Comedy pitches have JFL crowd in stitches


MONTREAL -- The annual "Just for Pitching" panel, an offbeat book presentation with Bob Odenkirk and David Cross as guest stars and an inaugural welcome cocktail were among the daytime events here at the Just for Laughs comedy festival Thursday.

The midday "Pitching" session featured nine five-minute presentations of show ideas to a panel of industry executives, namely Matt Tombs, vp programming of the Paramount Comedy channel in the U.K., Comedy Central's Aaron Rothman, Jordan Feiner from Endemol USA and the CBC's head of comedy Anton Leo.

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.

Tombs called "Four Minutes" a "fully formed classic situation comedy project," adding that he would like to see a script. Feiner said "Crazy People" is "a really, really fun idea," but also signaled he would like to see a script and get a better idea for the sustainability of the project over several seasons.

Other show ideas getting some good reactions included "The Roaches," an animation project pitch by Edward Kay and "Sibling Rivalry" by Sarah Glinski, another sister-brother relationship project. Also, John Beuhler earned laughs for his style and funny presentation of his 1980s sitcom parody idea "That's Just John."

Rothman said to Beuhler he loves "the honesty of your main character" in "That's Just John," who is a lovable bum. But he also suggested that the longevity of the idea was hard to predict. "We also piloted (the spoof) 'Not Another High School Show' but didn't pick it up," he said.

Overall, the industry panelists said they were impressed with the generally strong ideas and pitches.

John Mooney was stuck in New York because of flight delays during bad weather and couldn't present his pitch "Dollars and Sense."

Leo will by the end of the festival choose one show idea for a development deal for CBC.

In more Montreal fun, in the early afternoon Thursday, Eric Hoffman and Gary Rudoren, dressed in lab coats, had people in stitches with a presentation of their recently published book "Comedy by the Numbers: The 169 Secrets of Humor and Popularity."

Cross earned laughs with an expose on cursing, while Odenkirk drew laughter with an introduction ("Now, everyone can learn the secrets of comedy -- not just spies!") and an impression of ubiquitous young comic Dane Cook ("I'm on a stamp in Liberia!").

Last year, Andy Kindler in his annual State of the Industry address here had also poked fun at Cook.