Montreal July 23-25 Just For Laughs Comedy Conference

Todd Phillips (The Hangover) to receive Comedy Director of the Year Award. Etan Cohen (Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Tropic Thunder) to receive Comedy Writer of the Year Award.

Todd Phillips (The Hangover) to receive Comedy Director of the Year Award. Etan Cohen (Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa and Tropic Thunder) to receive Comedy Writer of the Year Award.


Montreal Just for Laughs

(Montreal – June 29, 2009)  There's no business like the funny business. And the Just For Laughs Festival's high-powered Comedy Conference has fast become a must-attend event for decision-makers and creatives alike in the multi-billion-dollar laugh market. The Just For Laughs Comedy Conference, from July 23 – July 25,  is the prime international gathering for comedy industry studio executives, broadcasters, agents, managers, writers, filmmakers, and of course, comics. Bringing the 'business' to the business of comedy.

This year's Comedy Conference has lined up an impressive list of industry heavyweights to talk about how the comedy industry is changing as the entertainment business undergoes transformation. Topics to be explored include how the influence of new delivery technologies, daunting economics, ubiquitous digital platforms, audience fragmentation and citizen comedy are contributing to an entirely new and exciting era for comedy.

Headlining the conference is a stellar group of comedy writers including Tami Sagher (30 Rock), Jeremy Garelick(production re-write on The Hangover, writer/producer of The Break-Up), Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder,  Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa), and Dan Sterling (Sarah Silverman Program) in a panel entitled "Comedy's Next Generation of Writers: A Look Ahead." This group of outstanding writers will talk about what's changed in the comedy world in the past five years and what they've done to adapt and stay ahead of the curve. More names to be announced soon.

And in the spirit of change, the conference is also hosting "The Web: Comedy's New Wild West" with speakers such asMike Farah ( and Avi Rothman (creator of The Inappropriate Yoga Guy). Moderated by Simon Assaad, the founder and CEO of, pioneer of original content on the web, the panel will look at the most crowded comedy club of them all - the Internet - and how talented comedians have managed to build audiences on the web and create multi-platform relationships for themselves. More names to be announced soon.

Just as digital technology has transformed delivery of content, so has it transformed the world of animation. In "Breaking New Ground: Adult Animation Grows Up," some of the hottest animated show creators in television discuss what's now possible in the genre, how the rules for writing animation are different and what they think works in animated comedy. Speakers confirmed to date include Dino Stamatopoulos (Moral Orel)Tommy Blacha (Metalocalypse) and Vernon Chatman (Wonder Showzen and Xavier: Renegade Angel).

Other panels and sessions booked for the Comedy Conference include:

Producing Great Comedy: The Secret Sauce
And how does great comedy make it to the screen? Some of the biggest names in comedy production share the ingredients to what makes a great comedy script into a runaway hit. How do they explain the sleeper phenomenon? And what do they think studios and networks are looking for today?   Panelists include: Nathan Kahane (Juno) President, Mandate Pictures;Todd Phillips, Director/Producer, The HangoverTom McNulty, Producer, 21 Laps Entertainment, Night at the Museum, and the upcoming Date Night starring Steve Carell and Tina Fey.   More names to be announced soon.

The Business of Comedy on Television: What's Up?
A bird's eye view of comedy on television from the top comedy development executives from the major networks and cable companies. What are their priorities? What are they greenlighting? How are they finding new talent?  Line-up to be announced soon.

Late Night: In the Writers Room
Straight from the hotbeds of the most progressive, most innovative comedy writing on television.  Line-up to be announced soon.

In a tradition started last year, the Comedy Conference will honour two of the outstanding talents of the year. Todd Phillips,director of this year’s summer hit The Hangover, will be honoured with the Comedy Director of the Year Award, and Etan Cohen, writer of the wildly popular Tropic Thunder and Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa, will also be in Montreal to accept the Comedy Writer of the Year Award.

