Just for Laughs sets lineup for 25th fest

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MONTREAL -- Veteran stand-up comics Howie Mandel, George Lopez, Russell Peters, Eddie Izzard, Billy Connelly and Louis CK will headline the Just for Laughs comedy festival's 25th edition, organizers said Tuesday.

For its silver anniversary, the annual Montreal comedy festival will take a fond look back while diving into more youthful, audacious programming, JFL COO Bruce Hills said.

"Our core is stand-up, but that's not where we have to expand. The younger demographic is what we need most to refresh," Hills said.

So JFL, which annually helps Los Angeles talent scouts and executives spot new film and TV talent, is launching two new shows for its July 12-29 edition: "The Line-Up," showcasing the fruits of a worldwide hunt for young talent, and "Tune In," a fusion of music and comedy.

With the Internet increasingly serving as an incubator for new comic talent, JFL also has hired New York talent agent Maureen Taran as its new vp programming.

Returning this year is the Flying Solo series, which showcases one-person shows. This year's program includes new shows by Jimmy Carr, Phil Nichol, Jim Jeffries, Kevin McDonald, Frank Skinner, Zach Galifianakis and Paul Provenza.

Also on the solo front, JFL has scheduled "The Richard Jeni One-Person Show Series," a one-man show sidebar headlined by Danny Bhoy, to honor the late comic Richard Jeni.

Also booked into Montreal is a reunion of the cult Canadian sketch comedy troupe "Kids in the Hall," featuring Dave Foley, Kevin McDonald, Bruce McCulloch, Mark McKinney and Scott Thompson.

And the British comedy troupe Spymonkey will perform "Spymonkey's Cooped," a sardonic take on a pulp gothic romance-cum-murder mystery.

JFL also will feature its traditional center-stage gala shows at the St. Denis Theatre, with headliners including Susie Essman, Andre-Philippe Gagnon, Tommy Tiernan, Russell Peters and Lewis Black.

Other festival favorites invited back for the silver anniversary include Jeremy Hotz, Sinbad, Greg Proops, Dave Attell, John Pinette, Dom Irerra, Andy Kindler, Collin Mochrie and Brad Sherwood. Also on tap is a host of British and Irish talent, including Dara O'Brian, Russell Brand, Richard Herring and Ardal O'Hanlon.

Also returning is the festival's "La Clique" vaudeville-music hall, with Berliner Kabarett headlining, and quick-change artist Arturo Brachetti and artistic director Franco Dragone launching "Dragone," the world premiere of a variety gala of visual performances and cabaret routines.

Bob Beckers' long-running solo Broadway show "Defending the Caveman" also will be performed in Montreal.

Last year, the Just for Laughs festival drew about 2 million attendees to its 434 indoor and 1,265 outdoor shows, animated by 1,682 comedy artists. Hills expects a similar attendance figure this year.
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