Candy coats Montreal comedy fest

Talent scouts from U.S. TV networks and most of the major studios will be descending on Montreal July 22-Aug. 1 for the 11th edition of the Just For Laughs comedy fest, which will feature more than 200 comics from 16 countries.

Headliners include John Candy, who will be hosting the Showtime gala, to be broadcast on the cable web, Seinfeld star Michael Richards, and Louie Anderson. George Burns will perform at Place des Arts and he will also be inducted into the brand-new Humour Hall of Fame, part of the just-opened Intl. Museum of Humour.

Veteran L.A-based manager Charles Joffe says: “It’s the best organized venture of that sort anywhere in the world,” adding, “that and Cannes — in terms of conventions — are the two best. I always find it exciting to find out what’s going as comedy progresses and that’s a wonderful place to do it. It is a great chance to see almost everyone in the business.”

The Just For Laughs fest has TV deals for broadcast of festival fare in 30 countries, including English and French CBC in Canada, Showtime in the U.S., France 2, and Channel 4 in Britain, where it has drawn strong ratings with its Just For Laughs specials since it began shooting the event seven years ago. This year’s British Invasion gala — with hot Brit comic Paul Merton hosting — was tailor-made for Channel 4.

“What it gives us in Montreal is the opportunity to get some of the best new British comics and some of the best American comics together,” says Channel 4 entertainment honcho Seamus Cassidy. “You can get good television out of it.”

More than 600,000 people attended last year’s fest, and attendance is boosted by the free shows held in the downtown area of Montreal. French-lingo comedy is the focus of Juste Pour Rire.

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