Just for Laughs is about to get the documentary treatment, The Hollywood Reporter has exclusively learned.
The Montreal festival will be the subject of a six-part docuseries for Amazon from producer Jimmy Fox and director Neil Berkeley (Harmontown). Described as a “Hard Knocks for standup comedy,” the untitled series will follow up-and-coming comedians in New York and Los Angeles as they compete for the New Faces showcase, the segment of the fest that has given way to major comedic talent, including Kevin Hart, Amy Schumer, Kumail Nanjiani and Jimmy Fallon.
“New Faces was genuinely the biggest break in my career,” says Mike Birbiglia, who was only 23 when he got picked in 2001. “No one really knows why New Faces is important but it just is.” The docuseries will take viewers through the in-depth process, beginning with the auditions and callbacks, through selection and into the comedians’ preparation of their comedy sets.
The idea for it came about after Fox, an Emmy-winning producer of United Shades of America, pitched a verite comedy documentary to Amazon’s unscripted head Heather Schuster, who then suggested looking into the Montreal festival as a potential subject for it. “Back in the ’70s comedy boom, if you booked The Tonight Show and Johnny Carson waved you over to the couch, you had a pilot offer sent to you the next morning,” says Fox. “And now, the Just for Laughs New Faces category is really that last remaining launching pad.”
Fox will executive produce the show under his Main Event Media banner in association with All3Media America. Also exec producing is Berkeley, Star Price (Active Shooter: America Under Fire), Bruce Hills (Hilarity for Charity), Just for Laughs Media and Main Event Media. Adds Just for Laughs partner Howie Mandel: “The Montreal Just for Laughs Festival is synonymous with discovering the brightest rising comedians. For a comedian to get invited to showcase in can be life changing.”
Fox and Berkeley are both repped by CAA.