The Montreal festival that launched the careers of comedy legends like Amy Schumer, Chelsea Handler, Dave Chapelle, and Jimmy Fallon is back, and it is back with a vengeance. That’s right comedy lovers, the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival has announced its 2022 lineup and it looks awesome.

This year’s festival features galas hosted by comedy legends including Hannah Gadsby, Jo Koy, Chelsea Handler, and Russell Peters. Concert events include live performances by Hassan Minhaj, Vir Das, and John Mulaney, whose work includes writing for Saturday Night Live and his standup specials like two thousand fifteen’s The Comeback Kid and Kid Gorgeous in 2018, the latter winning him an Emmy award.

As per Just for Laughs’ continued commitment to introducing the world to rising stars in comedy, the second season of New Wave of Standup is premiering on CBC Gem Tuesday, March 29, 2022. This show was filmed during Vancouver’s 2022 Just for Laughs Festival and aims to showcase the best Canadian comedians about to hit the big time.

The lineup includes Janelle Niles, a Black and Mi-kmaq comedian who raised awareness of indigenous causes with her show, Got Land?, the Montreal-based actor and comedian Nick Nemeroff, as well as Allie Pearse, who is known for her work writing for the award-winning show Letterkenny. Other performers include Hisham Kelati, whose debut album, Tigre King, was nominated for a Juno in 2022, Maddy Kelly, Hoodo Hersi.

These are just the acts that Just for Laughs has lined up so far, which means there’s more excitement to come. If this lineup is any indication, this is going to be one of the best Just for Laughs seasons yet!

The 40th Anniversary of the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival runs July 13-31. For info and tickets, please visit hahaha.com

The second season of The New Wave of Standup premiers Tuesday, March 29 on CBC Gem

With things in Montreal headed back to almost normal, we’re almost ready to re-brand this column Shows This Week. Not yet, but soon. This week, though, it is chock full of shows.

Let’s get started:

Nuit Blanche Returns

Nuit Blanche is an event we have covered extensively in previous years, but this year, the closing night of Montréal en lumière kinda crept up on us. With the uncertainty of restrictions being lifted, we weren’t sure if was going to happen and at what level.

While some of it will be virtual and some experiences will close around midnight or 1am, it will feature music, visual arts, games, multidisciplinary events and more all across the city and will go all night (though no indication the metro will remain open all night as in previous years.

Highlights include Mouvement at Ausgang Plaza, Nuit Blanche at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 24 Hours of Vinyl and regular events like the outdoor activities in the Quartier de Spectacles and open galleries in the Belgo Building.

Nuit Blanche, part of Montréal en lumière, is Saturday, February 26. Full schuedule and map available at NuitBlancheMtl.com

Insolitudes 2 Concert Series: Three Themes, Three Shows, Three Universes

This week, Indie Montreal is reviving its Insolitudes concert series. The concept is simple: three nights (March, 1st, 2nd and 3rd), three themes (jazz, pop and electro) and three universes.

This event will feature The Liquor Store, Titelaine, Millimetrik and many other local acts.

Insolitudes 2 runs March 1, 2 and 3 , 8pm at Le Balcon, 463 Saint-Catherine Ouest. Tickets for all shows available through ThePointOfSale.com

The Massimadi Festival Continues as Black History Month Concludes

With Black History Month concluding for the year, it’s important to note that one of its key events, the Massimadi Film and Arts Festival, is still running until March 11th. Canada’s only Afroqueer film and arts festival is in its 14th edition and is available for free all across the country (online, that is).

Here’s a trailer for just one of the films that are part of this year’s official selection:

Massimadi Film and Arts Festival continues until March 11. This year’s selection is available at massimadi.ca

Ol’ Savannah + Lucy Lambert’s Violet Drift @ Quai des Brumes

This one’s not part of a festival, or a series, or a hybrid event, it’s just a couple of bands playing a showbar on St-Denis on a weeknight. And that, in and of itself, is a really good thing to be able to say once again.

Yes, it is literally the first night such an event is once again possible, and yes, it is limited capacity (55 people), but it’s also Ol’Savannah and Lucy Lambert’s Violet Drift, two local acts playing a local show in a local bar. Check out the video below to get an idea of one of the acts and then head out on Monday to the Plateau:

Ol’ Savannah + Lucy Lambert’s Violet Drift perform at Quai des Brumes, 4481 St-Denis, Monday, February 28, 9pm. Tickets available through ThePointOfSale.com

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

Osheaga is back! After being forced to cancel in 2020 and offering a stripped-down all-Canadian October edition last year, the summer’s biggest music fest is back in full force in 2022.

They just announced this year’s lineup and it’s as big as ever.

Foo Fighters, who were supposed to play both in 2020 and 2021, will finally make it across the border and headline Friday night. They will be joined earlier in the day by indie rockers the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, British singer/songwriter Charli XCX, American rapper Big Sean and more.

New York-based rapper and producer A$AP Rocky is the big name closing off Saturday. French DJ Sébastien Léger, Hamilton rockers Arkells and New Jersey indie pop act Bleachers are among those also performing on the middle day.

