In a room in the iconic Monument-National on St Laurent Boulevard, press gathered in anticipation. Festival Season is coming in Montreal and Just for Laughs was ready to announce its long awaited lineup for the 2017 comedy festival.

This year is a special one for Just for Laughs as it marks the 35th anniversary of a comedy festival that helped launch the careers of everyone from Demetri Martin to Amy Schumer. Every year the people behind the festival, including its veterans, do their best to bring in top comedic talent from around the world and give new faces a shot at fame.

This year is no exception.

The biggest names on the ticket this year have to be American comic legend Jerry Seinfeld and French comedian Gad Elmaleh, who is the most beloved comedian in Europe right now. Elmaleh has recently begun doing comedy in English with great success. Seinfeld’s appearance at Just for Laughs will be his first since 1989. For one special night at the Bell Center on July 28th, the two will share the stage in honor of the festival’s anniversary.

Africa’s most successful comedian Trevor Noah will also be performing this year. Since he took over as host of The Daily Show in 2015, he has done some of the most scathingly successful critiques of current events and of the US President and his government of racist, misogynist, classists. If you’ve ever watched any of Trevor Noah’s comedy specials, his style of soft-spoken yet biting social commentary peppered with hilarious impressions promises that any show he’s in will be special.

Writer and Director of Knocked Up and The 40 Year Old Virgin Judd Apatow has chosen Montreal as the venue for his new stand-up show which will be recorded live for Netflix during the festival. Transgender actress, model and advocate (plus my second favourite Frank n’ Furter) Laverne Cox will be hosting her own gala, as will SNL veteran David Spade.

The lineup of Canadian talent this year seems to favor comedians from Newfoundland. Among them, we have ranter and political satirist Rick Mercer, who will be hosting a gala. Mark Critch of This Hour Has 22 Minutes will be hosting Homegrown Comics, a staple event at the festival featuring Canadian up and comers in standup comedy. The only Central Canadian names this year are Howie Mandel and Montreal’s own Sugar Sammy, who is the festival’s special guest.

A smiling Sammy took the podium this morning to express his gratitude to a festival that launched his career so quickly he found himself riding the bus to his own show with his fans back in the day. He jokingly told the press that he’d promised himself he’d take a fancy car to Just for Laughs once he got rich and famous, but ended up taking the metro today due to Montreal construction. His gala will feature international standup comedians.

Just for Laughs veteran Kevin Hart is doing what he can to promote young talent via Laugh Out Loud Network Presents: Just For Laughs Eat My Shorts. The initiative between Hart and Just For Laughs will feature shorts submitted by various filmmakers. Twenty films that speak to a diverse audience will eventually be chosen to stream on the LOL website and a panel consisting of Hart and other judges will select the top five for a screening at the Imperial Theatre. A winner will be selected that night and Hart will present them with a development deal followed by a Q&A session.

The Nasty Show is for me the best part of Just for Laughs. It’s the show where comedians, by their own admission, can let loose and tell jokes without having to worry about offending anyone. The lineup for this year’s Nasty Show features the master of British snark, Jimmy Carr, as well as Godfrey, Robert Kelly, and Big Jay Oakerson. What are suspiciously absent from this lineup are female comedians, though whether this is deliberate or accidental is unclear, though it’s not for lack of talent. Anyone who thinks women can’t do filthy comedy is welcome to google Lisa Lampanelli, Margaret Cho, Sarah Silverman, or Paula Bel, to name a few.

The Ethnic Show is the festival’s way of fighting racism and breaking down cultural barriers through laughter. The host this year is Iranian-American Maz Jobrani who is joined by Jewish American Jessica Kirson, Korean Irish-American Steve Byrne, and the Dominican Vlad Caamaño among others. The Ethnic Show is the show for cultural criticism and self-deprecating ethnic humor that feels less offensive because it’s made by comedians of those backgrounds.

In addition to festival staples, Just for Laughs is introducing some new attractions. New Faces: Creators features people contributing to the “evolution of the comedy landscape” via digital content creation. Also new to the festival is Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch recognizing the talents of stand-up comedians, sketch artists, and web content creators impacting the comedy industry this year.

For those who shun the mainstream, there’s always OFF-JFL and Zoofest which feature over sixty shows in intimate venues all over the city. The more risqué nature of the shows and the fact that tickets are generally cheaper makes this a great option for those of us who are broke. OFF-JFL regular Andy Kindler will host the Alternative Show, while The Lucas Bros return for more laughs. Other comedians in this series include Vir Das, Cristela Alonzo, and Barry Rothbart, to name a few.

With the tense socio political climate in North America, Just For Laughs is the kind festival we need more than ever. It’s not just because we all need a good laugh; it’s because if anyone can call bullshit on the worst behaviors of our leaders to keep them in check, it’s comedians. The best comedians shine when things are bad so if current events are any indication, it’s going to be a GREAT festival this year!

Ticket info can be had at

Warning: The second half of this review ended up being more of a rant about Mike Ward.

