The Just for Laughs festival officially starts July 10 and runs until July 28. That is 18 days of comedic genius travelling to and performing in our fine city.
I spend the better portion of the year looking forward to the festival – as a comedy performer myself it is truly a treat to see such a variety of talent every night. While there are a few performers that I wish could have made it to JFL this year (Reggie Watts, Louis CK, Janeane Garofalo) the people who bring the comics to us have done a damn good job at collecting some very funny people. And if you’re like me you probably want to see them all – but that’s hardly possible. Here’s a list of the top 8 shows I’m looking forward to – in no particular order.
Maria Bamford at Theatre Ste Catherine July 18-24
I saw the Bammer two summers ago at Theatre Ste Catherine and it was one of the best experiences in comedy I have ever had. Her ability to switch between characters is unmatched – the absurdity of her performance brought me to a happy place I didn’t know existed. If you haven’t seen her series The Maria Bamford Show you need to do that right now – then come back to reading the rest of this preview.
Dave Merheje’s Family Affairs at Café Cleopatre July 22-26
This show is part of Zoofest (“the wild side of Just for Laughs”) and is sure to be one of the best shows you could see this summer. Merheje has the ability to make me cry with laughter and I rarely even cry from sadness. A Montreal favourite, I never miss an opportunity to see him perform. Fun fact: he travels with a duffle bag of hats.
Sam Simmons “Meanwhile” at Mini-Main July 22-27
I was fortunate enough to see Sam Simmons’ show About the Weather several times last year at Theatre Ste Catherine. He changed the way I thought about one-man-shows. The way he gets his story across is deep, funny and bizarre. Fun fact: before Simmons was touring the world with his shows, he worked for a zoo in Australia.
Hannibal Buress at L’Astral July 24
You have one night to see his solo show. Do it. Buy your ticket now. He was hands down the best comedian I saw last summer. If you’re not convinced yet then check out his hour long special Animal Furnace from Comedy Central; I had to watch it twice because I was laughing so hard the first time that I missed a few jokes.
Midnight Surprise at Theatre Ste Catherine July 18-27
I went to this show nearly every night last summer. It starts at midnight (as if you didn’t know that) and features a different lineup of comics every night. You won’t know who is going to be there until the show starts. The people who run this show get the best alternative acts at the festival. And it only costs $20.
Marc Maron at Place Des Arts Cinquième Salle July 27
Marc Maron has become one of my favourite comedians. His podcast WTF presents touching and funny interviews with some of the best comedians alive. His style is personal, self reflective, maybe angry, but mostly (and this is my favourite trait in a comic) honest. His new book Attempting Normal was a great read, his TV show is finding its audience, and he has a new 90 minute special heading to Netflix soon. See him now before he burns out from exhaustion. Also, for you aspiring comedians – look up his JFL keynote address from 2011 for a little bit of inspiration.
Amy Schumer at Métropolis July 24
I missed Amy Schumer several times last summer and I’m very excited that she’s back this year. Her 2011 debut album “Cutting” was dark, thoughtful and very funny. Her standup special Mostly Sex Stuff has been a grand success and her new TV show Inside Amy Schumer is attracting a lot of positive attention. Take this opportunity to see her at Métropolis.
DeAnne Smith Stand Up Strip Down at Mainline Theatre July 22-24
Comedy and burlesque go very well together. This midnight show hosted by our very own DeAnne Smith and Miss Sugarpuss (Holly Gauthier-Frankel) will feature a different line up of some of the best comics from JFL who may or may not strip down during their set.
In addition to all of these shows, JFL has some amazing gala hosts, including Sarah Silverman, Kathy Griffin, Kristin Chenoweth, Joan Rivers, and many more. Start making your schedule now. It’s going to be a crazy 18 days. If you’re having trouble selecting which solo shows to see, then check out Paul Provenza’s Set-List at Cabaret Underworld, Andy Kindler’s Alternative Show at Katacombes, or drop by the Comedy Nest or Comedy Works during the festival – you never who is going to drop in for a set (sometimes the Gala hosts need a warm up).