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Friday, July 27th, 2012

On the Ground at the Montreal Just for Laughs Festival (part 1)

The Montreal Just For Laughs Festival has been around for 30 years, or, one year longer than this year’s Rising Comedy Star of the Year recipient, Hannibal Buress, has been alive.

Gives you a little perspective about the festival that's considered one of the industry’s most prestigious.

Buress was one of seven comedians honored at the 2012 Festival’s Awards Luncheon, generally one of the festival’s premiere events.

Coming in at just under 40 minutes, this year’s awards ceremony was light on time, and, it should be noted, light on laughs. Perhaps we were spoiled last year when recipients including Louis C.K., Garry Shandling and Paul Feig brought the house down during their acceptance speeches.

Veteran comic Alonzo Bodden served as MC. He had one of event’s best lines when he offered some unsolicited advice to Buress about the fleeting nature of fame, noting that it’s strange to call Buress a rising star when he’s already been on every talk show imaginable and has had writing stints on Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock.

“Hannibal, pay close attention. You are looking at the Ghost of Christmas Future my friend,” he said. “This is how this shit ends, buddy.”

Buress was brief in his acceptance speech, and also confused by the implication of his award.

“I don’t know what that means,” he said. “I hope that I get work from it.”

Key & Peele stars and creators Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele were honored with the Breakout Comedy Stars of the Year Award for their Comedy Central sketch show, which has been cited as one of President Obama’s favorites.

They received the award from In Living Color’s David Alan Grier, who had a funny line about the first time he met Jordan Peele: “When I met him, he told me, ‘For all of us white-talking black guys, you’re our hero.’”

Other award recipients included:

-         Michael Bacall, who won Comedy Writer of the Year for his work on Project X and 21 Jump Street.

-        Tyler Spindell, who won Best Comedic Short Film for Love & Germophobia

-        Seth MacFarlane, who won Comedy Director of the Year for Ted. MacFarlane wasn’t at the event but did a 30-second award speech via video feed. He introduced himself as the creator of Two-and-a-Half Men.

Arguably the most prestigious award, Comedy Person of the Year, went to Chelsea Handler, author, producer, and host of seemingly every show on the E! Channel.

Handler was presented her award by Sarah Colonna, a writer on Handler’s hit show, Chelsea Lately. She accepted the award and, picking up on a Buress joke, proceeded to tell a strange story about how she once took a shit in a kayak. Thus concluded the awards luncheon.

There was lots of love for Handler during the Variety 10 Comics to Watch Panel, which immediately followed the awards luncheon.

Comic Moshe Kasher and others on the panel gave Handler a lot of credit for giving relatively unknown comics exposure on her late night talk show panel.

The freewheeling discussion, featuring Jillian Bell, Kurt Braunohler, Rob Delaney, Lil Rel Howery, Jake & Amir, Moshe Kasher, Joe Mande, Rory Scovel, and Jessica Williams, gave the comedians the opportunity to talk about how they got to where they are today.

Highlights included:

-        Rob Delaney saying how Twitter might have more cachet if it wasn’t such a shitty word, but argued the alternative, “microblogging,” is even worse. Amir Blumenfeld of College Humor suggested “laughblasting.”

-        The panel’s host called stand-up comic Rory Scovel the “pure stand-up comic” of the panel, in that he didn’t have many film and TV credits. To which Scovel replied in a perfect deadpan, “Yeah, I chose not to,” before clarifying that he is interested in work that will make him money.

-        One audience member asked the panel if they had any recommendations for breaking into comedy. Bunk host Kurt Braunholer had the best answer: “Have a disturbing level of confidence, with a low level of talent,” he said. “Then the talent catches up 10 years later.”

Check back later for more coverage.

Phil Davidson lives close to Montreal. That’s why he’s there.