Sunday night, English singer-songwriter Dua Lipa closes out the night and the festival for the year. She follows rapper and Pete Davidson buddy Machine Gun Kelly, Quebec City singer songwriter Safia Nolin, British indie rockers Glass Animals and many more local, Canadian and international acts.

This is the kind of mix Osheaga is famous for and once will be again.

Osheaga 2022 runs July 29 – 31, for the complete schedule and tickets (single day tickets on sale this Friday) please visit osheaga.com

In 2020, the Just for Laughs Festival, a staple of Montreal’s festival season and the largest comedy festival in the world, went all virtual with a mini-fest for reasons evident to everyone. Last year, they offered a scaled back hybrid version with shows emanating from Montreal, New York and Los Angeles.

Now, for JFL’s 40th anniversary, the festival appears to be back in full force, making them the first major summer event to promise such a return. While most of the lineup has yet to be announced, we do know about two shows, two really big, Bell Centre-big shows:

Kevin Hart’s Reality Check Tour: Arguably one of the world’s most successful comedians, Kevin Hart has a long history with JFL. He was a breakout comic in 2001 as part of the New Faces series and has returned to perform several times over the decades.

Recently, he has been helping to promote up-and-coming comics as the chairman of the Laugh Out Loud Network. LOL has been presenting shows consistently at JFL for the past few years (minus the COVID years, of course).

In 2018, Hart sold out JFL’s largest venue, the Bell Centre, a space he returns to this summer. His Reality Check Tour stops in Montreal for one night only, Friday, July 29th at 8pm.

Bill Burr (Slight Return): Bill Burr was originally scheduled to perform here in 2020, but that didn’t happen for obvious reasons. He’s back year at the Bell Centre on July 30th as part of JFL and tickets from the original show are being honored at this one.

Burr is no stranger to JFL and a top comic on comedy stages worldwide, but he’s also no stranger to genre sci-fi audiences thanks to his appearance on The Mandalorian (honestly where I first discovered him) or to movie audiences (he co-starred in The King of Staten Island), or SNL fans (he hosted in 2020), Breaking Bad fans (he was a guest star) or fans of his own co-created show F is for Family. Plus there’s a whole new generation discovering his comedy in YouTube reaction videos.

I know, through his Monday Morning Podcast and his comedy, that he’s quite the avid sports fan. And everyone knows that he’s from Boston. So I wonder if, given his venue and the fact that the hockey team that uses it aren’t having, um, the best season, he may open with a dig at the Habs.

More acts are going to be announced soon, but for now it looks like JFL will be back at full force, and that’s a welcome development.

The 40th Anniversary of Just for Laughs runs July 13-31, 2022. More shows will be announced soon. For tickets to these two shows (Kevin Hart tickets go on sale Friday, February 18 at 10am) please visit hahaha.com

This year’s POP Montreal (the 20th edition) was an entertaining distraction that was most definitely needed coming on the heels of a heavy lockdown in Montreal. I can’t speak for anyone else, but I for one was extremely happy to see live music flourish in Montreal and boy did POP not disappoint for the 20th time. 

As much as we would like to forget about what was still happening outside, the dancing masked people in the indoor events, the vaccine passport checks at the door and the liquid sanitizer reminded us all that this pandemic is not over yet. but POP did a great job making everyone feel safe and secure.

Onto the music!

While there were a great many artists playing, two shows in particular really stood out for me.

One was an afternoon show that displayed the raw strength and ability of Gus Englehorn songs to stay in my head and  play over and over again long after his show. 

His performance was probably under the the worse conditions: an afternoon show on the Friday. Still, he managed to get a packed house and he still brought it!

His songs are so catchy. I just wanted to bounce around, but of course i was stuck in a seat a couple of feet away from someone else. It was a great set with his drummer Estée Preda playing as hard as Gus, creating a lot positive vibes for me  and really setting the tone for Friday at POP this year.

It definitely got me out of my COVID rut. I really appreciated the fact that they were able to put on such a great show under these conditions.

Next up, was a much bigger show by far: Suuns at Rialto. 

I guess my expectations were way to high for the show, Suuns being one of my favorite bands to come out of the local music scene, and while the show was pretty entertaining, it didn’t feel like this was their best performance. It was still highly enjoyable and really reached it’s peak towards the end. The background visuals also really enhanced the experience.

The best part of the show was definitely leading up to and the encore. In particular, it was when they played fan favorite Arena.

The audience was definitely enjoying it, dancing towards the end, especially around the final encore. It almost felt like the good old days, well if it wasn’t for the masks.

Although it wasn’t completely back to normal at this year’s POP, it was definitely great to see people listening to live music together again.

As we begin this journey back to normalcy. POP Montreal definitely helped us along the way. Thanks again for 20 years of music!

All photos courtesy of Phil Shearing

It may be fall, but this weekend is Osheaga Weekend in Montreal! More specifically, it’s the Osheaga Get Together this Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Parc Jean-Drapeau.

Sure, the three days in early August chock full of both international, Canadian and local musical talent and tons of audience members (aka Osheaga Proper) skipped this year and will return in 2022, but this weekend’s event promises the same level of excitement with some key differences.

