Nothing like a comedy festival to make you think so hard your head hurts. Immigration, #MeToo, bullying. Pain has long been at the root of great comedic material, and it was no different at this year's annual Just For Laughs Festival in Montreal, where hundreds of comedians perform, attend panels and schmooze with agents, TV network reps and each other. "We're an industry built on outsiders," Australian comedian Hannah Gadsby told a roomful of her peers at the annual Just For Laughs Awards Show on Friday. She also urged the crowd not to forget it.
As a gay woman, Gadsby suffered some pretty horrific injustices growing up in a small town in Australia. She won an award for her new Netflix special, Nanette, an explosive performance in which she is both hilarious but also gets angry and questions whether she can continue making jokes about the emotional wounds that still run deep. Turns out, she can. While Gadsby claims in the special to be leaving comedy, she's since had a change of heart. She said the response to Nanette has been far more positive than she ever imagined.
Just For Laughs – and its French language counterpart, Juste Pour Rire - is the largest comedy festival in the world, according to organizers, who say some two million people are attending this year. Headliners include David Cross, Kevin Hart, Dave Chappelle, Trevor Noah, and in a last minute announcement, Amy Schumer.
The festival's annual "New Faces" series is a coveted showcase known for launching future stars. Accepting the award for Break-Out Comedian of the Year, Lil Rel Howery said it was his trip to Montreal for "New Faces Unrepped" back in 2011 where he first met filmmaker Jordan Peele, who ultimately cast him in his Oscar-winning movie Get Out.