For two weeks in July every year, millions travel to Quebec to attend the worlds biggest international comedy festival- Just for Laughs. Hundreds of thousands of tickets are sold each year and a great deal of the press and attention goes to the tv stars, the movie stars and the most famous stand up performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Howie Mandel, Judd Apatow, Laverne Cox and Sugar Sammy. And with good reason- they’re great performers. But Just for Laughs is not just about the biggest stars. In fact, for many of the comedy industry folks who pour into town, Just for Laughs is more about discovering new talent. And a lot of that talent is Canadian.
Historically, Canada has given rise to some of the most talented and beloved comedic personalities in history. Jim Carrey, Tommy Chong, John Candy, Mike Myers, Norm Macdonald, Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, Will Arnett, Dan Aykroyd, Samantha Bee, the Kids in the Hall, Howie Mandel, Rick Moranis, Martin Short, Lorne Michaels, Leslie Nielsen, Seth Rogen- these are legends who changed the face of comedy- and they’re all Canadian.
Some believe that Canadian comedy is at an all time high right now. Shows like Letterkenny and the Trailer Park Boys are getting international attention, and some of our favorite young stand up comics are Canadians with many making the move to NYC and Los Angeles and thriving, and Just for Laughs is shining the spotlight on a number of young Canadian comics in Galas, doing solo hours, and appearing on JFL’s wildly popular Homegrown Comics show as well as SiriusXM’s Top Comic Showcase. The various comedy scenes around the country are thriving, with places like Comedy Bar in Toronto leading the way.
We already know and love K. Trevor Wilson, Deb DiGiovanni, and Vancouver’s own Sophie Buddle but there are dozens more local Cannuck comedians performing this week and so we checked in with the experts to help us figure out who we need to see while in Canada. Everyone we talked to said they were sure they were leaving out some great people so this list is by no means definitive or exhaustive, but some names just come up over and over no matter who you talk to, so if you need to put your focus on just a few names to check out this year, make sure you see K. Trevor Wilson, Deb DiGiovanni, Marito Lopez and Alex Wood. But those four names are only the beginning.
Barry Taylor is an encyclopedia of what’s happening in comedy north of the border. Barry is a comedian and former radio personality who now runs independent record label Comedy Records in Toronto and in NYC. Comedy Records is Canada’s first and only record label dedicated to releasing stand up and sketch albums. Their releases have topped the iTunes and Google Play charts and have been featured on Conan, SiriusXM, MTV, and in Paste Magazine and on A.V. Club.
“There’s lots of great comedy communities in Canada. Edmonton has a good one, Vancouver too. The majority of the talent eventually comes to Toronto. Toronto is like a minature New York where comics can do multiple spots on any night of the week if they want to,” Barry told us. “Just For Laughs does a great job of supporting Canadian talent and because they’re so respected that’s a major help to the industry. The festival really helps elevate comedians to a level that’s not seen anywhere else in Canada. JFL provides the opportunity for Canadians who are talented but don’t have main stream notoriety to share the stage with the biggest names in comedy. That’s a big deal and something that the festival should be praised for.”
Nick Reynoldson – he’s been destroying shows around Toronto for a couple of years now. Was part of the New Faces at JFL 42 in 2015 and performed at the Winnipeg Comedy Fest Gala in April 2016. He’s doing a taping for Kevin Hart’s LOL Network on July 26 Video Link
K Trevor Wilson – He’s one of the top comedians in the country right now. Has been featured on Comedy Central’s Roast Battles, Jimmy Kimmel and is one of the stars of the award winning series Letterkenny. He’s on multiple shows including the David Spade Gala and headlining the Home Grown Competition.
Rebecca Kohler – One of Canada’s best writers and comedians. She’s won multiple awards as a stand up and written for several shows. She’s from Ottawa and has spent most of her comedy career in Toronto but now lives in LA.
Todd Shapiro hosts The Todd Shapiro Show every day on SiriusXM’s Canada Laughs Channel. He’s been a host for 14 years, and brings in an amazing variety of Canadian and international comedians an personalities, and he’s beloved by fans and those in the business.
“The guys that come in my show, like some of these kids like they’re 28-29, they’re so aware, they’re so confident, they’re so witty. They’re so sharp,they’re knowledgeable in terms just being very well-rounded about politics, being protective of the environment. All these like, there’s good causes, too, for a lot of them. Look out for a new wave coming your way to America in the next five years.
Who to watch at JFL:
K. Trevor Wilson: So I think there’s sort of like a consensus going on right now, that K. Trev is kind of like the next big thing to come out of Canada.
Dom Pare is amazing. Dom’s brilliant.
Nigel Grinstead is from a small town. Total small town kid, I mean I think there’s something like 500 people in his town. I mean I might be making that number up, but it’s tiny. It’s a tiny town called Arnprior. don’t even know how to spell Arnprior, nor do I even believe it really exists in Canada, but I mean this kid won Homegrown last year, and I always say I feel like in this day and age there’s an advantage for these small town kids as opposed to the urban, kind of Toronto ones where they’re brought up with having conversation. You know? They’re brought up with hearing stories and kind of like the out east way here in Canada, or you know, like I guess you would consider like the Irish would do. Like they tell stories and they listen and they’re not so distracted by their phones and you know, what’s the next great app you can get, like they’re, and I think that helps them. I really believe that, I really believe that his comedy is, he’s very well-rounded, he’s very smart, but he’s also like very engaging.
