This year’s Just for Laughs Montreal features a plethora of gifted female comedians – which may surprise some. In this progressive and politically correct age, there are still those who doubt a woman’s ability get laughs on stage.
In January 2007, Vanity Fair Contributing Editor Christopher Hitchens outlined, in no uncertain terms, “Why Women Aren’t Funny.” This spring, octogenarian jester Jerry Lewis made headlines when he expressed his revulsion towards his female counterparts: “I cannot sit and watch a lady diminish her qualities.” Lewis is hardly a stranger to controversy – or to outmoded thinking. In 1986, after a Montreal female critic described his act as “hyperactive, dated slapstick,” Lewis famously retorted, “When (women) get a period, it’s really difficult for them to function as normal human beings.”
Though women have dominated sketch comedy for decades, from Lucille Ball to Tina Fey, traditional stand-up comedy has largely been a Boy’s Club. In most comedy venues, lineups featured the occasional female, but rarely more than one per show. This year’s Just for Laughs Montreal proves that women stand-ups have certainly arrived, with a colossal range of talent hitting the city this week.
Montreal producer David Nankoff, who will open Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club in the city’s Theatre Rialto this fall, has consistently championed women comedians:
I am very pleased that JFL has given such prominence to female comics this year. I believe that women have been the best kept secret in stand-up comedy. In the over 200 comedy shows I have produced, I always try to give women stage time. Hopefully, by having so many women as headliners in JFL, it will encourage more women to participate in stand-up comedy. The time has arrived where the male gendered only comedy shows have come to an end.
For 30 years, Just for Laughs Montreal has prided itself in its diversity, as well as in nurturing emerging talent; the festival has been the launching pad for scores of successful comedians. The list of 10 most notable women at this year’s Just for Laughs festival is distinguished by their inimitable and distinctive approaches. They are here to attest that in stand-up comedy, women are finally getting the biggest and last laugh.
1. Sarah Silverman
Though Sarah Silverman looks like a kid herself, she is the primary inspiration and role model for a crop of young female comedians hitting the stage these days. Best known for “The Sarah Silverman Program,” Silverman hosts two galas on July 27.
Last spring, the debut of Amy Schumer’s program, “Inside Amy Schumer” scored record ratings. This year, Schumer is a breakout star in a cozy venue. Catch her show at Metropolis on July 24!
Rather than mellowing with age, Joan Rivers still courts controversy. This year, she was slammed for making insensitive remarks on her program, “Fashion Police,” for which she refused to apologize. What will she say when she hosts the Place des Arts gala on July 27?
Kathy Griffin is a JFL favorite — her bawdy, outspoken humor easily crosses language and cultural boundaries. No longer on the “D List,” Griffin hosts a Place des Arts gala on July 26.
One word describes Maria Bamford: original. With a delicate balance of pathos and humor, Bamford tackles topics like mental illness and family dysfunction like a true artist. JFL is showcasing her talents at Theatre Ste. Catherine, from July 18 to 24.
Courageous cancer survivor, Tig Notaro, was an undiscovered comic until comedian Louis C.K. caught her show. He wrote, “In 27 years doing this, I’ve seen a handful of truly great, masterful standup sets. One was Tig Notaro last night at Largo.” Come see her show, “Boyish Girl Interrupted” at Theatre Ste. Catherine from July 23 to 27.
While it’s true that singer/ Broadway star Kristin Chenoweth is not a stand-up comic, her versatility and likability are sure to win the audience over. Best known for her roles in “Wicked” and “Glee,” Chenoweth hosts a Place des Arts gala on July 26.
Kristen Schaal is best known as a correspondent on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.” Her quirky intonations are even more famous, in voice-overs for “Bob’s Burgers” and “Despicable Me 2.” Schaal will be hosting “Talk of the Fest,” at Club Soda on July 24, 7 and 10 p.m.
Toronto’s Debra DiGiovanni first made her mark on NBC’s “Last Comic Standing.” These days, she’s a loveable regular on The Comedy Network’s “Match Game.” DiGiovanni will be featured at Place des Arts’ Studio Theatre, from July 22 to 27.
Montreal-based comic DeAnne Smith is a stand-up/musician who instantly wins over the crowds with a combination of diminutive charm and candid (often raunchy) commentary. From July 22 to 24, Smith hosts the late night Burlesque/Comedy show, “Stand-Up, Strip Down,” at Mainline Theatre.