THE MONTREAL INTERNATIONAL COMEDY FESTIVAL
"JUST FOR LAUGHS"--THE CLASS CLOWN OF FESTIVALS
by MADELYN MILLER
From is humble beginnings in 1983 as a two-night French language comedy show to the sensational proportions of its current gala performances, nightclub and theater shows, open-air venues, television specials and international stature, Just For Laughs, the Montreal International Comedy Festival has grown exponentially to become the world's largest comedy event.
You've got to hand it to Just for Laughs. Now that it's officially a teenager, it is as immature as ever. At the ripe old age of 13, Just for Laughs is exhibiting all the symptoms of full-blown Peter Pan syndrome. It is flying high, taking anyone and everyone who wants to join them to ecstatic new heights of hilarity. They are the class clown of Festivals--the first kid to raise his hand and the first to get sent to the principal's office, too. It is fresh, funny and fantastic because the "Cannes of Comedy" (a reputation it has earned and a nickname coined by insiders) is taking risks with new talent, concepts, shows and venues.
They must be doing something right, because this year some 420,00 people attended the event, and around the world, over 800 million watched it on TV.
Artists from as far away as France, Belgium, Iraq, Sri Lanka, India, Australia, New Zealand and Japan and everywhere in between, performed in over 400 shows. Celebrations blanketed Montreal's indoor venues as well as the Old Port of Montreal, which was transformed by Festival magic into the world's biggest comedy theme park during the 12-day extravaganza.
Throughout its history, the Just For laughs bilingual comedy marathon has featured some of the world's most impressive talent. The Festival alumni roster includes such legends as Jonathan Winters, Milton Berle, Marcel Marceau, Alan King, Steve Allen, Jerry Lewis, and George Burns; TV superstars like Kelsey Grammer, Brett Butler, Michael "Kramer" Richards, Bob Newhart, Mary Tyler MOORE, THE LATE GRAHAM CHAPMAN (MONTY PYTHON),Rowan "Mr. Bean" Atkinson, Roseanne, Tom Arnold, and Tim Allen; the extraordinary wit of Lily Tomlin, the late John Candy, Martin Mull, Penn & Teller, Steven Wright, Sandra Bernhard; and such newcomers as Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Sinbad, Denis Leary, The Mommies, Jim Carrey and Paul Reiser before they shot to stardom.
Just for Laughs is not only a place where stars perform, but a launch pad for up-and-coming comics. During the Festival, industry executives, television producers, managers, agents and talent scouts converge at Just For Laughs as they look to discuss the newest trends in comedy and bid on the most promising talent at the Festival.
This gathering is led by industry leaders like Woody Allen's producer Charles, Joffe, Late Show with David Letterman producer Robert Morton, Robin Williams' and Billy Crystal's manager Buddy Morra; film producer Larry Brezner; Theresa Edy, Vice-President of Comedy Development and Dan McDermott, Vice-President of Programming at FOX; Gene Blythe, vice-president of Television Casting at Disney;as well as the casting heads of virtually every major studio and network in Hollywood to name but a few.
Just For Laughs itself is now a MAJOR PLAYER IN THE BID FOR TALENT, VIA THE SIGNING LAST YEAR of an exclusive two-year pact with Brandon Tartikoff, Chairman of the New World Entertainment and former president of NBC Entertainment. Under the deal, while scouting for talent, Festival organizers will negotiate television development deals with a handful of performers each year.
For film buffs, the Festival organizes annual tributes and retrospectives of short comic cinematic masterpieces. "First films of Famous Directors" featured a 90-minute program of directorial debuts by the world's movie masters. The program showcased the first efforts of Orson Welles, Mel brooks, Roman Polanski, Martin Scorsese, Francois Truffaut and Woody Allen. Most of these first films were made during film school, and is a seldom-seen, short comic masterpiece.
The best bargain of the Festival is the $3.50 admission price (free to kids under 13) to the activities on the beautiful grounds of the Old Port of Montreal. Open from 2pm until midnight, there are the funniest things imaginable to see and do all day long. Six outdoor stages plus in-your-face roving animation, performers from around the world, films in both official languages (French and English) and unique children's activities such as giant volleyball and chess games makes this a theme park at a ridiculously low price.
The only frustrating part of the festival is all the choices. Our personal favorite was the Canadian premier of the box-office record-breaking comedy smash, 'Family Secrets", the longest running one-person show in Off-Broadway history. Sherry GLASER takes the audience on a hilarious, heartfelt roller-coaster ride as she vividly brings to life a story based on members of her own family. Family Secrets is a comedy presenting three generations of one family, and the exacting character portraits included family members of both sexes that range in age from 16 to 80 years.
The most unforgettable performer was Ennnio MARCHETTO, A VIRTUAL CHAMELEON AND A LIFE-SIZE, LIVING PAPERDOLL, whose action-packed show is a musical and visual celebration of fame. It is a blast of nonstop music as Italy's Ennio impersonates the stylings of over 40 legendary entertainers and the icons of popular culture.
The teenage Just for Laughs is a computer nerd and can be reached on the net! http://www.interax.net/tcenter/tour/festival.html
or for more information call 514-790 HAHA (4242).
For reservations, call World beat at 800-381-7372
For Montreal Tourist Information call 800-363-7777.
for hotel and travel reservations call 800-567-8687
-Updated 2-2 98-
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