It's that time of year, people. Montreal's Just For Laughs festival heads into the homestretch, and with it, many show business scouts, agents, managers and executives brush up on their French and head toward Canada to talk about the best and brightest comedic talents.
As it has in past years, Variety puts out its "10 Comics to Watch" list in conjunction with the festival, and their list for 2011 has some names you may already know.
Who made the list?
Jerrod Carmichael, Chris D’Elia, Josh Fadem, Pete Holmes, Thomas Middleditch, Tim Minchin, Amy Schumer, Rebel Wilson, Harris Wittels and Ali Wong
Montreal's Just For Laughs Festival has announced its 2011 slate of programming for the concurrent Zoofest, which provides more fan-friendly pricing (a pass to all of the shows costs $39.99 CDN) and books more "alternative" acts and black-box one-person shows to the comedy confab in July 2011.
Among the English-language offerings this summer...
At Theatre Ste-Catherine
At Club Cleopatre
At Studio-Theatre Place Des Arts
At La Chapelle
Coincidentally, Doug Stanhope also will be performing at Katacombes in Montreal on July 7, two days before the official start of Zoofest 2011.
In a live interactive press conference just now, Montreal's Just For Laughs comedy festival announced a string of headliners and other comedians who'll be performing this July.
This year's fest is even longer than usual, with English language shows stretching all the way from July 11-31.
The Galas, moving to Place Des Arts, will include:
What else? Louis CK, Daniel Tosh, Eddie Izzard, Jimmy Carr, Danny Bhoy and Tim Minchin.
The Insider Series will include Picnicface, David Wain's Wainy Days, Colin Quinn's Long Story Short, Kevin Smith, and Kenny Hotz.
Jeff Ross will host the Nasty Show and roast Montreal. "There will be nudity in the show," added festival programmer Robbie Praw.
Other returning features include AMP'd (the music show), The Ethnic Show, The Bar Mitzvah Show, Mom-Com, BritCom, Alternative Comedy, Best of the Fest and New Faces.
There also will be a separate slate of shows appearing again under the Zoofest banner from July 14-31.
You can keep up with the Montreal Just For Laughs schedule here.
It's never too early to start planning your schedules for Montreal's Just For Laughs festival, and this year, you'll have to adjust your schedule to the end of July. Because that's where all of the action is.
The festival announced that Louis CK would be honored as this year's Comedy Person of the Year at its conference on July 29. It'll be followed by a special panel with this year's "Variety 10 Comics to Watch" (normally they only appear to pick up their awards, but this year they'll speak, too!), and then the annual "State of the Industry" address by Andy Kindler.
JFL liked Marc Maron's intro of Kindler from a couple of years ago so much that they've asked him back to provide the keynote address on July 28.
And on July 30, activities will include a special pitch session that'll reward one lucky comedian/group with a development deal from My Damn Channel.
The Just For Laughs Comedy Conference runs this year from July 28-30, 2011, at the Hyatt Regency in Montreal. The full comedy festival itself starts July 14 and goes through July 31.
Some people worried that Andy Kindler's involvement with NBC's Last Comic Standing would mean that he'd pull his punches this summer in delivering his annual State of the Industry address at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival. Those people were worrying about the wrong thing. They should have worried that Kindler's involvement in the show may have distracted him and given him too much work, such that he somehow seemed to come to the address underprepared. More than a few of his barbs were in relation to things he acknowledged onstage that he hadn't even bothered to see.
There was a different feeling in the room this year, which was only half as full as it was in 2008, when comedians and industry folk packed the conference ballroom to standing-room-only capacity. Maybe half of the people felt they'd already heard enough real talk about the comedy industry the day before from Lewis Black? While Black prepared a thoughtful and blistering critique of the industry on the sixth floor of the Hyatt, two floors down in the big room, Kindler seemed even less focused than in recent years, going through his many pages of notes looking for his jokes. CORRECTION! I stand, or sit, corrected, as Kindler himself has reminded me that in 2008, the room filled up to capacity thanks to large round tables that were not present, which means the attendance may have been closer to the same (last year, he gave the speech on the sixth floor to a capacity crowd), and he has shuffled through his notes pretty much every year. Flawed questioning on my part! It still felt different this year.
