The JFL “wrap”
and Comedy Pros highlights

New ownership adds to the world’s largest comedy festival’s success

By Byron Toben

The Just For Laughs Comedy Festival wrapped up its 36th year on July 29. Originally French only its first few years, it boomed with the expansion to the English side a few years later to become the largest in the world. Despite feared problems with new ownership, the extensive program proceeded apace with many regular themes as well as many new innovations.

Watch the festival’s own “wrap video”:

just for laughs wrap video image - WestmountMag.c

A large part of its success is the final weekend of Comedy Pros. Loads of producers, agents, venues, lawyers and scouts show up from New York, L.A. and points in between to discover the latest new talent and reconnect with old ones.

Outlets such as Hulu and Netflix replace the TV Networks of yore.

Here are some of the industry specials:

Trump Again

The 2016 edition was filled with many takes and riffs on then Presidential candidate Donald Trump. In my own report on two imitators of Trump and Sanders debating each other, I mentioned having received notice that very evening of Trump bemoaning that the USA should never have let Canada become independent! Trump imitator Anthony Atamanuik parlayed that JFL show into his popular series The President Show and now introduced this episode based on that quote “Make Canada America Again”.

Anthony Atamanuik -

Anthony Atamanuik as President Donald Trump – Image: courtesy Anthony Atamanuik

Political comedy

Mr Atamanuik also appeared on a panel called Political Comedy in the pre- apocalyptic world moderated by Baratunde Thurston. Other panellists included London born, USA based Gina Yashere, Canadian born, New York based Kliph Nesteroff (consulting producer of CNN series The History of Comedy) and stand up comic Judah Friedlander, whose unkempt appearance masks his sharp analytic mind.

Wanda Sykes -

Wanda Sykes

One conclusion… the ruling powers don’t mind Trump’s clownish behaviour as it detours attention from serious systemic inequities.


The dynamic Wanda Sykes hosts this hit show where famous comics see flashbacks of clips of their early days, leading to roasts of their then personas. Subject to that here were current award winners Jo Koy, Hannah Gadsby and Fortune Feimster.

The state of the industry

Andy Kindler -

Andy Kindler

Andy Kindler’s self deprecating annual report is a must highlight as he bemoans his own failure to garner huge gigs and insults many other shows, of which, as time goes on, I have never heard of. This year, local comic DeAnne Smith introduced him as “a performer she could look… down on”. Lots of “in jokes”.

Congrats to Canadian majority owners Bell Canada and Howie Mandel and their US minority co-owners for a successful week.

Images: courtesy Just For Laughs (unless indicated otherwise)

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Read also: Jewish comics at Just For Laughs

Byron Toben is the immediate past-president of the Montreal Press Club.

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