Jeff Singer, the influential talent booker behind Just for Laughs’ New Faces showcase, resigned from the Montreal-based comedy festival this weekend after an incident in which he repeatedly used the N-word in front of auditioning comics. On June 4, comedian Mehran Khaghani posted to social media about Singer recently using the N-word at a club show. “He said he was just repeating, verbatim, the language of a poc he was talking to,” Khaghani said in the post on both Facebook and Twitter. “People tried to stop and educate him and he just doubled and tripled down.” Khaghani also alleged that at a JFL audition years earlier, Singer dismissed his comedy, telling him, “I’ve seen gay before.” The comic continued, “This guy has, for the full span of my own career in comedy, gate kept a major showcase for talent in my industry. He doesn’t see gays or women or POCs or any combination thereof in a progressive or even-handed way.”
Following Khaghani’s post, other comedians began to chime in about their own experiences with Singer over the years, and comedian Jen Kirkman tweeted a thread of anonymous claims of sexism against the booker. “He’s been at it for decades & accusations of his sexism/homophobia/racism are many,” she wrote.
As first reported by the Comic’s Comic, Singer took to Facebook on June 6 to apologize for the incident in which he repeatedly used a racial slur, and to announce that he has resigned from Just for Laughs. “I was at a comedy club having a conversation with some people and I made a huge error in judgment,” he wrote. “I asked a question and repeated back a phrase that someone said and it was completely wrong to do that. There was no malice when I said it. Nevertheless it was 100% wrong and I should have known better immediately.”
“Clearly it was insensitive and I deeply regret it,” he continued. “To that end, I submitted my resignation to Just For Laughs over the weekend. I have learned from this experience and will make sure it never happens again. I sincerely apologized privately to the ones directly affected. I apologize to anyone else I offended that night from my thoughtless words. I am imperfect and will take away everything I can from this to do better.” Singer did not address the allegations of sexism and homophobia in his statement.
Just for Laughs has not released a statement on Singer’s resignation.
Update, June 7, 10:43 a.m.: Just for Laughs has released a statement confirming Singer’s resignation. “We acknowledge those who came forward this past weekend and shared their experiences. JFL has a commitment to listen and provide a safe and respectful workplace,” the statement reads. “To that end, Just for Laughs has a strict code of conduct policy. We do not tolerate abusive, inappropriate or vexatious behaviors. Anyone working with Just for Laughs must treat fellow artists, industry, employees and audiences with equality, respect and dignity.”