Just For Laughs Group will be going fully virtual for the first time since its 1983 inception.
The annual comedy festival, held in Montreal, will forego its typical crowds for an online venue in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Keeping with its original postponed dates, the festival will welcome online audiences Oct. 9 and 10. Variety will present its annual 10 Comics to Watch, a tradition since 2000, as a virtual panel.
“Despite all the changes our industry has been going through, the most important thing for us is to satisfy our festival-goers,” said Just For Laughs Group President and CEO Charles Décarie in a press release. “We’re sparing no effort to present the best festival possible, while respecting the health measures that are in force.”
The online portal it will be hosted on is meant to mimic the traditional festival experience, giving users access to a variety of free options to engage in. ComedyPRO, JFL42 and ComedyCon will offer comedy programming during the event. Bill Burr, The Ethnic Show and The Nasty Show, which were all originally slated for 2020, have been rescheduled to be part of the festival’s 2021 operation.
Just For Laughs hopes to include interactive portions to the online-only iteration of the festival, including conversations, panels and various performances to engage its audience.
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“More than ever, we want to maintain our position as an industry leader by creating innovative comedy events that allow our artists to work and to make the highest-quality comedy available to the public,” Décarie said.
Alongside the Montreal-based event, its French sister festival, Juste pour rire, will run Sept. 29 to Oct. 10. The hybrid festival will include free and paid content, both online and onstage, including live theater performances, provided Quebec’s health guidelines allow it.
“After presenting the HAHAHA digital festival back in May, we really listened to all the feedback we received from our fans, and we are confident we will present a hybrid festival that will go even further toward pleasing the public and satisfying expectations,” said Vice President of Juste pour rire, Patrick Rozon, in a statement.
Further programming details for the festivals will be available closer to the events’ launch dates.