo I took with my phone. Man, that camera is no good.

Maybe my real problem with the whole scene is my relationship with my phone. It would be "complicated" on Facebook, if I could get my Facebook app to open. Maybe you saw me awkwardly holding up the line at the Mod Club, staring at my phone with a glazed-over look in my eyes. That was me waiting for my barcode to load.

My phone is three years old. I'm counting down the days until my oppressive three-year contract is up, so I can kick Bell to the curb. But playing the waiting game has made my phone only a shade more useful than a paperweight.

I know there's nothing more annoying than complaining about how totally crappy my actually totally amazing pocket computer is, but when you're surrounded by people accessing the Internet with ease, at an event that pretty much requires it, it'll grind on you a bit.

So that's it. I love #JFL42. I think it's a great festival. It's innovative, it's fun, and it's bringing a more robust comedy scene to Toronto. Next year all they need to do is drop the pretense that using phones at a smartphone-based festival is rude. And all I need to get a new phone.


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