But what about the jokes, you people who weren't in attendance may be wondering?
After an introduction from Harland Williams, Kindler started looking around the room, and noted that he thought he had Todd Barry open for him before "back in 1993, when he was even more low-key. A lot of people's careers have skyrocketed after introducing me." It looked as though this might start out more as a personalized roast -- a la Jeffrey Ross Roasts Montreal, which was an actual show this year -- than a speech on the state of the industry itself. "Do you have enough clients in your chair to accomodate your hip pocket?" he said to Dave Rath of Generate, seemingly talking to every single member in the audience in his opening.
He said he was fairly he will not be working with any of the people he will be slamming "so each year it's more dangerous what I'm doing...because I'm narrowing down the bridge that I am burning." So, in fact, he added: "This year most of the things I am making fun of I have not seen nor am I familar of."
"Most of the new comics are funny, and I do not like that. What am I going to do with that?" he asked. "I'm going to be on the Ones to Watch, the Seniors Tour."
He did take on The Office, thanks to Mindy Kaling's quote about polished jokes in the Variety article on Twitter. And Parks and Rec. "Can we all agree that Parks and Recreation is horrible?...Why wasn't it considered for an Emmy this year in the drama category?" He suggested that perhaps the show should not be improvised, and, taking on improv and yes and: "You know what you want in your comedy and your drama? You want agreement. You don't want conflict." "You know what I like to see, Mindy Kaling and BJ Novak, these comics who have really paid their dues in the trenches, these grizzled veterans..." but then he mocked TJ Miller in the second row for making out -- before returning to Kaling's quotes in the Variety piece, in which she says Twitter should be like overheard conversations in a coffee shop, so he wrote that up..."How do you like your waffle? Is this where they shot Swingers?"
In its 28th year, the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Montreal has featured just about every big name in comedy. But Steve Martin, having "quit" stand-up comedy before JFL's debut, was not among them until last night, when he made his debut hosting two Gala-type showcases at the fest. (Photo by Montreal Gazette)
Word on the street has put forward the idea that Martin, now 64, may in fact be making a return to comedy. Though I couldn't talk to him personally to confirm or deny that word, I do know that on his current banjo and bluegrass tour with The Steep Canyon Rangers (who also accompanied him in Montreal), Martin has been making audiences laugh with his banter between songs. And Martin has plenty of experience as a host, doing so three times at the Academy Awards. He pulled it off quite nicely last night, as well. He told the audience that hosting brought forth a lot of responsibility to be funny. "But then I remembered that my friends John Cleese and Marty Short hosted last year, and I thought, well, I'm funnier than those idiots," he joked. Martin then acknowledged that he had finally come to Just For Laughs, which he called "comedy mecca. And we all know how funny Mecca is."
They played a highlight reel of Martin's greatest JFL moments, which, of course, amounted to footage from the first few minutes of the show, paused to allow latecomers to find their seats -- at which point Martin cracked, "You would think in a place discovered by Cartier, they'd know how to get to places on time" -- and Martin performed a custom tune with the band singing along called "Atheists Don't Have No Songs." Most Galas have goofy sketches for the host to perform, but Martin was not required to be wild or crazy on this evening. He did, however, play an audio recording of one of his phone calls to his wife, so as to make sure he wouldn't get the Mel Gibson treatment. And he closed out the night with a performance of "King Tut" (sans Egyptian outfit).