Keith Pedro. I just love his vibe and his energy, his name’s Keith Pedro. Keith is an absolute beauty. He’s Filipino. Not that that matters, but he’s just, like he’s very diverse. He can get up and like rap and he’s just like, his energy. Like just certain guys with energy that you like right away you want to like. He’s a dad too, which is what I like. I always like when these guys go through transition in their comedy and put some of that in their act. So he’s a guy I’d say look out for.
Alex Wood. I almost don’t want to give him credit because this guy’s going to be huge, He’s going through a really interesting experience in his life right now. He’s doing a podcast called “Alex Quits Everything”. He’s like taking a month where he’s like, he’s quitting smoking, then he’s quitting like weed, he’s quitting caffeine, he’s quitting porn, and like he’s kind of like really incorporating this into sort of his act and everything and the podcast and just a super sharp, funny guy as well.
Pete Johansson. Pete’s a pretty big name. Pete’s been popular in the UK, but he’s a Canadian comic. Kind of back home. He’s got a Netflix special actually. He’s eclectic, he’s almost a know it all, which I don’t think he would mind if you called him that.
Julia Hladkowicz: The Canadian Amy Schumer. She’d probably like to hear that.
Steph Tolev: Steph’s, I don’t know if she’d appreciate it, I did a show at the Laugh Factory in LA a few months ago and I brought her out on stage. I’m not a comedian, but I don’t mind hosting an event. I brought her up on stage and I’m like, “She’s kind of like the female Sam Kinison”.
Marito Lopez: It’ll be hard to notice him because he’s so tiny, but once you do, you’ll never forget Marito Lopez. He is, this kid, yeah, like the Kevin Hart of Canada maybe? I didn’t call him that, that’s a quote from someone else. That’s totally because of his height and his energy.The kid is a nut. He’s honestly great.
Author, comedian and talk radio host Ward Anderson co-hosts the Ward and Al show on SiriusXM Canada. He’s performed all over the world, on radio, on television, and on his own stand up special. He’s been nominated for a Canadian Comedy Award along with co-host Alison Dore. They are one of the most popular shows on SiriusXM satellite radio, where they’ve been called “The Best Duo In Canadian Talk Radio”. You can hear them every day on Canada Talks (channel 167) from 1pm to 4pm.
“In Canada, if you’re rising, if you’re on your way up, you’re still doing the clubs,” he said explaining how career tracks in Canada are a little different from America. “Once you have any kind of heat, you’re probably then doing small venues, like smaller theaters or you’re doing your own larger clubs. You’re always going to have someone who’s a super star worldwide like Russell Peters, but then there’s guys who are big in Canada and then around the world but not in the U.S. like Sugar Sammy. Phenomenal comedian. Such a charming act. The guy just exudes personality. Besides that, he’s a great comedian, but there’s something so very, very likable about that guy. He doesn’t just make audiences laugh, he really charms them. But then you’ve also got … So, in Quebec, you could have a guy who’s very popular like Mike Ward. Mike Ward is very popular in Quebec and has done tours all over just that Province where he’s made a small fortune. Then, you’ve got guys like Gerry Dee who can tour the rest of Canada because he has a very popular sitcom here in Canada that now has him selling out small theaters all over the country. It just depends on what you’re looking for.”
K. Trevor Wilson is a stand out,” Ward told us. Mark Forward is also an excellent Canadian comic. Frazer Young. I would say Amanda Brooke Perrin. Rebecca Kohler, definitely a stand out. Debra DiGiovanni. Then, I’m going to go with Ali Hassan and Dave Marash. … And Arthur Simeon is really, really, definitely one of my favorites. I put Arthur Simeon way up at the top. Toroto by way of Kampala.
Comedian and SiriusXM radio personality Ben Miner knows Canada and he knows comedy. Just last year at about this time we talked with Ben about how comedy is booming in Canada, and it feels like the talent just keeps growing. Ben has been a part of SiriusXM’s Canada Laughs channel since its inception, and he’s a big part of SiriusXM’s Canada’s Top Comic search every year, so he’s a perfect person to ask about the state of comedy across the country. At this year’s Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal, he hosted SiriusXM’s top comic showcase featuring Chris Robinson, Sophie Buddle and Che Durena who were the winners and runners up of last year’s competition.
Sophie Buddle: She was a runner up last year. She’s very good, yeah. A big, big, bright future ahead of Sophie Buddle guaranteed. Yeah. Well, she’s originally from Ottawa, but she really found her way in Vancouver. She’d been doing stand-up since she was, like, 15 or 16. People don’t realize how much experience there is in that 22 year old’s career. If comics were companies I’d buy a lot of stock in Sophie Buddle.
