JFL eyes market to boost fest

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Just For Laughs unveiled plans for a comedy marketplace Thursday as industry buzz started building at the 25th annual comedy festival.

Sheng Wang and Matt Braugner were among the New Faces creating early buzz late Wednesday at the first of two showcases of up-and-comers.

Wang drew laughs with jokes about hair loss, which he said should be known as "face gain," unwaxed floss and why men don't care whether women tell them they could do better in regards to a girlfriend.

Braugner's offbeat topics included unicorns, owls and the Humane Society.

Sean Lecomber won the annual Homegrown Competition of Canadian stand-ups, with Nick Beaton the runner-up.

Lecomber persuaded an industry jury and drew laughs with edgy material about favorite celebrities to have sex with and the death of chivalry.

He will get to make a short film in Toronto for the broadband channel of Canada's the Comedy Network.

Beaton scored with jokes about funny T-shirts and dating rules for women.

Among more established comics, Britcom show host Stephen Amos and Homegrown host Jon Dore earned strong reviews from industry folks.

Veteran Tom Papa also had well-received stand-up sets. "Tom is one of the best I have seen," said John Tae Lee, talent manager at Shapiro/West & Associates. "His stand-up is growing and growing every day."

Thunderstorms on the East Coast delayed some comics who were set for JFL appearances, but the festival experienced no major schedule disruptions.

In a move to strengthen its role as a place for industry deals, Just For Laughs unveiled plans Thursday to add a dedicated comedy marketplace to its annual festival starting next year in partnership with Achilles Media, the producer of the Banff World Television Festival.

JFL president and founder Gilbert Rozon and COO Bruce Hills, as well as Achilles CEO Robert Montgomery, said their hope is to expand industry turnout from about 1,000 attendees, allow a more focused discovery of hot ideas and really bring together talent and industry folks from around the world.

The World Comedy Conference is planned as a two-day event for broadcasters, TV and film producers, studio executives, agents, writers, digital content aggregators and creators, financiers and others.

Programming will include networking sessions, conference sessions, people's choice-style awards and a marketplace, including open and one-on-one pitching sessions, as well as a dedicated pilots' market.

Comedia, the JFL film portion, also will be part of the new conference. Now in its 11th year, Comedia deserves to be taken to the next level, Hills said.

Thursday's traditional midday Just for Pitching panel featured nine five-minute presentations of show ideas to a panel of industry executives.

Among the Pitching standouts were "Four Minutes Apart," about an anti-establishment female stand-up who moves in with her upwardly mobile brother and his family, by Heidi Foss; and David Cormican's "Crazy People," about two friends who check themselves into an institution to live an easy life only to find out that others have done so before them.

Just For Laughs runs through Wednesday.
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