Oh, and there were plenty of stand-ups, too. The bookings were all over the map, and most certainly not hand-picked by Martin, with one notable exception. At the 10 p.m. show, Martin introduced Dane Cook as a "surprise guest." Cook told me he flew in just for this opportunity to perform for his comedy idol, arriving just in time for the late show, and departing this afternoon. At the showcase, Cook told the audience: "People say to me, Dane, why don't you come up and do the festival more often? Because the sets are fucking ugly!" (Photo by Tim Snow)
Many people felt that Kurt Metzger got robbed this spring on NBC's Last Comic Standing, so I don't care if this is a consolation prize or not, because just getting another tight five from Metzger is a prize in and of itself. Roll the clip!
Rare is the show that receives enough widespread raves to double the audience overnight, only to then exceed everyone's expectations. This was that show. This was the show, unless something happens in the next two nights of Just For Laughs in Montreal to eclipse it. This was AMP'd.
Musical comedy acts such as Hard n' Phirm and Garfunkel and Oates are in Montreal this week, and they walked with me up the hill to Cabaret Juste Pour Rire on Thursday night to find out what everyone had been buzzing about from the night before. You know how there are some acts that are so good you don't necessarily want to follow them. Beardyman is that kind of act. And he was the host. So everyone had to folllow him.
Somewhere between Bobby McFerrin and Reggie Watts is a beatboxer-singer-comedian who is British and Jewish named Beardyman, and he is a headliner in his own right. His overwhelming talent blew up the capacity crowd right from the start, and made everyone else up their games.
Axis of Awesome, an Australia trio, demonstrated how every great and popular song relies on the same four chords, all in one song (and even included a Tim Minchin bit, to the delight of the crowd, those cheeky bastards!). The Doo Wops, winners of JFL's Homegrown Competition back in 2001, were back with a series of short musical bits that ended with a longer number in tribute to the "Crazy Bush." Where do you even start with Bridget Everett? With Kenny Mellman backing her on the piano, Everett announced: "I'm a good, old-fashioned American slut!" and proved it within the first minutes (and again later) by lifting up her dress. She wore panties this night, we can all attest to that. And we also testify to the fact that two young girls providing backup singing and rapping skills on a cover of Rihanna's "Hard" is hard to follow. "There is absolutely nothing I can say to make it make any more sense," Beardyman said immediately afterward. Bo Burnham wowed the crowd, per usual, dropping hard rhymes behind the keys and then standing up in between to break down stand-up comedy cliches. Solid work from the young man, who continues to grow both literally and figuratively in comedy. Tim Minchin presumably would be closing out the show. Beardyman joined him for a song as they ad-libbed a number and Minchin "outed" Beardyman as Darren. Then Minchin played his cheeky profanity-filled rant against the Pope. But that was not to be all, folks. Beardyman asked for an encore, and an encore we all received when Reggie Watts emerged as a special guest, and then he asked both Beardyman and Minchin to join him for a jam to close out the show. This video I shot will not do justice to it. But I share it with you, anyhow, in the hopes that you can enjoy the rare sight of three musical comedy geniuses performing onstage together. Roll it.
Timing really can be everything. With this year's crop of New Faces at Montreal's Just For Laughs, that was most certainly the case on Wednesday night (aka the second of three nights for the two groups of hopeful stand-ups, but really the first (and maybe only) night to impress the agents, managers and comedy bookers arriving from New York City, Los Angeles and points beyond the Canadian border). It's more than just the timing of your jokes that matter. What time is your show: 7 p.m. or 9:15 p.m? Did your show start on time? Did you time it right to hit the right shuttle, and not get lost and find yourselves looking at the city's skyline from across the bridge? Where are you in the lineup? How far along in your career are you when you're faced with being a New Face?
And if you've been riding along with me for this lifetime comedy joyride for more than a New York minute, then you know some of these faces are not exactly new to you or me. So let us take all of this into account when processing what went down Wednesday night for our two groups of New Faces in Montreal's Cabaret Juste Pour Rire. (Pictured at right: Nick Vatterott) They'll all have one more chance tonight at New Faces (some will also be featured in other themed showcases around the festival).
