With 42 acts, six headliners and countless others opening for them across several different venues, it would be damn near impossible to sum up the entirety of JFL42 in one blog post. And since the festival is all about comedy fans being able to customize a lineup suited to their own tastes, we thought it suitable to ask three of Comedy’s corporately-issued pass holders to share their highlights, lowlights and midsies of what has fast become an annual tradition in Toronto.  


Despite being the most varied group JFL42 has fielded in its short history, this year’s headliners weren’t as strong as in previous years and I heard some pass-holders grumbling about how they were forced to pick someone they weren’t necessarily into seeing. Besides that and some of my most looked-forward to performers cancelling – a necessary evil of a large event like this – there was an amazing array of A1 comedy to consume in nine days.

I’d never seen Pete Holmes perform a full set before and I wasn’t disappointed in his roughly 45 minutes that included some bits on masturbation that had male audience members nodding and laughing in agreement. I’ve heard different reactions from the females in attendance (see below) but a male-centric festival this was not. With the likes of Amy Schumer, Broad City, Cameron Esposito, Sara Hennessey, Tig Notaro and countless other women amongst the 42, this year’s fest truly reflected the fairer sex's current domination of the industry.

One of the best parts of the festival other than hearing your favourite comedians talk about the streets you live/work/pee on, is the opportunity for local acts to attract new fans and play to larger audiences than they’re used to. From the acts I’ve spoken with, all of them are very satisfied with the way the festival is run and the energy JFL42 injects into the scene. Toronto was duly represented in Andy Kinder’s run of legendary Alternative Shows at Comedy Bar and even though we all know we’ve got some of the best undiscovered comics in the world, it was nice to see them trading punches with well-established American acts.

The Canada’s Top Comic finale was a great show and gave us a chance to enjoy a cross-section of Canadian comedy that we outside of Toronto don’t normally get to see. Between the solid lineup and a well-deserved win from Montreal’s Faisal Butt, the future of the competition and Canadian comedy as a whole is very bright.

It’s unfair to compare JFL42 to its older, more powerful French brother, but having been to both it’s too bad the venues in Toronto aren’t as clustered as in Montreal. The addition of the Bad Dog and Randolph Theatres definitely helped but getting out to Queen Elizabeth Theatre on the CNE grounds can prove difficult if you’re trying to cram in a bunch of shows and a burrito into one night.

I don’t doubt that JFL42 will get bigger and better every year, which is why I’ve already started planning my outfits for 2015. See you then!


If Just For Laughs is the “older, more powerful French brother” of its Toronto counterpart, then JFL42 is the sassier younger sister, probably in her mid-twenties and largely still figuring her shit out on a lot of levels. But just because there were some growing pains in terms of logistics (getting in with passes vs. tickets vs. shouting “Do you KNOW who I AM?!”), time management, and a scattered sense of direction (meaning it would be lovely to venue hop more easily), she’s still a blast to be around and delivered a heck of a lot of laughs.

Speaking of sisters, this year’s lineup featured quite a few acts that we wish would be our own dearest siblings - or best friends, at the very least. Amy Schumer, after having to cancel her appearance at the Montreal festival, did not disappoint her audience at what was probably the best-attended show in the festival. She’s the kind of sister you could go to with any issue (especially if it’s sexual): Schumer was open, very open, with us about her own UTI before removing any stigma from the messier parts of the horizontal mambo by reminding us that Michelle Obama has done it too. Though she admitted that male comedians are hardly ever considered “sex comics,” Schumer eventually accepted that title on stage – and reaped the benefits when Torontonians shocked her with some obscure acts like “The Alaska pipeline” and “The Crimson Pollock.”

Though her show wasn’t entirely at home at a standup comedy festival, Lena Dunham was another big sis I was glad to have around. Her reading from her new book “Not That Kind of Girl,” about her experience at summer camp as a kid, was all kinds of adorable and awkward and relatable. But the interview portion was even better, though host Jian Ghomeshi seemed a little out of his element. But Dunham’s candid pieces of advice and offhanded humour made nearly two hours fly by. Then a little girl in the audience said she was the reason she wanted to pursue gender studies in school, and we all melted. 

I thought the girls of Broad City brought their trademark quirk to their show (which was kicked off by the always excellent Sabrina Jalees), opening with a dance sequence to Beyoncé that was both the highlight of their show and possibly their biggest downfall, since they spent the next 15 minutes trying to catch their breath. They may have been intimidated by an hour-long set time (in Montreal, their time on stage was in much shorter chunks), but once their airflow was under control they made us wish Toronto was the broad city they called home.


A fun part of JFL42 is watching American comedians try to squeeze out Canada-themed jokes. Carmen Esposito and Johnny Pemberton actually did a really funny job of it. During her show at Bad Dog last Wednesday, Esposito even paused mid-set to compliment herself on her own local references, which included shout-outs to twonies and Sick Kids hospital without using one "eh" or "aboot." As for Pemberton, he spent the first five-ish minutes of last Friday's show at Bad Dog Theatre, where the walls are made of wood, spewing a Brooklyn-accented tirade about how Canadians need everything to look like a log cabin. It made no sense, and that was awesome.

Pemberton's show was probably my festival highlight, if only because I was unfamiliar with his style and immediately on board with his goofball-aggro theatrics. Esposito was also strong, and did something quite cute at the end of the night: as the audience filed out of the theatre, she stood in the doorway and shook everyone's hand. It was delightful!

Pete Holmes' graphic masturbation bit, for obviously reasons, didn't have me "nodding and laughing in agreement" (as it did for Glenn), but I thought his show was solid—though I was maybe more on board with Jon Dore, his opener. Canada's Top Comic was a really interesting showcase of Canadian talent, and while not every performer was to my particular comedic taste, it was awesome sensing the energy of a whole lineup of up-and-comers as they vied for $15,000. And I agree with Glenn that Faisal Butt was the night's deserving winner.

I've heard a lot of mixed reactions to Broad City, but like Carly I thought their performance was exactly what I was expecting. It wasn't polished, and often lagged into aimless banter—but aimlessness is kind of what these girls are about. As a TV show and web series, Broad City's strength and popularity lies in the dynamic between Abbi and Ilana, and that's what they offered on Saturday night: a chance to watch them interact IRL. So while I wasn't blown away by their act, I also wasn't disappointed—I just enjoyed being in the same room as their crazy.

Until next year's fest, where Glenn will apparently be wearing some very well-thought-out outfits!