The Montreal Just For Laughs Festival always has a seriously impressive artist lineup, with galas hosted by the likes of Joan Rivers, Eddie Izzard, and Sarah Silverman. But it’s JFL’s industry conference, now dubbed ComedyPro, that makes the festival the comedy world’s equivalent of an annual convention. Executives, agents, bookers, comics, and other interested parties (like your correspondents) collect for a festival that is part sales convention and part summer camp. And what happens in Montreal in July tends to impact the comedy community for the year to come. 2011’s saw Louis C.K. named Comedy Person of the Year, the same year he would go on to revolutionize the distribution of standup comedy. Last year’s keynote speech by Patton Oswalt became a rallying cry for comedians seeking to produce their own content outside of the industry. 2013’s festival, which wrapped up over the weekend, had it’s own fair share of memorable and impactful moments. Here’s a look at the relevant takeaway from this year’s Just For Laughs:
Andy Kindler vs Adam Carolla - Andy Kindler’s State of the Industry address has always been the comic’s platform to take down the comedy world from within, last year attacking the universal praise heaped upon Louis C.K. This year, he seemed to push it even further. Following a sweet and very funny intro by John Mulaney, Kindler’s trademark jabs at the likes of Jay Leno and Bill Maher were put aside for a long, genuinely angry diatribe against Adam Carolla, who he referred to as “like Hitler, if Hitler wasn’t funny.” Kindler took Carolla to task for what he considered the podcast host’s racist and bigoted views and tore apart his new crowd-funded film about the life of a beleaguered road comic. Aside from his anger that Carolla would write on the topic despite not being a standup, Kindler also raged against the so-called “opportunity” for young comics who donate to the film to submit tapes and possibly be included in the movie. With vocal support from Todd Glass in the audience, the Kindler v. Carolla feud may now be underway.
Colin Quinn’s Practical Advice for Comics - While last year’s keynote is largely remembered for Patton Oswalt’s stern words for the comedy industry, Colin Quinn’s will resonate most for his challenging words to fellow comics. Though he took some shots at networks execs, club owners, managers and agents, Quinn devoted nearly half of his 30-minute speech to passing along some of the lessons he’s learned in his 30-year career. He advised comics to show more energy on stage (“It’s not hack to sell the shit you’ve been writing and slaving over”), to say something substantial in their sets, to not overuse edgy or shocking humor, and most significantly, to not to let fear get in the way of a career. He talked about avoiding events and parties because he was “uncomfortable [around industry people] because they have something I want. They have the power to give me what I want,” encouraging young comics to engage with industry rather than avoiding it out of ego or fear. He also burst the bubble of any would-be prodigies: “Let me just save us all the pressure of not being a genius - nobody’s a fucking genius. If there’s a genius, we’ll all know about it and we’ll let you know if you’re a genius. You’re not gonna prove you’re a genius.”
The Return of Dave Chappelle - At nearly $70 a piece, tickets for any of Dave Chappelle’s 10 sold-out shows in Montreal were prized commodities. The general consensus seems to be that the shows were much stronger than his ramshackle performances from last year, though not the best he’s ever done. But discussions about his shows focused as much on the delays, with Chappelle routinely taking the stage between 60 to 90 minutes after the supposed start time (even the shows scheduled for 11:45 pm). He also broke the festival’s record for best-selling comedian, moving more than 14,200 tickets.
An Award Show That Got It Right - And in the category of things that probably won’t be remembered but were nonetheless pretty funny, we present highlights from the 2013 Just For Laughs Comedy Awards. Roastmaster General Jeff Ross, the event’s emcee, got things started with the evening’s most cringe-worthy joke, sharing how he had been hanging out with Cory Monteith recently and was amazed by how much that guy “can party.” “I think the real tragedy is that ALL the people from Glee didn’t die last week,” Ross said, receiving an equal amount of groans and big laughs. Other highlights included John Mulaney’s introduction speech to Nick Kroll’s award for Breakout Comedy Star of the Year. Mulaney, who often collaborates with Kroll, commented how silly it is that Kroll is winning the “breakout” star award in 2013 when he’s one of the stars of a TV show going on its fifth season (The League) and star and creator of his own show entering its second season (Kroll Show). “I’m really glad he had a breakout this year and is finally able to quit his job at the temp agency,” Mulaney said.
Arrested Development creator Mitch Hurwitz received the Comedy Writer of the Year award, and had this funny line about the deliberate process he takes writing one of the most fan-obsessed shows on television: “To write three minutes of improv takes three minutes. To write three minutes of scripted material can take weeks, especially if you don’t feel like doing it. And I never feel like doing it.” Lastly, incoming Late Night host Seth Meyers introduced his old Weekend Update co-anchor Amy Poehler for her Comedy Person of the Year Award by saying she had the most amazing range of any performer in the history of Saturday Night Live. “I don’t think anybody in the history of the show can pull off Dakota Fanning, Michael Jackson and Kim Jong-Il,” he said. Poehler, like all the award winners, was gracious and wished Meyers luck on his new show, telling him, “I can’t wait, like most of America, to masturbate and fall asleep to you every night.”
Phil Davidson and Elise Czajkowski had a pretty great time in Montreal and are available to attend any comedy festival that includes an open bar.