UPDATED June 7 at 10:54 a.m. (h/t Vulture): From a statement by Just For Laughs, confirming Jeff Singer has resigned from the festival after working at JFL for 20 years: “We acknowledge those who came forward this past weekend and shared their experiences. JFL has a commitment to listen and provide a safe and respectful workplace. To that end, Just for Laughs has a strict code of conduct policy. We do not tolerate abusive, inappropriate or vexatious behaviors. Anyone working with Just for Laughs must treat fellow artists, industry, employees and audiences with equality, respect and dignity.”
Jeff Singer, longtime booker for Montreal’s Just For Laughs festival, just announced he submitted his resignation.
The floodgates opened over the weekend after comedian Mehran Khagnani (previously featured here years ago in my “Meet Me In New York” profile series) ranted about Singer and JFL gatekeeping. “This is probably nothing,” Khagnani opened his Friday night message on Facebook, which he later posted also on Twitter. Khagnani reported that Singer, currently conducting audition showcases for the 2021 New Faces across America, had uttered racial slurs: “I *can* say that he dropped the n-bomb, like, four times two nights ago at a club. He said he was just repeating, verbatim, the language of a poc he was talking to. People tried to stop and educate him and he just doubled and tripled down.”
Singer posted this in response about an hour ago:
I was at a comedy club having a conversation with some people and I made a huge error in judgment. I asked a question and repeated back a phrase that someone said and it was completely wrong to do that. There was no malice when I said it. Nevertheless it was 100% wrong and I should have known better immediately. Clearly it was insensitive and I deeply regret it. To that end, I submitted my resignation to Just For Laughs over the weekend. I have learned from this experience and will make sure it never happens again. I sincerely apologized privately to the ones directly affected. I apologize to anyone else I offended that night from my thoughtless words. I am imperfect and will take away everything I can from this to do better.
Singer, a graduate of McGill University in Montreal, had worked the past 20 years with Just For Laughs. Since 2001, he listed his job title as Executive Programming Consultant/Talent Scout/Producer, citing as his credentials: “Scout nationwide talent and produce live shows for world’s largest international comedy festival in Montreal plus sister festivals in Toronto, Vancouver and Chicago, the latter partnered with TBS. Consult on bookings of all comedians, sketch groups and solo acts for over 100 live shows including New Faces, Characters, Nasty Show, Ethnic Show, Uptown, Relationship Show and many more recorded for various Canadian TV shows. Created and produced original live shows “Dating It”, “Reading It”, “Confessing It”, “The Comedy Leagues”.”
After Khagnani’s note, though, many women came out to speak publicly about Singer’s behavior.
Here are just a few threads from Jen Kirkman, Brooke Van Poppelen, and a single comment from Jena Friedman to give you a feel for it:
Here’s the note from Khagnani that started it all in the 10 p.m. hour Friday, June 4:
This is probably nothing.
But the job I do, entertaining people with comedy, is a weird business with a million moving parts wherein who gets shine depends on a range of factors from talent to hard work to telegenics to what appears to be hot button casting based on social trends. Invariably, youthful good looks are preferred. I generally enjoy my job of live entertainment, giving people permission to party.
Accolades are nice, though. Auditioning for something and getting it- nice. For years now, I have watched the Montreal Just For Laughs Comedy Festival cast its New Faces and general program in a curious fashion. Don’t get me wrong, plenty of colleagues who I believe in completely have gotten into it. That said, a major player who determines the booking of the event, that used to be a defining badge in comedy, has said some crazy shit over the years that no one has really talked about and I don’t see why on God’s green earth anyone should be protecting him.
Years ago, when I auditioned for him- full disclosure, in my 13/14 years of comedy, I’ve auditioned for him 3 times, he said, “I’ve seen gay before.” Like my perspective, my angle, any specificity to my person was lost on him. He’s told female comedian friends of mine that they were too masculine. He’s had “business dinners” with female comedian friends of mine and literally only talked to the former model at the table.
The stories about this douche go way back and there are #metoo stories lingering about him that I tend to only hear when drunk, so I can’t really report on them.
I *can* say that he dropped the n-bomb, like, four times two nights ago at a club. He said he was just repeating, verbatim, the language of a poc he was talking to. People tried to stop and educate him and he just doubled and tripled down.
This guy is a taste-maker. This guy has, for the full span of my own career in comedy, gatekept a major showcase for talent in my industry. He doesn’t see gays or women or pocs or any combination thereof in a progressive or even-handed way. He is ridiculously vulnerable to flattery and, like most goofballs running my business, needs his hair brushed so he’ll be kind to you. (Comedy really is supposed to be subversive.)
He wears a stupid hat all the time. His name is Jeff Singer. He was never going to do a kind thing for me and I owe him no silence.