In a departure from past years, Montreal's Just For Laughs actually is getting two major State of the Industry dressing-downs from comedians. That's because Lewis Black just delivered a blistering critique of the comedy industry, and particularly TV network executives, in his keynote address today to officially kick off JFL's Comedy Conference.
Black opened with a bit of misdirect, claiming he was the wrong person for the gig, not only because he thought "it should be someone who knows what the fuck a keynote address is," but also because in giving a speech versus stand-up in front of the industry that has screwed him over for four decades, "I'm just too tired to give a shit" about using his opportunity to gain retribution against said industry." He disproved that theory, however, within seconds and held court for the following forty or so minutes.
Black first took issue with the fact that the comedians need to seek the approval of industry people who "haven't worked on sketches or five minutes of stand-up." When he tagged that by saying, "even better, they know how to fail up the ladder," he paused. "The lack of a laugh there fails and disturbs me. You've got to be shitting me....how does a room, half of whom are comdeians, miss the goddamn joke?!?"
Black cited one TV project rejected "because it was too funny for their network. How can something be too funny? Is that even possible? Can it be so funny that it depresses you?"
Another time: "I once did a pilot where I was playing myself in a reality show. It got rejected because I wasn't yelling enough. Not yelling enough. Who did they want, Hitler!?!?"
He also recounted the story he has told before -- and written about in his best-selling memoirs -- of when he auditioned for a sitcom part written specifically for him, with dialogue largely taken from his act, and rehearsing for it by pretending to be him, and yet CBS cast someone else to be him. "Unbeknownst to me, there was a better me out there." It happened to him again in this pilot season, this time with NBC, in a show David Kelley developed and wrote with Black in the lead role. It's Kindreds. "I tend to trust the creative teams. They're the ones who actually do the work." Black noted that the very fact that Kelley, who has had several critical and popular TV hits (including Black's mother's favorite show, Boston Legal), was the kind of outrageously good fortune that he figures is the kind of news that one pays an agent to feed you as a ego-puffing lie. But Black noted that Jay Leno's failure at 10 p.m. meant NBC was looking for shows. ""How is it possible that Jeffrey Zucker still has a job??? People say the Illuminati doesn't exist...it can be the only explanation for why this man still has that job." Black has reason to distrust Zucker, because NBC refused to give Kelley the clout and respect he deserved, and forced Black to audition for his part. Black cracked that Kelley should have just entered a network office and "club them like baby seals," then figured that baby seals would do a better job of programming than network programmers. "Whatever they arfed at would make it on the air." That led to Black acknowledging that only Animal Channel has been smart enough to give Andy Kindler -- the stand-up who for years (and again tomorrow) has been coveted by the industry to deliver the State of the Industry in Montreal -- a show on the air. In the end, Black said he missed out on his NBC drama, in part because he tried to negotiate a salary he thought he deserved. "I was the center of that script. The script wouldn't exist without me. So we negotiated, and say, even if they gave me what I wanted, I wouldn't have gotten the part, because they wanted a star. So this midseason, Kathy Bates (applause, laughs). Yeah. She'll be playing me. I always knew I had a feminine side."
Sometimes events happen at the same time in a way that are coincidental and yet entirely intentional. At this year's Just For Laughs in Montreal, festival-goers can attend with their passes or buy a ticket to a preview screening tonight of the upcoming comedy, Dinner For Schmucks, hosted by director Jay Roach. On Friday, the creative staff from Funny or Die will convene at the JFL Comedy Conference for an afternoon panel on the present and future state of online comedy.
These comedy worlds and questions all collide in this new FoD clip uploaded this morning, featuring Nick Kroll as his craft-services character Fabrice Fabrice, cornering Steve Carell at a press junket for Dinner For Schmucks and asking him questions only a schmuck could love. Funny improv here. Carell plays it straight, but does break slightly. Roll the clip!
