12 Highlights of the 2016 Just For Laughs Festival

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12 Highlights of the 2016 Just For Laughs Festival

I’ll be in Montreal this week for Just For Laughs, the largest comedy festival in the world. It’s like a concentrated dose of the best stand-up comedians in the world today, injected into a few hectic days in one of the coolest cities on the planet. The festival itself runs for three weeks, but the last week of the month is the main draw, with dozens of shows across the city every night, and special events during the day for both comedy professionals and fans. It’s like a Golden Corral buffet of comedy, and the chocolate fountain at the end is the slight chance of seeing somebody like Louis C.K. or Aziz Ansari do an unannounced walk-on at a small club. If you’re in Montreal and wondering what shows to hit up, or just want to see how absurdly packed this festival is with great stuff, here’s a list, in no order, of what I’m most excited about at this year’s event.

1. An Evening with the Cast of Veep


Time: Wed. 7/27 at 7 PM
Location: Place des Arts – Maison Symphonique

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Julia Louis-Dreyfus returns to Just For Laughs for this panel discussion about her beloved HBO sitcom. Joining her are Tony Hale, Timothy Simons (aka Jonah Ryan, perhaps the best character on a show filled with best characters), and the showrunner David Mandel. New York Magazine writer and former Times columnist Frank Rich will be moderating the whole thing. Expect a pretty good conversation about one of the best shows on TV today.


2. The Jeff Goldblum Gala


Wed. 7/27 at 7 PM
Place des Arts – Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier

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The galas are a great way to catch a number of different comedians quickly, easily and comfortably. They feature short sets from eight or so comics, with a host who starts it off with their own set and who returns to introduce every comedian. This year’s galas have a great line-up of hosts (including David Cross, Nathan Lane and Carrie Fisher), but the most fascinating one has to be Jeff Goldblum. Goldblum is a great comic actor but he’s not a comedian, so just like with Patrick Stewart last year, it’ll be fascinating to see how he fares doing what is basically a glorified stand-up routine. Yeah, a lot of that will come down to the comedians who write his material for the night, but I’ll want to see in person how his antic schtick and halting way of talking works with stand-up.


3. Trump vs. Bernie Debate Tour 2016


Wed. 7/27 – Fri. 7/29 at 7:30 PM
Le Balcon

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It’s been an amazing year for James Adomian and Anthony Atamanuik: their Trump vs. Bernie Debate Tour has been a deserved smash. Sanders might be out of the running now, and Montreal might be in an entirely different country, but the two will be donning the wigs once more for three nights of debates at Just For Laughs. Will the comedy translate in a city that mostly speaks French? Will it matter, since there’ll be hundreds of Americans in town for the festival? We’ll find out later this week.


4. Todd Barry: Works the Crowd


Wed. 7/27 – Thu. 7/28, Sat. 7/30 at 9 PM
Katacombes

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There are times when I’m pretty sure Todd Barry is the funniest man on earth. His film Todd Barry: The Crowd Work Tour is full of those moments. He’s doing three nights of crowd work at the metal club Katacombes during Just For Laughs, and the audience needs to be prepared—this is a small club, so it’ll be hard to hide from Barry. If you don’t want him making fun of you, maybe find another show.


5. Mark Normand: Don’t Be Yourself


Wed. 7/27, Fri. 7/29, Sat. 7/30 at 7:30 PM
Montreal Improv

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I’ve loved Mark Normand in the short bursts I’ve seen him—from his Comedy Central half-hour to his slots on Conan—and I’m sure his full hour-long set is just as good. He’ll be performing it three times at Just For Laughs, and seems like a pretty good candidate to show up at some of the other showcases and multi-comic bills that’ll be happening throughout the city.


6. Maria Bamford


Thu. 7/28 at 9 PM
Fri. 7/29 at 9:30 PM
Place des Arts – Sieme Salle

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The star of Netflix’s Lady Dynamite will be doing two shows during the festival. If you love her show but have never seen her stand-up, you need to track down some of her work now—she’s been one of the best and most distinctive stand-up comedians for over a decade, and people will get to see that live and in person at Just For Laughs.


7. Louis C.K.


Thu. 9/28 at 9 PM
Place des Arts – Maison Symphonique

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One of the biggest stand-up comedians in the world today is doing a one-night show in the middle of Just For Laughs. Last year C.K. dropped in unexpectedly at like a half-dozen shows during the festival’s last night. Now fans know where to find him, and it’s sure to be one of the hottest tickets of the entire festival.


8. Oh, Hello


Thu. 9/28 through Sat. 9/30 at 9:30 PM
GESÙ

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Nick Kroll and John Mulaney bring their off Broadway smash to Montreal . The show stars their “Too Much Tuna” characters from Kroll Show, Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland, as they reminisce about their long careers in the New York drama world. Just like the Trump vs. Bernie Debate Tour, Oh, Hello has been one of the big live comedy stories of the year, and they’ll be bringing it to Just For Laughs before launching a limited run on Broadway in the fall.


9. Master of None Panel


Sat. 7/30 at 4 PM
Hyatt Regency Grand Salon Opera

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Master of None’s Aziz Ansari will be joined by co-stars Noel Wells and Kelvin Yu and the show’s co-creator Alan Yang to talk about their Netflix hit. Ansari, who’s also receiving Just For Laughs’ Comedy Person of the Year award, is one of the smartest and most perceptive interviews in comedy today, so it’ll be fascinating to hear what he has to say about the show. The afternoon panel is already sold out, unfortunately, so hopefully you already grabbed a ticket.


10. Hannibal Buress


Sat. 7/30 at 7 PM
Olympia

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Buress has long been a favorite here at Paste, and I can’t wait to see what material he’s come up with since his last special debuted on Netflix just five months ago. It’s so close to that special that I wonder if this night will be all-new material or if he’ll have to use some stuff the crowd might be familiar with. Either way it should be good.


11. Sarah Silverman


Sat. 7/30 at 9:30 PM
Place des Arts – Maison Symphonique

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Less than a month after almost dying, and less than a week after making headlines with her ad libbed crack at the Bernie or Bust crowd at the DNC, Sarah Silverman will be doing a one-night show at Just For Laughs. It’ll be interesting to see if she has any material about either of those events. Even if it’s been too soon for her to have worked anything into her set about ‘em, it’ll still be exciting to see what a Silverman show looks like in 2016. It’s been years since her last special, so this night should be full of stuff I’ve never heard before.


12. Hold On with Eugene Mirman


Wed. 7/27 at 10 PM; Thu. 7/28 at 11:30 PM
Theatre La Chapelle

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In his new show for Audible Eugene Mirman invites some of the best comedians around to tell their best true story, and then interrupts whenever he sees fit to ask for more explanation or detail. Basically it’s Mirman having deep, hilarious chats with friends and colleagues. And as you would expect at a festival stacked with such talent, his Just For Laughs guest list is full of all stars, with Aparna Nancherla, Mary Lynn Rajskub and Gad Elmaleh on Wednesday night, and Cameron Esposito, Joe Mande and Maria Bamford on Thursday.


Garrett Martin edits Paste’s comedy and games section. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.