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.