Plenty of comedy festivals tack on the word “international” to the end of their titles, but usually the worldliest name on their roster hails from New Zealand. What I’m saying is most comedians at international comedy festivals are from countries once ruled by, and possibly still ruled by, the Queen of England. Okay, okay, fine, sure this rule would apply to India. Right, of course there’s also Hong Kong. And Singapore. British Guyana. Look, British imperialism was sprawling, I realize there are holes in my logic. The point I’m trying to make, as your comedy tour guide, is that when picking your comedy festivals to attend — what is this 4 or 5 for you this year? — make sure to take advantage of the ones with actual international acts.
Which brings us to the Montreal “Just for Laughs” festival, going on right now in one of those “still ruled by the Queen” countries. Being in Montreal alone qualifies the festival as a comedy tourist hot spot for any American comedy fan since the primary language spoke there is French. (I once ran a marathon through Montreal, so yeah, I’m pretty familiar with the city culture.) Unnecessary, obnoxious personal fact aside, this is one of the biggest comedy festivals in the industry and they seem to have done a decent job reaching beyond the typical American, British and French-Canadians (locals) comedy acts to what the rest of the world has to offer. As far as I’m concerned, it’s still not a true international comedy festival, but for today let’s try to make some lemonade, shall we? Hilarious, hilarious lemonade.
Wait — you can’t afford to fly to another country, pay for a hotel room for a week and go to comedy show after comedy show that almost all cost money? Me either! But what a great way to learn some new faces in the comedy world! Follow me!
THE ETHNIC SHOW: ETHNICAL DIFFICULTIES
Let’s take a moment to appreciate the great pun. Done clapping? I’m not, but I’ll proceed for the sake of time. Hosted by Iranian-born comedian Maz Jobrani, this showcase is smack dab in Comedy Tourism’s wheelhouse. This is how the show describes itself:
“OK, you’re standing at the border crossing and the anal-retentive customs officer asks, ‘Do you have anything to declare?’ Take a deep breath and tell him that you want to see the funniest ethnic comedians the world has to offer. Get ready for Montreal’s most scrumptious and multicultural buffet of comedy.”
Sounds a little broad for my taste, but I’ll eat anything when it comes to international comedy. So let’s meet the comedians who will be sharing their ethnical difficulties.
Maz Jobrani (Emcee)
Jobrani was a founder of the Axis of Evil comedy tour, a gig that landed him a performance in front of the King and Queen of Jordan. He’s done the rounds on all the late night talk shows, as well as appeared in a long list of network sitcoms and dramas. His 2009 comedy festival was titled “Brown and Friendly,” so it’s safe to say he brings his cultural background into the mix with his comedy. He tours pretty consistently in the US — follow his twitter to follow his jokes or find dates near you!
The show calls him “Master of Italian Comedy.” We’ll be the judges of that won’t we? Well, we haven’t gone to Italy yet in our comedy tour, so why don’t we let Maniscalco give us a little preview?
Born in Chicago, Maniscalco got a huge break appearing in Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Shown, and has since appeared on the obligatory late night talk shows and various television appearances. Based on his personal website, he does not appear to play to his Italian heritage in his comedy. In fact, for much of his Comedy Central special it’s a lot of your typical observational humor. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. With the tiniest of digging, though, here’s a pretty funny clip of him talking about Italian Weddings.
He calls himself the “Funny Greek.” Not sure if this is meant to imply that all other Greeks are categorically unfunny, but his comedic profession and Greek heritage qualified him to weigh in on ethnical difficulties. Don’t get too excited though, he was actually born in Canada. But, to Greek parents and Greek was his first language — though wasn’t that everyone’s first language when you think about it? I’m just throwing unsupported facts around willy and nilly today.
His one-man show called “It’s All Greek to Me” dealt with what it’s like growing up in Greek culture. Roll the clip, Jimmy.
Though born and raised in Brooklyn, Wil Sylvince’s West Indian/Haitian heritage plays a major part of his comedic voice. Here’s a clip of that comedic voice performing on Def Comedy Jam.
Like what you see? He’s got a twitter too, so go ahead and follow him why don’t you?
Born Mordechai Rosenfeld, Modi was born in Israel but raised mostly in the US. In addition to being a successful stand-up comedian, Modi is also a cantor at a Community Synagogue in Manhattan. He was voted one of the top 10 comedians in New York City by the Hollywood Reporter, so you know he’s legit. While he uses his cultural background to support his comedy, he, in turn, uses his comedy to support his culture often performing fundraisers and telethons.
