Just For Laughs' New Faces shines the spotlight on Canada
For the last several years, Just For Laughs prestigious New Faces program has been helping primarily American emerging comedians like Pete Holmes and Colin Jost take the next step in their careers. It's a coveted show that comedians audition for each year with the hope of being selected to come to Montreal to showcase for agents, managers, producers and more. Alums like Pete Holmes and Colin Jost became breakout stars via New Faces. The showcase has become such a big deal in the comedy business that it attracted its own Amazon Prime series.
At this summer's festival in Montreal, Just For Laughs will be introducing a Canadian version of New Faces, and brings a golden opportunity for 10 Canadian emerging comedians. We touched base with the first performers to represent New Faces of Canada to get their reactions to being included in the inaugural showcase.
Bee is a Toronto based comic who is one half of Gender Outlaws, a brand new Queer and Present Danger show at Comedy Bar under the P R I D E umbrella, co-hosted/co-produced with Alice Rose featuring trans/non-binary and gender non-conforming comedians.
"I am ecstatic about being asked to be a part of the Canadian New Faces showcase this year at Just for Laughs. Being a queer comic who hasn't been doing stand up as long as a lot of other people, the level of gratitude I feel about being one of the few names selected is enormous. Representation is so important, and this is a wild ride, allowing yourself to feel proud of yourself for the hard work you've put in and the personal barriers you've pushed through to reach the next step, and at the same time fighting the imposter syndrome that inevitably kicks in when you think about the whole wealth of Canadian talent that also deserves a spot. I am just so excited to be a part of New Faces, and to represent my comedy family in Queer and Present Danger, and Shade, and comics who have been instrumental in giving me chances "
Originally from Kitchener, Ontario he now makes his home in Toronto as he hones his skills as a comedian, writer and actor.
"Getting to perform on the first ever New Faces Canada show is huge. Mainly because I'll get to showcase in front of a lot of industry and just let my jokes speak for me. It's the only thing in this business I'm any good at. I don't know how to network. I'm awful at self promotion. I have a Twitter account that I only use to slam twitter for being stupid. I hate just about everything about the business of stand up comedy except for the stage. So for me, this is best case scenario.
It's a bit crazy given the talent this country produces, that this is the first all Canadian New Faces, but I'm pretty excited to be a part of it."
Tranna is a spiritual, pop-culture-obsessed, fashion-hungry, transgender comedian, singer, producer, and writer from Montreal.
"Being selected for New Faces has made me so much more emotional than I thought it would. It's made me reflect on everything I've done since my first open mic and it all feels kind of surreal. It also feels like a personal turning point for me and I couldn't be more excited."
To hear more from Tranna Wintour, check out "Chosen Family" a longform talk show with her BFF Thomas LeBlanc. New episodes are available every two weeks, wherever you get your podcasts!
"As Canadians, it's a challenge to gain access to the American comedy market due to the lack of reciprocity when it comes to work visa requirements. American comedians can just hop on a plane to Canada and work, whereas Canadians have to jump through legal hoops, prove that they are "aliens of extraordinary ability" (which also describes Superman), and pay an immigration lawyer thousands of dollars to be able to pursue the more abundant opportunities in America and potentially earn a living wage.
So for us to be invited to New Faces, a known brand that has launched the careers of many now-famous comics, is a tremendous opportunity for us to get discovered and remind the world that Canadians are, and have always been, funny."
Hisham Kelati is a comedy writer and stand-up comic from Toronto, known for his vivid and engaging storytelling, that ranges from family-friendly stories (about his African mom!) to weird and wild drug tales (not about his African mom!).
"It is an absolute DREAM to be part of the first ever New Faces Canada at Just for Laughs!
NFC brings Canadian comedians into the festival's mainstream showcase series, which is a great career opportunity us!
Situationally, Canadian comics face many hurdles in our ability to showcase ourselves to American industry, but New Faces Canada has rectified that, by helping legitimize and promote Canadian comics directly to representatives to one of the largest media markets in the world!"
Rebecca started her comedy career in Ottawa, performing at open mics and eventually being part of an Ottawa Fringe Festival show. She's since made the move to Toronto.
"When I was growing up Just for Laughs was one of the only shows my family would agree to watch together . It feels surreal to be a part of the festival and especially to be included in the first New Faces Canada. I love the switch from competition to showcase because this feels more like a celebration of this country's great comedic talent."
For Brett, frustration leads to comedy. If something rubs him the wrong way, you're sure to get a laugh out of it. After winning 'Yuk Yuks Top New Comic' of 2016 and 'Edmonton's Funniest Person' in 2017, Brett was asked to work for Bobby Lee, Josh Wolf and Chris D'Elia.
"Being chosen for New Faces Canada means we're on the radar. But more importantly, in order to increase the size of our blip on that radar, we each get a 7 minute set...which means most of us will do 9.
You gotta soak in the moment! You can't be a 'New Face' ever again anyways. It's a no-brainer.