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Montreal fest cuts ‘Loose’

Show sold out six perfs after first night

TORONTO — The English-language portion of the Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Montreal wrapped Sunday with a smattering of deals, lots of backroom chat and a whole lot of buzz.

In addition to household names such as Jim Belushi and Dame Edna Everage, the fest’s showstopper this year was Tommy Tiernan and his one-man act “Loose,” which sold out six perfs after its first night. On Saturday, Tiernan inked a deal to appear on “The Late Show With David Letterman,” and he’s in discussions with another talkshow.

Other deals signed at the fest: Jeff Caldwell was booked on “The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson,” and Jeremy Hotz got picked up for a series on pubcaster CBC, “My Life and a Movie,” to be produced by Just for Laughs for airing in fall 2006.

Fest chief operating officer Bruce Hills called Eddie Izzard’s show, his first appearance at the fest in a decade, “a love-in, probably the most magical show I’ve seen in years.”

Izzard and Judy Gold appeared as “guests” for “The Greg Proops Chat Show,” a talkshow dry run that generated considerable industry interest, as did the sellout trio of shows 3 Blonde Moms, who are in talks to do a national tour. “The agents all believe they’re a slam-dunk for a TV show,” Hills said.

Other popular acts were Danny Bhoy from Scotland; Brit Rhod Gilbert, making his first visit to North America; uptown comic Rod Thomson; headliner Gary Gulman; and new faces Jasper Redd, Jay Larson, Joe DeRosa, and Craig Baldo.

“I’m having a fantastic festival up here — the level of talent is just great,” Bob Huber, executive VP of casting for Fox Broadcasting, told Daily Variety over the weekend.

Like most of those repping webs at the fest, Huber is on the lookout for talent to be cast in existing TV shows as well as those few with “a strong enough point of view” to write a show around. “Those tend to be the most experienced comics,” he said.

Last year’s fest led to Fox inking deals with Omid Djalili, “Britain’s funniest Iranian standup comedian,” and actor-comedian Bill Burr. Both have projects in development, he said.

Industry presence was up by about 15% this year, with a particularly strong showing from reality TV reps looking for hosts. Also making the rounds were execs from animation companies and studios. Also, there was an enhanced presence from wireless and broadband companies looking to snap up rights for their burgeoning technology.

Comedia, the film festival portion of Just for Laughs, had a strong showing. “The Aristocrats,” which features the telling by more than 100 comedians of a dirty joke known famously in the biz as the comedians’ secret handshake, was a particular draw for comedians themselves. The preview of the DVD movie “The Family Guy Presents Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story” also sold out.

Final figures weren’t available, but audience numbers were estimated to be up considerably this year, with consistently dry, balmy weather helping bump attendance to about 2 million. Last year 1.7 million fans turned out for ticketed and free shows scattered about the city.

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