A comedy festival Montreal producer Gilbert Rozon founded in 1983, Just for Laughs was originally Juste pour rire, a French-only comedy event and far cry from Rozon's first stint in the working world as a gravedigger.
By 1985, Rozon enlisted the help of Andy Nulman, a local businessman who added English acts to the roster. And so the first bilingual Juste pour rire/Just For Laughs comedy festival was born, featuring Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and breakout star of the fest, André-Philippe Gagnon.
Over two decades later, the success of Just For Laughs spawned a global organization, with sister festivals in Toronto, Chicago and Nantes in France.
In 2017, Montreal's Just for Laughs runs July 12 to July 31, 2017 featuring dozens of stand-up acts, comedy galas, themed shows and free events with the most sought-after A-listers converging at the fest July 24 through July 30, 2017. Keep scrolling below for details on this year's top headliners and admission deals.
A comedy festival Montreal residents and tourists adore, attracting almost two million spectators every year, the Just For Laughs fest also caters to industry needs. Crawling with talent scouts, booking agents, managers and producers looking for the next big thing, many of today's household names --Denis Leary, Dave Chappelle, even Jon Stewart- got their big break at the Montreal Just For Laughs Festival or at least got a nice boost, seeing their careers take off shortly thereafter.
In some cases, acts that were tried out in Montreal ended up attracting international acclaim. Rowan Atkinson's Mr. Bean for example, was first tested on Montreal crowds back in 1989. The public raved and the BBC was tuning in. The rest is television history.
Stand-up Comedy: A Just For Laughs Specialty
The Montreal Just for Laughs Festival's main feature is stand-up comedy and the fest attracts present and future A-listers, up-and-coming rookies and literally the best comedy in the world.
Past guests include:
- Jim Carrey
- Tina Fey
- Danny Bhoy
- Jon Stewart
- John Cleese
- Eddie Izzard
- Lily Tomlin
- Rhod Gilbert
- Sugar Sammy
- Everyone linked to SCTV
- Nearly every cast member from Saturday Night Live
- Nearly every comedian that got his/her own sitcom
- The Kids in the Hall
- Marc Labrèche
- Rachid Badouri
- Louis-José Houde
Free Street Arts
For many years, Just for Laughs closed off the Latin Quarter to cars (St. Denis, from Ste. Catherine to Sherbrooke) to make way for performance artists, giant puppet thingies and creepy types gently entertaining/harassing a roving public on the lookout for impromptu street antics. From fire-breathing comedy to live statues to drumming harlequins circling random strangers into submission, Just For Laughs street arts used to be held along St. Denis Street. But since 2010, all street arts acts are carried out in Quartier des Spectacles' Place des Festivals and its surroundings.
Comedy Festival Montreal Just for Laughs: 2017 Edition Dates
The comedy festival of festivals, Montreal's Just for Laughs runs July 12 to July 31, 2017 featuring dozens of stand-up acts, comedy galas, themed shows and free events with the most sought-after A-listers converging at the fest July 24 through July 30, 2017.
See Also: Montreal's Hottest Summer Events: Miss These and You'll Miss Out
Visiting Montreal? Stay in the Heart of Just for Laughs' Outdoor Hub
Just for Laughs 2017 Edition Scoop
Major Just for Laughs 2017 lineup treats include a double header featuring Jerry Seinfeld and one of France's most popular comedians, Gad Elmaleh, performing in English on July 26, 2017 at the Bell Centre.
Orange Is the New Black star Laverne Cox hosts a gala on July 29, 2017 at Place des Arts' Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier.
Canadian political funnyman Rick Mercer hosts a gala of his own July 27, 2017 at Place des Arts' Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier.
Comedic renaissance man Judd Apatow takes a break from his grueling writer/director/producer schedule to return to his standup roots for four performances of his new one-man show at Place des Arts' Cinquième Salle July 28 and July 29, 2017. Netflix will be on-site to record the event.
The Daily Show's Trevor Noah headlines his own standup gig with two back-to-back performances on July 28, 2017 at Place des Arts' Maison Symphonique
Saturday Night Live alum David Spade hosts at Just for Laughs gala on July 26, 2017 at Place des Arts' Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier.
Ali Wong's career blew up after Netflix aired her comedy standup special Baby Cobra. Catch her headlining on July 27, 2017 at Place des Arts' Maison Symphonique.
And don't miss Kevin Hart hosting Laugh Out Loud Network Presents: Just For Laughs Eat My Shorts, an awards ceremony where the top 5 film submissions to the competition are screened on location, with Hart presenting a development deal to the winner on July 27, 2017 at Cinéma Impérial.
Other funny folk attending the fest include Jim Carrey, Craig Ferguson, Jeff Ross, Howie Mandel, and more.
Free Outdoor Events at the 2017 Just For Laughs Festival Edition
Every Just for Laughs edition features a slew of outdoor events: live comedy, circus arts with clowns and acrobats, sideshow antics, peeps on stilts, street dancing and more held for the duration of the festival at Place des Festivals.
And one of the most popular recurring events of all is the Twins Parade. In 2017, it kicks off July 22, 2017 at 4 p.m. at, you guessed it, Place des Festivals. Are you a twin? A triplet? You're invited. Just sign up. Twin-related activities start as early as noon.
Just for Laughs' free street festival runs July 15 through July 31, 2017.
Stand-Up Deals in 2017: Just for Laughs Festival Passes
Gala tickets don't come cheap. But not everything at the Just for Laughs festival costs a small fortune. Organizers usually offer festival passes featuring 2-show, 3-show, and 5-show package deals. Montreal's chief comedy festival also proposes package deals granting access to off-JFL and Zoofest, Just for Laughs' offshoot festivals featuring edgier and/or emerging comedy talent.
More info on Just for Laughs deals here.
Every year features last-minute deals too. Just show up at Just for Laughs' designated ticket counter in the vicinity of Place des Festivals, and ask what's left for that evening.
One thing to keep in mind with these last-minute ticket deals is you get what you pay for, leaving much to desired in the way of seating. After all, last-minute ticket deals offer leftovers. You might only find single seats and the view may be obstructed depending on what's left per show.
Getting Around the Just For Laughs Festival
Select downtown Montreal venues host different shows. Place des Arts' Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier usually hosts comedy galas whereas Théâtre Maisonneuve and Le Gesù tend to feature solo shows. And though Place des Arts' multiple venues serve as a hub for most of the fest's top-shelf events, Club Soda and Metropolis are annual go-to venues for The Nasty Show, The Ethnic Show and other recurring theme nights.
As for up-and-coming comedy talent, they're often booked in independent theatre venues across the city like Théâtre Ste. Catherine.
Meanwhile, getting to Just For Laughs' free street events is a cinch. Street arts are concentrated at Place des Festivals and closed-off pedestrian sections surrounding Place des Arts, including Ste. Catherine Street. By public transit, just get off at Place-des-Arts metro station and take the Jeanne-Mance exit, which will bring you right to the heart of Just fr Laughs' street events.
If your smartphone isn't enough to help get you around, call (514) 845-2322 or 1-888-244-3155 for assistance from Just for Laughs' customer service team.