About This Festival
Taking Over Montréal
The URL for the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival is literally hahaha.com. It’s not as if the largest comedy festival in the world really needs to tell people what to do, though. The Montréal festival has been making people laugh for two straight weeks every year for 34 years.
These days, an estimated two million people travel to Québec attend the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival. 2015's event saw an average of 300,000 tickets sold for the festival’s 1,600 performances, which took over streets, plazas, and traditional venues across the city. Comedians perform everywhere from cozy haunts like Theatré Sainte-Catherine to the enormous Théâtre Maisonneuve. The range of free and ticketed events includes street art performances, theater productions, stand-up monologues, and posh galas.
A Place for Comedy Greats
Recent years have featured comedy superstars like Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart, Neil Patrick Harris, Trevor Noah, Mike Meyers, and Patton Oswalt. And in previous years, John Cleese and Jerry Springer have appeared, as have the casts of animated comedic favorites like South Park and The Simpsons. Just For Laughs even helped launched the careers of today’s comedic heroes like Jon Stewart and Tina Fey. And back in 1989, Rowan Atkinson tested out his Mr. Bean character on Montréal festival audiences.
But Just For Laughs isn’t just for fans of stand-up comedy. The festival also holds an accompanying film festival and a wide-range of theatrical and multimedia performances. Circus artists like clowns and acrobatic specialists take to the streets, alongside street dancers and stilt walkers, creating a carnivalesque vibe in the middle of the Place de Festivals (a public space specifically designated for arts usage). Even the British percussion group Stomp, who first came to New York in 1994 and has since adapted in innumerable ways on and off Broadway, visited the Just For Laughs Festival in its earliest stages.
Leno, Seinfeld and The World
Founded in 1983 by Gilbert Ronzon, the Montréal festival began as a French language comedy weekend event called Juste pour rire (which does, in fact, translate to Just For Laughs). Within just two years, Montréal businessman and festival co-founder Andy Nelman began introducing English-speaking artists like Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno, officially transforming it into a bilingual event.
Today, the Just For Laughs Comedy Festival also has sister festivals in Toronto, Chicago, Sydney, Nantes, France, and Vancouver, B.C. And throughout the years, Just For Laughs has also produced television shows (like Just For Laughs: Gags) and specials that have been broadcast in 135 countries and shown on nearly 100 airlines. The umbrella company also hosts live shows, organizes comedy tours throughout Canada, and manages comics.