Just for Laughs 2012 wrap-up

The sprawling 30th anniversary of the festival offers family-friendly fare, crass nastiness and everything in between.



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Miss Piggy, Just for Laughs Muppets Gala

Miss Piggy, Just for Laughs Muppets Gala Photograph: Eric Myre

A look at the schedule for the English week of Just for Laughs, which celebrated its 30th year in 2012, revealed a banquet of events that offered funny business for just about any taste. There were shows featuring superstars and as-yet unrepresented comics alike; comedy both filthy and family-friendly; podcast tapings and film screenings; and events in venues ranging from concert halls to strip clubs. With only four days and two legs, TONY took in as much of it as we possibly could. What follow are some of our favorite moments from the weekend.

Most transporting

It’s hard to overstate the degree of unexpected, childlike delight we felt at the opening of a televised gala hosted by the Muppets. Once the curtain rose and Kermit et al. started singing their theme song on a facsimile of the original Muppet Show set, we suspect that anyone who didn’t look like a starry-eyed 12-year-old had probably just keeled over from a poutine-induced heart attack (much like the Swedish Chef did later in the show).

Best reemergence
We’ve seen Chappelle’s Show cocreator Neal Brennan kill in small rooms here in New York, but it was exciting to see him in Montreal firing on all cylinders. (Not to mention that the night we caught his Midnight Surprise show, his cast—including Jerrod Carmichael, Chelsea Peretti and Tommy Johnagin—all did great.) It prompts the question: Why don’t we see Brennan headlining NYC’s big clubs?

Most intriguing proposal
After last year’s keynote address from Marc Maron, a fiery kiss-off to a comedy industry that had never truly embraced him, Patton Oswalt’s conciliatory speech—which encouraged comics to utilize technology to create on their own terms, and tastemakers to become “fans” rather than “gatekeepers” to avoid being left behind—offered a utopian middle ground. Given that Maron’s WTF is now on NPR and he’s currently making a show for IFC, there would seem to be room for compromise on both sides.

Best upstaging

Before Andy Kindler gave his annual “State of the Industry” speech, James Adomian took the stage—as Andy Kindler. In his animated performance, he nailed the lifer comic’s twitchy self-consciousness and elliptical, highbrow references so well that Kindler himself kept lapsing into Adomian’s impression of him. Witness one of Adomian’s running gags: “Am I right? Am I wrong? Am I a third conclusion?”

Best reunion
At the infamous Nasty Show, longtime guest Mike Wilmot had his family in the audience, apparently for the first time. As he began to simulate performing cunnilingus on his wife, he paused, revealing just a hint of vulnerability as he confessed how hard it was to do in full view of his kids. “They’re fine,” he said, waving it off. “They have kids.”

Most portentous exit

One night at about 3am, a young woman was hauled out of the hotel bar by bouncers, struggling and hollering about rights for Guatemalans. A bunch of comics, including Aziz Ansari and Joe Mande, tromped after her and hovered around the ongoing train wreck with their camera phones. Don’t civilians know it’s in their best interest to maintain sobriety around several hundred comics if they’d rather not become an Internet meme?

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