Montreal actor Jay Baruchel has found all kinds of success in Hollywood, scoring major roles in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby, Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up, the upcoming This Is the End, and the recently-wrapped Robocop reboot, but he resolutely calls Montreal home – and Montreal loves his right back, giving him his own Just For Laughs gala show this summer…
On July 25, in front of thousands of comedy fans, Baruchel hosts comedians Hannibal Buress, Amy Schumer, Bo Burnham, Elon Gold, Graham Chittenden, and David Pryde, all performing live in front of the Just For Laughs television cameras. While Baruchel is feeling some pressure, especially after learning that he’s only one of four Montrealers to have hosted a Just For Laughs gala – William Shatner, Michel Courtemanche and Andre-Philippe Gagnon are the venerable others.
“I’m just proud to be a local at Just For Laughs,” says Baruchel. “There’s a degree of importance to it, and this is pretty much the only place in the world where I care about what people think about me, so I really don’t want to mess up. Also, I’m just psyched to do it.”
Inspired by his favourite comic actors, among them Mitch Hedberg (“I got to see him at JFL when I was 17 or 18… and it’s cool now for me to be performing in the same festival.”), Rowan Atkinson and Michael Richards in his Seinfeld days, Baruchel remains practical about his role as gala host: “I just have to try to be as funny as I can be. The comics are doing the heavy lifting, they’re the real funny people; I’m just the pretty face on the poster,” he jokes. “We’re getting to do some pretty weird stuff, which is pretty awesome – I’ve been blown away with how cool JFL is with our terrible ideas.”
Both Baruchel and Shatner grew up in the modest Montreal neighbourhood of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, just west of downtown and the affluent Westmount, where Leonard Cohen spent his formative years. Baruchel began his acting career at age 12. “To be a child actor anywhere, especially in Montreal, you don’t get your pick of things, creative expression doesn’t enter into it. You’re just kind of cool and psyched to be on TV, but you’re not flexing that many acting muscles. So when I started working in the states, I saw that as a chance to do movies that I would actually see – what a novel concept,” he laughs.
Even though he continues to be in demand in Los Angeles, he’s determined to always call Montreal home. “I’ve had more or less the career I’ve wanted, and I’ve had as many opportunities while here in Montreal,” he says. “I would like to see more Canadian movies on my resume if anything.” He acknowledges that life in L.A. would have its pluses: “I could probably be way more famous,” he says, “but it’s not a real sacrifice because I’m living the life I want to.” He’s found plenty of projects to do in Canada as it is, including making Montreal-filmed The Trotsky and Good Neighbours, and hockey movie Goon, co-starring Seann William Scott and Eugene Levy.
Asked if he’s got an inkling of where he’ll be in 10 years, Baruchel admits that he thinks about his future a lot: “Hopefully in 10 years I will have directed something, found a lady, had a little one, all that normal stuff. And, barring a referendum, I’ll 100-percent be in Montreal. I’ll be buried here.”
Jay Baruchel Gala, July 25, 2013