The Midnight Surprise shows are a staple of Just For Laughs. Part of OFF-JFL, the only thing audiences are told is the host. Apart from that, people buy their tickets without knowing ANYTHING about the line-up. And I mean anything. Any of the comedians that are performing as part of the main festival could appear. For instance, last year, Louis C.K. and Dave Chappelle both made very surprise appearances at these shows.

So while I was waiting at the line with my friend, checking my phone to see if there were any rare Pokemon around, I had no idea what to expect. But I was in for one heck of a ride, it turns out.

The first week of the Midnight Surprise is hosted by Piff the Magic Dragon, or John van der Put. You may know Pif from American’s Got Talent, which he did not win. He seems to be kinda bummed out about that, but hey at least he’s got a regular show in Las Vegas, so that’s cool.

Basically, Piff’s whole gimmick is that he wears a dragon costume and does magic acts with a lot of whooshes. All of this is mixed with his brilliant British style humour that involves dark and fast one-liners.

For instance, a good bunch of his jokes involve him implying that he is very mean towards his pet chihuahua Mr. Piffles, who helps him out with most of his magic tricks. It is a bizarre combination of really neat magic tricks, British-style dry stand-up comedy, and the absurd.

Piff the Magic Dragon with Michelle the Audience Member.

But the relatively more important question is, which stand-up comedians showed up at Friday’s Midnight Show? Long story short, I got to see Tom Green, Jessica Kirson, Yannis Pappas, Brad Williams, Mark Little, and everybody’s favourite controversial Quebecois Mike Ward.

That’s quite a lineup! To put it in perspective, that’s a relatively famous movie star, ~1/3 of the Ethnic Show, ~1/3 of the Nasty Show, and Mark Little, who is also pretty famous, I think.

My favourite was Jessica Kirson, and that’s not just because I got to interview her last week before the Ethnic Show. It’s actually because her style of humour speaks to me. It’s fast-paced, it’s somewhat dark, and it’s sincere. I think I’d call her style psychological humour – she talks about her insecurities and troubles, but does it in a way that makes you laugh. She also tells the audience that she needs our laughter and us to enable her.

If nothing I’ve just described appeals to you, the awkward moments she constantly creates will get you to laugh. One way or another you will laugh at Kirson’s show – and she doesn’t really care whether you laugh at her or with her.

Jessica Kirson talking about how she does Jew jokes at the Ethnic Show.

Tom Green’s routine is similar to Kirson’s. His delivery is dryer than hers, though. Green talks about how he doesn’t want to die in his sleep, because he wouldn’t know that he had died; and how he doesn’t like/want to understand all those celebrities who die of drug overdose, because their biggest problem in life is having to memorize a few lines.

Again, Green proves that most of comedy has to do with delivery. He stands in the middle of the stage, looking dazed and confused (and is probably drunk), and just talks and talks and talks.

I really want to talk about the other comics as well, but I have limited space, so I have to choose what I talk about. That’s why I want to dedicate the next few paragraphs to a rant about Mike Ward.

In case you haven’t heard, the Quebec Human Rights Commission has decided that Ward has to pay $42 000 for making a joke at the expense of a child with disabilities. Obviously, his entire routine was him complaining about how he has the right to joke about anything and everything he wants.

Now, I admit that $42,000 is a bit too much, and yes, maybe policing jokes is scarily similar to censorship. But the question is, what exactly do we lose if people suddenly stopped mocking people for disabilities? Does the world stop spinning? Probably not.

Mike Ward complaining about the Quebec Human Rights Commission decision.

Ward is pushing the idea that he is fighting for his right to be mean to people; but I don’t think that’s what we should be focusing on. Ward has a right to be mean, sure; but he’s also a public figure, you know?

At the show, he told us about an interview he once had, in which the media portrayed him as someone who condones pedophilia. Now, in that case, the media seems to have messed up horribly, just to make him look awful. That, however, doesn’t change the fact that he has made pedophile jokes. I mean, sure he can just wash his hands off of all responsibility, arguing that he is simply making jokes, and that people shouldn’t take him seriously.

The problem, however, is that words are more powerful than people seem to think they are. A joke is not merely a joke, I would argue. The kinds of jokes Ward makes normalise meanness and, to be frank, I don’t think that’s okay.

You can be funny without being mean. I understand that this poses somewhat of a problem for Ward and other comedians that have crafted their comedy careers out of being mean; but I’d rather side with the people on the receiving end of mean jokes than with those who make money out of a sick and twisted schadenfreude type of humour.

Anyways, this is what happened to me at Friday’s Midnight Surprise. It probably won’t happen to anyone if they were to go to another Midnight Surprise. But that only means that you have to go and see for yourself!

The Midnight Surprises will take place with Piff the Magic Dragon on July 24, and with Blake Griffin hosting on July 26, 27, 28, 29, and 30. Check out the Just for Laughs website for more information.

All photography by Cem Ertekin.

Midnight SurpriseMidnight Surprise

Imagine a room full of pleasantly drunk people, chanting in primal grunts and stomping the floor, with a middle-aged man mumbling the word ‘rap’ over and over again, as a naked Black Jewish man dances seductively in a comedy club located in an attic on Bishop street.

Just keep that image at the back of your head as you read this review of Eric André’s show at Comedyworks.

