July in Montreal could be renamed Comedy Month, such is the abundance of stand-up, humour-driven theatre and comical circus in the city. Between the Just For Laughs and Zoofest festivals alone, hundreds of shows add more laughter to the city soundscape. But while it’s a sure bet to splurge on Just For Laughs tickets to see your favourite famous comedians, both festivals also make it possible to see comedy every night and still not break the bank…
Along with its many galas and big-name solo shows, Just For Laughs showcases an array of lesser-known – yet still recognizable – funny people at Off-JFL, a series of shows where two tickets run for $30. Many of the comedians at Off-JFL have come up through the ranks via television shows and online fame, and all have spent years honing their laugh-making skills. Among them: Marie Bamford, Tig Notaro, Judah Friedlander, Trevor Noah, Chris D’Elia, Scott Adsit, John Lutz, Andy Kindler, Pete Holmes, Kyle Kinane, Brian Posehn, Todd Barry, Todd Glass, Rory Scovel, Debra Digiovanni, Sam Simmons, Zabruso, The Midnight Beast, Deanne Smith, Robert Kelly, Ronna & Beverly, Godfrey, and Gavin Crawford.
While much of the quirkier side of English-language stand-up has moved over to Off-JFL, some remains at JFL offshoot Zoofest, now five years old and standing on its own two feet. Zoofest, with stand-up comedy and comedic theatre every night July 4-28, is a bit of a party scene for up-and-coming, off-the-beaten-track, hard-to-categorize comedians and all manner of comedic performers. Even though primarily a showcase for Francophone Quebecois talent, Zoofest’s several English-language picks are top-notch – and make for a highly affordable night out. Even if you don’t know a word of French, feel like a real Montrealer and get to know the French-speaking side of Quebec comedy at Franglos Comedy Show, where comedians who usually perform in French make the switch to English: laugh along with Sébastien Bourgault, Bruno Ly, Derek Seguin, Neev, and more.
At Zoofest, concept in comedy is key, especially about the English-language shows, be they solo or group efforts. Los Angeles-based comedian Ivana Shein, once on reality TV and still acting in films and the small screen, returns to her home country with a new stand-up show about the perils of figuring out how to live a more authentic, or at least less-fake, life. Award-winning performer Cameryn Moore, acclaimed for her show Phone Whore, talks more about how to live the sexual life in Slut (R)Evolution. Following Moore’s sexual lead, stand-up show Jon Bennett’s Pretending Things Are A Cock merges photography, travelogue and, well, pretending things are cocks. Taking the travel lead rather than the phallic one, Tim McMurphy’s Kuwaiti Moonshine chronicles one man’s time spent making illegal booze in Middle East. Eschewing borders and laws altogether, the crack comedy team behind Let’s Start a Country gets the audience involved in creating the perfect imperfect nation. And eat well (couscous and all the trimmings) and laugh heartily at UncleFOFI’s Couscous Comedy Show, an internationally-flavored showcase featuring great Montreal comedians, including Dave Mehreje, Eman and Sebastien Bourgault.
Things get a little punk, in a funny, strange way, at Zoofest too: rock out with the satirical, wildly costumed stars of Die Roten Punkte, Berlin’s “prince and princess of indie-rock;” find out why a hard core body-wrecking sport is the best thing ever in Nancy Kenny’s Roller Derby Saved My Soul (pictured above); and get gritty in the dirty city with “pharmaceutical astronaut” Willy in Underbelly. Mysteries abound as well: neo-burlesque cabaret Bad Ladies and the Detective is like no other burlesque show out there, with themes of Orwellian overlords and half-naked rebellion; and Australian avant-garde comic Trent Baumann comes to Canada with his acclaimed murder-mystery, film-noir-esque show The Birdmann in the Events of Momentous Timing. Meanwhile, satire about sex, love and sister-wives charms in two-woman show The Progressive Polygamists: The Sweetest Reformers.
Along with all the comedy, Zoofest unwinds with a lot of live music, including a showcase with Indie Montreal featuring must-hear music from Klô Pelgag, P.S. I Love You, David Martel, Mark Berube, Amelia Curran, Odonis Odonis, Five Alarm Funk, Loose Pistons and Ol’ Savannah. And theater meets the music of U2 in The U2 Show, a mix of cover songs and story-telling.
Zoofest, July 4-28, 2013