Why Every Comedy Fan Needs to Go to Just For Laughs Montreal At Least Once

Comedy Features Just For Laughs
Why Every Comedy Fan Needs to Go to Just For Laughs Montreal At Least Once

The Just For Laughs comedy festival took root in Montreal in 1983, and has run every year since, give or take a pandemic. For much of that time it’s been the biggest and most important festival in all of comedy, bringing the biggest names in the business along with dozens of up-and-comers to the City of Saints every July. The fest is so entrenched in the business that it’s spawned spin-off festivals in Toronto and Vancouver. The original flagship event culminates in Montreal the last week of July, when comedy shows fill up clubs and theaters throughout the city, and many of the top agents, producers, and network executives come to scout talent. For comedians it’s a top tier networking event that can literally make their careers. For comedy fans, it’s a days-long smorgasbord of laughs in one of the most beautiful cities in North America, and something they need to experience at some point. Here are five reasons every comedy fan needs to check out Just For Laughs Montreal at least once in their lives.

It Hosts the Biggest Comics in the World

Just For Laughs’ schedule can be overwhelming, with hundreds of shows happening throughout the city during its last week. That lineup is sure to feature several of the biggest stars in comedy every year. Over the last several years Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin Hart, Dave Chappelle, Tiffany Haddish, Ali Wong, Wanda Sykes, Trevor Noah, Amy Schumer, John Mulaney, and other A-listers have headlined the festival. This year’s schedule includes Eddie Izzard, Leslie Jones, and Ronny Chieng, among others. Not only do these stars headline their own shows at Montreal’s bigger venues, but they’ll often host one of the Just For Laughs Galas, which are showcases filmed for TV with a half-dozen or so prominent comics doing seven minute sets at Montreal’s gorgeous Place des Arts. Sometimes these big stars will even drop in unannounced at other shows throughout the city. (More on that later.) But if your idea of stand-up is laughing along to one of the most famous comedians in the world alongside several thousand friends and strangers, Just For Laughs will have what you’re looking for.

There Are Dozens of Shows from Well-Known Pros, Rising Stars, Cult Comics, and More

The festival isn’t just about the biggest names. With well over 100 comedians performing every year, there are comics at all levels of their career at Just For Laughs, popping up at the various showcases that dot the schedule, and often performing their own full shows. This year’s lineup includes club shows by Urzila Carson, Gina Yashere, Kyle Kinane, The Lucas Brothers, River Butcher, and more, as well as long-running multi-comic showcases like The Nasty Show, Just For the Culture, and Brit(ish). If you’re a true comedy fan there’s a good chance your favorite comedians aren’t necessarily the most popular, and Just For Laughs’ jam-packed schedule will almost always feature a number of comics that you love.

It’s a Fantastic Opportunity to Discover New Comedians

Of course it’s always fun to discover new favorites, too. How good does it feel to go see a comedy show and get blown away by somebody you weren’t familiar with? That happens so often at Just For Laughs. Maybe it’ll be an established vet that you just haven’t seen until you catch them doing seven minutes at a gala. Or, if you really want to check out the future of comedy, you can go to one of Just For Laughs’ several New Faces of Comedy showcases. This year’s New Faces include 66 comedians from around the world, with separate shows for stand-ups, digital content creators, and comedians who specialize in character work. Some of the best and most exciting sets I’ve caught at Just For Laughs have come at New Faces shows, and I’d recommend them to any true comedy fan.

There Will Always Be Surprises

Comedy fans love it when a big name or favorite comic appears unannounced on a show, and that happens fairly often at Just For Laughs. With so many multi-comic showcases on the schedule, there’s ample room for major stars to pop in for a surprise seven minute set. That kind of surprise is so inherently appealing that Just For Laughs even promotes a nightly mystery show with no announced lineup; Midnight Special happens every night at midnight (obviously), and is usually one of the best-selling shows every day.

The Festival Atmosphere Can’t Be Beat

When you’re at Just For Laughs you aren’t just going from one theater or club to the next. There’s a large outdoor component to the event, with comedy and music performances all around the Place des Arts, and food trucks and pop-up bars lining Rue Sainte-Catherine. It can be just as entertaining as any comedy show you see, and you should definitely make time to soak up the atmosphere.

Oh, Yeah: It’s in Montreal

Finally, one of the biggest reasons to go to Just For Laughs Montreal is because it’s in Montreal. This gorgeous city feels like it straddles two continents—it’s one of the most European cities you’ll visit in North America (and not just because they speak French), but is still unmistakably Canadian. It has some of the most beautiful and diverse architecture you’ll find in North America, and maybe the best culinary scene in the whole damn continent. (Even the regional chain restaurants here are better than a lot of “nice” restaurants in the States.) And at the top of Mount Royal is one of my favorite scenic views anywhere in the world: you can gaze down at all of Montreal below you, like some kind of city-straddling colossus. If you do go to Just For Laughs, make sure you see as much of the city as you can.

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