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TORONTO — The Just for Laughs comedy festival didn’t invent blue comics, but has never got them onto Canadian TV doing their raunchy acts. Until now.
Just for Laughs has sold HBO Canada on Funny As Hell, a six-part showcase of uncensored comedy by rising comics performed in front a live audience at the Montreal comedy festival.
The idea is introducing Canada to fearless TV comedy while securing Just for Laughs a whole new, and younger, TV audience.
The Montreal festival, best known for launching a fraternity of stand-up talent from late night comedy clubs to U.S. sitcoms, has also produced a long-running Just for Laughs TV series for the Canadian Broadcasting Corp. that features the best stand-up acts from the annual festival for free, over-the-air TV.
The comic is brief: Talk about what you like, just keep it clean.
“We’ve done the big primetime CBC shows with big stars and accessible comedy because we want all Canadians to relate and secure ratings to get the show renewed,” Just for Laughs COO Bruce Hills explained.
But in a comedy business where migrating stand-up talent to TV has always been about fitting a square peg in a round hole, not all comics used to playing unforgiving crowds on the club circuit can tailor their stagecraft for TV.
“There’s certain artists that have the ability to perform for different demos — they can adapt, they can do a gala, and don’t need to swear to be funny,” Hills explained. Other artists, meanwhile, can’t clean up without losing their way on stage.
“Sometimes you say, that person has to do what they do, and we won’t book them” for a Just for Laughs TV gig, Hills added.
Now with Funny as Hell, Just For Laughs doesn’t have to fight it anymore and can tell comics headed to HBO Canada to knock themselves out. Be yourself.
Hosted by homegrown comic Jon Dore, the premium pay TV series features edgy acts by TV writers like Hannibal Buress (30 Rock) Chelsea Peretti (Parks and Recreation) and Deon Cole (Conan), veteran standups like Donald Glover (Community), Louis Katz and Brendon Walsh, and Just For Laughs favorites like Tim Minchin and Natasha Leggero.
“If they have a routine that cannot play to terrestial TV, this is a perfect home,” Hills said.
For HBO Canada, Funny as Hell offers a TV show Canadians can only see on the premium cable channel, to be scheduled alongside The Ricky Gervais Show, Real Time With Bill Maher and Funny or Die Presents on Friday nights. Hills adds the series, aiming at a sophomore run on HBO Canada if the ratings are there, will be shopped internationally.
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