Todd Phillips

Todd Phillips started his career as a documentary filmmaker.  His first film, Hated (1994) portrayed the revolting antics of extreme punk rocker G.G. Allin and became an instant underground sensation. The Washington Post claimed, “Hated is actually funnier than Spinal Tap.” It was released in the summer of 1994 and went on to become the highest grossing student film of its time.  He followed that up with Frat House (1998), a documentary that he produced and directed for HBO’s popular America Undercover series.  Frat House premiered at the 1998 Sundance Film Festival and won the Grand Jury Prize for documentary features. The unflinching exposé of life in fraternities created a public controversy that eventually caused the film to be shelved by HBO. After meeting producer Ivan Reitman at Sundance, Phillips made his crossover to features with Road Trip (2000), which established him as a new force in comedy. He simultaneously produced and directed Bittersweet Motel (2000), a documentary on musical cult phenomenon Phish.  In one way or another, Phillips’s films explore the nature of male relationships and in doing so he went on to work with some of Hollywood’s biggest comedic actors, writing and directing films like Old School (2003), Starsky & Hutch (2004) and School For Scoundrels (2006).  Phillips was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for his work on Borat (2006).  The Hangover is his latest film.

Etan Cohen

Etan Cohen has established himself as one of the premiere feature comedy writers in the business, having written projects for some of movies’ biggest directors and stars, including Jay Roach, Mike Judge, Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell.  In 2008, Cohen joined Ben Stiller and Justin Theroux to co-write the film Tropic Thunder. In the same year, Cohen also wrote the hit animated feature, Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa which reunited him with Ben Stiller.  Cohen began his career at 19 while studying in a Jewish seminary on the West Bank of Israel, where he wrote a spec episode of “Beavis and Butthead” and made a cold submission to the show’s staff.  Mike Judge, read it and asked Cohen to start writing for “Beavis and Butthead” immediately.  His sophomore year at Harvard coincided with the beginning of what became a three-year stint writing for the popular series.  Cohen graduated from Harvard with a degree in Yiddish and moved to Los Angeles. Once there, he entered into a deal with Disney Television Animation.  Soon after he became a staff writer on ABC’s “It’s Like, You Know”.  Cohen was then recruited by Judge to work on FOX’s “King of the Hill” as a story editor and ended his stint there as co-executive producer.  During that time, Cohen signed an overall deal with FOX TV and won an Annie Award for outstanding writing in animation for the episode “Ceci N’est Pas Une King of the Hill” (2004).  During that period, Cohen began writing feature scripts.  The first was the Mike Judge directed comedy Idiocracy which starred Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph.  Upcoming projects for Cohen include penning a re-write of The Fiancé, which will star Anne Hathaway.  He is also writing a humorous take on Arthur Conan Doyle’sSherlock Holmes, set to star Sacha Baron Cohen as “Sherlock Holmes” and Will Ferrell as “Doctor Watson”.  In addition, Cohen will write a live-action version of the Hasbro board game, Candy Land.  Cohen currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.


Just For Laughs

Just For Laughs is active across the entertainment production spectrum, with festivals in Montreal, Toronto, Chicago and France; television shows airing in more than 125 countries and on 95 airlines, plus theatre, touring and personal management offices in North America and Europe. Its flagship festival - born 26 years ago - is now the world's largest and most prestigious comedy event welcoming more than two million people each summer to Montreal. The Montreal Just For Laughs Festival has featured some of the top comics in the world, including Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, John Cleese and Jon Stewart, and each year draws more than 1,000 industry executives to Montreal for what is considered the hottest breeding ground for new talent.


Headlined by Universal Pictures’ Funny People, the new comedy from filmmaker Judd Apatow starring Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, and Leslie Mann

Co-stars Aziz Ansari and Aubrey Plaza will both be at the screening at the Imperial Theatre
The Just For Laughs Festival presented by Videotron is delighted to announce the 13th edition of the Just For Laughs Film Festival, presented in association with SCENE™.  This year’s line-up includes premieres of more than a dozen much-anticipated feature films, the biggest collection of comedy shorts from around the globe, and a hot series of special events including appearances by silver screen celebs and A-list comedians.

The lucky 13th anniversary of the Film Festival, which runs from July 10th to 27th, will include screenings at the Imperial Theatre, at Place des Arts, and, thanks to a brand new partnership between Just For Laughs and the National Film Board, at the NFB CineRobotheque.

