Toronto edition of JFL ready for takeoff

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Related story: Wrap-up of Montreal's JFL

TORONTO -- Canada's Just for Laughs Festival is set to take over Toronto's Elgin Theater this week as it continues branching out from its Montreal roots at home and internationally.

Coming just days after the wrap of the parent JFL comedy festival in Montreal, veteran comics Howie Mandel, Craig Ferguson and Lewis Black will introduce a host of American comics to audiences here as part of the inaugural Just for Laughs Toronto, among them John Pinnette, Alonzo Bodden, Bill Burr, Kathleen Madigan and John Mendoza (HR 7/23).

Other comics booked for Toronto include Americans Richard Lewis, Jo Koy, Bob Marley, Greg Giraldo and Tom Papa as well as Canadians Jeremy Hotz, Russell Peters, Derek Edwards and Elvira Kurt.

Just for Laughs COO Bruce Hills describes the Toronto edition, which wraps Saturday, as a mini-Montreal.

"Our idea for Toronto, to a large degree, is part of our 25th celebration. We've done many things around the world, and will continue this week," he said.

JFL has held recent satellite editions in Bermuda and Singapore and could eventually stage a mini-festival in the U.S., should a suitable market open up, Hills said.

For Toronto, JFL plans three nights of indoor galas and two days of outdoor street theater this week, all geared to the public, with no industry component as in Montreal.

Local politicians, who are helping underwrite the inaugural Toronto edition, are betting the JFL presence here could grow into as much a tourist draw as September's Toronto International Film Festival.

The JFL fest in Montreal, which has separate English- and French-language programs, annually attracts about 2 million visitors, and about a quarter of those are tourists.

The English-language component at the tail end of Montreal's JFL has traditionally attracted Los Angeles talent scouts and executives looking for talent for film, TV and other projects.
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