Canadian comedian Howie Mandel is hoping to take the Just For Laughs brand to the world but he says it will be done from the place where it all started: Montreal.
“The key is, ‘If it ain’t broken, then don’t fix it,'” Mandel said.
“It’s perfect the way it is and where it is, the way it is and who’s involved. Management is all staying in place. We just want to expand the brand so that you know what it is.”
Mandel says that when Just For Laughs started, he thought it was the mecca of everything comedy.
“And then being down in the states, I realized people don’t even know about Just For Laughs. They do in Canada, and they do in comedy but the general public doesn’t know about it.”
Mandel sees himself as an ambassador to the festival, bringing his creative touch and skills as a producer.
“I’m also going to continue performing there. I’m doing a gala this year too,” the comedian said.
Moving past the Gilbert Rozon scandal
Mandel took over the Just For Laughs festival after sexual misconduct allegations surfaced against Gilbert Rozon, the festival’s co-founder.
Mandel says things have already changed under his leadership.
“I’m here,” he said.
“I don’t think the world outside of Quebec or outside of this city knows who he is. No. 2, this is not just a Just For Laughs or Juste Pour Rire issue. #MeToo is all over the world and in every industry. As human beings, it’s our duty to practise respect and change the culture. And that is happening regardless of what happened right here,” Mandel explained.
WATCH BELOW: Howie Mandel talks about the Gilbert Rozon affair, #MeToo movement and equal pay for female comedians
Following the Rozon scandal, a group of Quebec comics got together and formed their own comedy festival in Montreal. The festival will run almost at the same time as Just For Laughs.
Those behind the new feat promise it will be a “more ethical” festival, promising equal pay and equal opportunities for women.
The upstart has some big names backing it up. Just For Laughs co-founder Andy Nulman will act as a consultant and comedians such as Mike Ward have confirmed their collaboration.
“I don’t feel like anything hurts us,” Mandel responded.
“What I want to say is our arms and stages are open to them, I wish the best of luck but it’s very important for us to be able to embrace the French comedians because I think that’s what the success of this festival is,” Mandel said.
“We offer amazing opportunities in terms of television, connections but the more the merrier, and that goes for festivals. I wish everybody success.”
Big names confirmed at Just For Laughs 2018
The turmoil of the past months has not stopped big names from the comedy world from participating in this year’s edition of the festival.
Trevor Noah, Jimmy Carr and Kevin Hart are some of the stars that are confirmed to be in the lineup, with the promise of more celebrities revealed Wednesday at a press conference.
Regardless of everything that has happened, Mandel is excited and optimistic about his new project and is asking fans for their support.
“Please welcome me into your home. I’m so thrilled to be here, I feel at home in Quebec even though I’m from Ontario,” said Mandel. “This was the first province, this city embraced me professionally even before Toronto did and I love this festival.”
“I love this town, I love the people and thank you for making me feel so comfortable here.”