If you’ve ever been to Comedyworks, you’ll know that it is a very intimate space. People sitting knee-to-knee, comedians walking up to the stage squeezing their way through the audience. I even accidentally bumped into a waitress. Honestly, though, that feeling of intimacy makes the comedy experience all the better. Even though you’re listening to famous people do jokes, it feels like you’re simply hanging out with your friends at an open-mic night.

So, we were all there to see Eric André, but before him, there were two opening acts to prep the audience for what was to come. (I mean, absolutely nothing could have prepared us for that.)

Josh Rabinowitz performing at Adam Devine’s House Party.

The first act was Josh Rabinowitz, hailing from Brooklyn. Rabinowitz looks young and awkward, and obviously, he bases his entire act around his youngness and awkwardness. He said that he’s annoyed by ‘cool people’ who think it’s ‘hip to be awkward.’ You know, the kind of people who do something somewhat normal, but slightly weird, and just go “Oops awkward!”

“Cool people are gentrifying awkward,” he declared, and the audience burst into unstoppable laughter.

Next up was Jack Knight, from Los Angeles. Now, Knight was kind of unfortunate, because one of the audience members got a bit too drunk (and possibly too high?) and started hassling him on stage. That’s not a nice thing to do; but Knight managed to handle him pretty well.

Knight talked about a bunch of things. For instance, when he turned 18, his father told him that he was going to finally make him into a man, so he took him to vote. He has kind of a dry style that really suits his jokes; as if he’s telling the jokes, yet he’s incredulous that the audience finds them funny. But believe me, he’s funny. He’s a funny man.

Jack Knight performing elsewhere.

Then finally, we get the absurd host of the Eric André Show. I don’t even know where to start with this guy. His laughter, maybe? Or his hair? Or maybe the fact that he kept poking that poor middle-aged man with the microphone stand the entire night to make sure he didn’t fall asleep.

I could also talk about the weird one-liners, like: “The last time I did LSD, I jerked off to anime and I came a Mario brother.” Or his list of band names, with phenomenal ideas like “Lionel Nietzsche, R&B for nihilists.”

André’s show is one heck of a roller coaster ride. I don’t think I stopped laughing even for a second. He engaged with the audience, the audience engaged with him, and then towards the end, we even had a religious epiphany all together. (Remember the image from the top?) It was truly beautiful.

If you haven’t already been watching the Eric André Show on Adult Swim, do it now. If you have been watching, and you know what a genius André is, DO NOT MISS THIS SHOW. I mean, seriously, do not miss this show regardless of who you are.

Eric André will be talking about things at the Comedyworks two more times tonight on July 25. Check out for more details.

Unfortunately, the featured image is not from the show, but was taken by Maryanne Ventrice in Brooklyn, NY.

If it wasn’t for comedy legend Sandra Bernhart, Montreal may never discovered the hilarious talent that is Tranna Wintour.

“When I discovered Berhart’s revolutionary one-woman shows a couple of years ago, I was transformed. It turns out comedy was what I had been looking for all my life,” Wintour told me via email this past weekend, “I’ve always dreamed of being a performer in some form, but I didn’t know how to express it. Once I came to that realization, I was able to start putting things into motion and finally find my voice as a storyteller.”

And thank goodness she did. After discovering comedy and a Halloween costume became a full-fledged stage persona, the trans comedienne known as Tranna Wintour was born. “Who I am on stage is the real me–a more glamorous, sassier version of the real me,” Wintour said when asked about the certain New York City fashion editor that inspired her stage name.

Tranna Wintour - Trantasy - Fringe 2015-59

Tranna is a proud transgender woman. Anyone watching her stand-up or following her social media posts can tell that immediately. So how does she feels about the attention transgender people have been getting in the media recently? “I do worry that the recent media coverage makes the transgender experience a kind of novelty,” Wintour said.

Wintour continued by saying “not everyone trans woman has the means to look as good as Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox 24/7. And not every trans person wants to undergo a physical transformation. The transgender experience is unique to every trans person. When I’m not wearing makeup or a wig, I look like a boy. But I don’t ever feel like a boy. Regardless of what I look like on the outside, my spirit is female.”

This year Wintour made it on a few of Cult Mtl’s annual “Best of Montreal” lists, including best Instagram in the city. While Wintour admits she uses social media very little in her personal life, for her career it’s key. “I use social media as another means to entertain people. It’s an extension of the work I do on stage,” Wintour said, “it allows me to entertain and engage my audience when I’m not performing on stage.”

Those performances include the buzz-worthy 2015 Fringe show Trantasy. “My Fringe 2015 experience was absolutely magical,” Wintour said, “my favorite part of the show was performing an acoustic version of Taylor Dayne’s Love Will Lead You Back arranged by my friend Anis. I performed it on the last two nights of the run and it was probably my most favorite thing I’ve ever done on stage. I also want to give a big shout out to The Wiggle Room team who made my run so smooth and wonderful!”

Tranna Wintour - Trantasy - Fringe 2015-45

Up next for Wintour is the show My First Time at Zoofest, which opens on July 9th. The show is hosted by Darren Henwood, and showcases Canada’s up and coming comedy talent.