The darling of last year’s Festival, writer-director-producer Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) is in the spotlight once again this year with his latest comedy.  Apatow directs Adam Sandler (You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry), Seth Rogen (Pineapple Express, Knocked Up) and Leslie Mann (Knocked Up, 17 Again) inFunny People, the story of a famous comedian who has a near-death experience.  Expect a night of unrestrained hilarity and celebrity cameos in this star-studded film, which also features Eric Bana, Jonah Hill, Jason Schwartzman, and RZA.  Co-stars Aziz Ansari (Human Giant, Parks and Recreation), who took home the “Best Stand-up” Jury Award at HBO’s Comedy Arts Festival in 2006, and Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation, Mystery Team), who will appear alongside Michael Cera in Edgar Wright’s upcoming film Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, will both be at the screening on July 25, 9:30pm, at the Imperial Theatre.

Cult comedy fans are in for a treat when all five Broken Lizard members Jay Chandrasekhar, Kevin Heffernan, Steve Lemme, Paul Soter, and Erik Stolhanske (Super Troopers, Beerfest) take the stage to introduce the Canadian premiere of their newest film, Broken Lizard’s the Slammin’ Salmon.  Michael Clarke Duncan (Talladega Nights, The Green Mile) isformer heavyweight boxing champ Cleon Salmon, the celebrity owner of an upscale Miami restaurant. To settle a debt, the Champ offers his wait staff (enter the Broken Lizard boys) a one-night-only challenge: top selling waiter gets ten thousand bucks; lowest selling waiter gets his face punched in, courtesy of the Slammin’ Salmon himself.  It all adds up to one funny, frantic night as Broken Lizard does their best Glengarry Glen Ross.  Screening and Q&A July 22, 9:30pm, at the Imperial Theatre.

In World’s Greatest Dad (VVS Films), much-loved funny-man Robin Williams (Death to Smoochy, The Fisher King) plays Lance, a high school teacher who writes a fake suicide note to cover up the embarrassing accidental death of his son.  When the note ends up being published—and becomes an unexpected hit—Lance sees his ticket to the successful writing career he has always wanted.  Director Bobcat Goldthwait (The Man Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live!) will be at the screening, July 23, 9:30pm, at the Imperial Theatre.

In Humpday (Maple Pictures), actors Joshua Leonard (The Blair Witch Project) and Mark Duplass (whose film Bagheadscreened at the 2008 Festival) take their bromance to a terrifying new level when a mutual dare launches them headlong into a gay porn art project.  Indie director Lynn Shelton’s buddy film gone wild was a big hit at South by Southwest earlier this year.  Join star Joshua Leonard at the screening on July 17, 7pm, at the Imperial Theatre.

Sundance hit Paper Heart (Alliance Vivafilm), written by 23-year-old Charlyne Yi (Knocked Up, Semi-Pro) and featuring her and real-life beau Michael Cera (Year One, Juno) in the lead roles, is the part-documentary, part-autobiography, all-adorable story of two young actors trying to understand love.  Writer-actor Charlyne Yi and actor Jake Johnson will introduce the film on July 21, 7pm, at the Imperial Theatre.

Francophone film fans can check out hometown hero Anthony Kavanagh and two-time César-winner Valérie Lemercier as they hit the silver screen in Agathe Cléry (Alliance Vivafilm), a film by Belgian filmmaker Étienne Chatiliez about race, prejudice, and overnight transformation.  Anthony Kavanagh will be at the screening, July 20, 7pm, at the Imperial Theatre.

Opening this year’s Festival is the Canadian premiere of OSS 117: Lost in Rio (TVA Films).  France’s kookiest and most famous secret agent, played by Jean Dujardin, is returning to Montreal to promote his latest film, which has already sold more than 2.5 million tickets in France.  This screening opens the Festival, July 10 at 7pm, at the Imperial Theatre.

Writer Ken Scott (The Rocket), whose film Seducing Doctor Lewis (La grande seduction) was featured in the 2003 Festival, makes his directorial debut with Les doigts croches (Alliance Vivafilm), starring Roy Dupuis (Shake Hands with the Devil, The Rocket).  A film about a gang of aging criminals who are offered a last chance at an honest life, Les doigts crochescloses this year’s festival, on July 27, 7pm, at Théâtre Maisonneuve, Place des Arts.

If indie’s more your thing, head on down to the NFB CineRobotheque for the newest in independent comedy films from around the world, as part of a brand new partnership between Just For Laughs and the National Film Board of Canada.

Leading the way on the indie side of the programming is Visioneers, a dark but hilarious look at the daily lives of desk-jobbers.  Zach Galifianakis (The Hangover) plays a man trying to ignore the fact that his co-workers are literally exploding from stress (July 24, 7pm, NFB CineRobotheque).

