Howie Mandel has had a long association with the Just for Laughs comedy festival, and that relationship has just become a lot deeper now that the Toronto-born comedian, in partnership with U.S. investor group ICM Partners, has purchased the Just for Laughs Group.
In addition to the annual Montreal comedy festival, the Just for Laughs brand also includes multiple international comedy tours, TV specials, and annual festivals around the world in cities including Toronto, Vancouver, and Sydney, Australia.
In the announcement made by Mandel, ICM’s Chris Silbermann and Pierre-Marc Johnson, chairman of the board of the Just For Laughs Festival, this acquisition “will enable Just For Laughs to continue to thrive and grow on a worldwide basis.” No changes are anticipated in how the festival and its French-language counterpart, Festival Juste pour rire, will be run, with the organization’s existing leadership and personnel to remain in place.
“I have always been a big fan of Montreal and the Just For Laughs festival. I have performed at JFL many times over the last 10 years, and I have nothing but love for this event. I consider it to be a cultural treasure not only for the Montreal and Quebec communities, but also for Canada; and I am very excited to be part of this group of investors that will ensure the Festival’s long-term success, while growing their global comedy brand,” said Mandel in a statement.
“Just For Laughs has done a phenomenal job of producing the world’s most respected comedy festival for decades and have built that into a very successful global comedy business,” said Chris Silbermann, managing director of ICM Partners. “We see a great opportunity to work with them to grow the global comedy brand, in both French- and English-speaking comedy, while allowing the team on the ground in Montreal to continue to produce the festival as they have so successfully for all these years.”
Added JFL chairman Johnson: “This strategic alliance with Howie Mandel and ICM Partners is the best of all worlds for JFL, and ensures it has the resources to continue to thrive. Since the announcement of the sale process, JFL staff and their families have been amazing in demonstrating their support for our mission. We thank them for their hard work and patience through this process and are thrilled to begin this new chapter, starting with the 2018 edition of the Festival.”
A joint statement from Mandel, ICM and JFL declares that Montreal will continue to be the festival’s home.
“The Montreal Just For Laughs Festival is part of Montreal’s DNA, and we are looking forward to perpetuating this great cultural legacy,” reads the joint statement. “The Festival will continue to be held in Montreal each summer, and jobs and offices will remain in Montreal. We will be counting on the local team’s expertise as well as on partners and governments who have supported the Festival for decades and made it the Canadian flagship that it is. We are excited to put together a phenomenal 2018 edition, and we will continue to work closely with local talent for years to come. JFL’s history of success will be continued: its outdoor component, its French and English components, and the amazing talent, both from Quebec and from around the world, that makes this Festival so unique.”
In an interview with the Montreal Gazette, Mandel doubled down on the promise that JFL will continue to be based in Montreal.
“Montreal was the first place that accepted me when I started out in comedy, and I still get more love here than anywhere else, which is why I wanted to be involved in this deal,” the “America’s Got Talent” judge told the Gazette.
“The most frustrating thing to me is that Canada doesn’t get the respect it deserves on the world stage. But Montreal is the mecca for everything comedy,” he added. “I think that this is a great chance to take this brand, and never move it but make it even bigger. I would never move its base from Montreal — and not just because the city is my favourite place in the world. It’s the only place in Canada that has a sense of real culture.”
This year’s 36th annual JFL festival will take place in Montreal from July 14 to July 28.