“There are so many local comedians I love, they know who they are, but I must give a very special shout out to the comedians I’ll be performing with at Zoofest–Darren Henwood, John St. Godard and Tommy Marshall,” Wintour said, “I am so freaking excited and honoured to be in a show with these super talented guys!”

It’s always exciting to see a Montreal talent on the verge of becoming a big deal. And with all the glamour, hard work and positive energy Wintour has put into her career, she deserves to become the kind of successful diva she admires so much. And not as a novelty, but as a celebration of the fabulous disco-loving woman that she is.

* Photos by Reese Turner

If this is what the New World Order looks like, then sign me up. I’m speaking, of course, about Illuminatease, the latest offering from Blood Ballet Cabaret running in Zoofest three more times this weekend.

The actual Illuminati could take few branding tips from Miss Bloody Maryanne and her troupe of burlesque performers. Freemasons, for the most part, aren’t known for being sexy, these performers most certainly are.

Blood Ballet Cabaret Illuminatease Zoofest

The troupe hasn’t performed together in a year and it has been even longer since I caught a BBC show. I’m happy to report that they haven’t lost anything, in fact they seem to have gained a bit in terms of energy and spontaneity.

unnamed (9)BBC has always been big on theme and this time they set it from the start, with four of the night’s performers clad in Druid-esque robes trying to crack a secret code. For world domination? Not quite, more like a hidden message to follow them on Twitter.

This opener was high on the tease factor as the performers didn’t disrobe (ha ha, get it, robe, pun fully intended) all that much. This would change very drastically and very quickly.

Soon enough we got to see Miss Bloody Maryanne shimmy out of a bathrobe (there’s that word again) playing a sultry Jackie O. More like Jackie-oh-yeah!

No more bad jokes, I promise, host Sherwin had enough of those. But his jokes they weren’t as much cheesy as they were perverse and at times self-depricating, though he really should be more confident, he has a fine ass as he demonstrated to the crowd.

Speaking of being in shape, new BBC contortionist Michelle Addessi certainly was. They may have faked the moon landing, but she didn’t fake the flexibility in her entertaining and clever moon landing skit or when she made enhanced interrogation sexy.unnamed (7)

Marilyn Monroe is already sexy, the challenge with bringing an interpretation of her to a burlesque show is maintaining her level of sex appeal while offering something original. Mission accomplished for Lulu Labelle Mirette, one of the new faces in the troupe.

Lady Josephine is a familiar face both in the BBC and to Montreal burlesque audiences. It’s that face’s expressions that I’ve always adored.

When she walked on stage decked out full disco, crazy 70s hair, glasses and all, I thought I wouldn’t get to see those facial expressions, but I was wrong. She delivered them and so much more.

unnamed (10)The show culminated with Miss Bloody Maryanne as the Virgin Mary. As far as the theme is concerned, I’m guessing this was a DaVinci Code riff, but it doesn’t matter, really, as it was the highlight of the show thanks to multiple performers (including Sherwin), audience participation and, of course, damn sexy dancing.

I’m glad Blood Ballet is back and in fine form. I thoroughly enjoyed their take on the Illuminati and other such conspiracies. My only complaint: no reptiles, next time, include lizard people! Sexy reptilians! Seriously, though, go see this show!

* Blood Ballet Cabaret presents Illuminatease runs Thursday July 31 – Saturday August 2, Agora Hydro Quebec de l’UQAM, all shows at midnight. Part of Zoofest, tickets available through

* photos by Chris Zacchia

When I first heard there was going to be a comedy set on rape at this year’s Zoofest called Asking for It, my reaction was a mix of horror and curiosity. If done well, I thought, at best it would be interesting. But if done poorly it would be abhorrent, and further the pervasive rhetoric that rape culture stands on.

Adrienne Truscott’s set opened with her dancing through the audience naked from the bottom down, in an intimately sized room. The audience from the beginning was clearly put on edge by the proximity of the naked women, but I think that was her point. She tried to ease the crowd with banter, and a couple outrageous rape jokes meant to poke fun at the assumptions that are made about rapists and survivors. It fell short, making some people, myself especially,  more uncomfortable. I think it would have been much more effective is she focussed more on ridiculing the perpetrators and the culture that supports them.

After interviewing Truscott earlier that week I guess I had expected a lot more from the set. The intent was there to satirize a prevailing issue in gendered violence, that was clear. And Truscott also stayed clear of any victim blaming, which was also, more or less, clear. But the satire could have, and actually really should have for the sake of effectively shifting the focus of rape culture, been taken a few notches up.

I had gone wanting to see how a comedy set could be executed well on this topic, but instead I feel like what was left was a very shallow attempt at address the issue in a comedic way. Her costume, I think, was a good example where she should have satirized more. She was dressed as “the ideal rape victim,” meaning wearing revealing clothing, drinking, and being flirty, as a way to point to the assumptions made about women who are raped. But other than dressing this way, it was never brought in to her set very directly, which rendered it more or less superfluous.


I’ll admit, Queens of Comedy didn’t live up to my expectations, but it did have some nice surprises.

