Just For Laughs Festival Takes the Stage

A Look at The Indoor Shows for their 35th Anniversary

Bruce Hills at the Just For Laughs press conference. Mark Di Franco

You don’t become to world’s biggest comedy festival without busting a few guts for 35 years.

Today, Just For Laughs unveiled its indoor program for its 35th edition at the Monument National concert hall downtown. There, they indicated that the lineup will feature comedians that will leave a mark on the festival’s history.

“We don’t believe in anniversary editions since they are based off of look backs and rehashes,” said Bruce Hills, chief and operating officer of the company. Hills explained how the anniversary is not meant for looking back retrospectively, but moving forward and discovering the new talents in comedy.

To kick things off, the festival will be treating its fans to two international comedians that’ll be performing for only one night at the Bell Center. Jerry Seinfeld—whose last performance in Montreal was a 1989 —will be making a comeback, along with Gad Elmaleh who will share the stage for the first time as the co-headliner.

A 35th edition would not have been possible without its Galas at the Wilfrid-Pelletier hall at Place des Arts. The Galas have existed since the festival’s first edition in 1983 and continue to be the cornerstone of the festival experience. The hosts for this year’s lineup are Sugar Sammy, David Spade, Laverne Cox, Rick Mercer and Howie Mandel. Additional gala hosts will be announced in the coming weeks.

The festival will feature sets by marquee names in comedy. Names like Trevor Noah, Judd Apatow, Ali Wong, John Mulaney, Chris D’Elia and Tom Segura will be performing live this year.

CNN will be screening the documentary “Spark of Madness” from the CNN Original Series, The History of Comedy. The documentary delves into the minds of comedians, including the difficult road of mental illness and substance abuse that many comics tend to follow.

The 35th edition of Just For Laughs is aiming to move the festival forward and to be innovative. Gilbert Rozon, president and founder of the event, explained how it is important to focus on the future instead of being nostalgic about the past.

Even if this year’s festival is concerned with moving forward, Hills says it is still important for the team to acknowledge their big international break in 1988, hosted by comedy legend, John Candy.

“We have never done live television and for the first time, we were walking out on live television,” stated Hills. The 1988 Just for Laughs turning point was held at the St. Denis Theatre in Montreal. From there, the festival went from being a small local event to an international phenomena.

“I am not the guy who has a scrapbook and looks at what he did,” said Rozon. He mentioned how the festival has tons of archives stored in its vault, but it does not excite him for the 35th. What matters to him most is how he is always seeking for future talent since he has no idea what lies in store for the festival in the future.

Just For Laughs // hahaha.com// July 12 – 31 // Ticket sales begin May 5, 10 a.m.