just for grins

Just for Laughs

Just for Laughs (in French Juste pour rire) is a comedy festival held each July in Montreal, Quebec. It is the largest festival of its kind in the world. It was founded in 1983 by Gilbert Rozon as a two-day Francophone event. In 1985, Andy Nulman joined the festival's staff and introduced Anglophone events as well; under Nulman's stewardship, the festival increased to a full month, with French-speaking performers during the first half, and English speakers in the second half. International and non-verbal acts (acrobats, pantomimes, etc.) are scattered throughout the program.

Each day, street performers, "New Vaudevillians" and other acts both vocal and visual perform throughout the city, particularly in the "Latin Quarter" -- an area known for its theatres, cafés and boutique shopping. In the evenings, the nightclubs and live venue theatres offer special programs supporting the performers. Although Juste Pour Rire attracts spectators from around the world, many of those in the audience are talent scouts, booking agents, producers and managers from the entertainment industry. Performing at the festival is one of the biggest opportunities for undiscovered talent to showcase their act in front of industry professionals.

Established comedians from around the world also gather at Just for Laughs. For example, Tim Allen, Jerry Seinfeld, Jon Stewart, Jason Alexander, Russell Peters, Bill Hicks, Bill Cosby, Ray Romano, John Cleese, Adam Hills, Dame Edna Everidge, Jimeoin, Billy Connolly, Colin Mochrie, Brad Sherwood, Flight of the Conchords, The Umbilical Brothers, Rowan Atkinson and even Jerry Springer, (spoofing both his own show and the Quebec Separatist debates) have all attended the festival. The casts of The Simpsons, Everybody Loves Raymond, South Park and Family Guy have also made appearances. Many of the famous names are brought into town to host the gala evening events as well as headline showcase performances.

The Just for Laughs festival also has the Comedia comedy film festival component, which started in 1996. It gives awards for feature and short films. 2005, Comedia screened 125 short films from around the world as well as several feature length films.

In February 1994 the festival sponsored a splinter project in Hollywood, Florida. That coastal area is a favourite winter destination for Quebecers who head south to vacation in the warmer weather. The event, Juste Pour Rires - En Vacances (Just For Laughs - On Vacation), was held in the Young Circle Park, an outdoor venue with an urban park setting. Talent included David Brenner, Dom Irrera and The Quiddlers.

In July 2007, Just For Laughs celebrated its 25th edition, launching a festival in Toronto, Ontario.

TV shows

Just for Laughs has also been a launchpad for many US network television and sitcom careers, and is frequently featured as a foreign on-location highlight of late-night US network talk shows.

A TV show, also called Just For Laughs, features highlights from the festival, and it airs regularly on CBC Television, The Comedy Network and TVA. The show features performances from the festival and "canned bits" shot on location around Montreal. Several bits have been filmed in England. Many of these "bits" are visual gags that catch people off-guard or somehow surprise them as they go about their daily business.

The series has sister shows called Just for Laughs Gags, JFL: Improv Championships, All Access Pass, and ''JFL: The Lost Tapes'."

During the summer of 2007, ABC aired episodes of Just for Laughs Gags, pitching it to the American audience under the title Just For Laughs. It consisted of two half-hour episodes, and aired mostly on Tuesdays from 8:00 pm to 9:00 pm EST. The content and format was exactly the same as the Canadian counterpart, but was hosted by Rick Miller, who introduced each segment with a quirky pun. The show returned to the ABC lineup as a mid-season replacement on January 1, 2008. On May 13, 2008, ABC canceled the series.

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