The show has graced Zoofest for several years now, but this was my first time seeing it. Featuring Eman El-Husseini, Jess Salomon and DeAnne Smith, the show started off a bit lackluster with watered down audience banter from Mike Patterson, the entirely decked out in a king costume host. I’m all about the punny style humour, but this didn’t do it for me.

Eman El-Husseini was first up, and offered a relieving and relevant set, going for the big ones: religion and the Quebec Charter of Values. It was a good start to the show, and El-Husseini definitely knew her crowd.

Montreal local Jess Salomon followed El-Husseini with an eclectic set full of light but raunchy humour. Putting her sexuality on her sleeve and the crowd on the spot, Salomon talked about her experiences of being bisexual, and how people react. Salomon engaged with the crowd, and all in all it’s always nice to see a local on stage.

DeAnne Smith Queens of Comedy Zoofest
DeAnne Smith

DeAnne Smith really stole the show. Wildly animated and quick on her feet, Smith had the crowd pretty much the moment she got on stage and described the “style” of her lanky arms. At one point the lights turned on to the crowd rendering the audience visible to the comedian to which Smith, without skipping a beat, talked about how uncomfortable that visibility was – for both her and the audience.

Without giving it away, I will say I was happy with the end. Not only did it finish on a high note with an incredibly promising comedian, but given the premise of the show being on the classic trope of the King finding his Queen, it did well.

* The Queens of Comedy runs until August 1, tickets available through

* Photos by Chris Zacchia

Tonight Forget the Box will be checking out Adrienne Truscott’s “Asking for it: A one-lady rape about comedy starring her pussy and little else.”

It’s a pretty bold topic to venture in to into the comedy world, but Truscott takes it on with her own satirical twist.

Our friends at Dragonroot Radio interviewed Adrienne about her set.

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* Asking for it runs until July 26th, tickets available through

Last night we traveled to the MainLine Theatre to see Stand Up Strip Down, a night filled with laughs and butts.

I want to start of by saying going to an Off JFL show is an experience in itself. When you take a seat at the Main Line and look around, you cant help but think, shit, this is what every comedy show in every movie I have ever seen looks like, cool. You also realize that everybody knows everybody, the crowd is a mix of die hard Off JFL’ers, locals and comics that just finished their sets. They all join together to form a sort of funny cult, but instead the arsenic in the cool aid is swapped out for a mild hallucinogenic that side effects include hysterical laughing.

A memorable venue, cool crowd and an atmosphere that only comes around when doors open at midnight, are all elements of a great show the final elements needed are a good host and a solid line up, both were accounted for.

DeAnne Smith was responsible for hosting this night of laughs and moderate nudity. If you have seen DeAnne Smith preform you know she’s great, so obviously when it came to hosting she kept that reputation going.

DeAnne’s comedic style is truly a pleasure to watch. She effortless blends several forms of comedy and puts her own unique twist on it. From the self-deprecative to the anecdotal, to the sarcastic, DeAnne can do it all while engaging with the audience in a way that reflects an old school attitude.

DeAnne’s high energy hosting not only got the show off to a good start, it also set the tone for the entire audience. An audience of which DeAnne was a part.

It’s really cool to see the host sitting in front of you having as much fun as you are. It reminds you of the first time you and your friends got an older sibling to rent an R rated comedy and you all watched it together in your parent’s den, dying of laughter only taking breaks to reenact what you just saw. Comedy is one of the few things in life that can’t be faked, sure you can dress funny but as soon as you take the stage every one will know what’s good. DeAnne Smith you good.

DeAnne let lose a lineup of funny and unique comics upon us, each feeding off the crowd and using that energy to keep the show going strong. In between comics, DeAnne would introduce a new burlesque dancer to perform a routine, including such local luminaries of the Burlesque scene as Miss Sugarpuss.

This was my first Burlesque show. If you have never seen burlesque before I don’t want to ruin it for you but it’s really cool, especially when the performers acts take on a comedic edge, for example one act was about a widow but DeAnne reassured the crowd by saying “don’t worry she’s a horny widow.”

In this show, Burlesque and comedy go hand in hand. To fully understand this synergy you have to see it for yourself.

Stand Up Strip Down is a show that I highly recommend you go see. It’s not only super original and funny but it provides the sort of rare, elusive innocence being ruined feel we all had when we decided to start watching comedy.

Stand Up / Strip Down runs until Thursday, please visit for tickets

I thought this would be much easier. Sure. Just For Laughs is a huge, sprawling event, some might say Montreal’s largest festival, a distinction not easy to get in a city known for festivals.

But our focus is shows that feature lesser known comedians with a few of the big shots that have a unique appeal beyond the mainstream. Shouldn’t be too hard to focus in on a few good acts that fit the criteria, right? Wrong.

Turns out the emerging and underground acts, who are performing as part of the main festival and this year, for the first time, in OFF-JFL which is part of Zoofest, are as bountiful and numerous as the gala guys and gals. Our coverage team, comprised of Hannah Besseau, Jerry Gabriel. Chris Zacchia and myself, clearly had our work cut out for us, but we pulled through and now we know at least some of what we plan to check out.