Osheaga Get Together will exclusively feature Canadian talent. We’re talking some of the biggest Canadian music stars as well as up-and-coming acts to look out for. Plus many of the performers are also local.

While it will be the usual three days, there will only be two stages, which, of course, gives you a chance to catch more of the acts. The event is limited capacity (so get those tickets while you still can) and will be implementing all current Public Health protocols.

Normally when we cover Osheaga, we focus on the local and Canadian acts instead of the headliners. This year, though, the Canadian and local acts ARE the headliners, so I’ll just talk about some of them.

Here is some of what you can look forward to:

Friday

Montrealer and pop-electro-jazz singer songwriter Charlotte Cardin is the big name capping off Friday night. She is currently on tour supporting her Canadian chart-topping studio album Phoenix.

Friday will also feature Toronto-based R&B duo DVSN (signed to Drake’s label), Montreal band The Franklin Electric’s first show at home in a few years and much more.

Saturday

Saturday boasts a hip hop and RnB-heavy lineup. Toronto-born and Juno Award-winning singer/songwriter Jessie Reyez makes her Osheaga debut in the headlining spot.

Majid Jordan, the Toronto-based RnB duo also signed to Drake’s OVO Sound label will perform as will rapper Roy Wood$ and many more.

Sunday

On Sunday, it’s largely an all-out rockfest, featuring Montreal-based headliners Half Moon Run, Montreal-based festival favourites The Damn Truth, and Montreal punk rockers Les Shirley all play. Come to think of it, Sunday is largely an all-out Montreal rockfest (well, there is some Toronto, Quebec City and New Brunswick thrown into the mix, but I did say “largely”).

Osheaga Get Together is October 1, 2 and 3 at Parc Jean-Drapeau. For the complete lineup and tickets, please visit Osheaga.com

Featured Image from Osheaga 2018 by Joe McLean

We may be in the midst of POP Montreal, but that’s not all that’s happening in our fair city culturally this weekend and week. So, with that in mind, please allow us to take a little break from our POP coverage and present some other options:

The 17th Montreal International Black Film Festival is Up and Running

The 2021 edition of the Montreal International Black Film Festival, Canada’s largest Black Film Festival, started yesterday and runs until October 3rd. This year, the 17th consecutive event, will be a hybrid festival, with a promise to “inspire through bold programming – online and in person.”

The festival will feature films from over 30 countries and include a nod to the Francophonie, the work of local filmmakers and films featuring well-known international figures such as Colin Kaepernick, Quincy Jones and more. The Black Market will return as an online event featuring intimate discussions with some film luminaries as well as industry panels. The free and in-person MIBFF in the Neighborhoods also returns in both Montréal-Nord and Côtes-de-Neiges.

MIBFF21 runs September 22 – October 3. For the complete schedule and tickets, please visit MontrealBlackFilm.com

The Lef7overs Return!

No that’s not a typo. Montreal-based The Lef7overs are most definitely inspired the 90s Riot Grrrl movement and bands like L7 in particular.

We’ve mentioned them here a few times as they used to play around town quite a bit, before all the venues shut down, that is. Now they’re back tomorrow performing as part of Vernissage LIPSTICK RIOT at Gallerie DBC in the Village and it’s a free show.

Give them a listen:

The Lef7overs perform as part of Vernissage LIPSTICK RIOT at Gallerie DBC, 1387 Ste-Catherine Est, Friday, September 24, doors open at 5pm

Montreal’s Shira Choir Featured in New Documentary Just As I Am

By the time you read this, it will already be too late to attend the World Premier of the new documentary Just As I Am, but there is still plenty of time to catch it on CBC Gem and CBC TV.

Filmmaker Evan Beloff and producer Marvin Rosenblatt chronicle the lives of several members of Montreal’s Shira Choir, an all special needs choir as they live and perform through a global pandemic.

Just As I Am streams on CBC Gem starting Friday, September 24th and airs on CBC TV Saturday, September 25th at 7pm

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

Just because we’ve stuck inside for a year and a half doesn’t mean we can’t have fun…right?

With this years POP Montreal taking place in the midst of COVID-19 restrictions, it will be a bit of a leaner festival. It will, however, be a much more local presentation with some major acts coming out of the woodwork to make an appearance. 

This might be the Montreal artists’ year to shine at POP.

I don’t know about you but I’m ready to go out and check out music and finally and try to feel normal again. I don’t know what to expect with the restrictions, but I do know one thing: I will hear some great music!

Here’s my list of pics at this years POP:

The Besnard Lakes

The Besnard Lakes are one of my old faithful bands that I’ve seen at many festivals and their shows have never let me down, always giving a great performance. This legendary local six-piece really takes rock to the next level and I really dig their bass heavy, minimalist sound.

Another Montreal staple at this years festival that you have just need to check out.

Besnard Lakes are playing at the Theatre Rialto @ 9:30 on Wednesday September 22nd

Islands

I really like Nicholas Thorburn’s work and it’s fair to say that there will be a lot less confrontation than at a Unicorns show. So expect a good performance!

I’ve always had a little soft spot for this band and for the most part really enjoyed Return to Sea and Vapors thoroughly. I thought were very good albums even if the latter wasn’t critically received. Definitely recommend checking these guys out.

