“If music be the food of love, play on”, are words by the Bard. One might also say the same for laughter – it brings people closer together, it makes ya’ feel good.

So…laugh on. If good music serves the soul and a solid belly laugh is equally good for the heart – then July will see some pretty healthy people walking the streets of Montreal.

The Jazz Festival has bowed out – get ready for the entrance of The Just for Laughs Festival.

Over the years, Montreal has welcomed some of the top comedians from around the world: John Cleese, Tim Allen, David Hyde-Pierce, Rowan Atkinson, Billy Connolly, Bill Cosby, Whoopi Goldberg, Dame Edna to name but a few. Full casts of The Simpsons, Everybody Loves Raymond, South Park and The Family Guy have also brought stellar and memorable performances to the event.

Founded in 1983 by Gilbert Rozon as a 2 day festival, Montreal is now home to the largest laugh festival in the world. The Just for Laughs Festival was originally francophone only, until Andy Nulman joined the staff a couple of years after its inception. He increased it to a month long giggle – he also opened it up to the world by adding English-language performances. He also introduced comedy that goes beyond the spoken word with mime, dance and other visual acts.

Nulman’s protégé and successor; Bruce Hills has expanded Just For Laughs by opening highly acclaimed festivals in Toronto and Chicago.

The Just for Laughs Festival has become a venue for up and coming comedians to show-off their talent and the audience is often packed with talent scouts looking for new faces and sounds.

It’s that mixture of unknowns and established celebrity acts that draw people to the Festival. It’s the reason why so many tourists come to the city every summer to take it in. This year is no different. With an eclectic selection of acts from around the world, there is something for everyone at this years Festival. Starting with the Galas: there’s The Relationship Gala hosted by Brad Garrett of Everybody Loves Raymond fame. How about a titillating evening with Canada’s Pamela Anderson and Pam’s Variety Gala – she’ll surely keep us abreast of her activities as an animal activist.

She’s recently launched her own fragrance, Malibu by Pamela Anderson, and donates the proceeds to PETA.

Lewis Black is back by popular demand hosting, most appropriately, Night of a Million Opinions, one of the less expensive late night galas. And fresh off hosting the Oscars is Steve Martin who will be hosting two shows at the St Denis Theatre, along with the award-winning bluegrass band Steep Canyon Rangers, who often accompany him on tour. That’s a hot seller.

One of the fastest sell-outs is The Nasty Show – irreverent, rude and downright nasty, it’s not every one’s cup of tea. This year it’s hosted by Greg Giraldo and featuring special guest Jim Norton.

Prepare to be shocked. Another favourite is The Bubbling with Laughter show at Club Soda which features five shows with Tom Arnold.

For those who want a little more than stand-up comedy, there’s Tap Dogs. These Aussies are a tremendous hit wherever they hit the stage.

They electrify audiences with their stunning and powerful routines that combine a unique combination of rhythm, performance and tap dancing!

If you love improv watch out for the Upright Citizens Brigade, a New York-based improv troupe known for Saturday Night Live stars such as Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Horatio Sanz. And for one night only, how about a line-up of Second City Alumni, including Fred Willard and Colin Mochrie. They’ll take an irreverent look back at a half century of legendary sketch and improv comedy.

Enjoy the song, the dance and especially the laughter. It’s all here in Montreal.

For more information on The Just for Laughs Festival www.hahaha.com

Bruce’s Best Bets

By Peter Kerr

“My first and easiest pick is Young At Heart, a chorus made up of senior citizens aged 70 – 89 whose show is about determination and having fun. It’s the most delightful show I’ve seen in a very long time.” Bruce Hills, COO of Just For Laughs is sharing his favourite choices for the benefit of our readers. What started out as a documentary about teaching seniors to sing as a social activity has become an award winning film and continuing performance chorus. #1 on Bruce’s list. July 13th at Salle Wilfred Pelletier.

“Cheech and Chong re-united a little over a year ago and they’re in top form. This isn’t about two old guys reliving the past – they in great shape, their timing’s perfect and their material is relevant.”

Bruce Hills

Their July 16th show is a “must-see”. Continuing, Bruce states: “Cheech and Chong had the highest grossing comedy tour in 2009; in a very competitive business. They’ve still got it!”

“The All Star Gala is another great value. John Pinette is opening and closing the show, and he’ll be joined by Anthony Clark, Jeff Ross, Harlan Williams and the great Tom Arnold. That’s a lot of laughter in one evening!”

“Tap Dogs got their big start at Just For Laughs many years ago, and we’re really pleased that we have them back.” Returning after their Montreal debut 15 years ago and performing in 250 cities around the world, Tap Dogs will perform their exciting tap dance and athletic show from July 13th – 25th at Theatre Maisonneuve in Place des Arts.

“Mom’s The Word 2: Unhinged at the Centaur is a great Boomer show, one that ignites laughter about life changes – both physical and with relationships. Plus – a night out at The Centaur is always fine.” July 6th – 18th.

“John Leguizamo is performing his one-man show Klass Klown at The Gésu from July 12 – 17. He’s enjoyed a successful television and film career – often cast as a bad guy. He’s had hit Broadway shows, and he going to open his new show in October. It’s a look behind the scenes in Hollywood – and much of it is his story about his time in Hollywood.”

Lewis Black is simply outstanding, and he’s hosting the Friday Late Night Gala at Theatre St. Denis on July 16 at 10pm. Brad Garrett who is best known as Raymond’s acerbic brother on the hit comedy show Everybody Loves Raymond is hosting our Relationships Gala. And my last recommendation is for those readers who enjoy dry and offbeat British humour to take in Britcom – everything you want and more.”