It all starts with the Nasty Show, the fest’s annual below the belt kickoff event. Hannah Besseau already spoke with Bobby Slayton, leader of this year’s Nasty crew that comprised of Ari Shaffir, Kurt Metzger, Haley Boyle, Nick DiPaolo and local Derek Seguin. You can read her, um, interesting interview published today.

Later in the week, we get Aziz Ansari’s Modern Romance. Now Aziz may not qualify as emerging talent, he’s actually one of the biggest stars in comedy right now, but since I discovered him watching Parks and Rec and later his standup specials on Netflix, for me he’s a web comedian and therefore watching this incredibly funny man perform still counts as indie. Whether that justification holds water or not, this show is bound to hold my funny bone hostage.

Angelo Tsarouchas

The fest’s second weekend is when the Ethnic show starts. This year it’s hosted by Maz Jobrani, a prolific and very funny Persian comedian. I spoke with Angelo Tsarouchas, the show’s Greek representative, Montreal native and LA resident. You can read our discussion, where we touch on everything from the differences between the Montreal and LA comedy scenes to the best bagels in town next week.

In addition to Persians and Greeks, the show also promises Jews and Italians, but alas, the Irish are left out again. As someone who is proudly half Irish (or claimed to be until I had roommates actually from Dublin), I’ve got to say, c’mon JFL, geez, don’t your venues want to sell alcohol? (apparently the Irish perform as part of the British show, but I digress)

stand up strip down
Stand Up/Strip Down (Miss Sugarpuss & DeAnne Smith)

Moving along…the following week, the clothes are coming off, well, not DeAnne Smith’s (at least I don’t think so). You see, Smith, just back in town after reaching the semi-finals on Last Comic Standing, is the Stand Up part of Stand Up, Strip Down. The strip down part? Well, that’s going to be some of the top burlesque performers in the city, people like Miss Sugarpuss, L Diablo and Ruby Rhapsody.

Clothes will also be hitting the floor at Illuminatease, this year’s JFL/Zoofest offering from the Blood Ballet Cabaret. We’ve reviewed the BBC before (myself personally most of the time, it pays to be editor-in-chief) but we haven’t covered this show, their conspiracy show and now I get the chance! If you don’t think that the moon landing, religious conspiracies and celebrity assassinations can be made sexy, BBC begs to differ and their “family of dysfunctional yet lovable burlesque and circus artists” are here to prove you wrong.

Speaking of taking off your clothes, I’ve never wanted to see Lewis Black naked, but I have always wanted to see him perform live. This forever angry and funny man and Daily Show regular will be performing The Rant is Due in Montreal and I, for one, would like to see what he owes us.

And just who will be the Talk of the Fest this year, why it’s Nick Offerman, or at least he’s the one hosting the show with that name. Another Parks and Rec star, who’s also a published author and does run a wood shop, is returning to the stage and inviting some of JFL’s top talent to join him. He’s supposed to be quite like his character Ron Swanson, so I wonder what meat-intensive Montreal restaurants he’ll visit when in town.

Well, that wraps up only some of what’s out there in this year’s Just for Laughs festival. For the full schedule, please visit and keep checking FTB for our coverage.


Many things happened in the Montreal arts scene in 2013 and Forget The Box was there! Let’s take a look at some of the highlights:


Early February, Cabaret 87 at Sala Rossa celebrated the 25th anniversary of AIDS Community Care Montreal. It was a very successful evening hosted by Antonio Bavaro and Ryan Ghinds with performances by artist Danny Gaudreault and friends.

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Edgy Lucha (photo Chris Zacchia)

March brought us the 20th edition of the Edgy Women Festival, a celebration of feminist art. This year featured events at a gym, on an ice rink and finished up with Edgy Lucha, a sexy boxing evening covered by Keltie.

Summer came around and so did full coverage of the 10th edition of the Montreal Infringement Festival featuring a multitude of awesome events including a haunted mountain walking tour that Bianca reported on and plenty of music goodness and stage performances which Jason (also a performer this year) covered.

It also brought the Fringe Festival. Jerry, Chris and Stephanie checked out quite a few events this year including the Hopegrown Productions debut at the festival, Jon Bennett’s Fire in the Meth Lab was also a must and Jerry checked out Peter ‘n Chris exploring their bodies in an improv comedy which almost gave him a spleen injury due to so much laughter. Also Forget The Box teamed up with Yelp for their annual party Yelp Helps during the fest.

aint misbehavin
Aint Misbehavin’

Then it was time for Zoofest! Jason and Chris went down to Café Cléopâtre to check out an unforgettable Burlesque show with the Bad Ladies and Detective while Jon Bennett’s show Pretending things are a Cock  gave Bianca a new understanding of dick jokes.

The summer also gave us Fantasia and Just For Laughs and many more music-specific events that Bianca will cover in our Year-In-Review music.

In early fall, Stephanie reported on Ain’t Misbehavin’, a great production at the Sadie. Later, in November, Jordan checked out Pure, an incredible dance performance by Charles Koroneho from New Zealand at MAI.

Meanwhile, Halloween was definitely sexy this year thanks to Tales from the Crotch, a burlesque play produced in 24 hours, another awesome project by Glam Cam production with the participation of our awesome Jessica!