All in all, looks like a solid cultural platter. It’s a little disappointing that three out five of the comedians are North American-born; it would be cool to see a line-up of comedians still living and performing in their native country. But that kind of thinking, doesn’t get us hilarious lemonade any faster – and I’m thirsty!
Here’s the show link if you want to check it out for yourself!
ONE STOP WORLD TOUR (THE BEST OF BRITCOM, O’COMICS, AND LATE NIGHT DOWN UNDER)
Just for Laugh’s passport to UK, Irish and Aussie comedy genius, with a slightly misleading title. Less of a World Tour, more of a British empire tour, but luckily the parenthetical qualifier clears up any confusion. If you’re a comedy geek like me, you are probably already pretty familiar with British television comedies — Peep Show, anyone? — but, admittedly I’m far less familiar with their offering of stand-up comedians beyond Eddie Izzard. And Australian stand-up comedians? I’m listening…
Let’s take a quick look at the line-up!
Adam Hills (Host)
An Aussie is hosting the show? My, my things are getting international up in here. In his home country, Hills hosts two popular television shows, including his own talk show called Adam Hills in Gordon Street Tonight. Here’s a clip of him talking about language from the World Comedy Tour:
Writer, Actor and general media personality around the UK — Kane has frequented the Edinburg Comedy festival, and been nominated a few times, hosted a variety of BBC specials you probably haven’t heard of and released his a stand-up special this year.
Another Russell, another Brit. This guy is making quite a few rounds at the festival, perhaps because he does arena tours in the UK and hosts his own show on BBC 3 called Russell Howard’s Good News. Check the show out here:
Move over Jeff Dunham. No seriously, leave, no one wants you here. Here comes London’s next big ventriloquist comedian Nina Conti. Also an actress, she won the BBC New Comedy Awards in 2002, and recently debuted a new puppet character “Granny.” Here she is:
I bet you thought she was Irish, but she’s actually Australian. And a man! Okay the second part was a lie. A regular on Australian panel shows, O’Loughlin is a pretty beloved staple in her native country. Here she is at last year’s Melbourne Comedy Festival, discussing her alcoholism.
Another Aussie! I’m starting to think there are no Irish or Scottish comedians. He was once on a sketch show called skitHOUSE, has performed for sold out audiences, and a lot of Australian television, but really the only thing you need to know about this stand-up comedian is he is currently the Mayor of Romsey. Comedians be mayoring, amiright Iceland?
This Irish comedian has won all the prizes: Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Perrier Awards, BBC New Comedy Awards (well, 2nd), etc. But the thing that makes him unique is that often he uses a miniature keyboard as part of his stand-up. This I must see.
An accomplished British comedian who most recently played the role of Mr. Gilbert in the E4 sitcom The Inbetweeners and was also part of the famous sketch group We Are Klang, which was also turned into a TV show. This guy is clearly the seasoned vet of the bunch. Here he is performing as part of We Are Klang at Edinburg.
This seems like a solid lineup despite its actual world tour feel, and moreover a great gateway drug for Comedy Tourism!
Here’s the link to the show if you’d like to learn more!
RUSSELL PETERS: BEST NIGHT EVER
He’s quite possibly the most famous comedian you’ve never heard of. He truly may be the most international stand-up comic working today, despite not having the same name recognition as, say, Conan O’Brien has in the United States. He is Indian-Canadian, and a lot of his stand-up revolves around cultural observations based on his heritage. He has sold out theaters in Canada, the UK and Australia, to name a few, and the guy makes multiple millions of dollars a year. Now is as good a time as ever to get in the know about him. Here are a few clips to get you started.
To spare you five more pages — I precluded the French-Canadians and French comedians from this list, but a quick perusing of the overall schedule may lead you to even more international comedians you had never previously heard of. That’s the beauty of discovery, you guys!
I’m not going to knock a festival too hard whose home page url is “hahaha [dot] com,” but it still leaves me wanting more for a comedy festival. It would be cool to see an international comedy festival that doesn’t just feature already-established comedians, most of whom hail from US/Canada/UK. It would be great if there was a festival that really mined the talents of the world and made it possible to bring these talents under one roof or in one city for a week. Thinking about starting a Kickstarter page — who’s coming with me?