Islands are playing at Theatre Rialto @ 9:00 on Friday September 24th

Paul Jacobs

Expect good things from the Paul Jacobs as this local musician brings back that sweet lo-fi 90s psychedelic sound that was emerging kind of on the lines of Mac Demarco’s Salad Days, but uniquely capturing a lot more substance and details.

Paul Jacobs is also an artist of some note, even making the flyer for Basinfest a few years ago. Expect to see him incorporate a lot of his art into his show.

Paul Jacobs is playing at ausgang plaza @ 8:00 Friday the 24th

the Kommenden

Power-pop band the Kommenden  looks like it would be a fun riot to check out. Really enjoyed listening to their album idle years which is a fun adventure through poppy ditties that have a distinct modern feel but also draw upon early 80s new wave and 70s pshyche.

the Kommenden will be performing at Clubhouse rialto @3;30 pm on the Thursday the 23rd of September

Gus Englehorn

Gus Englehorn’s punky vocals go great with his music. If you can check him out I recommended it. You’ll get some very interesting vocal performances ala Johanathan Richmond or Steve Malcamusreally  in songs like Patty Sees Her Soul or Stay Little.

Gus Englehorm will be performing  at Clubhouse Rialto @ 3:30Pm on the Thursday the 24th of September

Suuns

Coming off there last masterpiece album Images du Futur Montreal band Suuns have really established themselves among Canada’s premiere Avant Garde rock bands 

Listening to them is like taking an oral cruise to what awaits us in the future, musically. It’s great to see such a talented local band make it internationally.

Suuns have managed to tap into a desire for great electroacoustic experience by experimenting with electronic and experimental guitar. They are definitely one of my favorite local bands.

Give a listen to one of my favorite tracks, 2020:

Suuns will be preforming at Theatre Rialto @ 9:30 on Saturday the 25th of September

Interested in seeing any of these shows? Check out the POP Montreal website for the complete schedule and to purchase tickets

Follow @forgetthebox on Twitter and Instagram for live coverage from Jerry Gabriel and Joe McLean

I’d like to start by acknowledging the elephant in the room: writing a preview for a live music festival feels a little strange considering we’ve all been avoiding large public gatherings in enclosed spaces for the last year and a half. It’s probably going to feel even more weird being back at a live rock show.

I get that some people might be hesitant about resuming these types of events so if you are planning on making it out please do your best to keep yourself and everyone around you as safe as possible. Current government guidelines will be in full effect at all Pop Montreal shows, no exceptions, no whining about it.

Usually POP is torture for anyone with option paralysis but this time around the paired down all-Canadian schedule will make picking what to see much easier. I strongly suggest you get your tickets in advance though as seating is limited.

Myself and fellow intrepid reporter Jerry Gabriel will be checking out shows throughout the fest so look for more content throughout the week on FTB’s main site and all our Social media channels.

If you’re not sure what to see here’s my list of artists to check out: it’s completely biased, totally random and only meant to be a jumping off point for ideas.

Literally Anything!

My first pick for what to see this year is “Literally Anything!”. No, that’s not the name of the newest Indie sensation (although that would be a pretty cool band name).

It’s been a while buddy, just go out and see something will ya? The pandemic has been tough on artists, especially the smaller ones, showing your support for any of them would be much appreciated. Just pick a show and go!

The Besnard Lakes

It’s hard to believe but the Montreal based psych rockers have been around for almost 20 years! Their latest album The Besnard Lakes Are the Last of the Great Thunderstorm Warnings was released in January of this year and I’m betting you haven’t heard any of the tracks live.

Catch them this Wednesday or you’ll have to wait till 2022, tour dates are a little sparse right now.

El Coyote

Missing the Folk Fest for a second year in a row folking sucked so I went looking for a show that could fill the void. What I found was alt country/folk band El Coyote at Théâtre Rialto on Friday Sept 24th with Sin & Swoon, Katie Moore, Li’l Andy and The Firemen.

That’ll do quite nicely, love the vocal harmonies ladies!

Bad Skin

Proving there’s a complete lack of coherence to this list up next we have punk rockers Bad Skin who are playing at Clubhouse Rialto on Wednesday September 22nd at 6 pm. I just love the idea of a punk rock show that starts at 6pm so you can stick it to the man and also get to bed at a reasonable hour!

Tickets are only 5 bucks so you could also combine this one with another show later in the evening and it wouldn’t break the bank.

POP Montreal 2021 runs September 22-26 at various venues. For complete schedule and tickets, please visit POPMontreal.com

Featured Image: The Besnard Lakes via POPMontreal.com

It’s POP Montréal‘s 20th Anniversary this year! The recent (well, the two decades-long) Montreal fall music tradition will be back to celebrate with a hybrid event running September 22nd through the 26th.

This year’s lineup, which understandably boasts a hefty local and Canadian contingent, will feature headliners Cakes da Killa, Backxwash and SUUNS as well as festival veterans The Dears and The Besnard Lakes. Favourites Art POP and Film POP will also return this year.