Patrice Oneal has performed in Canada "40 times," but the forty-first time was not even close to the charm, as customs officials at the Canadian border refused Oneal entry, where he was supposed to perform his one-man show this week at Montreal's Just For Laughs festival.
The Zoofest (part of JFL) main page posted an update an hour ago to apologize for the cancellation, saying: "Sad but true. Patrice Oneal is no-go at Zoofest. These things happen in our world. We are very sorry. Everybody at Zoofest wanted to see Patrice Oneal as much as you guys did." In fact, Oneal was a big hit in Montreal two years ago with his previous one-man show (my review of Patrice Oneal at JFL Montreal in 2008).
Oneal explained on his Twitter feed @BIGMOMMAPRODS on Monday night:
"I shoulda bn in montreal on saturday nite Canadian border police thought other wise. I now know I cn drive 12hrs straight if needed"
"For anyone who heard me talk about it. Yes for that."
"In a angry french girl accent it sounds really embarrassing. You commit RIP?!! Leave Kinuda now"
Opie & Anthony talked about it and played old tape that explains Oneal's statutory rape conviction from when he was just 16 (she was 15 and white) -- 24 years ago. Audio content is NSFW:
Here is the list everyone in comedy has been waiting for the past year to see, your New Faces at the 2010 Just For Laughs Montreal comedy festival, performing for live audiences and the industry of show business tonight, Wednesday and Thursday...
Just For Laughs has announced it'll honor The Second City with a lifetime achievement award and Glee with its comedy writers of the year award when JFL convenes in Montreal next month. The festival also has created two additional awards to recognize the star power of comedians Aziz Ansari and Donald Glover -- Ansari will receive the "Breakout Comedy Star of the Year Award" while Glover will get the "Rising Comedy Star of the Year Award."
Among those on hand from The Second City will be the organization's president, Andrew Alexander, as well as Colin Mochrie, Fred Willard and other members to be announced later. They'll be taking part in a live panel discussion, "The Second City -- The First 50 Years," to take place Thursday, July 15. They'll get their award the following day, July 16, at the annual Comedy Conference luncheon.
Ian Brennan, meanwhile, will accept the "Comedy Writer of the Year Award" at the same luncheon on behalf of his fellow writers and producers of Glee (Brad Falchuk and Ryan Murphy).
The festival is saying Ansari's award "is reserved for the comedian/actor who has made the jump from talented star to super-stardom," while Glover's award "is reserved for a talent who is the NEXT BIG THING."
In addition to these new awards, JFL Montreal also is launching what it's calling its Insider Series this summer. Among the events from July 14-17, 2010: The premiere screening and a Q&A for Exporting Raymond, with Phil Rosenthal trying to adapt Everybody Loves Raymond into a Russian sitcom; discussions with Kevin Smith, the cast of Childrens' Hospital, JB Smoove as Curb Your Enthusiasm's Leon Black, The Trailer Park Boys, Kenny Vs. Spenny, and the Not Inappropriate Show with Bob Odenkirk.
Tickets are available for all of these events at www.hahaha.com.
Comedy fans can also look into a $99 Comicpro Fan Pass for $99 (CDN) at www.hahaha.com/fan
Industry passes and more information about the Comedy Conference can head to www.hahaha.com/conference
For all of my neighbors to the north who complain about not being able to watch online clips from Hulu or Comedy Central, this post's for you!
Several comedians have asked me if I'm going to Montreal next month for Just For Laughs, saying they'll be there for an HBO thing. Turns out that HBO thing is an HBO Canada production that's filming about 20 stand-ups for a six-episode showcase series that'll be hosted by Jon Dore. Score! The dates and times aren't listed on the JFL Montreal site yet -- a search just now turned up the fact that Dore will be hosting New Faces showcases on July 15, but my sources tell me the HBO Canada shows will be earlier in that week.
