With over 2 million visitors each summer, Just For Laughs has become the world’s largest and most prestigious comedy festival. Talent agents, television producers and impresarios have discovered performers like Jim Carey and Jerry Seinfeld at Montreal’s festival – a goldmine of world-class comedians. Montrealers will receive the gift of laughter from July 11 – 31 during the festival’s 29th edition.

Rock Star status and matching earnings have become a reality in the world of comedy. A few elite comedians such a Canadian Russell Peters perform in areas once reserved for hockey teams and mega-stars. In a recent CBC interview that touched on his success, Peters commented; “I have to pinch myself when I realize that I can make as much as $500,000 in one night!” While it’s a business, the entertainment industry relies on talent, and it’s at festivals like Just For Laughs that audiences have a chance to see a Jerry Seinfeld before he becomes a television star and box-office mega star.

Just for Laughs has festivals in Toronto and Chicago, and the company built on laughter chuckles all the way to the bank as the exclusive Canadian promoter for artists such as Jerry Seinfeld and John Pinette.

Under the leadership of newly-returned President Andy Nulman; Just For Laughs has increased their online presence and doubled their You Tube views of the French and Englsih version of Gags to 100 million. It took three years to achieve 50 million views; but just six months to double that to 100 million! However, the basis remains the hugely popular Montreal festival, which operates successfully in English, French and with good old-fashioned non-verbal slapstick out on the streets of Le Quartier des Spectacles. This year’s performances, galas, and outdoor events run from July 11 – 31.

International stars mix with national and local comedians. Montrealer Joey Elias is a regular performer, and broadcasts his nightly CJAD comedy show from the Festival, inviting the visiting performers to stop by for impromptu interviews.
Here’s a look at some of the established performers, and some up-and-coming performers, including the incredible Spidey from Montreal.

Craig Ferguson

Craig Ferguson entered the world of late night comedy following a diverse and eclectic career that encompasses film, television and the stage. Since taking the helm of The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson on January 3, 2005, the show has set all-time viewer records and achieved the highest ratings since the shows inception in 1995.

Born in Glasgow, Scotland, Ferguson had a variety of entertainment jobs (drummer, actor, and host of the BBC comedy show The Ferguson Theory) before coming to the United States in 1995.

Ferguson was first introduced to main-stream America on the The Drew Carey Show, (following Maybe This Time, a short-lived ABC sitcom with Betty White and Marie Osmond. After that show ended, ABC decided to add the talented Scotsman, playing Drew Carey’s boss, Nigel Wick, from 1996-2003.

Ferguson wrote the feature films The Big Tease and Saving Grace. In 2003, he made his directorial debut with I’ll Be There, which he also wrote and starred in.

I’ll Be There went on to receive the Audience Award for Best Film at the Aspen, Dallas and Valencia film festivals, and he was also named “best new director” at the Napa Valley Film Festival. Ferguson’s other film credits include, Niagara Motel, Lenny the Wonder Dog, Prendimi l’anima, Life Without Dick, Chain of Fools and Born Romantic.

In April 2006, Ferguson published his first novel entitled Between The Bridge and The River, which became a critically acclaimed bestseller.

Since coming into his own on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson and winning his first Emmy nomination in 2006, Craig achieved a personal milestone in February 2008 when he was sworn in as a US Citizen. In the fall of 2009 Harper Collins published his memoir American On Purpose – a memoir of living the American dream as he journeyed from a small town in Scotland to the entertainment capital of the world. “American on Purpose will make you laugh, cry, and sing The Star Spangled Banner with a Scottish burr,” noted Harper Collins VP David Hirshey.

Ferguson also serves on the board of the Lollipop Theater Network; whose mission is to bring movies that are currently in theatrical release to hospitalized children facing chronic and life threatening illness nationwide. Ferguson lives in Los Angeles with his wife and son.

Steve Patterson

As host of CBC Radio One’s wildly successful “The Debaters” since 2007 Patterson has become a household name, with more than half a million weekly listeners. During a previous interview with The Montrealer, just before beginning as the host of The Debaters, Steve told me that he came to Montreal from Toronto to follow his heart. “My girlfriend told me that if I wanted to love her – it would have to be in Montreal. So here I am!”

In 2010, steady accolades for his work on that show earned him a third invitation to perform on one of Just For Laughs’ prestigious televised galas, hosted by Steve Martin. Considered to be the highlight of the show by the audience and critics alike, Patterson’s performance prompted the legendary Martin himself to quip, “If I’d known he was going to be THAT good, I would have cancelled him.”

Steve Patterson is a triple threat of funny, combining skills as: a stand-up comedian with over 13 years of touring experience; a successful radio and TV host; and a published humour writer with a unique gift for funny turns of phrase. He’s intelligent, well-read, well-versed in current events, quick on his feet, and a riveting raconteur. Patterson can quickly turn a crowd of strangers into a roomful of laughing co-conspirators.

Patterson began his full-time comedy career in 1997, shortly after ending his full-time career as a copywriter when he wrote an ad for an amusement park that his boss found a little “too amusing.” Leaving his desk job behind, he opted for the national and international stage. In addition to playing every major city in Canada (and most of the minor ones) he has also headlined in Ireland, Australia the United States the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates leaving audiences everywhere united in their praise.

In addition to general audiences, Patterson is also a highly sought-after host and speaker for private corporate events, counting major corporations such as the Canadian Olympic Committee, Coca-Cola Canada, PepsiCo, Best Buy, Future Shop, and the Rotman School of Business at the University of Toronto.

With back-to-back nominations for Canadian Comedy Awards as Canada’s best male stand-up comic in 2007 and 2008, Patterson’s star continues to rise in 2011 as he hosts the televised version of The Debaters on CBC television across Canada followed by a national theatre tour and return engagements internationally. Steve Patterson will host The Debaters on July 30 at 2pm at Place des Arts’ intimate Cinquième Salle.

It’s a circus out there!

There is a circus element to the Just For Laughs outdoor shows, concentrated during three weekends; July 14-17; 21-24 and 28-31. The acrobatics of Elliptoplume, Elastic-Gymnastique, are right out of Barnum & Bailey. And who can resist a knife thrower who calls himself The Great Throwdini?

Christopher Williams has built a career on massive audience participation in Rock – Paper – Scissors, and he promises that on July 29 at 10:30 pm (when everyone has had a chance to have a beer or two!) he’ll host the ultimate game of Rock – Paper –Scissors.

The Great Throwdini holds 25 Guiness
Records for throwing knives, axes
– anything sharp and pointed

Spidey

Fresh from his success at The Fringe Festival; hypnotist and magician “Spidey” will be performing 4 shows at Just For Laughs. “I’m a Montrealer, and it’s great to be performing at Just For Laughs. Spidey demonstrated his skill as a hypnotist at a recent Just For Laughs press conference. It was a jaw-dropping presentation – to witness the control and consideration he demonstrated for his subject.

The world’s greatest comedy fest will take place from July 11 – 31. For information on all the shows and gala events, please visit their website: www.justforlaughs.com Enjoy!

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