There will be virtual shows and in-person performances. For in-person concerts, you’ll need to get your tickets online first and have a health pass to get into the venue. All current public health protocols will be observed.

“Yes it’s still a pandemic so we have to remain safe and careful but we can celebrate and be thankful that we can still go to shows and see amazing live music,” Creative Director Daniel Seligman said in a press release, adding: “What a gift!”

We’ll have some of our picks for the festival in the weeks to come, but you can already get your tickets.

POP Montreal’s 20th Anniversary runs Septemer 22-26 2021 at various venues and online. For schedule and tickets, please visit POPMontreal.com

Now that the hybrid Just for Laughs is over, festival season continues. This week, we’ve got two Montreal summer mainstays back in different forms and a Rouyn-Noranda-based festival running a mini-fest in our city for the first time.

Let’s get started:

Osheaga Through the Ages

While it’s sadly true that Osheaga won’t be returning to Parc Jean-Drapeau with its 15th full event until summer 2022, the people behind one of Canada’s most popular music festivals have found a way nonetheless to be a part of Montreal’s 2021 festival season. Three ways, that is.

Osheaga Through the Ages will run in the Quartier des Spectacles during the month of August. The first part of this, Music on Paper, starts this Friday at l’Astral and runs until August 21st.

It’s an art and photo exhibit featuring the “most jawdropping and eye-popping photos from years past featuring images courtesy of acclaimed photographers like Susan Moss, Patrick Beaudry, Tim Snow, and others.” The exhibit will also showcase silkscreen posters created for the festival over its previous 14 incarnations.

The second part is a series of concerts at MTELUS and l’Astral featuring local acts that have performed at Osheaga in the past. The third part is a fashion show in collaboration with the Fashion and Design Festival on August 21st featuring over 50 artists, dancers, musicians and models

Music on Paper runs August 6-21 at l’Astral, 305 Ste-Catherine Ouest. For details on this event and the emerging schedules of the other Osheaga Through the Ages events, please visit Osheaga.com

FME de l’Avent Mini-Fest on the Banks of the Lachine Canal

The FME Festival (or the Festival de Musique Émergente en Abitibi-Témiscamingue) has been welcoming up-and-coming and top-name Canadian talent as well as audiences to its idyllic Rouyn-Noranda setting for close to two decades. This year, for its 19th Edition (September 2-5), capacity at the site will be limited and some might forego the nine hour drive from Montreal to avoid travelling far when the pandemic situation isn’t completely resolved.

With that in mind, organizers are bringing a mini-version of the fest to Montreal this weekend. Called FME de l’Avent, it runs this Friday, Saturday and Sunday on the banks of the Lachine Canal (Parc Riverain de Lachine, specifically) and features local talent performing in the genres of folk, rock, hip hop, funk and electro. Featured performers include Gab Paquet, Paul Jacobs, Mort Rose and more.

FME de l’Avent runs August 6, 7 and 8 at Parc Riverain de Lachine. Admission is FREE but limited to 500 people. For the complete lineup and tickets, please visit fmeat.org

Under Pressure is Back Online

The Under Pressure International Graffiti Festival is back for its 26th Edition. Last week, it held a street exhibit and dance party, but the official battles and DJ sets are this Saturday and Sunday. The big difference this year of course being that they will be streamed online.

The DJ lineup for Saturday from noon to 8pm is Killa Jewel, Manzo, Noyl, Eazy El Dee, Overflow and Ashl$n. There will also be an after-party from 8 to late, guided walks of the site and more DJs and MCs added for both days.

Under Pressure 26 runs on Twitch August 7 and 8. For schedule updates please visit their Facebook page

Featured Image: Beach House performing at Osheaga by Pierre Bourgault from the Music on Paper exhibit

If you know of an event that you feel should be covered, please contact arts@forgetthebox.net or music@forgetthebox.net

No promises but we’ll do our best

Sophie Buddle isn’t a huge fan of the Zoom comedy show, the go-to performance option for many standups during the pandemic.

“Yes, I was doing Zoom shows,” she said in a phone interview, “but I will say that doing Zoom shows is almost worse than doing no shows at all for me because, number one, I have very bad WIFI, but as a standup, if you boil down what we do, we create a vibe in a room and in order to do that, you have to be in the same room with everyone you’re creating said vibe with.”

Buddle feels that with Zoom, you miss the smaller laughs which allow the comic to really connect with their audience.

“In my set, I have more fun with the little laughs in between the big punchline laughs,” Buddle observed, “that’s really where I think all the personality is. It’s the little in-betweenies. In Zoom shows, the big pops still come in, but all the little ones that really bring the flow along don’t get anything.”

This Sunday, she will once again be performing in front of a live, in-person audience at Just for Laughs. Of course, this is a hybrid version of the festival, meaning, among other things, that capacity will be limited and social distancing and health measures will be in effect.

Buddle knows that it will be different. She has been performing socially distanced shows in Vancouver, a comedy scene she loves, for about a month now, since venues re-opened, and sees the advantage to this new type of performance.

“Comedy audiences are as desperate for standup as the comedians are to do it,” she said, “it’s kind of good that everyone who is there is really keen to be there. There’s no filler audience members anymore.”