Dore turned in what was one of my favorite sets of the weekend at the Bridgetown Comedy Festival in Portland, Ore., this spring with what was possibly the most meta comedy routine I've seen in a while -- it included invisible crowd work and tattoos and, well, if I told you everything, it'd spoil it if he does it again, which I hope he does on the TV, in Canada or elsewhere. To celebrate, here's a clip from Dore's recent Comedy Central Presents. Roll it!
When is a gala more than a Gala? How about when it's Steve Martin making his Just For Laughs Montreal debut? That's happening this July, as the festival has tapped Martin to host what it's dubbing as its first Best Night Ever Show.
Martin will host two shows on Saturday, July 17, at the St. Denis Theatre, with a selection of top comedians plus an appearance by bluegrass band The Steep Canyon Rangers (who currently are on tour with Martin). Tickets go on sale Saturday at hahaha.com.
If you think that's something, check out what Montreal will have to provide for Martin. Here's Steve Martin's tour rider!
For the second year, Just For Laughs Montreal is putting several of its shows into an offshoot called Zoofest, and this time, they're opening acknowledging it as the "off the wall parallel" to JFL. In other words, for all of the unique, interesting and possibly amazing one-person shows by performers who aren't headlining Galas or otherwise big-ticket names to Canadians, why don't you try Zoofest? "1 show for $15, 2 shows for $20" Or get a Zoopass for $29.99 (do I need to tell you these are in Canadian dollars) It's all about marketing, really.
What comedy fans want to know is who's going to be there this July? Why don't I tell you!
Bill Burr, "You People Are All The Same," July 12-16 at Theatre Ste-Catherine
Bo Burnham, "Words Words Words," July 12-15, 17 at Theatre Ste-Catherine
Donald Glover, "Gross!", July 12-17 at Katacombes
Jamie Kilstein, "No God, No War, No Nickelback," July 14-15, 17, at Theatre Ste-Catherine
Jim Jefferies, "Alcoholocaust," July 12-17 at Katacombes
"Kim Noble Will Die," July 12-7, 20-24 at Theatre La Chappelle
Noel Fielding Live, July 12-17 at Savoy at Metropolis
Patrice Oneal, "Mr. P," July 13-17 at Katacombes
Phil Nichol, "A Deadpan Poet Sings Quiet Songs Quietly," July 12-17 at Katacombes
Tim Key, "The Slutcracker," July 14-17 at Savoy at Metropolis
Tom Wrigglesworth, "An Open Letter to Richard Branson," July 12-17 at Savoy at Metropolis
Related: Zoofest ticket info.
The Just For Laughs people haven't listed this on their schedules yet, but Mike Birbiglia announced (as did David Letterman last night) that he'll be debuting his new one-man show, "My Girlfriend's Boyfriend," at the Montreal festival this July (followed by JFL Toronto).
Birbiglia is hard at work reworking old jokes and developing new bits, and we got our first peek at such last night on Letterman. Roll the clip.
Birbiglia is playing several dates at Union Hall in Brooklyn this month (already sold out for May 10-11 and May 24-25) to work out the new hour. In between, he'll be performing weekends in Tampa and Cincinnati, so you kids in Florida and Ohio also have a chance to check out his work in progress.
This just in! The Just For Laughs Festival announced that British Columbia native Pamela Anderson, currently starring this spring on ABC's Dancing with the Stars, will host her own Just For Laughs televised Gala at the Montreal festival on July 15, and her dance partner Damian Whitewood will be there, too. No word yet on which comedians will be picked to perform on her comedy showcase.
Anderson joins another TV-based Gala already announced for Montreal this summer, as Tom Papa will be joined by Brad Garrett and others for a special "Marriage Ref" Gala, while Cheech and Chong area lined up to host another Montreal Gala on the weekend of July 14-17.
Tickets are on sale now at the JFL box office. Here's a link to all of the JFL Montreal Galas.