Each year, Just for Laughs in Montreal hosts the Just for Laughs Awards Show, recognizing breakthroughs and icons in the comedy world. This year’s ceremony will be held at 3 p.m July 29 in the DoubleTree Grand Salon Opera.
Comedy Person of the Year
After Will Smith slapped Chris Rock at the 94th Academy Awards, the energy was sucked out of the room. The producers had decided the show would continue without a pause. Then, Amy Schumer, one of the night’s three hosts, walked out.
“I’ve been getting out of that Spider-Man costume, did I miss anything?” Schumer quipped as audience members laughed with a palpable sigh of relief. “There’s like a different vibe in here,” she added as she fist-bumped
It’s no surprise that Schumer was able to break the tension, since she’s been known for her no-holds-barred style of joke-making for years now. But this year, she shifted lanes a bit. After a series of stand-up specials and the deeply personal 2020 docuseries “Expecting Amy,” which chronicled her pregnancy complications, Schumer is expanding her repertoire.
She began the year with “Life & Beth,” her semi-autobiographical dramedy series that premiered on Hulu in March. In July, she made a cameo in Season 2 of “Only Murders in the Building,” playing yet another witty version of herself. Co-hosting one of the more infamous Oscars in history will surely become part of her legacy, but, through all of her work, Schumer has proven she’s capable of creating her own unique brand without sparing any jokes in the process.
— Sasha Urban
Stand-Up Comedian of the Year
Known for his comically intimate accounts of growing up a first generation Indian American in the predominantly white and affluent city of Davis, Calif., Minhaj uses his stage as an accomplice in his acts. He draws the audience in with his energetic oration, corroborating his stories with extensive visual elements. Minhaj isn’t a comedian who stands still, hands in pockets and reciting jokes as if the stage is the size of a small box; he moves around as if he were just hit with jumper cables, using his hand and body motions to add an emphasis — and hilarity — to his uniquely American stories.
Yet Minhaj’s true skill comes in his ability to weave the tragic with the comic. He is no stranger to experiencing racism or hatred in any forms, but he employs this hatred as a weapon in his stand- up acts — a weapon of laughter, of course.
His most recent tour, “The King’s Jester,” saw Minhaj bringing his signature style to audiences from all around. Following the global impact of his beloved Netflix comedy show “Patriot Act,” the comic returned to his story-telling roots, sharing his hysterically genuine insights on America all while getting deep about what it means to be a good father, a loving husband and a responsible citizen.
Minhaj, who made clear in his breakout comedy special “Homecoming King” in 2017 that he truly loves his country, is a living, uproarious portrait of what it means to be an American in a country that so often belittles identities such as his.
— Carson Burton
Breakout Comedy Star of the Year
An alum of Variety’s 10 Comics to Watch, Tomlinson has been performing comedy since the age of 16. Her first special, “Quarter Life Crisis” hit Netflix in March 2020 and likely would have gained her a massive following even if the world hadn’t been on lockdown. Proving that was no fluke, her latest Netflix special “Look at You,” premiered in March and solidified Tomlinson as a major talent who could make audiences laugh while tackling topics from her bipolar disorder to her mother’s death. (She notes that 8 years old is a good time to lose a parent. “The only people I know with dead moms are Disney princesses. So like, this sucks but am I about to get hot?”)
As for being named Breakout Comedy Star of the Year, Tomlinson says, “I’m honored! Getting New Faces at JFL was such a huge deal for me when I was younger and it’s cool to be coming back to this festival at a different stage of my career.”
Up next, Tomlinson says she is writing and produce a film for Village Roadshow and preparing for her second nationwide tour, “The Have It All Tour,” which kicks off in October.
— Jenelle Riley
Jerrod Carmichael, “Rothaniel”
Comedy Special of the Year
Carmichael has been a successful comedian for a long time, but his fourth comedy special, “Rothaniel” on HBO Max feels a new beginning in his career. Released in April, the special made instant headlines for Carmichael’s public coming out in the middle of his set, recorded at New York’s Blue Note Jazz Club. But the special, which features sharp direction from fellow comedian Bo Burnham, is a remarkably crafted hour of comedy besides the news it generated.
As he weaves through his material — themed around lying and the secrets his family has hid from each other — Carmichael is an excellent storyteller, funny and open while also projecting raw vulnerability. As he describes his complicated relationship with his parents and brother, he has a knack for delivering blunt, piercing insights that can be both funny and insightful.
“Rothaniel” is named after Carmichael’s real first name, which he describes as a combination of his two grandfathers’ first names. He begins the special by saying that he keeps his real first name a secret from the people around him, and closes his set to cheers by revealing it to his audience. It’s a powerful and touching coda, one that gives the sense that the comedian is just now beginning to live his truth.
— Wilson Chapman