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Destination: Montreal and Toronto

Just for Laughs heads to Hogtown

By BRIAN COUGHLIN - Special to Canoe Travel

Street celebrations are slated for Yonge-Dundas Square and will feature performance troups from around the globe. This is a big part of the Montréal festival and is not to be missed. (Photo: Just for Laughs)



Family Guy, Live!
Howie Mandel, Kids in the Hall
Lewis Black, Starbucks discovery


Well Toronto, if you've somehow managed to be "too busy" for the past quarter century and unable to attend Juste pour rire (that's Just for Laughs), you're in luck. That's right; the organizers of the world famous comedy festival in Montréal have finally relented and are bringing Just for Laughs (JFL) to Toronto.

But before we get ahead of ourselves, it’s important to note that the Toronto version will be much smaller in scale. It will still, however, offer much of the excitement of its big brother, including the popular festival galas and street theatre fun. And for good measure it also offers a free, yes free, open-air concert from one of Canada’s hottest comedians, Russell Peters.

First, let's take a look at the Montréal fest before we examine all the hilarity that will be unleashed on Hogtown from July 26-28. A mainstay on the busy festival calendar in July, the Montréal JFL has established itself as one of the biggest cultural events of the year. It consistently attracts top comedic talent from around the globe, possibly looking to ink a lucrative development deal or at worst, raise their international profile.

Montréal is, of course, an attraction all to itself. The city is alive throughout the summer months, with its epicenter being the popular terrasse’s that dot both St-Laurent and St-Denis. Cuisine choices range from Afghani to classic French and it provides the perfect vantage point to appreciate the fashion sense many Montréalers exhibit.

Throughout the fest, travel is best via the Métro or STM. For shorter stays, the three-day tourist pass is a deal at $17. Another popular and highly recommended option for exploring the city is by bike. The Lachine Canal is a national historic site and stretches 14.5 kilometer’s from the Old Port to Lake Saint-Louis. Popular stops along the route include the Atwater Market, a great place to pick up provisions for a lunch along the route. Mount Royal, a natural monument in the city’s centre is not to be missed. Be prepared, the Mount Royal ascent can be a real workout, but spectacular views make the trip worth it.

On sunny days, Old Montréal’s cobblestone streets are usually jam-packed. At its core is the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Montréal. Built in 1633, it is the first cathedral and basilica in North America. Horse drawn carriage rides are also a romantic way to discover the old city.

Then there’s the other popular pastime not to be missed while in Montréal: shopping, shopping, and more shopping.

All this adds to the two-week long comedy extravaganza. The comedy variety of the Montréal JFL’s is extensive and runs the gamut from the galas hosted by the likes of Howie Mandel and Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, to the burlesque sideshows and late night Nasty shows. Throw in a smattering of one-man shows from Jimmy Carr, Zach Galifianakis and the legendary Billy Connelly and the program is complete.

So, as the curtain came down on the twenty-five year anniversary of the Montréal fest I quickly realized that the comedy world would now be setting its sights on Toronto.


Toronto’s own Howie Mandel hosts the opening night gala on July 26th. Howie is fresh from hosting Montréal JFL’s and as always, expect the unexpected. (Courtesy of Just for Laughs)

In less than an hour, my return flight to Toronto offered a spectacular view of the city upon approach. Surely Toronto has all the pieces in place to make the inaugural Just for Laughs Toronto a success.

The shortened three-day schedule is packed with laughs. Toronto’s own Howie Mandel hosts the opening night gala on July 26th. Howie is fresh from hosting Montréal JFL’s and as always, expect the unexpected. Late Late Show host Craig Ferguson has been added for July 28th and The Daily Show’s caustic funnyman Lewis Black pick’s up the duties in between at Massey Hall. Other notable Canadian comic’s such as Jeremy Hotz, Elvira Kurt, Derek Edwards and Frank Spadone are also appearing.

Street celebrations are slated for Yonge-Dundas Square, and will be featuring performance troupes from around the globe. This is a big element of the Montréal festival and not to be missed.

So comedy fans delight in your new destination. Canada’s biggest city has also produced an endless list of talented comedians and writers, and is deserving of a festival to call its own. From Toronto Island to Yorkville, Queen west to the Don Valley, a city with so much to offer. Laugh it up.

If you go…

Porter Airlines:
Toronto City Centre Airport
Tel: 1-888-619-8622
Web: www.flyporter.com

SpringHill Suites Old Montréal:
445 St-Jean-Baptiste
Montréal, Québec H2Y 2Z7
Reservations (ph): 1-866-875-4333
Web: www.marriott.com

Cycle Pop Montréal (bike rental):
1000, rue Rachel Est
Montréal, Québec
Tel: (514) 526-2525
Web: www.cyclepop.ca

Just for Laughs Toronto Festival (info):
Web: www.justforlaughs.ca

This story was posted on Thu, July 26, 2007

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