It’s Festival Season and JUST FOR LAUGHS TORONTO, presented by Beneva in collaboration with SiriusXM, is back with yet another knockout lineup for us this year. One of the world’s premiere Comedy Festivals is back in its 11th year, running from September 21st to September 30th. A free Street Festival with shows by Jinx Monsoon and Fred Armisen. 15 venues. 42 Comedians. Huge headliners – names like Andrew Schulz, Leslie Jones, Nicole Byer, Ronny Chieng, Marlon Wayans, Jonathan Van Ness and more. We were floored by Just for Laughs going bigger than ever last year and this year proves a worthy followup.
Kicking things off opening night was Michelle Buteau who saw a huge profile boost this year with the success of her hilarious Comedy Series SURVIVAL OF THE THICKEST, based on her collection of essays of the same name. Above this, she is host of wildly-popular reality competition THE CIRCLE on Netflix. The funnywoman takes her FULL HEARTS, TIGHT JEANS Tour across North America, selling-out in many cities, before wrapping this December in Austin, Texas. So thrilled we got to catch Buteau who was a pure joy live as we’ve been waiting forever, bringing effervescent energy to Elgin Theatre for two back-to-back shows, of which the first was sold-out completely. She was awarded the Blaze Award in 2020 during TIFF by the Firecracker Department and couldn’t even make it then due to pandemic restrictions! This was so long overdue. This was the best and she even had everyone signing Earth, Wind & Fire’s “September“!
Not sure if you got to catch her as guest host on CTV‘s The Social, but she killed it!
NICOLE BYER & NETFLIX JUST FOR LAUGHS TORONTO MIDNIGHT PARTY
This is the absolute pinnacle for me of the Fest! I love Nicole Byer too much. I am so grateful for discovering her comedic talents over the Pandemic, watching NAILED IT! on Netflix, the best flop baking reality competition series ever. Byer makes me giggle when she riffs off of Chef Jacques Torres, purely delightful. But above this, her actual Standup Comedy is raw, biting and relatable, giving us all this range and dimension we only get glimpses of on the Baking Show. Her BBW (Big Beautiful Weirdo) Netflix Comedy Special is one of my favourites of all time and she does it all so effortlessly. A dream come true seeing her perform live at Meridian Hall as one of the Festival’s Headliners. Nobody was spared in her set: Tom Cruise, John Cena and some of her exes and ongoing struggles to find love. She is so real and honest. Always a breath of fresh air.
We got to attend the Just for Laughs Toronto Midnight Party, held at Chef’s Hall where several of the Festival’s “42” Comedians and Headliners came out for some delicious snacks – Sliders, Tacos, Donuts, Bao, Mini Bagels, Spring Rolls, Cocktails and so much more! We got to have amazing chats with burgeoning star Dulcé Sloan, Reggie Watts, Ronny Chieng and Brandon Ash-Mohammed, the latter who crushed it opening for Byer earlier i the evening. Sloan even practiced some of her new material on us!
Neal Brennan is certainly the moment. The three-time Emmy nominee writes, directs, produces and does stand-up Comedy, selling-out two shows at The Elgin easily and we see exactly why. His star continues to rise with his The Blocks Podcast being very popular, talking to his friends and colleagues about things that make them feel isolated and lonely.
This iconic Drag Queen and runaway winner of RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars Season 7 is coming off a run on Broadway, with a historic starring role as Roxie Hart in CHICAGO. Her year couldn’t be getting any better and Toronto got to be a part of it with an add to the Just for Laughs Street Festival lineup. That’s right – it was completely free of charge to see her do a set live!
Bringing along her accompanying Pianist MAJOR SCALES, the audience got to her personal anecdotes, song and jokes. What more could we ask for? Monsoon got real personal going into detail about her struggles with rigidly-gendered airport scans which often cause her grief. What a force!
The delightful and charming Jameela Jamil made her Toronto debut at JFL, taping an episode of her popular BAD DATES WITH JAMEELA JAMIL Podcast at The Elgin. You know Jamil from The Good Place, Marry Me, DC League of Super Pets and more recently Love at First Sight. Joining her on-stage for the conversation were Comedians Sabrina Wu (loved them in 2023’s JOY RIDE), Catherine Cohen and Gavin Crawford, while Dulce Sloan filled opener duties. The show was sold-out completely and Jamil‘s guests got really personal telling hilarious stories about their wild dating adventures. Only to be outdone by Jamil and a wild story involving two people in her life! Absolutely hilarious being a part of this sold-out audience.
19 years ago, eventual Cult Classic NAPOLEON DYNAMITE would get released. This small unsuspecting Indie Comedy with a $400k budget would go on to gross over $46.1 million around the world, celebrating awkwardness and geekdom. Almost 20 years later, the Film gets celebrated at JFL Toronto with stars Jon Heder, Efren Ramirez and Jon Gries here to present the Film at The Elgin once more for fans, followed by a conversation about NAPOLEON DYNAMITE‘s lasting legacy.
SNL Alumni Colin Quinn is still fire! We were obsessed in the late ’90s with his Weekend Updates and prominent roles in hits like Grown Ups, Girls, Trainwreck and Inside Amy Schumer. His Comedy Specials Colin Quinn & Friends: A Parking Lot Comedy Show and The New York Story show off his smart brand of humour and deep understanding of humanity. Was a blast seeing him live for the first time at JFL Toronto, just one a few shows at The Royal where he reflected upon people today and their incessant need to elevate themselves and their opinions to the world. I don’t disagree.
Jessica Kirson has risen as one of Comedy’s leading women and had the audience erupting with cheers. Of all the JFL shows I’ve been to, I have never seen as may fans queueing the stage door as I have for her, following her completely sold-out shows at The Elgin. She gain even more popularity over the Pandemic with her prank call album THE CALL GIRLS and also her Podcast DISGUSTING HAWK launching.
Rory Scovel has continued to build his impressive catalog of work, more recently on series like Superstore and Physical. He played The Elgin also, the first of two shows, ending this Festival on a high note! He is absolutely lovely!
So amazing meeting the Festival’s headliner, Andrew Schulz who played the first of two shows at Scotiabank Arena, where he brought us The Life Tour, selling-out both nights – setting a record for JFL’s fastest-selling arena tickets ever!
Everyone’s hooked on his commentaries about politics and life and we totally get why. He is everything!! Yet another formidable talent whonsaw a huge boost during the Pandemic with his Podcast FLAGRANT and Netflix Special, SCHULZ SAVES AMERICA.
More on tickets and this year’s complete lineup here.