Blame Canada

If you didn't laugh last month, it's because all the funny comics were at Just for Laughs in Montreal.

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RAINBOW CONNECTION Jeon, left, and O'Connell of Million Dollar Strong.

RAINBOW CONNECTION Jeon, left, and O'Connell of Million Dollar Strong. Photograph: Sophie D'Ayron

The 26th annual Just for Laughs festival, which wrapped up almost a month of programming on July 20, was the best I’ve seen it be. A new award, Comedy Person of the Year, drew its recipient, Judd Apatow, and his minions, which in turn drew huge crowds of consumers. The introduction of daytime panels and conferences attracted executives, agents and managers, to the delight of career-hungry talent. And hundreds of performers—ranging in experience and accomplishment from a 17-year-old Massachusetts kid to Ivan Reitman—inspired a whole lot of laughs. Here, our annual honors.

Best of the New Faces showcases:

Malik S. for his personality, Brendon Walsh for his dark sense of humor, Iliza Shlesinger for her confident point of view, Sean Patton for being delightfully weird, Trevor Boris for this joke about being both gay and a farmer: “Yeah, I grow mostly gummy bears and disco balls.” YouTube these rising stars for more.

Best nubile face:

Whether he’s rapping, playing the piano or strumming a guitar, Bo Burnham’s wickedly smart and wildly funny rhymes betray a maturity way beyond his 17 years.

Most appropriate self-deprecation:

During his much hyped show, Forgetting Sarah Marshall scene stealer Russell Brand explained that he’s famous in the U.K., then added, “Fame does lose some of its cachet when you have to tell people you have it.”

Funniest invasion of privacy:

After catching me scribbling out of the corner of his eye, bombastic Australian ranter Brendon Burns ripped the notebook from my hands and scrawled over an entire page, mr. burns is a fucking genius.

Funniest offstage moment:

As the sun rose one morning, The Office’s Craig Robinson found the energy to chase Ken Jeong (a.k.a. Dr. Ken)—who’s half his size—around and around the Hyatt’s circular driveway, while both screamed like maniacs. They were like the Tom and Jerry of Apatow-film bit players.

Flat-out funniest moment:

In their sketch “The Interrogation Room,” the Groundlings’ Michael Naughton and Andrew Feldman played two mousy, wimpily excitable thugs. Bob Odenkirk and Saturday Night Live’s Bill Hader, who cohosted the Sketch Show, were the straight-man cops. Except Hader couldn’t keep his composure while Feldman leapt at him, shouting in a high-pitched voice, “Why you flinchin’? Why you flinchin’?” Neither could anyone else in the packed venue.

Runner-up:

The bizarre leg kicking and guttural screams of Ken Jeong and Mike O’Connell, better known as the rabid libidos in Million Dollar Strong. O’Connell between songs: “I’d like to apologize to the ladies because I usually perform with a half boner or a full boner.”

Best foil:

Comedy is a basement art; its purpose is to knock the wind out of self-importance. Therefore, a monthlong, back-scratching, high-profile celebration of jokes—e.g., this festival—is oxymoronic. Did no one else think it strange to hear South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone sing about poo and hand jobs underneath a crystal chandelier in a historic, gilded theater? Fortunately, Andy Kindler’s annual State of the Industry address mocks all that’s bloated about the current stars, and movers and shakers in the comedy world. And he does so in front of them. It’s the funniest career suicide in the biz.

Best shout-out:

Kindler noticed John Mulaney standing in the back of the packed hotel ballroom during his SOI address and paused to praise him—unironically. I’m not calling Kindler a tastemaker. I’m saying that in 90 minutes of dumping cynicism and sarcasm onto all things comedic, Kindler pulled up his pants only once, for 30 seconds, for John Mulaney.

Most ubiquitous joke subject:

My God, there was a lot of wanking this year. In addition to the aforementioned general circle-jerk nature of the festival, an average of 75 percent of the shows I saw cracked wise about masturbation—all the way up from New Faces comics to Seth Rogen.

Biggest publicity stunt:

Longtime JFL performer Doug Stanhope declined this year’s offer, which he deemed tightfisted, by attaching the contract to a press release. Then he announced he’d produce his own shows in Montreal—during the festival. Comics backstage at the Nasty Show saw JFL COO Bruce Hills have Stanhope, who’d stopped by, escorted from the venue. Call the move dumb if you like, but Stanhope’s self-destructive nature is also what makes him a brilliant comic. We prefer to hand the man a shovel.

Biggest waste of breath:

Both Irish comic David O’Dougherty and Judd Apatow—each of whom is undeniably funny and commercially successful—began their show by asking the audience to lower its expectations. Really? You’re at one of the best festivals, of any genre, in the world—why not take the opportunity to meet our expectations instead? After all, our time is valuable; I could be at home rubbing one out instead.

Read Jane Borden’s blog posts from the festival at timeout.com/newyork/tonyblog.

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