Until July 31, this city will be on comedic overdrive as the jokes keep coming fast and furious. Just for Laughs is easily my favourite Montreal festival because it makes my face ache from too much laughing and who can possibly hate what keeps them happy and howling?
My one issue with the festival? That website of theirs can be a real nuisance to navigate sometimes. Every year I feel like throwing my laptop against the wall while researching shows I want to see because the entire process becomes one convoluted mess. Perhaps it’s not even their fault; it’s just that THERE’S SO MUCH GOING ON!
So I’ll do you one solid this year and narrow it down for you because I’m nice like that. Sure, there are the corporate-sponsored galas and big names like Jerry Seinfeld and Gad Elmaleh, Joel McHale, The Jane Krakowski Gala, The Laverne Cox Gala, John Mulaney performing, and of course the always popular The Ethnic Show and The Nasty Show runs, but it’s the ones that might fly under your radar I’ll focus on here.
Here are my personal bets for JFL and who I’m most looking forward to watching this year! And, as always, there is no shortage of awesome to choose from.
This deceptively demure Canadian girl now living in London, England, likes to talk about what she left behind in search of better opportunities. Her quirky, occasionally cringe-worthy observations about pop culture will crack you up. I saw her one-hour solo show last year (from the over 25+ shows I saw last summer) and her show was a wonderful surprise and on my Top 3 for sure.
Watch her here as she suffers an acute case of the Beyoncés.
I won’t even pretend to be nonchalant and unbiased. I’m a huge DeAnne Smith fan and have been since I first saw her perform at a local comedy club as part of a lineup that didn’t feature enough of her as far as I was concerned. This Canadian-American is the perfect combination of smart and silly and is a fantastic social observer, tackling real issues in a way that makes you listen.
Watch her talk about feminism here and then “deliver you safely to a poop joke, because you’re in the hands of a professional and everything will be just fine.”
Ron Funches is one big, lovable, giggling teddy bear who also happens to be ridiculously funny. Seriously go catch his show at the tail end of the festival run if you can.
Watch him talk about weed, his Vision Board, his anxiety, and so much more in this video.
Emmy-nominated comic and CNN host W. Kamau Bell, like Hari Kondabolu, is part of the new generation of socially conscious comedians who like to discuss race, politics, and social issues while making you laugh. They are smart and they are on point with their observations. And it’s cathartic to laugh about this stuff, because you can’t always be angry or sad.
As host of the CNN docu-series United Shades of America, Kamau travels the country, offering viewers a rare yet eye-opening look inside the various subcultures of American life.
Watch him ask the question: “How do you know it was racism?” in this video.
Kate Berlant is an LA-based writer and performer who is deliciously smart and funny. This woman is bright and eloquent and very quick on her feet. I love watching her perform and she never disappoints. I still don’t know why she hasn’t broken through and become more widely known, but I’m happy she keeps coming back to Montreal.
Watch a tiny snippet from a recent Netflix series called Characters, where comedians were given the task of performing a wide array of hilarious characters and she’s obviously making fun of pretentious artists.
Guys We F@#ked: The Experience is being billed as the Anti Slut-Shaming Podcast. Ok, you’ve got my attention. I don’t know either of the co-hosts, Corinne Fisher and Krystyna Hutchinson, but I’m willing to sit back and watch them bring their hit podcast to life through games, audience participation, rants, stories, stand-up comedy, and never before seen video.
Yes, Houston comic Ali Siddiq got his start in the business while in prison and lots of articles on him tend to focus on that, but ultimately he’s a very funny — and extremely likeable — guy and his decision to make comedy his career seems to be working out pretty well so far for him.
Here he is talking about jogging in a white neighbourhood.
The Alternative Show and Midnight Surprise
One final tip: if you’re a night owl and can handle staying up late (even on a weeknight), some of the best comedic performances of JFL take place after midnight and always in the city’s very intimate, far-from-flashy, non-mainstream venues. You never know who the performers are and I can assure you that some of the surprises are big names you’d pay much more to see in gala settings. Well worth the slight sleep deprivation.
I’m referring to The Alternative Show with one-of-a-kind Andy Kindler as host for five nights, and Midnight Surprise (Louis C. K., Dave Chappelle, and NBA superstar Blake Griffin are just some of the surprise appearances in the past).
As many shows and comedians as I’ve mentioned here, this is but a tiny smidgen of what’s actually available to you for the next two weeks. Check out the Just For Laughs website and prepare to exercise your funny bone because there’s nothing more contagious than laughter and Montreal’s going to catch a serious case of the funnies for the next two weeks.