Just for Laughs is undeniably one of the funnest 4 days on Canadian soil. From celebrity galas to indie shows, podcasts to industry panels, midnight parties to 75 ft. floating angels (actually), it’s the mecca for comedy fans. Below, we’ve summarized some of the daily highlights from the fest. *Poutine not included…
Thursday, July 26
Jane Krakowski Gala
Attending the Jane Krakowski gala was like watching a variety show from the sixties: musical numbers, a puppet, Chris D’Elia as a TSA opossum. The line up was well balanced, and Jane dominated the stage and proved why she’s at the top of her field. Highlights of the night were Sean Emeny’s super sharp set and Jane’s duet with Titus Burgess (a friggin’ plus!). This show was one to write home about, kids. Also the way Jane says “Cah-nadah” is so endearing.
Natasha Leggero – All Access
Natasha is a bad-ass bitch who kicks hecklers out at the end of a show. That’s right. She doesn’t put up with anybody’s crap, or crappy comedians, which is why her line up was killer. Although the cameras blocked some of my view, I busted a gut and got to see some top notch comedic acts including Rebecca Kohler, Natalie Norman, Langston Kerman and others. Great show. Worth the 2 minute walk to Club Soda (and the 6 hour drive to Montreal)
CNN’s History of Comedy: A Spark of Madness
CNN does more than cover Trump; they also create insightful (albeit broad stroke) historical documentary series’ (adding A Spark of Madness to other with general topics like: “The Nineties”, which ranked #1 in news among males 18-34). This documentary’s focus was on the sixties when comedy became more personal. With interviews and archival footage, this show highlighted the mental game that is comedy. The balance lies in the fear of being crazy, and the spark of madness that it takes to be a truly great comedian.
Friday, July 27
CBC Pitch Panel
The day started off with the CBC Comedy Pitch panel, where five teams presented their short-form web properties for consideration by the nation’s top public broadcaster. Our favourite was Diversity League, pitched by Christophe Davidson and Courtney Gilmour (plus Courtney who Just for Laughs’ Homegrown Competition). Luckily for them, CBC picked up this quirky animated show, so we’re looking forward to seeing the vape smoke-enshrouded henchmen of GUYDRA online soon.
An absolutely phenomenal show by Kate Berlant (from Netflix’s The Characters). Her surreal, improvised, stream of consciousness stand up touched on her psychic skills (actually), feeding off crowd vibes, and amazing non-sequiturs. Favorite lines: “Right now, like real quick, we’re going form a line based on income.” and, in a praising tone “we raised over….” Amazing.
Johnny Pemberton OFF-JFL
To cap off the night, we headed to Montreal Improv for some Off-JFL action. Much like Off-Broadway, there are some major gems to be found in the periphery of the main festival. Case in point was brilliant absurdist comedian Johnny Pemberton, who put on an unforgettable show. Not just from tripping his way hilariously through the audience to reach the stage and a bonkers homage to Smooth by Santana featuring Rob Thomas, but also because of an epic battle of wills with an audience member who fell asleep and refused to leave. For 30 minutes (!) Pemberton tried everything from cajoling the stubborn audience member, to ‘ending the set’ and coming out as a different comedian, to hiding behind a curtain and pitch-shifting his voice to sound like satan and cursing him out, Wizard of Oz style. It was certainly a highlight of the festival and a one-of-a-kind experience. As Johnny put it himself, “This was the definition of a novel experience.”
Andy Kindler’s annual State of the Industry
Both familiar and bizarre, Andy’s annual address typically takes the piss out of the industry, key players, and- in classic Kindler fashion- himself. He started off the speech with a live tweet that threw fuel on his twitter beef with Ricky Gervais (see below). His 60min address punched a little softer than usual, but was nonetheless full of belly laughs justifiable jabs. Listen to the full address at Paste Magazine.
Funny How? Screening
We later went off to a screening of a new webseries by Viceland which follows comedy historian Kliph Nesteroff on his adventures in exploring the contemporary comedy scene. They screened two episodes, a fairly by-the-numbers examination of bombing and open mic culture, and an interesting look at the obscure but lucrative Christian comedy scene. After the episodes, Nesteroff spoke candidly about his experiences over eight years as a stand-up comedian, including his stint as gimmick comic Sheckie Green, the rimshot king.
Funny or Die Midnight Party
Friday night’s infamous Funny or Die Midnight Party where an open bar made sure that everyone had the guts to approach their heroes and gush about how great they are. But all parties must end, and eventually a temporary hush fell over Montreal as we prepared or another day at the country’s biggest comedy festival.
Saturday, July 29
Pitch App Launch
Pitch is a super addicting joke writing app that is funny, practical, and (most importantly), pays joke writers for their work! From Variety, “…the app is simple: publishers or other content aggregators create a topic, and Pitch users contribute laughs to that topic anonymously for a specified amount of time, while upvoting jokes they like. After the pitching period closes, the contributions are ranked by votes so writers can see how well (or how poorly) they fared. Pitch automatically invoices publishers for purchased jokes to ensure writers receive payment.” Check out the full article on the app in Variety.
We also attended several parties and panels, including Comedy Central, among other shows. For those synopsis and other updates, check us out online:
Our team: Joel Buxton (L), Kara Harun (L), Cheryl Meyer (R), Taylor Erwin (R)