It has become redundant to say the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival is the premiere event of its kind. This event is a month of laughs and fun with the most intense week being between July 14 to 24. The hard part with a laughter fest like this is figuring out what is best from the rest. That too is difficult as there is something for everyone. The French version of this event runs concurrently, there is a street arts free outdoor venue, there are more shows and comics than you can shake a mike stand at, and many shows compete with each other so you sometimes have to sacrifice one to see the other.
Considering the difficulty of the task at hand, we have tried to put together a series of recommendations based on 7 consecutive years of festival attendance (we went before those seven years but not as maniacally).
The Galas are held at Theatre St-Denis. This is a great venue in a great part of town with many fun boutiques and cool restaurants and bars. The Gala shows are where all the big name and sit-com stars do at least one show. Many people have seen a gala show on TV as the Just For Laughs TV half hour on the Comedy Network or the Comedy Channel and so on. This is a very safe bet and particularly so if you like cleaned up comedy.
Personally, I like the club series. You can put together a very decent 6 or 7 show and nights comedy package at a very reasonable price for two. Personal fave is Laugh-rodisiacs, also known as the relationship show. This evening features about 6 comedians and an mc and all the sets have to do with being married, the meaningful other, the comic's partner and so on. This is a great date event if both of you have a sense of humour. Get your tickets fast for this one as it is always sold out and sells out fast.
There are also quite a few theme shows like Queer Comics for gay and straight people. The Bar Mitzvah Show with all Jewish humor, the somewhat risqué Dating It which features young comics in a dating game atmosphere (and I am still annoyed I wasn't picked last year), O'Comics and Late Nite Down Under featuring standup comedy from across the pod and way across the pond, The Wiseguys or The Italian Stand-Up Comedy Show for those who like jokes about goombahs and guys called No-Neck and Fish-Nose, and, last but certainly not least, The Nasty Show for those who like blue comedy and are absolutely not into being politically correct.
A show I have made a point of going to year after year is Uptown Comics which is the Black comedian event. This is a must on my list of six or seven shows partly because Montreal does not get BET and Black comics do not come to Montreal as frequently as I would like them to (with the exception of the very funny Greg Morton),
Women comics are also more difficult to find which is why An Evening at Eve's Tavern, which I like to call The Estrogen Show, is a must on my list. Of course, if you are a guy, get ready for an evening's of ribbing (pun intended) and leave your male ego at the door.
No festival would be complete for me without the events that feature young up and coming comics. Bubbling With Laughter is where I first saw the great John Pinette and funny people like Adam Ferrara, Elvira Kurt, and Maryellen Hooper. This is also true of something called New Faces Of Comedy.
The best ticket ever during the festival has to be something called Best Of The Fest at a little but well-run club called Comedy Works. This is the best ticket not only because price wise it cannot be beat but also because you really do get the best comics of the festival, big names and new names alike. Rumor has it that sometimes a sit-com star will do a set at Best of the Fest to flex his or her muscles before their Gala performance. We have sometimes caught two of those shows on different evenings as the line-up is always different. Just as good a bet is Comedy Night In Canada at The Comedy Nest, a club run by Ernie Butler and host of CJAD's daily comedy show. If you like hoser humour, this is the place to go.
A final recommendation. Sometimes a show runs a whole week like this year's Bigger Than Jesus at the Centaur Theatre (last year it was Googlewhack) or last year's John Pinette show at the Gesu so fitting that show in your schedule is somewhat an easy task. However, for shows with a one or two night run scheduling becomes a nightmare. Instead of flipping a coin, trust us when we say the Club Soda has always been a great place to see a show. The guy who runs the place and the door is aces in our book.
More info about Just For Laughs is available at: