That sound you hear whipping through Chicago this morning isn’t the usual Windy City breeze.
Chicago’s comedy scene has produced some of our favorite sketch and improv comedy actors and actresses for more than 50 years — and many of today’s greatest current crop of stand-ups, too — but they won’t have Just For Laughs to showcase them next summer. Bruce Hills, Just For Laughs COO, confirmed the news on Wednesday with a statement reported in both the Chicago Tribune and the Sun-Times. “We’ve decided to take a year off to rethink the festival model, to adjust to the current marketplace,” Hills said.
TBS Just For Laughs Chicago debuted in June 2009 with the fanfare of big names and a cable TV sponsor to telecast comedy and variety specials from the fest for its first two years — including showcases hosted by Ellen Degeneres, Martin Short, Cedric the Entertainer and Team Coco’s debut with the writers for Conan O’Brien. The Comic’s Comic attended JFL Chicago in 2009 and 2010, and took note of how Chicago’s version of Just For Laughs dedicated as much time and space to the big-ticket items as for a slew of showcases that highlighted the local talent, from stalwart venues such as Second City and Zanies to the Chicago Underground, Annoyance, and up and down the Red Line and around the Loop. Even out to Rosemont, too.
What now, Chicago?
JFL recently rebranded its Toronto festival as JFL42. Perhaps rethinking Chicago will result in something fresh, too?
“We are now in the midst of a similar process—re-evaluating the festival’s timing, approach and structure—for Chicago,” Hills said, “as we strongly believe that it is one of the greatest comedy markets in the world and would love to return.”
Just For Laughs continues to spread comedy across Canada and the world, with an eighth annual installment in Bermuda next month, plus fests in Sydney, JFL42 in Toronto and the mothership celebration in Montreal in July.