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Just for Laughs Festival Honors Tiffany Haddish, Hannah Gadsby, More

For the 11th year, the festival will present the Just for Laughs Awards Show, hosted by Alonzo Bodden, honoring some of the biggest names in comedy. This year’s ceremony will be held at 3 p.m.
July 27 in the Grand Salon Opera of the Hyatt Regency Montreal.

Liz Flahive & Carly Mensch (pictured top)
Comedy Writers of the Year, “GLOW”
Even across a crowded writers’ room, we saw each other as like-minded brains,” Mensch says of her chemistry with Flahive, her co-creator on the hit Netflix series “GLOW.” They met as playwrights in New York 10 years ago, but started talking about doing a show together while working on “Nurse Jackie.” The particular idea for the Glorious Ladies of Wrestling came about after they watched the Brett Whitcomb documentary looking back on the original show. “I think, ultimately, it felt like a world that would be a great container for all of the stories we potentially wanted to tell,” Flahive notes. “It also felt like a very cool opportunity to not just tell stories between people, but between the kind of people they will be playing on a fictional show,” Mensch says. Flahive says they have developed a trust with each other and reached the point where “we can barely remember who wrote what” in a scene. And both recognize how rare its is to start out with a vision and have everyone help you make that vision to the point that what is on the screen is what they intend. “I think with our show, it’s an embarrassment of riches,” Mensch says. The streamer dropped the second season of “GLOW” on June 29.

Hannah Gadsby NANETTE

Hannah Gadsby
Comedy Special of the Year
Unless you’ve been living off the grid for the past few weeks, odds are you’ve heard about “Nanette,” the Netflix special from Australian comic Gadsby. A filmed performance of the show she’s been touring with for the past 18 months, the special blends art-history lessons, a dissection of the art of comedy and intensely personal storytelling. Gadsby has earned raves on social media from everyone from Ellen Page to Jon Favreau to Monica Lewinsky. It’s a bit overwhelming to Gadsby, who says, “I couldn’t have anticipated any of this. Someone asked me the other day if I’ve pinched myself and I said, ‘No, I’m too scared to. Because if I really did wake up and this was all a dream … what an asshole!’”

All this attention comes at an odd time, as Gadsby says she’s quitting comedy. Still, she notes, “I don’t think I would have found the success if I hadn’t taken my place in the world apart. So in order to find this success, I really did need to declare I was quitting comedy and mean it.”

After a pause, she adds, “But you know, everyone’s allowed to change their mind.”

Gadsby hasn’t analyzed too much why the special has touched so many. “I think it’s going to take some time for me to understand,” she says, still sounding shocked. “I think it may have something to do with being so honest and vulnerable and taking risks. And it’s bigger than me and I’m not sure I comprehend it completely. I am astounded and grateful.”

Tiffany Haddish poses for a portrait while promoting "The Last O.G." during the Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour on Thursday, July 27, 2017, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Casey Curry/Invision/AP))
CREDIT: Casey Curry/Invision/AP

Tiffany Haddish
Comedy Person of the Year
Long before she was cracking jokes about “Black Panther” star Michael B. Jordan impregnating her with a glance at awards shows, Haddish, the now-ubiquitous and newly invited Academy member began her comedy career at the Laugh Factory “back in the 1900s.”
Noting that her inspiration comes from “the world around me and my soul,” the L.A. native, who this year alone shot “Uncle Drew” and “Night School” and signed a first-look deal with HBO, says her first standup experience was during her time at the Laugh Factory Comedy Camp. “It was thrilling,” the star of “The Last O.G.” adds.

Recently playing host at the MTV Movie & TV Awards, which got a major ratings boost this year thanks to the comedienne, Haddish says despite her win for comedic performance on “Girls Trip” and her Cardi B.-inspired opening number, what she enjoyed most was “getting to wear costumes that I always wanted to wear.”

Looking ahead to what’s next for the first black female standup comedian to host “Saturday Night Live,” Haddish hopes to be featured in Forbes as one of the highest-paid actresses in the biz, and of course, for plenty of success to come her way.

Lil Rel Howery

Lil Rel Howery
Breakout Comedy Star of the Year
Chicagoan Howery got his start doing standup at local spot the Lion’s Den, later moving onto Riddles Comedy Club and Jokes and Notes to hone his skills. “For the most part, the stuff you see me do now is basically the best of everything I ever did at Jokes and Notes,” the “Uncle Drew” star says.

After starring as Robert Carmichael on “The Carmichael Show,” Howery stole the film in his turn as TSA agent Rod Williams in Jordan Peele’s “Get Out” in 2017. But the comedian claims the proudest moment in his career thus far was landing his own sitcom “Rel” on Fox, which is set to air in September. “Having my own sitcom is my dream come true,” he says. “As a kid, I was a big sitcom fan, and to actually have my own, with my name: it’s just perfect.”

Jo Koy
CREDIT: Andrew Lipovsky/NBC

Jo Koy
Standup Comedian of the Year
Koy knew at 11 years old that he wanted to be a standup comedian. “I couldn’t wait to graduate from high school to finally be able to pursue my dream.” A year into his “Break the Mold” world tour, Koy’s first comedy venture was at a talent show in Las Vegas. “I wasn’t old enough to enter, so I had to pencil in my mustache with my mom’s makeup,” he says. “I was so nervous. I got up and bombed so bad. I got offstage and was in complete shock that I couldn’t leave.”

But another contestant gave him a vote of confidence, “telling me what an amazing stage presence I had. I wish I could remember his name because that gave me the motivation to do it again.”
The “Chelsea Lately” regular, whose proudest moment was receiving a standing ovation on “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno,” yearns to write, produce and star in his own movie. But when it comes to standup, he is never one to write his jokes down. “I test all my material onstage. I love sharing stories and seeing what really resonates with people.”

Koy is about to shoot his next hour special and has a pilot deal with TruTV for his animated series, “This Functional Family.”

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