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Montreal corners laffs

Fest's lineup includes Belushi, Dame Edna

MONTREAL — The 23rd Just for Laughs comedy fest kicked into gear Thursday, and once the star-studded galas start Wednesday, most of the top players in the North American comedy biz will be hanging out in Montreal, scouring the town’s clubs for the next Jerry Seinfeld or Ray Romano.

This year’s lineup includes Jim Belushi, Dame Edna Everage and live shows dedicated to “Everybody Loves Raymond,” “The Daily Show With Jon Stewart” and “SpongeBob SquarePants.”

The success of Just for Laughs is a funny thing in itself. Talent executives, agents, managers and network execs from around the world descend on Montreal for 10 days and sign a slew of deals.

One trend this year is behind-the-scenes takes on American TV series.

“Everybody Loves Raymond” creator Phil Rosenthal and several of the show’s writers and producers will talk about the hit series July 20 and 21 in “Everybody Loves Raymond: Inside the Writers’ Room.”

“Sex and the City” consultant Greg Behrendt and writer Liz Tuccillo, author of the “Sex and the City”-inspired book “He’s Just Not That Into You” will perform “He’s Just Not That Into You Live!”

Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert and others will dish the dirt from “The Daily Show” July 23 and the entire cast from “SpongeBob SquarePants” will perform an episode July 24.

There is even more of a Euro flavor this year thanks to a British invasion due next week. There will be a Blighty gala July 21 hosted by Lenny Henry from BBC show “Chef!” featuring Lee Mack, Noel Fielding and the Hollow Men. Eddie Izzard is coming for a solo gig and Ireland’s Tommy Tiernan is also on the way with a one-man-show.

Industry attendance is up 15% this year to 400 execs (outnumbered by 600 members of the media), and that’s partly because organizers targeted reality show producers, persuading many that Just for Laughs is an ideal spot to shop for potential hosts.

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