Just for Laughs Festival: Day One

All the action from the world’s second-largest comedy festival
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The Independent Culture

So here I am. Just for Laughs. The world’s second-largest comedy festival after Edinburgh and one that, after kicking off in 1983 in Montreal, has attracted a legion of comedy legends including George Burns, Jerry Seinfeld, Jim Carrey, Jay Leno, and Chris Rock. This year will see visits from John Cleese, Whoopi Goldberg and Bill Cosby, as well as a host of newer acts.

I’ve only been in town for 12 hours or so and already the comedy omens are good. This morning I had the ‘Michael McIntyre breakfast buffet experience’ where you are led to a seat in the hotel restaurant and then told that you can now go to the buffet that you’ve already passed on the way in.

Sadly, Michael was not here to be told just how relevant his material is to delegates at this industry-focused jamboree. However, I have already seen one of ‘our boys’ do well over here. Step forward scrawny ginger gagster and former if.comedy nominee Andrew Lawrence.

Andrew appeared at Monday night’s Best of the Fest with a number of relatively new American acts and held his own with his well-honed, cheery-in-spite of-it-all, cynicism. He’s a nice line in self-deprecation of his own sexual allure claiming that he used to think that he could hear an echo when he was in the company of women but then realised that it wasn’t an echo it was “the sound of a hundred vaginas snapping shut.” Other than shock tactics what makes his material in this area fresh is that he actually talks about his hang-ups within the confines of a relationship and isn’t part of the school of ‘I wish I had a girlfriend’ comics.

The show was hosted amiably by Sugar Sammy, a Montreal-based Asian-Canadian comic who, after discovering a table of English girls at the front of the gig proved insightful about English drinking habits: “Good to see you sober” he said, adding later: “Canadians stop drinking when we know there’s a chance we might shit ourselves.” On discovering that the gaggle of, actually quite decorous, English girls were on a hen weekend he quipped: “Ah, what happens in Vegas…gets on youtube.”

As well as our able host and Andrew Lawrence’s contribution other moments of note included an appearance from Eleanor Tiernan (cousin of Perrier award-winning comedian Tommy Tiernan) whose whimsy nearly went over the heads of the audience but who had winning moments such a characterising the walk of a model on a cat walk as someone who comes in to a room with something important to say but suddenly turns and leaves deciding that no one would understand what they had to say. Try it in front of a mirror, she’s bang on.

Kookier still was Mary Mack, (reminiscent of the great Maria Bamford for those of you who know of her) whose act always threatened to go under but never did. She would rescue it by saying things like “the more you don’t laugh, the more abstract this is gonna get” before re-grouping with lines like “you should always dress in layers in the city...so it doesn’t hurt as much when you get shot.”

So, so far so good. I’m off to restore myself with some maple syrup and look forward to posting a few more dispatches from Canada’s comedy front-line shortly.

À bientôt, as they say in these parts.