While we just got here and are calling this day 1 of the Just For Laughs Montreal Comedy Arts Festival, the festival itself has been going on for weeks now. It’s a much larger event and undertaking than we’ll ever be to encapsulate here, but that’s why it’s the pre-eminent comedy festival in the world.
Certainly, sitting amongst hundreds of people in Théâtre Maissonneuve at the Place Des Arts to see Jim Gaffigan self-reflexively whisper “How many more shower jokes is going to tell?” has made us not think otherwise.
Usually, a cab driver has no idea that comedy is happening even in a city like LA (we’re sure there are people out there that think live comedy altogether seems cancelled because of Tosh), but Just For Laughs Montreal is such an institution in Montreal that our cab driver we had from the airport just brought it up in casual conversation.
As this is our first visit to JFL Montreal Just walking along the Place des Festivals, the staging area for many of the festivals, we’re taken aback by the numerous outdoor stages, hundreds of people walking around though no shows are yet taking place as these are things not normally associated with many of the other comedy festivals we’ve been to. The sheer size of it, not to mention having entire galas hosted by such folks as Lewis Black and The Muppets and see so many people be excited is amazing.
While still staring in wonderment that comedy could be this appreciated, The New Faces of Comedy were announced. Plenty of comedians that are either based in LA or comfortable enough with calling themselves LA comics made JFL’s prestigious list of the future comedy stars such as Ron Babcock, Will Weldon, Ahmed Bharoocha, Joe Wengert, and more. It will undoubtedly be great to see hundreds of new people in cavernous theaters laugh at the people we get to see do dive bars on a nightly basis.
As we are based out of LA, we hardly get to see anyone do a legitimate hour, especially one with a planned encore. Acts that headline clubs will generally do 40 min. and call that headlining, but it’s quite an unreal experience sitting in a nearly 1500 seat venue without an empty seat in the house to watch Jim Gaffigan.
Of course, he killed it, but, more impressive than that was being just as sharp as ever with his dry delivery and endless amount of material revolving around food. He even had a joke about poutine, a dish native to Quebec, which we can only describe is perfectly Gaffigan, “I’m an unhealthy eater, but poutine just seems irresponsible.” Applause breaks resounded as he did bacon and hot pocket jokes that well could have been recited by the entire crowd. Gaffigan, especially for the assumed encore that he did, is undoubtedly at rock star status as a comedian and deservingly so after that performance.
Following that, we braved the rain as, it’s been raining here quite frequently in our two days so far, to walk across Downtown Montreal to the Mainline Theatre. There, we caught most of the Paul F. Tompkins and The Holy Trinity Plus 1 as well as Set List: The Improvised Stand-Up Show. Tompkins’ show was a whole bunch of rambunctious, yet classy fun with Tompkins interviewing James Adomian and Rory Scovel in a made up segment called “After Set”, then updating it for Todd Glass by interviewing him before introducing him in “Pre Set”. At one point, Glass did an impersonation of Adomian doing an impersonation of him. In short, it was absurdly spectacular.
Then, Set List featured several delightful comics from across the pond including Daniel Sloss, Keith Farnan, and Paul Foot as well as Tompkins improvising material based of incredibly random pre-written topics (1 hand in pocket vs. 2 hands in pocket or bondage regret) and though it started passed midnight, the crowd was well into the show. It’s not really a wonder why Set List has toured the world and was recently adapted into a TV show in England for how real sounding and funny much of the material that they’re merely riffing off is.
Well, now for Day 2…