Just for Laughs comes to an end

Three-day festival drew 60,000 people

Just for Laughs has wrapped its inaugural Toronto spinoff on a high note, with appreciative crowds, rave reviews and brisk ticket sales .

The three-day fest, which ran July 26-28, included 60 perfs from street theater acts from Europe and North America that drew 60,000 people, free outdoor standup shows hosted by hometown comedy favorite Russell Peters, and six indoor galas hosted by Howie Mandel (also from Toronto), Lewis Black and Craig Ferguson, as well as two Ethnic Heroes of Comedy shows.

“We couldn’t have been happier,” said chief operating officer Bruce Hills, “especially when it came to the outdoor activities. It looked like we were going to be met by a lot of rain, and that never materialized. ”

Most of the indoor shows sold out, and six of them earned standing ovations, Hills said. “I’ve produced 100 comedy shows in 10 years, and I can count in two hands how many standing ovations we’ve had. We’re thrilled with that.”

. Unlike the Montreal streets, where organizers have traditionally shied away from standup comedy so as not to alienate either French or English spectators, in English-speaking Toronto the core of the main stage at the outdoor events was standup.

Some of the acts let rip, with the blue material of Italian-Canadian parody/musical duo The Doo Wops in particular raising some eyebrows in the crowd, which included children of all ages.

Though there have been no complaints, Hills said that in the future acts will be asked to tone it down in public places. “Halfway through that concert I was already dealing with that one for next year,” he said.

The Toronto spinoff was announced late , and provincial, city and tourist orgs footed more of the bill than is the norm for Montreal. “We went into this without the corporate sponsorship we would normally expect,” Hills said, though he is hoping that the boffo outcome will lead to more corporate sponsorship for next year.

The spinoff was not expected to cannibalize Montreal auds, but rather to attract a new audience, Hills added.

Or, as Peters put it, “Torontonians are not the kind to go to another city just because they have something better than we have. I have a feeling that a lot of people from Toronto have never been to Montreal. Now it’s come to them, and in true Toronto fashion they’re saying, ‘I knew you’d come around.’ “

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