Comedy star Dave Chappelle will be in Toronto to present the Icon Award to homegrown comedy brand Just For Laughs at the Canadian Screen Awards.
He will present the award, which celebrates important achievements in Canada’s screen industry, on March 12.
Founded in 1983 in Montreal, Just For Laughs has become one of the best-known comedy brands.
“With over 30 years of brilliant work, Just for Laughs is one of the world’s finest comedy brands, firmly established as the quintessential breeding ground for Canadian comedy,” Martin Katz, chair of the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, said in a statement.
Many well-known comedians, including Russell Peters, Louis CK, Jimmy Fallon, Kevin Hart and Chappelle, performed at the Just For Laughs festival early in their careers.
The festival chief operating officer, Bruce Hills, discoverd Chappelle while sorting through videos of comics.
He told The Hollywood Reporter about one of the tapes he saw, which featured another unknown comic at a comedy club, but nothing really caught his eye.
“Nothing really popped out at me at first. That is, until he [Chappelle] started his set,” Hills recalled.
Chappelle’s standup act revealed “that rare new, original voice we were looking for,” Hills continued.
He booked Chappelle, who is due to release a trio of concert specials on Netflix this year, for a 1992 showcase in Montreal that “catapulted him to the comedy icon that is he is today,” he said.
Beth Janson, CEO of the Academy of Canadian Cinema & Television, said that Chapelle honouring the Canadian festival is a fitting tribute.
“We’re often talking about people leaving Canada for the U.S. It’s a two-way street with Just For Laughs, as we highlight someone like Dave Chappelle who’s coming here to pay tribute to a Canadian institution,” Janson said.
The Academy established the Icon Award in 2015 and past winners include “This Hour Has 22 Minutes”.
Chapelle will present the award to Hills and Just For Laughs founder Gilbert Rozon during the CSA awards ceremony at Toronto’s Sony Centre for the Performing Arts, which airs March 12.
For a full list of this year’s Canadian Screen Awards nominees, visit academy.ca.
— With files from The Canadian Press