This July, comedy festivals Just For Laughs and Zoofest have made it their mission to make every single person in Montreal laugh. And they might just do it, especially with the surprises in store at affable and affordable Zoofest…
While Just For Laughs pulls out all the stops for its 30th anniversary, with Muppets and assorted mayhem, much younger comedy cousin Zoofest has been digging up underground and alternative acts for the past three years, including comedians that are soon after seen at JFL.
The comedy, theatre, music and miscellaneous to be found at Zoofest, July 5-29, is full of surprises, even with better-known entities – there’s a freedom felt on the city’s smaller stages during the fest, and with a full festival pass going for only $39.99, there’s not much to lose by taking chances on shows.
Since Zoofest is bilingual and multi-genre festival, the comedians are an international bunch, coming to Montreal from as far away as Australia (Adam Hills, who gets audiences to “co-write” his show Mess Around and Sam Simmons, who tells stories About the Weather), Scotland (Daniel Sloss and Adam Riches) and Ireland (Andrew Maxwell), or just walking over to their shows from home, like locals DeAnne Smith, Mike Ward, Cameryn Moore, Dan Bingham, Joey Elias and more.
Americans are no strangers to Zoofest either – and we love them so much for it that the Anglophone-performer roster is packed with them. Paul F. Tompkins and friends go for glory in Holy Trinity (Plus One), Mick Foley, once known in the professional wrestling world as Mankind, teams up with Brendon Burns in Good God Almighty!, Ari Shaffir tells it like it is, as does Maz Jobrani, Paul Provenza and Troy Conrad do improvised stand-up comedy show Set List: Stand-Up Without a Net, at the cozy Mainline Theatre, Anthony Jeselnik gets ostensibly offensive in his stand-up show Caligula, and Sebastian Maniscalco wonders What’s Wrong with People.
Checking out the festival’s venues is also a great way to get to know underground Montreal culture. A staple on lower Saint-Laurent Boulevard and one of the only remaining cabarets on the strip, Café Cleopatra sets the stage for dryly hilarious Twitter star Rob Delaney, Glenn Wool, and writer and comedian Greg Behrendt. Over at former (and sometimes current) heavy metal venue Katacombes, see Amy Schumer’s Slaughterhouse, Andy Kindler’s The Alternative Show, 30 Rock’s Kristen Schaal with Kurt Braunohler in variety sketch show Hot Tub with Kurt and Kristen, and Triple Threat Brendon Walsh, Sean Patton and Ali Wong. The lower regions of church building Gesù even get in on the act with The Mighty Boosh’s Paul Foot in Still Life and Pete Holmes’ You Made It Weird.
Further east is small-show mainstay Theatre Ste-Catherine, where Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Jeff Garlin throws an Anniversary Hootenany to celebrate surviving 30 years in the comedy business, former Saturday Night Live player Jim Breuer shows his Mass Appeal, British comedian Dave Gorman makes a Powerpoint Presentation unlike any other, Toronto comedian Dave Merheje shows us his Dear Dave letters, plus a Midnight Surprise mystery showcase.
And in a city with its own circus festival, of course there’s Big Top Comedy. Just to be sure Zoofest doesn’t slip under anyone’s radar during the reign of Just For Laughs, the New Faces series stages encore shows throughout the festival.
Zoofest, July 5-29, 2012