Young comics hit right notes at JFL

Up-and-comers create buzz, leave festival with deals

MONTREAL -- A handful of up-and-coming comedians left the 26th annual Just for Laughs festival with deals in their pockets, while others can hope to capitalize during the weeks and months to come on the buzz they created here.

Even before the hot phase of JFL's English-language portion kicked in, Jon Lajoie's musical comedy earned him an HBO talent holding deal.

Lajoie said he will look to develop a show for the network with at least some musical elements.

Online musical videos created by Lajoie have drawn millions of hits. His best-known comedic song is probably the rap spoof "Everyday Normal Guy." Despite little onstage experience, Lajoie's performances on JFL musical comedy show "Amp'd," which was one of the hottest tickets among industry attendees, won rave reviews.

Bo Burnham has a similar Web-to-stage story. By the end of the festival, Comedy Central, broadcast and other networks were looking at working with the 17-year-old.

At JFL, Burnham had young audiences in stitches with songs mainly revolving around topics of love and sexuality.

Meanwhile, Tu Rae, featured on a "New Faces" showcase of up-and-coming standups, got himself a manager by the weekend, signing with MacDonald-Murray Management's Bjorn Wentlandt, who recently opened the firm's New York office.

Industry watchers lauded Rae's strong point of view. His Montreal sets were built around his getting older, with jokes about not being able to stay awake for a whole day without a nap and about being strong but well past fighting age.

Other "New Faces" standouts included Sean Patton, Brendon Walsh, Mo Mandel, Trevor Boris, Nate Bargatze and Anjelah Johnson.

Among experienced standups, industry folks mentioned Maz Jobrani, Steve Byrne, Billy Gardell, Henry Phillips, Jeremy Hotz, Paula Bel, Gabriel Iglesias, Todd Glass and Rodney Perry as having elevated their stage work.

Among one-man show performers, industry folks gave particularly high marks to Danny Hoch, Russell Brand, Mike Birbiglia and Brendon Burns.

On Friday and Saturday, Judd Apatow and friends took over the festival. After being honored as the Comedy Person of the Year at the inaugural Just Comedy conference, Apatow hosted the sold-out "Apatow for Destruction." The show saw him and Seth Rogen return to their standup roots and other collaborators strut their stuff to many cheers from their fans. JFL also featured sold-out screenings of "Pineapple Express."

Meanwhile, executives hoping to escape the Hollywood labor strife found themselves in the midst of a labor dispute between Montreal hotels and their staff. As discussions for a new three-year contract continued, room service and cleaning at the Hyatt Regency, the main JFL hotel, grinded to a halt during the festival.

In other JFL news:

-- Apatow said he has a script in development with Charlyne Yi that she plans to give him "sometime soon."

-- Filmmaker Edgar Wright said he is "in the middle of doing a second draft" for Marvel superhero movie "Ant-Man." He later said that it might be a holiday 2010 release. "I had a really good time writing it," he said about the first draft, adding that he enjoys working with Marvel and the studio's Kevin Feige.

-- Kent Nichols and Douglas Sarine, co-creators of Web hit "Ask a Ninja," continue work on the adaptation of "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes." Nichols said the duo is polishing up the script and expects the project to move into preproduction soon.