By Stuart Nulman @ mtltimes.ca
On the evening of Saturday, July 30, around 11 p.m., Sarah Silverman concluded her solo show in front of a large crowd at the Maison Symphonique. It was the second Just For Laughs show of the night for me (I caught the Mega Stars of Comedy gala earlier that evening at Place des Arts), and the 23rd for me during the whirlwind three weeks that was the 34th edition of the world-renowned comedy fest. After spending about 90 minutes at the Hyatt Hotel bar doing a final round of schmoozing, I wrapped up my 30th year at the festival.
Although a previous commitment in Milwaukee didn’t give me the opportunity to catch Carrie Fisher’s festival debut as a gala host and P.K. Subban’s official farewell to Montreal as host of his own all-star gala, I got to enjoy a well-rounded comedy experience at Just For Laughs hopping from one show to another, and trying to catch as many of the best names in comedy ply their trade to consistently packed houses. Here are some of my favorite highlights from Just For Laughs 2016.
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Biggest Surprise of the Festival: Comedian Kevin Hart, who agreed to accept all 10 proposed TV comedy projects that were vying to be part of his new comedy streaming network at his Laugh Out Loud Network Pitch Panel, which attracted over 300 people to the Hyatt’s Grand Salon Opera. The line-up of proposed projects was a very strong one, and it must have difficult for Hart to choose just one or two, so as a firm believer in developing up and coming comedy talent, he decided to accept all 10 projects.
One of them was The Review€, which was pitched by Montreal comic Abdul Butt. The show is described by Butt as a comic version of CBC’s Marketplacenewsmagazine show. It involves real stories, real people getting ripped off and going after the people who are ripping them off, but this time using comedy,said Butt during an interview at the Hyatt bar the night after the pitch panel. I had the idea for two years and I pitched it across Canada. There was interest in it, but never any real money to do anything with it. When I heard about what Kevin Hart was doing, I decided to give it a shot, so I tightened it up and out of 500 applicants, I somehow managed to make it to the top 10.€
Butt admitted he was shocked when he found out about Hart’s decision to accept all of the projects. It’s something that doesn’t happen very often, and it’s a huge milestone in my career,he added. While he waits for the next step in this process, Butt will be competing in the Sirius XM Top Comic competition, in which the online voting process is underway until Aug. 23, and the comedians with the most number of votes will compete in a special showcase during the JFL 42 Festival in Toronto on September 29, which will be hosted by Tom Green.
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The Most Emotional Moment of the Festival: This belongs to Australian comedian Adam Hills. During his set at the Nathan Lane Gala, he talked about a video segment he did on a show called Naked Tuesdaywith a British fan named Craig, who was diagnosed four years ago with thyroid cancer. After the v