Chris Robinson: He’s just a gem. I mean, he does all sorts of stuff. He can do stand-up, he can act, he can do music stuff. He’s an all-around talent, and too handsome. Can I say too handsome as well? Why does he got to have all the talent and a handsome guy? Like, man. He’s a dreamboat.Yeah. It’s upsetting. He’s a great guy, he’s a great comic, and he’s got options in life. What the hell?
Che Durena. He’s originally from Vancouver. Younger guy. He’s done all sorts of stuff, but stand-up is where he’s really killing it right now. I mean, he used to be a scuba diving instructor in Mexico. He’s another young dude who’s got, like, all this life behind him. He found his way to stand-up, and, man, we’re all better for it. He’s very funny.
Alex Wood. Somebody to look out for right now is Alex Wood. Just a really, really funny comic who’s been doing a lot this year in terms of just working on himself and making that into a thing. He’s got a podcast that’s doing well, about how he’s quitting a whole bunch of shit. He’s had health issues this year, too. I’ve just I’ve never seen him this motivated and this focused. He’s just a great young comic. I think there’s big things ahead of old Woody in the next little bit.
Ryan Long. This guy. Fuck. He was in a band called The Johnstones, which did really, really well. They charted. They’re a big band, and then he just decided he’s going to be a comic at some point. You look at the guy. He’s like this tall rock and roll, good looking, long-haired dude. You figure, “Ah, he probably just fucks around or whatever,” but he’s probably the hardest working guy I know. Of all the new comics, this guy doesn’t stop. He’s always creating content. I think he’s got a development deal with [inaudible 00:09:08] Media. He had a TV show called Ryan Long is Challenged. He’s a really interesting guy, and very funny on stage, too.
Brittany Lyseng. I love Brittany so much. Brittany’s one of my favorite discoveries in Top Comic history. Brittany was a comic that we first saw at Top Comic I’d say, like, a good four years ago. I had never heard of her before. You know when you see these comics that are ready but they don’t know that they’re, like, your thing? She was a thing the first time I saw her where it’s just like, wow.
Mayce Galoni. Mace is is another one. He’s one of the funniest comics. Mayce is the real deal. He’s one of these guys … honestly, I was blown away. For his Top Comics set this year, he did an entirely new set.
Marito Lopez. Oh, man. Funniest man out of El Salvador, of all-time probably. I’d say that only having met one person from El Salvador. He’s from El Salvador. Grew up in Calgary. He’s living in Toronto now. He’s also a semi-finalist for Top Comic this year. On top of being a comedian, he’s also a part of a comedy hip-hop collective called Runnin’ at the Mouth. Just he’s like a little Latino Tracy Morgan in that he just needs to be seen by someone and they’re going to put him in every TV show and every movie. He’s got that innate ability to just make a regular sentence funny, like Tracy’s got. Anything. He creates comedy. He doesn’t find it, he creates it. He’s one of the … He’s pure funny. You meet him and you’re like, “Oh, fuck. I’m not funny. You’re funny.”
Deb DiGiovanni. This is what I love about America. You get to discover Deb Diogiovanni now. It’s so fun for me as a comedy fan. You just have no idea. There’s hours of great Debra stuff that she’s put out there. One of the hardest-working stand-ups I’ve ever seen, one of the funniest stand-ups I’ve ever seen. She makes me feel lazy every time I watch her on stage. I feel like I could be working a lot harder at this. All energy. Wonderful, wonderful human being. It’s somebody that we’re all very happy to see doing so well down in the States right now.
Nathan Macintosh. Rooster! That was a nickname he had early on back in when he was starting out stand-up, Nathan Rooster Macintosh. Talk about a guy who’s come into his own and has really found his way in New York City, man. It’s just so cool to see these people that I got to launch them on the way up. You hope the best for everybody, but you never know what’s going to happen when someone like Nathan, who grew up a huge stand-up fan … Just to know that he’s living his dream in New York City is a pretty heartwarming thing. You know? He’s out of Halifax, I believe.
Phil Hanley. Yeah, he’s killing it in New York. He’s one of the New York guys. I’m so proud of that guy and everything that he’s doing because we started off around the same time way back when. I’d go out west and we would tour together. I’d open for him, he’d open for me. It’s really cool seeing one of the nice guys who happens to be really funny get recognized for being the person that we all knew that he was.
Katherine Ryan is the talk of comedy. She’s Canadian. She just made a name for herself in the UK, but, I mean, she’s a Canadian. This is where she started. She is one of the best in the whole wide world right now.
Pete Johansson. Oh, there’s another guy who’s going to be performing at the festival who’s a Canadian. He’s one of the funniest human beings alive.Yeah, Pete’s been at it for such a long time, too. He’s in his early 40s now, but he started when he was a teenager. He did Conan O’Brien’s show back when it was on NBC. He’s such a young guy you’d never think that his career goes back as far as it does, but he lived in the UK for seven years, really built up his rep there, and one of the funniest, most original comics I’ve seen ever.
Just for Laughs continues throughout the rest of this week, if you’re in town don’t miss Home Grown comics at 7pm on Friday night and you can catch many of these great comics on various showcase shows Friday and Saturday.