Visual Arts

A different type of event happened at Café Zosha early this year. Music for 12 Domestic Lamps was an interesting installation and performance using lamps and sounds reviewed by the lovely Naakita! She also went to discover the new exhibit at the DHC Art Foundation where artist Thomas Demand filled up the gallery with an installation of animations and photographs.

nuit blanche outside

Taymaz shared his thoughts with us on photography as well as the art of love for Valentine’s day. He also reviewed The See by Jessica McCormack, a beautiful book with great artwork and covered Chinese art and it’s importance in today’s art world.

March brought us Nuit Blanche which is always packed with interesting things to do. Naakita took a look at what was happening in the streets while Stephanie reported on her night at the museums.

The 13th edition of the Art Matters Festival also happened in March. The Human Error paintings at the VAV Gallery really impressed Taymaz and Naakita checked out the MAC for their exhibition on abstraction.

Summer came around and brought us a new festival, Mural, a celebration of street art. Local and foreign artists covered a few walls along the Main and its neighboring streets during the St-Laurent Street Festival.

Under Pressure (photo Iana Kazakova)
Under Pressure (photo Iana Kazakova)

Meanwhile, the original graffiti festival Under Pressure had it’s 18th edition in August. This self-funded event run by an amazing team of volunteers is still going strong. The Fresh Paint Gallery, run by the same team, moved to its new location and still showcases great work by many different artists.

More Festivals

A new festival started this year, the Pitch Fest, a celebration of the soccer culture, it happeneed just a few weeks ago. Luminotherapy, the light festival is on until next year so make sure to check out the awesome installations all over the Quartier des Spectacle area.

Looking forward to what 2014 has to bring us, be ready for some more awesome coverage of everything that matters on Forget The Box.

Jon Bennett never set out explore the deepest recesses of the human condition with his comedy show Pretending Things Are A Cock. But the show is a provocative, painfully hysterical commentary on society’s obsession with dick jokes.

Pretending Things Are A Cock, which is part of this year’s Zoofest comedy festival, centers around the mother of all dick jokes: holding vaguely dick-shaped things at crotch level and snapping photos to show all your friends and have a laugh. It never gets old and we’ve all done it.

Bennett was taken by surprise when this most enjoyable of pastimes took on a life of its own and catapulted the humble dick joke to epic, worldwide conquest. No monument is left untouched. No object, however misshapen, is safe from becoming the butt of this joke.

Many years and hundreds of photos later, Bennett has curated the best of his collection into the show. The photos are brought to life with his incredibly engrossing storytelling. The storyline meanders through tales from his childhood, growing up with his dick-obsessed bully of a brother to lifelong bonds forged in moments of desperation on his travels.

jon bennett zoofest-014Pretending Things Are A Cock is one man’s quest to understand his own preoccupation with pretending phallic objects are his dick. But it’s something that is so relatable it unifies us all. The cock in all its various forms is forever hilarious, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, or maturity level.

* Photos by Chris Zacchia

Pretending Things Are A Cock is showing tonight, July 17 at Katacombes at 11:30 p.m. See the Zoofest website for more info.

I almost fell for it. When I sat down in Cafe Cleopatre before the start of the Zoofest version of Bad Ladies and the Detective there was a flier on the table with instructions to immediately log onto KENSAKU and tweet my location. Had this Montreal-based burlesque troupe found a new social media site? Not quite.

The show started and I found out that KENSAKU was actually a social spying tool that was part of the futuristic Orwellian dystopia that the show was set in. Yes, this burlesque show had a futuristic setting and a plot.

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Cherry Typhoon as Detective Stormy Typhoon

Giving a storyline to sexy dance numbers is always a nice touch. In this story, the only freedom from the tyranny of the state is burlesque. In particular, it comes from Lady Josephine and her Bad Ladies underground cabaret.

The ladies are being chased by Detective Stormy Typhoon (Cherry Typhoon) while sending manifesto-type event invites to the investigator’s sister Secretary Shimi Typhoon (Yanomi Shoshinz). I like the use of social media in a show set in a surveillance state, because Orwell’s future may be a little closer than we thought but I also loved the hilarious banter between the detective and secretary which also served as emcee introductions for the dancers.

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Libertine Rose

Cleverness aside, this is a burlesque show, so it’s all about the burlesque numbers. And we get some good ones.

Troupe founder Lady Josephine graced the crowd with a very classy yet downright sexy couple of numbers. Her highly theatrical facial expressions are priceless and her look is pure classic burlesque if I ever saw it.

By contrast, Libertine Rose is a much more modern rock n’ roll type of sexy. Clad in leather, she snuck onto the stage like a thief in the night and stole all of our hearts with her fun and raucous striptease.

As for Billy L’Amour, well, there’s plenty to love about this performance. I won’t give too much away, but let’s just say the upstairs of Cleo is known for more than burlesque and fetish.

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Lady Josephine

It’s rare that I get to name all the performers in a burlesque show, but Bad Lady had a cast of only five. I didn’t see the earlier version of this show at Theatre St-Catherine, but I hear the show was cut down to accommodate a tighter schedule at Zoofest.

