The Montreal Just for Laughs festival is the World’s largest and most famous comedy festival. Since it’s inauguration in 1983 (it was originally called Juste Pour Rire, the French equivalent of Just for Laughs) it has made stars out of comedians who were previously unknown. Jerry Seinfeld’s 1985 performance made him famous. Denis Leary, Dave Chapelle, Jon Stewart, and Jim Carrey became stars after shining at Just for Laughs. Rowan Atkinson’s “Mr Bean” character was first tested here in 1989. Since then other comedians like Tina Fey, John Cleese, Joan Rivers, Drew Carey, Tim Allan, Kevin James, Ray Romano, and Chris Rock have appeared at Just for Laughs.
The festival is usually on for 2 weeks in late July and until 2010 was always situated on St. Denis street. It has since relocated to Place Des Arts. Here you can see free outdoor shows, street acts, and all kinds of entertainment. The main shows (ie. the paying shows) are hosted in the clubs in the surrounding area.
Last weekend Lissette and I went to check out the outdoor festivities. It was a beautiful evening and we walked around the venue, had a beer and a beavertail, and just checked out the various free shows. One thing I’ve noticed: Just for Laughs has become much more ‘corporate’ since it’s move to Place des Arts. There’s are less free shows or just less free stuff than there used to be – in the past you would have clowns on stilts walking around, magic shows, muppets having their photo taken with kids, scary performers popping out of garbage cans etc …now there’s a lot less of that carnival atmosphere. The focus now more than ever are the headline acts booked to perform at the paying shows. They are worth it though – I recommend to anyone that they buy some tickets and go to a show. We’re big fans of standup comedy and we regret that we didn’t do it this year.
Greg Giraldo is (was) one of my favorite comedians. He actually got a law degree from Harvard Law School but quit law to be a comedian. You can see his intelligence in his humour.
Giraldo got notoriety on Comedy Central on their roasts of famous people and celebrities, you can find some hilarious videos of him roasting Pamela Anderson, Joan Rivers, and Bob Saget (to name a few). He died in 2010 from a prescription drug overdose. He had battled with alcohol and drugs for much of his adult life.
If you come to Montreal in July look up the dates of the festival. Make sure you get yourself some tickets, preferably a few weeks in advance, and enjoy the best comedy festival found anywhere.