It’s Just for Laughs — why am I not laughing?

Montreal’s Just for Laughs comedy festival is essentially over. The big-ticket galas are done, the newspapers have moved on, and the streets have been handed over to the Francofolies.

Last weekend, I stopped by the JFL street festival to see what was going on. They had lots of stuff there: a giant human-sized chess game (they had an entire section for games including checkers, darts, trivia games, and pool), street theatre, giant heads, people on stilts (and their over-aggressive crowd-clearers), overpriced “official” merchandise, annoying noisemakers, and charismatic Videotron-branded information booths.

As I walked through it all, I wondered: What does any of this have to do with comedy? Nobody was laughing. The only thing in the entire closed-off get-searched-as-you-enter zone that brought on any laughter was a giant screen showing Just for Laughs Gags.

If you want to have people playing chess on the street, go ahead. But don’t brand it “Just for Laughs” when there’s no laughter involved.

One thought on “It’s Just for Laughs — why am I not laughing?

  1. Josh

    Yeah, it’s dumb, but this train left the station before Just for Laughs ’07. Even on the gala TV episodes, I’ve seen performances that were perhaps amazing, but not funny. Haven’t Stomp and other such vaguely-musical acts performed at JFL in past years?

    In 1999, the Ottawa “Bluesfest” had as its headliner that well-known purveyor of the blues, Sting. Since then, some of their other big-name performers have been Sum 41, Bryan Adams, Blue Rodeo, Alexisonfire, Simple Plan and Great Big Sea, to name but a few. How many of those names scream “blues” to you? Blues purists in Ottawa (and Ottawa’s a pretty good blues town, as it goes) tend to scoff at the fest these days.

    Similarly, it’s been a long time since the Jazz Festival in Montreal focused solely on, y’know, jazz. This year Bob Dylan and Van Morrison were two of the biggest paid shows (and incidentally, they both also played the Bluesfest in Ottawa). Last year, a tribute to Paul Simon was the big outdoor event. Because he’s so famous for all of his wonderful jazz recordings.

    At the Francofolies this year, I’m told there are acts who perform only in languages that are not French. There aren’t many such acts, but they are there. If ever there was a festival that ought to have clear limitations as to who can and can’t perform, I’d have to think it’s that one. I would be wrong.

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