This year, she won’t just be performing for the audience in the room, Buddle will be recording her first comedy special for Crave and the CTV Comedy Channel. She is thankful for this opportunity and sees it as her career regaining momentum.

“I was waiting in line to board the plane to go to the Junos (she won Best Comedy Album for 2019’s Lil bit of Buddle) and I got a text that the Junos were going to be cancelled,” Buddle remembered, “I’m sure for every industry, you work your entire career to get some momentum, and I felt like winning the Juno was definitely the biggest thing and finally things were starting to roll for me and then that happened and I just had to sit in my apartment all year and I felt like I’m not going to get anything big like that again…and now that things are opening back up again and I’m getting a special on Crave, it’s just such a relief. The momentum is starting up again!”

Buddle plans to spend a few days in Montreal after the festival, as this was where she was born and spent a few years of her childhood and she still holds a fondness for this city. In the fall, though, she plans to move down to the US, California most likely, and look for comedy writing work.

Her previous TV writing gig was for This Hour Has 22 Minutes, but was cut short due to the pandemic. In particular because it was remote work, the show operates on Halifax time and Buddle lives in BC and keeps “stand-up comedian hours”, aka she’s not an early riser.

And you can catch her during standup hours twice this Sunday.

Sophie Buddle and Chris Robinson will be recording CTV Comedy and Crave Stand-Up Specials Sunday, August 1 at 7 and 10 pm at L’Astral, 305 Ste-Catherine Ouest. Tickets available through HaHaHa.com

Comedian Arthur Simeon is the kind of voice we need more of. Born and raised in Uganda but now based out of Toronto, he brings his life experience as an immigrant and a black man in Canada to his comedy, while still managing to keep such a heavy topic light and funny.

His comedy album, The Blackest Panther, is a riff on the fact that Wakanda from the Black Panther film and comic book series is allegedly located in Uganda. I had the privilege of seeing him perform at Rick Mercer’s Gala in 2017 where he was one of the highlight performances of the evening, so I was eager to speak to him before his appearance at Just for Laughs’ 2021 hybrid festival.

Like most entertainers, Simeon’s ability to perform was hampered by the COVID-19 pandemic. He admits that he’s done everything but standup since it started.

“It’s been a lot of downtime, I guess. I mean I worked a little bit; I did some writing for myself and for others. I grow plants, or tried to, just to keep my mind off of things, I read a lot, caught up on a lot of reading that over that over the years I’ve sort of let slip, but I’d run out of excuses. I was reading fiction for a long time but I was convinced try non-fiction. I went back to a book I read as a teenager called The River Between which is a classic African novel that I hadn’t read in a very long time and it still holds up, is still wonderful… A bit of fiction, a bit of non-fiction.”

With the rise in awareness of racism in Canada during the pandemic, I wanted to know about Simeon’s experiences with racism as a black man and a Ugandan immigrant with an accent. Segwaying into the subject, I mentioned that Canadians like to think they’re immune to the racism problem. Simeon immediately shut that notion down.

“Obviously, being a performer and an entertainer and traveling in so many different places I have first-hand experience with racists.”

In terms of whether racism is more of a rural thing, Simeon feels that it’s a problem no matter where he is.

“I don’t like the rural idea of people because it feels like it’s a lot of white people trying to distance themselves from their own actions. When they say ‘oh it’s the country bumpkins’ it’s like no, it’s not. I’ve been threatened, and slurs have been used in the middle of two major cities in Canada, that being Toronto and Montreal, right in the middle of the city. I’ve also been threatened in rural Canada, so it’s both. I don’t think it’s a geographical thing, I think it’s a mentality thing, it’s an ideology thing. I feel like it’s something everyone has to reckon with and everyone has to wrestle with whatever bias they have especially if it manifests itself in hateful language or action that affects other people.”

Though Montreal has been the location of a lot of Simeon’s professional success, his favorite part of Canada is the Maritimes. He finds it picturesque and loves St. John’s Newfoundland, but quips that perhaps it’s because he doesn’t live there.

While I feel that stories and comedy like Simeon’s are especially important in this social environment of heightened racial tensions and the Black Lives Matter Movement, he doesn’t necessarily see it that way.

“I think it’s being received a little more openly because the conclusions we’ve had about racism have opened up from just the hate. I think everyone focuses on just the hate and rightfully so because as we’ve seen, a man can just plow through a family just going for a walk and purely just based on hate, so I like that we address the hate a little bit, but the hate is sort of just the culmination of a lot of other things that we’re doing: the lack of education, the lack of empathy, the lack of real understanding between people who are not the same as you, and so the conclusion we’ve had in the last few months have opened up about everyone’s individual responsibility.”

He calls on everyone to stop throwing blame around, the way some claim racism is just a problem among the ignorant or rural populations. He feels that every single person contributes to that hate that culminates in violence that kills people.

In terms of his plans for his Just for Laughs appearance this year, he plans to be more purposeful in his comedy with a focus on entertaining rather than sounding preachy.

“I think after this year and after all the stress, I think there will be genuine purpose to reach out to as many people as I can and try to entertain.”