More Than Me, directed by William Philbin, stars established slacker Jim Breuer (Half Baked, Clerks, Saturday Night Live)and is the funny but poignant real-life story of his life on the road with his most faithful tour companion—his father.  Jim Breuer will be present for this premiere screening of his debut film (July 22, 7pm, NFB CineRobotheque).

In Laughology, Montreal director Albert Nerenberg (Stupidity) brings a little theory to the comedy festival, as he examines the science and history of laughter.  Both the director and Doug Collins—the man with the world’s most contagious laugh!—will be at the screening (July 22, 9pm, NFB CineRobotheque). 

With The Foundation, Montreal-based indie director Michael Dowse (FUBAR) again teams up with actor Mike Wilmot (It’s All Gone Pete Tong), but this time it’s for TV.  Join director Michael Dowse, actors Mike Wilmot, Martin Sims, and Rebecca Northan, and the rest of the cast and crew for screenings of two episodes of this irreverent five-part television series—slated to air on Showcase later this year—about corruption in the world of philanthropy (July 23, 7pm, NFB CineRobotheque).

Beautiful is the new film from outrageous stand-up veteran Margaret Cho (All-American Girl, The Cho Show).  Shot on tour at the Terrace Theater in Long Beach, California, Cho’s latest film explores the good, bad, and downright ugly sides of beauty (July 25, 7pm, NFB CineRobotheque).

From UK filmmaker Claudia Solti, That’s For Me! is a biting satire on the quest for fame and the depths to which one young woman will sink in order to make it in show biz (July 20, 7pm, NFB CineRobotheque).

All Just For Laughs Film Festival screenings at the NFB CineRobotheque are $10.  All Red Carpet Premiere screenings at both Cinema Imperial and Place des Arts are $15.  At the Just For Laughs Box Office, show your SCENE card and save 20% on admission; show your CAA card and save 15%.

Just For Laughs Film Festival Reveals Its Most International Short Film Program Ever

Montreal again becomes the centre of the comedy shorts world this summer, for ten days from July 16 to 25.  With over 125 short films from 23 countries on the schedule this year, the 13th edition of the Just For Laughs Film Festival in association with SCENE™ is bigger, better, and more international than ever before.  Films from Canada, the United States, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand, the UK, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Greece, Russia, Argentina, and Malaysia are all on the bill as part of the 2009 Film Festival’s shorts programming.

EAT MY SHORTS returns to bring you the best of the world’s animation and live action short comedy films.  Hosted by Montreal’s own Just For Laughs veterans Joey Elias and Dan Bingham, this is a five-night series of international shorts packages, culled and programmed from the most respected festivals and film boards around the planet.  Screenings run July 20, 23, 24, and 25 at 9pm (following feature film programming each night at 7pm), and July 21 at 7pm.

One special screening of EAT MY TWISTED SHORTS adds some spice to the shorts programming with the best selections from the dark side of comedy.  Two parts violent, two parts sexy, add some zombies, and stir up a sick comedy soup! With no rules, no limits, and no holds barred, these films will take you to the edges of your imagination.  Join host Joey Elias for the madness on July 21 at 9pm.


TOUT COURT kicks off the programming with three jam-packed nights of Francophone film.  Tout Court Québec (July 16 and 17 at 7pm) shines the spotlight on the best shorts from chez nous, hosted by provocative humoriste Michel Sigouin.  Then four packages of Tout Court (July 16 and 17 at 9:30pm, and July 18 at 7pm and 9:30pm) bring together Franco and non-verbal films from all over the world, hosted by Michel Sigouin and charismatic comedian Étienne Dano.


All screenings are at the NFB CineRobotheque, and all films will screen only once.  Here are a few nibbles of what you can expect over the course of the Festival:

·      This year, two films with connections to the 2009 Academy Awards are on the schedule.  First, it’s all in a day’s work for A.T. Shank & Son in THIS WAY UP (UK, 2008), an Oscar-nominated animated short about a funeral parlour owner and his son, who face pitfall after pitfall after their hearse gets flattened by a falling rock (Eat My Shorts package 1, July 20, 9pm).  Then, don’t miss I LIVE IN THE WOODS (USA, 2008), a fast-paced stop-motion animation film about a woodsman, which was nominated for the 2009 Student Oscars (Eat My Shorts 2, July 21, 7pm).

