Posted in Fun, Montreal

My first Just for Laughs gala

Just for Laughs stage at Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier

It’s one of those things I wanted to do for so long. I’ve lived in this city my entire life, watched countless performances by stand-up comics (in both languages) on the Just for Laughs stage at Théâtre Saint-Denis, and wanted to go myself. But for various reasons (mainly a lack of availability combined with a fear of the price tag), I never saw one of its famous galas in person. I’ve been to outdoor events (much of which isn’t exactly funny, the giant screen showing Gags reruns notwithstanding), but never bought a ticket to watch an indoor show.

Last Saturday, I finally did. It was the only night I was really free to see anything. I went down to Place des Arts and decided I would plan my night based on what cheap last-minute tickets were available. I was actually a bit surprised when I found out that a 7pm show on a Saturday featuring Craig Ferguson still had seats available (singles, for the most part, mind you) that they were willing to give me for a significant last-minute discount. I picked it up, paying less than $40 in cash.

My ticket to my first Just for Laughs gala

The ticket was for the second-last row of the Corbeille (isn’t that a cute little word?), which is the first balcony. I was near the centre, which put me right in front of a screen on which was projected the teleprompter showing intro scripts for Ferguson.

The view could have been worse, though it showed its main disadvantage right off the bat when the show started off with a guy taking off various layers of T-shirts in the audience on the ground. Many in the balconies couldn’t see it. During the actual show, the view was unobscured, but I had to force myself to look at the comedian instead of the giant screen to the side of the stage showing a larger-than-life version of the performance.

The show started with a video of Just for Laughs highlights (including a lot of clips of big comedians from before they made it big). The video also showed some highlights of comedians embarrassing those who arrive late to shows. Of course, the people who arrived late to this show missed it. Is that ironic or just funny?

As for the performances themselves, well they looked and sounded a lot like stand-up acts. I’m not the best critic, so I’ll leave that to the experts. The whole show lasted a bit under two hours, which means each comic got less than 15 minutes on stage. I knew I shouldn’t have expected a whole hour with each, but I was always disappointed when they were done because I wanted them to continue. That was certainly the case for Ferguson himself.

A good recommendation

After the show let out, I headed over to Notre Dame St. near the Jacques Cartier Bridge to watch the final fireworks at La Ronde. When I came back, I hung around the last-minute-ticket booth seeing what was on around midnight. A Just for Laughs employee asked me if I wanted to see a show (marking the first time in my life, I believe, that I was asked “est-ce que vous comprenez l’anglais?”), and recommended something called the Alternative Comedy Show, playing at l’Astral just across the street. I wasn’t aware what that was, but the ticket was $13 and change, so what the heck?

As it turns out, it’s not really so “alternative” – in fact, half the comics there had their own one-man shows at the festival. People like Hannibal Buress, Paul F. Tompkins and Eugene Mirman. For about $50 total I got to see two shows with more than a dozen very good comedians.

Hannibal Buress sells one of his own CDs to someone who just saw him perform at the Alternative Comedy Show at Astral on Saturday night

While I can understand most people would want to go to shows like this with friends to share the experience, if you’re going alone and you don’t really care which comedians you go see, I’d definitely recommend the last-minute-impulse-buy method as a way to have fun that’s easy on the wallet.

Because even the worst ones are still pretty funny.

Just for Laughs has a wrap-up of the festival posted here.

8 thoughts on “My first Just for Laughs gala

  1. Vahan

    Hope you enjoy more galas in the future. We went to see the Russell Peters gala with the majority of comedians being fall down funny, but we also had Dom Irrera in the mix and he seemed off, way off. Used to be so funny. I am hoping that Russell brought him out as a favour for a possible try at a comeback, because he needs to shine up his act again. Russell could have been better and his wheelchair kid bit was terrible and the t-shirt guy was awful, may have pumped up the crowd but very cheesy. But all in all well worth the money. After Montreal is funny, bridges fall, streets collapse, tunnel drop chunks, language is always a nagging issue, the heat is unbearable for a week in July, we have bikes and cars fighting for right of way, metro shuts down during the peak usage, buses are never on time and we are demented to live here that is what makes it great.

    Reply
  2. Andy Nulman

    Steve–

    So happy you enjoyed. Given the insight and intelligence in this post (and now that you and Martin Spalding are getting along), next year, I wanna invite you to a show…as well as backstage to see the seamy underbelly of what goes on behind the scenes. Until then, I’ll be reading and keeping up on our city.

    Reply
    1. Another Marc

      Andy, so nice to have you join us on this blog.

      Still, journalistic integrity prevents Steve from taking advantage of your kind offer (journalists are like that…..eeeesh).

      However, *I* would be willing to report back to Steve (and thus preserve his godliness here) to give a full report.

      In fact, I was in the F row of the Corbeille during the same show as Steve (and the 10PM show, don’t ask….) and represents one of the few times we failed to sync our Blackberries.

      Wishing you my very best,
      Marc

      Reply
      1. Fagstein Post author

        Still, journalistic integrity prevents Steve from taking advantage of your kind offer (journalists are like that…..eeeesh).

        That’s ridiculous. I don’t have nearly enough integrity to reject such an offer.

        Reply
          1. Vahan

            Hey me too, me too!!!!
            Can I come, huh? Can I, Can I? Please. Cherry on top!
            More exclamation points semi colon close bracket.

            Reply

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