Arthur Simeon will be appearing as Just for Laughs 2021 as part of an all-star lineup for Comedy Night In Canada which takes place tonight, July 28th, at 10pm at Club Soda, 1225 Boul. St-Laurent, and will be available free online as of July 30 at HaHaHa.com

Cassie Cao is no stranger to Montreal. She lived here for four years while studying Economics at McGill and has returned on more than one occasion to perform at Just for Laughs, but she hasn’t been here since the last pre-pandemic JFL in 2019.

“I’m genuinely thrilled to be coming to the festival,” Cao said in a phone interview, “I didn’t know if it was going to happen this year.”

While Cao will be performing “Live in Montreal” to both an in-person and online audience, some of the comedians playing this year’s hybrid festival will do so from either Los Angeles or New York City while others will take part in local Crave and CTV Comedy tapings.

“I’m excited to see what’s going to happen,” Cao said of the potentially unique experience this year, “I suspect that people will make it fun. We’re all getting double vaxxed. Comics are always fun people, we’ll find a way to make it fun.”

Cao did keep busy during the pandemic, mostly by booking TV roles and doing some TV writing, but also by turning to a medium many other comics have found: the Zoom comedy show:

“I did do some Zoom shows. I liked the Zoom shows a lot…as a comedian, you are mostly bound by geography and that’s why you have to tour…and that’s the hardest part of the job, but with the Zoom shows I was doing shows in New York and LA and meeting American comics and seeing what other people are working on and happy to be invited onto their shows.”

She also considers herself lucky for getting to do some TV tapings in front of live audiences mid-pandemic, including one for the Winnipeg Comedy Festival.

“It was wild,” Cao remembers, “I was travelling by air during the second wave and everyone was like ‘it’s fine, doing live comedy’.”

Currently based in Toronto, Cao sees it as a great town to do comedy in, during normal times, of course. She hopes that when the scene returns, it will do so full-force.

“I don’t know what the landscape will look like when everything comes back up,” she notes, “but I’m confident that people want to see live comedy, so the demand will make things happen.”

As for her former home of pre-pandemic Montreal, she remembers ordering St-Viateur bagels for McGill Economics events, but mainly the nightlife:

“Honestly, I’m not going to lie, I love that everything’s open 24 hours in Montreal. In Toronto, you’d think that it is, but it’s not. Toronto shuts down at midnight. In Montreal, I lived there for four years and I just didn’t sleep for four years, there’s just always stuff going on…All the best stuff in Montreal happens after 2am.”

Most of the best stuff, that is. There will definitely be quite a bit of fun had before midnight with Cao and others at JFL Live in Montreal.

Cassie Cao will perform as part of JFL Live in Montreal, hosted by Jon Dore and featuring Dino Archie, Jen Grant, Nigel Grinstead, Marito Lopez and Rodney Ramsey. Wednesday, July 28, 7pm, Club Soda and available online as of July 30 at HaHaHa.com

DeAnne Smith is a Montreal favourite. Born in the US, they lived in Mexico for a while, and then moved to and got their start in comedy in Montreal.

I remember seeing Smith at Stand Up Strip Down in my twenties, and now they perform and do TV appearances all over the world and have their own Netflix special. I recently saw Smith at the Unknown Comedy Club’s ComedyWorks Tribute Show this past May.

At this year’s Just for Laughs Festival they will be filming their own standup special. I had a chance to speak with DeAnne as they and their partner were road tripping from visiting family on the East Coast to Los Angeles. Though I could hear the road in the background and our connection was iffy, the interview felt less like a formal exchange and more like a chat between old friends.

I asked them, as I do every standup comedian I interview, what they’ve been doing during the pandemic, given the limits on live performance due public health measures.

“Everyone says I’ve been losing my mind. Please put that on the record. It took me a couple of months to embrace my comedy, but in September 2020 I started doing my own monthly show on Zoom that I call DeAnne Smith and Acquaintances and I ran that from September until June and we’re taking a break for the summer but honestly, I think I’m going to bring it back in the fall even though there are live shows because we built such a nice, fun, supportive little community every month…I was doing my time with online shows.”

DeAnne Smith admits that, like many other comedians, it took them a while to learn the tech but they had a tech from their monthly show to help. Regarding how COVID has affected their comedy and career, they said their career halted overnight.

“Even before the pandemic, I think, a lot of what I’m trying to do in comedy… I’ve always been aware of how special it is to be in a room with people and just be creating a moment that’s not going to be repeated, that’s just for the people there. I’ve always done comedy from the point of view of real connection and I think that’s only deepened for me in pandemic. It’s like really the only thing I’m interested in is connection and making a moment where we can all feel joy together and feel good together.”

Smith acknowledges that shared joy is the goal of comedy, but feels that some people approach the art as having funny ideas they want others to hear, and while that is part of their comedy, for them it’s as much about connection and shared experience. They point out that the shared experience they seek with their comedy has deepened due to the pandemic.

“I don’t remember a moment in my lifetime where I’ve felt such a collective consciousness where we’re all experiencing some pretty similar things together.”

DeAnne is openly non-binary and has been using the pronouns they/them for many years and they made many jokes about it in their 2018 Netflix special. Though their gender identity is nothing new, they are more open about their preferred pronouns and insisting on their use.

