He was one of the biggest comedy stars in his native South Africa, but Trevor Noah was hardly a household name on this side of the globe – that is, until he took over for Jon Stewart as host of The Daily Show.
Known for a mix of winning charm and witty bite, Mr. Noah is just one of the top comics to touch down in Vancouver for JFL NorthWest – a new comedy festival that has Just For Laughs, the powerhouse behind Montreal's world-renowned fest, teaming up with the existing NorthWest Comedy Festival.
"It's so exciting," said director Heather Wallace, who headed up the NorthWest Comedy Fest. "We've always had a great festival, but as soon as you attach Just For Laughs, which is known internationally, it naturally brings it to another level."
The combination means more shows, more venues and bigger names – among them hilarious hothead Lewis Black; limit-pushing provocateur and Vancouver favourite Margaret Cho; Saturday Night Live alum, actress and progressive activist Janeane Garofalo; SNL Weekend Update co-host Michael Che; Canadian favourite Jeremy Hotz; Bert Kreischer, the inspiration behind the movie Van Wilder; and comedy legend, actress and writer Wanda Sykes, who is regularly named one of the funniest people in America – and is an outspoken supporter of causes from same-sex marriage to animal rights.
"She's intelligent, she's very funny, she's amazing in so many ways," said Ms. Wallace, who expects more than 25,000 people to attend this year's shows. "That is going to be a great show."
Also in the lineup is Miranda Sings, the hilariously arrogant, narcissistic, misinformed and oddly lovable YouTube character created by comedian and actress Colleen Evans, who has garnered more than 800 million views. She's also topped The New York Times bestseller list and landed on Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee, as well as The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. Her biggest base? The YouTube generation.
"My son is 12 and he said she is very popular, and when I told some moms that we were booking her, they were all quite excited," Ms. Wallace said with a laugh. "So it's hitting an all-ages crowd, which is different for us, and fun."
The festival also includes Best of the West, which features top Vancouver performers as well as surprise guests; and new this year is The Nasty Show, an aptly named evening of "raw, shocking, foul, filthy" humour that has Bobby Slayton, Kurt Metzger, Big Jay Oakerson, Kathleen McGee and Tony Hinchcliffe doing their best to make jaws drop.
"You need to go, and when you go, you need to expect to be shocked – and also to laugh and enjoy it thoroughly," Ms. Wallace said of the event, which is a perennial favourite at Just For Laughs in Montreal. "And the lights will be down so nobody will know what you're laughing at."