Just for Laughs not just for Montreal anymore

Comedy festival set for Toronto in July

TORONTO -- Montreal's Just for Laughs comedy festival on Wednesday unveiled plans for an inaugural event in July in Toronto.

Just for Laughs COO Bruce Hills said at a news conference that the first Toronto event will comprise three nights of indoor galas and two days of outdoor street theater July 26-28. Unlike Montreal, the event will be geared toward the public and contain no industry component.

While Hills was tight-lipped about bookings, he insisted that the comedy star wattage will reflect the best talent to appear in Montreal during the past 25 years, with a strong contingent of American stand-up artists thrown into the mix.

"We'll have the biggest names in comedy, including artists from Ireland, the U.K. and even the Middle East," he said, in addition to a big turnout of Canadian talent.

The city of Toronto contributed $CAN500,000 ($427,000) to the anticipated CAN$3 million ($2.5 million) budget for JFL Toronto, with the Ontario provincial government putting in another $CAN400,000 ($341,000).

Local politicians are betting that Just for Laughs Toronto could grow into as much of a tourist draw as the Toronto International Film Festival.

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

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