Zoofest: Just For Laugh’s younger and edgier sibling

by Toula Drimonis

In a city known for its hugely successful, international events, there’s one festival that fans of comedy should be on the look-out for. No, we’re not talking about the Just For Laughs comedy festival – although as one of the biggest events of its kind in the world, it certainly shouldn’t be missed. We’re talking about its edgier, younger sibling: Zoofest.

Discover more with our partners

Distinct vibe and eclectic bilingual programming

While Just For Laughs attracts some of the biggest comedy names in the business, Zoofest (and its English-language component, Off-JFL) is their unofficial launching pad for stardom. It’s often the place where younger, lesser known and less experienced comedians hone their skills and work their craft. That also means the shows are much more affordable for audience members. Zoofest and Off-JFL performances are some the best deals to be found on the festival circuit.

From July 6 to 29, get ready for more than 250 artists performing in more than 160 shows full of bilingual comedy, music and theatre, as Zoofest celebrates its 9th edition. English Off-JFL programming takes place from July 20 to 29.

Founded in 2009, the multi-genre fest was initially an off-shoot of Just For Laughs, but has since grown into its own phenomenally diverse and entertaining happening, with its own distinct and zany vibe, and an edgier focus. The bilingual festival is about more than just comedy, showcasing acts that incorporate music, theatre, and entertainment. The venues are smaller and more intimate, the comedic material is often raunchier and untested, and that can often mean that you may find yourself watching tomorrow’s arena headliner get discovered today.

French shows

This year’s edition of Zoofest looks like another winner. The show Maligne about a malignant tumour, by Noémie Caillault, which was a huge hit in France, will be premiering in Quebec, while The Cabaret des Maudits Français will be back. The smart and often political observations of Fred Dubé will once again make audiences think, while Cabaret Erotique will combine the literary and the erotic. The classic and much-loved 60-minute solo and double-headliners of Zoofest come back this year again, with headliners like Sam Breton, Richardson Zéphir, Jay du Temple, and many more.

English shows

There are some top-notch acts coming this year, but as a long-time comedy fan allow me some recommendations. Kate Berlant has been referred to as a "magnetic improvisational comic" by the New York Times, and every time I see her perform I don’t understand why she hasn’t yet hit the big time. Catch her before she does. Canadian-turned-Brit Katherine Ryan is savagely funny and quick-witted. Add to that, shows by adorable giggler, Ron Funches, the Lucas Brothers, DeAnne Smith, and the always popular The Alternative Show hosted by Andy Kindler, and you’ve got yourself some serious options.


New Zoofest Spot

The Zoofest Spot returns at a new location this year, at the corner of Saint-Urbain and de Maisonneuve. An outdoor stage will feature three shows per night, and this is where festival goers will be able to socialize, exchange the latest buzz on shows, grab a drink and get last-minute tickets.

Tickets and festival info

Running from July 6 to 29, with more than 100,000 festival goers and hundreds of local and international artists, Zoofest and OFF-JFL is a 24-day festival you simply don’t want to miss!

For a complete list of shows and their detailed descriptions, and to purchase tickets and/or festival passes, visit: www.zoofest.com

Toula Drimonis

Toula Drimonis, blogger

Toula Drimonis is a Montreal-based freelance writer, editor, and long-time columnist. She appears frequently on TV and radio as an opinion pundit and her freelance work has been published in The New York Times, the National Post, Mic, Buzzfeed, Ms. Magazine, and other publications. She’s obsessed with Leonard Cohen, New Orleans, and Montreal bagels. In her free time, she can be found reading, people-watching, enjoying the city, and drinking wine while giving questionable life advice.

Blog / Facebook / Twitter / Instagram

To see the list of our regular contributors, click here.