·      Speaking of the Oscars, watch for two new films from internationally acclaimed two-time Oscar-nominee and Cannes Jury Prize-winner writer-director Bill Plympton.  SANTA: THE FACIST YEARS (USA, 2008) explores Jolly Old Saint Nick’s little-known past of politics and greed (Eat My Shorts 3, July 23, 9pm).  HORN DOG (USA, 2009) is the fourth film in the famed Dog series.  It’s more misadventures for our plucky canine friend, as he fends off first an obese dog, then attacking oysters, and ultimately a wayward killer violin bow, all the while trying to win the love of his heart’s desire (Tout Court 3, July 18, 7pm).

·      Denmark’s only two-time Oscar winner Martin Strange-Hansen (This Charming Man) animates real-life embarrassing moments of children and teenagers in PINLY & FLAU: POOLS & BALLS (Denmark, 2008) (Eat My Shorts 1, July 20, 9pm) and again but not so family-friendly in PINLY & FLAU: SHIT & SHOWOFF (Denmark, 2008) (Eat My Twisted Shorts, July 21, 9pm).

·      In fact, it’s a full-scale Scandinavian smorgasbord this year … joining Strange-Hansen are six other filmmakers from Finland, Sweden, Norway, and Iceland.  A total of ten shorts from our Northern neighbours are set to screen over the course of the Festival, including but definitely not limited to Danny Lennon’s (Prends ça court!VOIR) pick for Film of the Year, INSTEAD OF ABRACADABRA (Sweden, 2009), from Swedish filmmaker Patrik Eklund (Eat My Shorts 3, July 23, 9pm).

·      FIRST TIME LONG TIME (USA, 2008) is a dark comedy from writer-director James Demo about erectile dysfunction, pharmaceuticals, and the consequences of acting on our deepest impulses.  John Savage (Carnivàle, The Deer Hunter)and Amanda Plummer (Pulp Fiction, So I Married an Axe Murderer) star (Eat My Shorts 5, July 25, 9pm).

·      Don’t miss ONE OF THOSE DAYS (UK, 2008), from director Hattie Dalton.  We've all had "those days," when nothing seems to go right, when life seems to deal one bad hand after another.  For the unfortunate Howard Whittam, played byDerek Jacobi (I, Claudius; Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet), Judgment Day is one of those (Eat My Shorts 3, July 23, 9pm).

·      THE SNAKE MOUNTAIN COLADA (USA, 2008) marks the return of American filmmaker Calvin Reeder to the JFL Film Festival, whose film The Rambler screened here in 2008 and was also selected by Quentin Tarantino to play before his screenings of Grindhouse at South By Southwest (Eat My Twisted Shorts, July 21, 9pm).

·      What better fit for Just For Laughs than STAND UP (UK, 2008).  As comedian John J Jones loses the interest of his unforgiving audience, his body begins to rebel against him, and the truth behind the one-liners starts to leak through the cracks. This is car-crash comedy at its most compulsive (Eat My Shorts 2, July 21, 7pm).

·      In THE BLACK HOLE (UK, 2008), from co-creators Philip Sansom and Olly Williams, a sleep-deprived office worker accidentally discovers a black hole in the photocopy machine ... and suddenly the possibilities seem endless. Winner of the 2008 Virgin Media Short Film Competition (Tout Court 4, July 18, 9pm).

·      And speaking of winners, undies are thrust into the spotlight in TIGHTY WHITEYS MUSIC VIDEO (Canada, 2009), the winner of the second It’s Hilarious comedy film contest from (Eat My Shorts 4, July 24, 9pm).

·      VACSORA (THE DINNER) (Hungary, 2008), from writer-director-producer Karchi Perlmann, tells the story of a day in the life of a family in rural Hungary during the riots of September 2006.  When Gaspar slips and falls in the pigpen during the morning feeding, the farm transforms into a stage of absurd theatre.  Honorable mention at the Venice Film Festival(Eat My Shorts 1, July 20, 9pm).

·      Finally, get free giggles at the CineRobotheque! The NFB is getting in on the fun at the Just for Laughs Film Festival with special free screenings of new and classic animated shorts from the National Film Board of Canada.  It’s RIRES DANS LE NOIR, July 16 to 26, at 3:30pm, 4:30pm, and 5:30pm every day.

Tags: Montreal