July 14th. Day 1 of the 2008 Just For Laughs Montreal International Comedy Festival (for me)
Just For Laughs started the shows going last week with the Flying Solo series but the core of the festival is this week. HQ is at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Montreal again this year.
I thought all the security was for me or the comics but it seems there is a hotel strike going on so that's probably why.
I have a new electronic gizmo for interviews. A Nexia USB key thingy that also records voices.
It worked fine, recording wise, until today and they started to play, as the British would say, silly buggers the minute I brought it to Just For Laughs so I could look like a serious journalist (I know, I know) Guess the look will cost me more than what I am willing to pay.
Saw Australian British comic Brendon Burns, finally. Camille at Just For Laughs set me up with an interview with Burns before he came to town and then tried to get me tickets to the show. Conflicting schedules made it hard to go, no fault on Camille's part. Burns himself got me in. The review is here.
Brendon Burns is a nice guy.
The Hyatt is quiet comic wise. I still think it is a less convivial place than former HQ the Delta. Still, I was fortunate enough to nab me a comic -met at the bar, where else-for an interview click to listen. British comic Richard Sandling made me want to go back to a Britcom show after swearing those off. With any luck I'll manage to beg and plead my way to a ticket to one of his appearances in other shows.
Sandling is a very personable guy who is a Just For Laughs after, get this, a year in the business. DAMN!
Sandling can be found at myspace.com/squat_betty or Facebooked as Richard Sandling.
Also caught always favorite and safe ticket Bubbling With Laughter.
Sat at the back for the first time in years due to a killer migraine that did not make me a good enough audience to sit in front. Had two &**^%&* sitting next to us who kept chatting through the first half of the show. Both Denis and I asked them to keep it down. One of the **&(* caught me at the intermission to tell me we had been rude to them. Their explanation for all the yapping? They'd seen the first comic already so.....
Denis even asked security to warn them. Security did and then the waiter brought them more drinks to add to their pickled minds.
All in all a very good day.
Day 2 July 15th
A great day for me at Just For Laughs. I bought tickets to see Tom Papa in the Richard Jeni One Person Show Series. Papa was rock solid. The review is here
Also got tickets courtesy the nice people at Just For Laughs to see Patrice Oneal in his 11 P.M. one man show. That, seriously, was simply astounding. The review is here. In fact I've been telling everyone I see at the comedy festival to go and see Oneal's show including other comics.
"Speaking of other comics" ... I saw Comic X at the Hyatt bar, said hello and she was kind enough to have me sit with her and talk to me. Comic X is a great comic (and not just because X likes me).
Day 3 July 16th
Quiet show wise. I had not bought tickets so I was hoping Just For Laughs would find me on their list of requests. Then again, I probably screwed up on the wish list again. Then again, as I say, we are not The Tonight Show ... yet.
Saw Comic X again. X is a total sweetheart. X was most kind and invited me along to her lunch interview with The Gazette's Bill Brownstein. Brownstein knows his stuff and his laid back approach combined with an astounding knowledge of comedy automatically makes for a great interview. I am really looking forward to his piece on X in the Gazette.
One of the reasons this website exists was so I, a total fan of comedy, could meet comics. My lunch with Comic X was worth all the work on this site.
Day 5 July 17th
Got my comedy heart broken and shattered today. Tuesday Comic X asked me to help him/her make the set more Montreal. The idea of working with a comic, contributing in my small way to a set was nirvana on Christmas day.
The idea of following this comic around for a couple of days as he/she tested the material in clubs and giving my opinion was better than sex. The idea of then seeing whatever minuscule contribution I may have made make people laugh at the Just For Laughs gala was ... whatever is better than sex.
I thought we were supposed to get together Wednesday so I drove in to Just For Laughs headquarters early to be available. I got invited along to an interview lunch, which was very nice, but then was dismissed with the promise of getting together on Thursday.
Yesterday, I happened to come across Comic X by accident and was simply told, "I've got a lot of things to do so we won't be doing this."
I am not angry. Artists are artists and comics are comics. This person is a nice person and was generous to me ... for a while.
It's not like I figured working with this comic would get me Jay Leno's phone number so I could sell a few jokes, make a few Hollywood contacts, write a screenplay, and win an Oscar.
It's really that somebody went "Hey, here's your dream." ... "Oh, yeah, well, um, too bad."
Oh well, I still love stand-up comedy so there you go.
July 18th All Quiet on the Laughter Front
Dead dead and deader than dead. There is this Just Comedy convention thing going on during the day so everybody who is in the business or a comic not yet a star is there. It reminded me of Ped Day at the school where I work. At least here they did not take attendance.
Saw Brendon Burns a couple of times and he came over and said hi. It's nice to be said hello to, you know. Sometimes I feel totally invisible.
I got to shake hands with Steve Koonin, the head honcho at TBS. His talk was interesting and this is a guy who thinks comedy is worth putting on the air.
The shaking hands part is a big deal, really. These guys can spot small fry like me a mile away but Koonin saw I wanted to talk to him, asked me to wait a bit, and gave me a minute to do my schpiel.
I am sure it did not change his life but it does show the guy's got class.
Ped day slam aside, the Just Comedy party late yesterday afternoon was one of the good ones I have been to. Good nibbles and plenty of them.
Went to the Hollywood Reporter party late today.
Who the hell schedules a party that starts 15 minutes before most comics are on stage?
Nothing much else happened. Saw Joel Haas and his comedy recording venture is going very well. Good for him.
My Patrice O'Neal review got posted on the official Just For Laughs board. My first in four years!!
The Comedy Network always throws a cool bash and it was the case this time around again. Lots of who's who and who? of Canadian stand-up. You can kind figure out how bit a Canadian comedian is by his absence. Still, a good time was had by all.
The goodies bag had the throughful touch of being reusable as a grocery bag and the t-shirt was way cool. I'd wear it to Cuba but it is black. Otherwise, it is going to be one of my favorites.
Looks like I missed out on the big insider party. There was a midnight martini party and I think I perhaps have been told by a comic's entourage I had been put on his guest list. I did not go: the party is too late considering I drive 1 1/2 hours back home and would have had to remain sober.
The Hyatt is certainly not a convivial setup for meeting people. Basically the central room is a large donut with lots of columns. There is also the fact if there are bartenders there is nobody in the room and if there are no bartenders there are lost of people hanging about.
Just For Laughs 2008 overall:
A good festival show wise, very ordinary meet and greet wise. Part of the purpose of the Montreal International Comedy Festival is to being stand-up and business together. Headquarters that were more meet and greet friendly --like the Delta bar-- is certainly something to rethink.