After seeing this stripped down version, pun very much and very happily intended, I find myself wanting more. And isn’t that what burlesque is supposed to do?

* Photos by Chris Zacchia

* Bad Ladies and the Detective runs tonight and Friday at 10:30pm, Café Cléopâtre, 1230 St Laurent. For tickets, please visit

* For the rest of the Zoofest schedule, please visit

There is one thing I would never want to be… and that is Amy Schumer‘s ex-boyfriend. I know this for certain because Anthony Jeselnik, who opened for Amy, was her ex and he was on the hot seat the entire evening.

It was my first day at Zoofest, so I decided to see one of the filthiest comics at this years festival. She was playing at the dark pit known as The Catacombs. Opening for Amy was Anthony, who started the night with some hilarious jokes about his personal dating experiences with the headliner. It’s hard to believe the man lived to tell such harmful tales. But he doesn’t seem to really give a shit anymore. Still he got the crowd warmed up by laughing at his failures and relationships.

Soon Amy would be up on stage, and she would have her revenge!

“There was a time when I wanted to start a family with Anthony…” Amy began her jabs at Anthony.

No subject, including “ass play,” was too taboo for this feisty thirty year old. And her jokes were killer!

The audience had some serious trouble controlling their fits of laughter.

From porno, to families, to relationships, Amy navigates through topics with the ease of a brilliant tactician and the tightness of a mature comic… by the end of it I needed to take a hot shower to feel clean again.

Amy has developed a huge following in the New York comedy scene. She has made a name for herself after coming in 4th place in the Last Comic Standing competition. She is also a regular guest on the Opie and Anthony show.

Set List Show
For the second show I attended I went over to the Mainline Theatre to check out a show featured on Sky television in Europe.

The show featured comics: Sklar Brothers, Sean Cullen, Troy Conrad, Godfrey, and Steve Patterson, big names in comedy. But also changed it’s set list daily. So every show was its own experience.

Set list: Comedy without a net is not a safe place to be a comic. Mainline Theatre‘s midnight show is where comics come out to test out new material in front if a live studio audience. A place for nonsensical themes that bring us to strange places in the minds of these comics, and sometimes, to disastrously funny conclusions.

Themes like trendy graveyards, caucasionally, and the other deadly sin were on the agenda.

Each comic was completely unaware of what “subject” he might get hit with, some words seemed randomly strung together, leaving the comic to improvise on the spot… which I might add, these professionals did with ease.

This show was definitely a highlight of this years Zoofest, it would be great to see it again next year.

*photos by Phyllis Papoulias

Call him Mankind. Call him Dude Love, Cactus Jack, the hardcore legend, even a bestselling author. Call him a standup comedian? Mick Foley would very much like you to.

“It’s been a real challenge,” the iconic wrestler said in a phone interview before his upcoming gig at Zoofest, “trying to get the same people who will gladly wait in line two hours for my autograph to try one of my comedy shows.”

For inspiration in trying to break his own mold and fans’ comfort zones, Foley looks to expected role models like The Rock but also some unanticipated ones like Justin Timberlake. While I never thought I’d hear the man all-too-comfortable with barbed wire and thumbtacks praise the former singer of N’Sync, it makes sense:

“I admire the fact that he has made fans out of people that absolutely cannot stand his music.”

The obstacle of fan expectations goes both ways, too. Success in the wrestling world could potentially alienate the people who populate comedy clubs on a regular basis.

“In wrestling, we call it negative heat,” he noted, “people might actually be more likely to go to a comedy club to see someone they’ve never heard of than someone they have heard of but from a different avenue.”

Now, the man who once drove two hours every day to get to the gym to train in hopes of breaking into the pro wrestling circuit is putting the same energy and drive into his new career goal. A career goal he has been working hard at achieving for two years.

“I think it’s a matter of time and perseverance,” Foley argued, “and that’s why I’m approaching my shows in Montreal and Edinburgh with such excitement.”

Montreal has always been a wrestling town and one with a checkered history which Foley knows well (he alluded to the infamous Montreal Screwjob when mentioning that he was going to talk with Bret Heart that night). It is equally, if not more, well-known as a comedy town.

“I’ve always enjoyed wrestling in Montreal,” he observed, “I understand the history of it…if you combine a town with such a great wrestling history and comedy history it should make for a very unique atmosphere.”

He won’t be alone when he enters that unique atmosphere tonight. Well-known comic Brendon Burns, a wrestling fan in his own right, was inspired by Foley’s writing and took the hardcore legend under his comedic wing.

“After hearing him do an entire hour,” Foley said about Burns, “I thought I really better raise my game just to be in the same building as this guy.”

Foley points to the joys in performing and the concept that every match has to be your best match as similarities between the wrestling and comedy business. But, has his wrestling experience prepared Foley for the comedy world?

“Wrestling has prepared me for anything, any and all challenges,” he said, “at a certain point I felt comfortable debating foreign policy with the head of the world bank Paul Wolfovitz. It’s been a great education and it certainly made me feel like anything is possible if I give it a shot.”

Good God Almighty with Brendon Burns and Mick Foley runs July 25th, 27th & 28th at 11:59pm @ Underworld as part of Zoofest. Tickets available online.