“It feels really good to me and I’m finally in a place where I’m willing to inconvenience people a tiny bit to feel seen and referred to correctly.”

Smith says there hasn’t been any pushback regarding their gender identity and they never thought much of it until the Netflix special came out in 2019.

“I have gotten a lot of emails from people of all ages, but especially [from] teenagers and young adults saying that it was really important for them to see someone like them in a public role talking about gender issues and I forget about that a lot but I think it does help people realize that there’s a lot of ways to identify and there’s a wide spectrum of how to be a human being.”

Smith’s comedy generally has a very openly feminist slant though they admit that they aren’t discussing issues exacerbated by the pandemic like domestic violence as much in their online shows.

“One thing that’s happened with the pandemic, at least with the online shows, is that I’m not speaking to as generalized an audience as I am in the real world in the comedy clubs. By that I mean it seems the online crowds are kind of self-selected to have a similar political sensibility, so I don’t know that I’ve been pushing an agenda as much as I do in the comedy clubs because there’s not as much to push against.”

People who come to Smith’s online shows know exactly what they’re getting, with Smith pointing that if anything their comedy has gotten more personal due to the pandemic, especially with the monthly show. Many people taking in online shows are often in their pajamas or not wearing pants, and that lends itself to a more personal experience, though Smith laughingly says they will be wearing pants during their Just for Laughs appearance.

DeAnne Smith, Chris Locke and Kyle Brownrigg will be recording CTV Comedy and Crave Stand-Up Specials Saturday, July 31 at 7 and 10 pm at L’Astral, 305 Ste-Catherine Ouest. Tickets available through HaHaHa.com

The Just for Laughs festival is upon us and with more and people vaccinated and the easing of restrictions, this year’s festival is a hybrid one, with some shows streaming for free online, and live, socially distanced in-person events with limited seating. Among this year’s virtual offerings is Just for Laughs Live in LA, featuring an all-star cast of comedians including my interviewee, Jeremy Hotz.

Hotz is a standup legend, having made his big debut at the Montreal Just for Laughs festival in the nineties. His unique brand of passive aggressive observational comedy is hilarious and, as it turns out, it’s not just an act.

When I phoned Hotz on a Friday afternoon, I had SO many questions! What was he doing during the pandemic? What does he think of it? Does he really talk like he does on stage? I wondered if that high pitched, passive aggressiveness was just a persona, and whether he’d be a completely different person on the phone.

I was in for a pleasant surprise.

“Yeah, people don’t understand with me that it’s not an act. Everyone says that about me, the miserable things that happen in my act happen in my life and if you spent a day with me you realize that I seem to be a magnet for it. It’s really bizarre.”

Throughout our conversation, my best attempts at professional composure were useless in the face of his answers to my questions. When I asked him, for example, what was his biggest challenge during the pandemic, he spoke of problems getting his large nose in the mask. Given how many people wear their masks incorrectly, I asked if he only wore his mask over his mouth or covered “the whole shebang”.

“Well, you know, they got to make the mask big enough to get over the whole shebang, that’s the problem. I have the same problem with condoms.”

You’d have to be dead not to laugh.

On Just for Laughs’ website he’s identified as a Canadian American comedian. Born in South Africa, he spent much of his life in Ottawa, but moved to the United States in the nineties. In spite of this, he still considers himself a Canadian comic.

“I’m the most passive aggressive human being on the planet!” Hotz said, describing how for the past three years he’s been calling a yellow cab company once a month and sending them to a bogus address because they stood him up once, resulting in him nearly missing his flight. He considers passive aggressiveness to be a very Canadian trait.

“Canadians, they won’t say you’re an asshole but they think it all day long.”

Standup comedians, like other artists, could not perform in front of live audiences, so I wondered how he’d spent the pandemic.

“I’ve just been standing there waiting for this thing to end, like most people. And now that it is, I seem to have to go back to work which is, you know, shit…”,

When he could no longer perform in front of live audiences, he began live streaming on his Facebook page and it just exploded. Hotz says he loves the format, though, like many comedians, he had to learn the technology to give his fans the best possible experience, and that came with time and doing the show regularly. Now that they’ve mastered the tech, Hotz says they have a good little show.

“Through the pandemic when you couldn’t do standup and I could do the live show once a week, I put a lot of fucking work into it and I really enjoyed it and it became something that I actually looked forward to doing and I’m Jeremy Hotz. I look forward to sex!”

He said there are some anti vaxx trolls and conspiracy theorists that he occasionally responds to in the comments sections of his live streams, and while his responses get hundreds of likes, he can’t respond to them all.

For his upcoming appearance at Live in Los Angeles, he plans to touch on his pandemic experiences a little but feels that by the time of the show in the last week of July, the topic will be dated, opting instead to tell jokes that make people happy.

He describes the setup as a comedy club, pointing out that in Los Angeles so many people are vaccinated that COVID restrictions and mask mandates have eased almost entirely. It promises to be a good show and it’s absolutely free online!

Check it out.

Just for Laughs Live in LA will be available to watch for free online as of July 29th on HaHaHa.com