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Just for Laughs Get Serious with ComedyPRO

ComedyPRO wants to center students at this summer’s industry conference

The Just for Laughs Montreal comedy festival, held from July 14 to July 29 this year, attracts millions each summer to its shows. The festival isn’t dedicated solely to providing entertainment, however: the congregation of world-famous talent is also an opportunity for networking. Part of the Just for Laughs festival is ComedyPRO, a four-day professional and industry development conference that takes place from July 26 to July 29. 

The comedy industry can be especially harrowing for young people, who are often limited in experience and connections because of their age. ComedyPRO hopes to break down some of these barriers for students interested in comedy but who are unsure what a career in the industry would look like. Specifically, ComedyPRO offers a student pass, which gives participants access to programming such as one-to-one talks with professionals, small roundtable discussions, and cast and expert panels. These discussions aren’t limited to the performance aspect of comedy, nor do they concern only stand-up work. ComedyPRO attendees will get to learn about animation, producing TV shows and short films, podcast creation, writing, and other behind-the-scenes work of a range of creative forms. 

ComedyPRO recently released details of many of the industry experts who will participate in the conference, all of whom hail from diverse backgrounds. Job titles include executive producer, creative network development manager, and VP Content Development & Programming. There are professionals from studios, broadcasters, and networks like CBC, HBO, and Hulu.  Participating in a professional conference isn’t only about connecting with experts – it’s also about forming friendships with people interested in similar art forms and establishing contacts with other budding professionals to collaborate on future projects. 

Emma Theroux, an industry coordinator at ComedyPRO, pointed out that the comedy industry can look scary from the outside, but this fear decreases when one gets acquainted with the inner workings. One of the goals of the student pass is to break down the barriers to entry of such a networking-heavy career. With all programming operating from a central location, the ComedyPRO team hopes to encourage impromptu meetings between attendees and professionals. 

ComedyPRO offers other programming to encourage emerging creatives throughout the year. The New Faces of Comedy showcase, for instance, is split between access by invitation and submission. Although submissions are closed for the year, successful comedians and creatives can be seen at the Just for Laughs festival this summer. There is also the short film showcase, Eat My Shorts, and a Stand Up and Pitch  program, both of which are also closed now for submissions but run annually.

In order to overcome networking nerves, ComedyPRO associate producer Mona Maarabani encourages students to do some preliminary research and then ask questions. She has found that most industry experts are humbled to be approached about what they love and are happy to share some words of wisdom. Despite the huge amount of work that goes into creating comedy, all workers are united with a love for the art form, and this camaraderie enables friendly relationships. 

While the complete program for the 2023 conference has yet to be announced, interested individuals can look to the 2022 programming for an idea of what to expect. In 2022, the ComedyPRO festival featured Amy Schumer’s award acceptance speech for best comedy person of the year as well as a keynote address by Neal Brennan with a special introduction by Jimmy Carr. An episode of the Off Menu with Ed Gamble and James Acaster was also recorded live.

Students can purchase a student pass on the Just for Laughs website. There’s a limited number of subsidized places available for students to participate behind the scenes – you can find the application here. You can also get involved with the Just for Laugh festival by applying for a job or applying to be a volunteer