Comics bank their laughs with representation, deals

CBC picks up pitches at JFL fest

It was time for some dealmaking, deal talk and talent buzz as the industry phase of the 25th annual Just For Laughs comedy festival came to an end during the weekend.

On the deal front, Canadian stand-ups Nick Beaton and Gerry Dee got agency representation after well-received performances, and Heidi Foss and Sarah Glinski walked away with CBC development deals for their TV show pitches built around siblings.

Foss' comedy idea "Four Minutes Apart," about an anti-establishment female stand-up who moves in with her upwardly mobile brother and his family, and Glinski's "Sibling Rivalry," about a young woman's changing relationship with her younger brother, convinced CBC head of comedy Anton Leo at the annual Just For Pitching panel.

It was the first time that the CBC had promised to pick at least one of the nine pitches for a development deal.

Meanwhile, the Gersh Agency signed Dee, a finalist on NBC's "Last Comic Standing," and Beaton, both currently based in Toronto.

Beaton, the runner-up Wednesday in the festival's annual Homegrown Competition of Canadian comics, entertained the audience with jokes about funny T-shirts and his Nick Beaton rules for girls.

Dee earned laughs with jokes about his teaching experience and married life.

In the New Faces showcases of up-and-coming stand-ups, New Yorker Kurt Metzger was a clear standout in the eyes of many industry attendees.

"I saw his set, and he killed and seemed very comfortable up there," one agent said.

Metzger scored with jokes about such things as relationship issues, his own looks and why God is likely a woman.

Among other New Faces who drew industry heat here were Tom Segura, Tommy Johnagin, Geoff Keith, Matt Braugner and Mike Winfield.

JFL's first-ever musical comedy showcase "Tune In" drew a big industry crowd, with Nick Thune, duo Stuckey and Murray and freestyle hip-hop group Freestyle Love Supreme earning rave reviews. By the weekend, there was industry talk about potential project deals for Thune.

Musical comedy duo the Doo Wops also attracted industry interest, with sources saying that the Fred Silverman Co. will develop a variety show around them.

Industry folks at JFL said they also enjoyed the annual fixture's first-ever sketch showcase across the board. The duo of Kristen Schaal and Kurt Braun scored laughs with skits like one about the first-ever telephone conversation. Young New York sketch trio Hot Sauce attracted attention among agents and others with offbeat skits, including one that involves eggs being thrown onto the stage floor.

Eugene Mirman was among the standouts at an alternative comedy show, according to observers.

Among solo acts, storyteller and observational comedy expert Danny Bhoy, edgy Jim Jeffries and offbeat Zach Galifianakis won praise from audiences and industry observers.

According to organizers, the expanded lineup of JFL solo shows this year saw ticket sales rise 50% compared with last year.

Among other established talent, Kevin Hart, Bill Burr, Jeremy Hotz, Jo Koy and Louis CK, who earned praises for showing off an hour of all-new material in a solo stand-up show Thursday night, received strong reactions here.

Among theatrical acts, U.K. troupe Spymonkey evoked comparisons with Monty Python and led to talk about bringing the show to such cities as New York and Toronto, according to sources.

In a JFL fixture Friday afternoon, the 25th anniversary of the comedy festival, the Chris Albrecht controversy, Don Imus, Carlos Mencia, the big agencies and "Saturday Night Live" were among the objects of punch lines in Andy Kindler's State of the Industry address. Kindler, who has given the address for 12 years, again played to a crowded room and earned strong reviews from his peers.

Overall, industry attendance was up 25% this year, according to JFL organizers. The fest runs through Wednesday.