A day technically starts at midnight so my coverage of day 3 of Just for Laughs will also start at midnight.
ANDY KINDLER’S ALTERNATIVE SHOW
The midnight shows at Just for Laughs are so special. They are usually features or side projects by people already performing at the festival. They change every year except for one: The alternative show with Andy Kindler. This is the mainstay- the original held in a small dark narrow hallway-like venue. Is the perfect way to decompress after an evening of seeing so many shows. The audience is very close together in a room that is super dark and the place has such a high ceiling that barely any light reaches the audience. I personally enjoyed it sitting by the bar and kicking my heels off- no one could see me- and I was treated too laid-back sets by Carmen Lynch, Tom Thakkar and Kyle Ayers. Seeing Andy Kindler either during his annual State of the Industry (hear it right here on The Interrobang) or host the alt show during JFL is like glow sticks at Burning Man- pretty essential to the experience.
JUICED UP FOR THE AWARD SHOW
All the biggest players at the festival are honored each year for what they have contributed to the industry. Its an essentially a guaranteed opportunity to see all the most famous people at the festival in one room. I was just about ready to find my seat when all I wanted in the world was a bottle of juice. I left my place in line ventured to the hotel bar where I found exactly the person you want to watch an award show with my friend and Scottish-born, comic John Mostyn, whose wit is just as blunt as it is sharp. The amazing Sara Dahms covered the award show’s red carpet for the I.B; check her coverage out. Amanda Seales graciously accepted the rising star award and the audience was treated to her masterful use of the English language. I thought that could not be topped and considered leaving to get another juice, but then Kevin Hart gave a speech about his career that was so real and inspiring it snapped me right out of my sardonic juice fiend. “The sky can never be touched” he said, and closed it out with “Thank you all so much now I got to go to work.” No one could follow that I left and got more juice.
MARC MARON at 5iem Salle
That night Marc Maron brought his hey there’s more tour to one of the smaller venues at Place des Arts. The massive Performing Arts complex and the nucleus of Just for Laughs. One of the things I’m really excited about in this era of Comedy is how comedy can exist on a scale that was previously only reserved for music fans. There are so many ways to access comedy people having an emotional resonance to seeing their favorites live. This was for sure the vibe at Maron. The opener was wrong for the show. I’m not going to name them it’s not their fault. They performed what they did well it was just the wrong appetizer for the meal we had come to see. Maron took the stage and the audience was so reverent; his presence was laid-back and philosophical and never seem to reach the neurotic persona of his specials in a way that felt very genuine. Maron went easy on the Trump and America jokes and kept them to broader theatrical monologues about the worst case scenario. He put forth an interesting philosophy about the fans of superhero movies at a time of total environmental and political apathy that was so intelligent and hilarious I did not laugh rather experienced a deep strong, silent vibration of hilarity right through my brain. Maron fans adore him. They are chill beings and he is the uptight voice they have chosen as their source for neurotic truth. It was rad to kick it with them. In honor of my favorite Marc Maron joke about leaving the Rolling Stones early to beat the traffic, I left before the end to beat the bathroom line and the analytical conversations, I would inevitably have in it.
THE COMEDY PARTIES
Just for Laughs is about comedy and its also about parties every night after the shows wind down. My favorite party is always Comedy Central Presents on Thursday night. They just get it- understanding that the party takes place at a networking event. The music is not too loud the vibe is really fun everyone has had a day to settle in and they are ready to meet new people. It was a really great mix, and I got a few excellent photos a mixture of Polaroid (not instax, actual polaroid) and digital and everyone was super happy to pose for me.
But its the Netflix party that is supposed to be the event of the week. The Friday night party is historically the biggest bash of the festival. A brief: at its apex in 2017 the party was held outside at Place des Artes, a beautiful outdoor event space created out of the courtyard where the Galas were held. Free drinks, lots of outdoor space to sit and socialize and talk to the new people you had met over the past days about the shows they had seen. A party for people who had been to a few already that week. In 2017 it was sponsored by Funny or Die. In 2018 they started to mess with perfection and changed the location to a cramped outdoor food truck festival after hours. Still not ideal but for the most part you could see and talk to everyone. In 2019 the party was taken over by Netflix who had basically already had a reputation for throwing the best parties. I was eager to see if it would be the same thing that made their Wednesday night parties in years gone by so great.
The new location- an echoey reclaimed warehouse beside their headquarters- while better than last year’s food truck court was still incomparable to the Grand outside of Place des arts. A publication error had made it so the address of the party or any information did not appear in the festival industry guide. A great deal of people mistook the location for the hotel bar where the Netflix party had been for 3 years previous. If JFL party planners are reading this- while its nice to have Wednesday as a quieter no-party night, everyone ends up at the bar either way so someone should seize that branding opportunity. Comedy Central you are doing a great job don’t change. Friday needs to be a Party where you can hear yourself think, eat some great Montreal food, find places to sit see and be seen and keep the volume at least low enough to shout over. I stayed at the Netflix party just long enough to attempt to yell at some of my friends take some pictures and call it a night.
As a result of not spending a great deal of time at the Netflix party I got up early on Saturday. I went to the hotel to meet a friend and got to spend time in these great rope chairs i the lobby. They are very cool and comfy they look like 1960s pod chairs but made of rope; they are my place at summer camp.
Saturday morning is the perfect time for cartoons so I got in line at the Big Mouth panel with Jennifer Flackett Mark Levin Andrew Goldberg Jak Night, Jason Mantzoukas Fred Armisen and Nick Kroll. They talked about their mammoth Netflix animated hit and gave the audience an exclusive preview of season 3. This was one of the largest most anticipated panels of the festival. It inexplicably had no moderator. Nick and Jason stepped into the role I looked at the crowd and realized something. Big Mouth is the story of middle schoolers and is a massive hit with teens the sort of cartoon that defines your identity when you’re 15. Teens really do make the best fans. They screamed and cheered for Nick Kroll with a level of energy that this 30 year old girl couldn’t scrape up after three days at Just for laughs. Fred Armisen seem to be sharing my sentiments and was silent for most of the panel except for a running joke where him and Nick Kroll called each other Daddy. They allowed people to ask questions in a very casual way. The highlight came when Canadian sketch artist Rena Taylor of the montreal-based troupe Ricky asked about the process of integrating shame in the show. Kroll clocked her Canadian accent and proceeded to answer her in the voice he used in the wheels Ontario sketch in Kroll Show (in my humble opinion the only accurate depiction of an Ontario accent in mainstream media). There were details revealed about season 3 that I cannot talk about but at one point Adderal was mentioned and one person let out an over enthusiastic “woo” to huge laughs.
It wasn’t over yet I headed back to my hotel because I was going to close out this festival right with not one but two Galas which will be posted shortly!