Guts will be busting at Just For Laughs 2017

Jamie O'Meara

Bigly names for bigly laughs

Montréal will, hands down, become the funniest city in the world for an incredible thigh-slapping, rib-tickling 20 days this July for what’s shaping up to be an epic 35th anniversary edition of the largest comedy festival on the planet. Just For Laughs is rolling out the big guns – Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Ali Wong and Trevor Noah to name a few – for this prestigious occasion, and the laughter will be booming.

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Hilarity shall ensue

Every year, the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival – taking place July 12-31 – brings top-tier comedians, A-list Hollywood TV and film stars, and the cream of the crop of up-and-coming comedians and puts them in venues big and small throughout Montréal’s downtown Quartier des Spectacles. From bombastic Galas, to the always-popular themed series, intimate club shows, in-conversations, live TV tapings, cast panels, live podcasts and more, the festival is a comedy fan’s fantasy come true and draws some 1.35 million visitors every year.

A gaggle of Galas

The Galas are invariably the focal point of the festival every year, and feature many of the biggest names in entertainment past and present. Greats such as Don Rickles and Joan Rivers have graced the prestigious Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier stage in Place des Arts, Montréal’s crown jewel of soft-seat theatres, where the Galas take place every year. This year’s Gala hosts so far include former Saturday Night Live star David Spade (July 26), Orange Is the New Black’s Laverne Cox (July 29), America’s Got Talent host Howie Mandel (July 29), Canadian satirist-in-chief Rick Mercer (July 27) and returning hometown hero Sugar Sammy (July 27 and 28).

The heavy comedy hitters

It stands to reason that the festival’s biggest venue – the Bell Centre, home to the Montreal Canadiens – will also be the stage for the fest’s biggest name this year, a certain Mr. Jerry Seinfeld, performing one show on July 26 with France’s best-known comedic star, Gad Elmaleh. In other big-name news, The Daily Show’s Trevor Noah performs two shows at the gorgeous Maison Symphonique on July 28, and Netflix sensation Ali Wong works the same stage on July 27. And superstar actor and comedian Jim Carrey will host a night with the cast and creators of his new TV drama, I’m Dying Up Here, again at Maison Symphonique, July 27.

Not for the faint of heart

Two of JFL’s most popular series – The Ethnic Show and The Nasty Show – return this year with truly outstanding lineups. The Ethnic Show, which leaves no culture untouched, returns for a ninth edition with its usual United Nations of comedians: host Iranian-American Maz Jobrani, Jewish-American Jessica Kirson, Korean-Irish-American Steve Byrne, Italian-Canadians The Doo Wops and more. The Nasty Show tests the limits of the word “nasty,” and no doubt the outer boundaries will again be probed by U.K. phenom Jimmy Carr, the always unfiltered Godfrey, “master of the dirty joke” Big Jay Oakerson, the rantin’ and ravin’ Yamaneika Saunders, the brutally honest and unhinged Robert Kelly, and powerhouse host Ari Shaffir. These shows run over the course of many days, so check the calendar here.

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Take it outside, funny guy

And just in case you thought all the good times go down in dark clubs in the dead of night, you couldn’t be further from the truth. The Just For Laughs outdoor site in the heart of the Quartier des Spectacles is a nearly all-day celebration of creativity in its many various forms and where imagination reigns supreme. Live music, DJ dance parties, circus arts, amazing food (including Montréal’s famous food trucks), crazy installations and activities, all manner of performance and, of course, comedy take place on the expansive site. And be sure not to miss the annual (and, honestly, kinda creepy) Twins Parade, always a highlight of the laugh-fest shenanigans.

Jamie O’Meara

Jamie O’Meara, blogger

Jamie O’Meara is a writer for The Montreal Gazette, C2 Montréal, Moment Factory and more. He also manages the PR Team at the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival and is the former Editor-in-Chief of alt-weekly newspaper HOUR Magazine.

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