Fest boasts films, sketch perfs in addition to comics

Montreal’s Just for Laughs has traditionally been known primarily as a fest focused on stand-up comedy.

Still, having launched such non-formulaic acts as Stomp over the years, the performance diversity has always been there.

“What we’re trying to do is make sure the stuff we’ve been doing all along that was non-standup gets better attention,” says Bruce Hills, chief operating officer of the fest.

That means that in addition to several hundred stand-up comics, Montreal will boast an array of films, sketch perfs, alternative club shows, TV reunions and, yes, an Italian “transformer.”

The aforementioned performer is quick-change artist Arturo Brachetti, who will perform his wardrobe-heavy show under the direction of Cirque du Soleil helmer Franco Dragone, the man behind “O” and “Mystere.”

Meanwhile, the fest’s first online component will take the form of a partnership with MySpace Comedy, an online community of 40,000 comics around the world.

The site will profile performers from past Just for Laughs festivals and will webcast live from this year’s event.

Just for Laughs officials are even trying to bring the Web onstage with a sketch show hosted by “Mr. Show’s” Bob Odenkirk and David Cross, which will feature viral comedy videos.

This year’s headliners, who are hosting the fest’s galas, include William Shatner, Howie Mandel, John Pinette and George Lopez.

In addition, an All-Star Gala will be hosted by Lewis Black, Tommy Tiernan, Russell Peters and Susie Essman.

Other big names taking the stage in the fest’s Special Events series include Eddie Izzard, Billy Connolly and Russell Peters. Damon Wayans and Louis CK will also be on hand.

Less mainstream performances will be featured in the Flying Solo Series, which returns after last year’s successful launch to showcase an array of standup, improv and sketch perfs in 10 different shows taking place within three venues.

The lineup includes Kevin McDonald, Phil Nichol, Zach Galifianakis, Freestyle Love Supreme and Jimmy Carr.

Television comedy will be honored with appearances by “Family Guy” creator Seth MacFarlane and series voice cast member Seth Green as well as the guys from the late-1980s cult hit “Kids in the Hall.”

As for the bigscreen, Comedia, the fest’s film component, ranges from big summer movie screenings of “Hairspray” and “Mr. Bean’s Holiday,” with Rowan Atkinson on hand, to smaller pics, such as the Sundance hit “The Ten,” and Albert Nerenberg’s “Let’s All Hate Toronto.”

The comedy shorts program — the biggest in the world — will bring to the screen faces such as Sean Astin, Lance Armstrong and Bob Geldof.

Of course, standup has not been forgotten, and the Club Series will include nearly 200 names, from circuit regulars such as Louis CK, Dave Attell and Tom Papa to a host of more green talent in the New Faces program..

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