When Jim Carrey was 17 years old, one of his first out-of-town standup gigs was in Montreal.
Decades later, the Canadian comedy legend was back in the city receiving the Generation Award presented by the Just For Laughs comedy festival.
“Montreal has a special place in my heart,” Carrey said on the red carpet outside the Just For Laughs Awards show on Friday. “I just think people here are very loose and fun and they like to show you a good time.”
The actor and comedian is currently a co-executive producer on the Showtime series I’m Dying Up Here.
“I feel like I tripped into something really wonderful in my life,” Carrey said. “I have energy somehow that people want to be with and I feel lucky about that. I think when you strip it all away either people want to hang with you or they don’t.”
Trevor Noah talks comedy and oppression
The Daily Show host Trevor Noah, who received the Comedy Person of the Year Award, was excited about the festival’s looming expansion next year to the South African coastal city of Durban.
Noah, who is from South Africa, said its comedy scene has been blowing up in the past few years, and believes Just For Laughs will be hugely beneficial for the country’s standup comedy industry.
“We are a country that has only experienced democracy since 1994, so free speech is something that only became part of our lives relatively recently,” he said. “So, to have a scene that is exploding and to be recognized like this at such a tender age I think will be great for the industry in South Africa.”
Noah also discussed the importance of satire on The Daily Show at a time when the Donald Trump administration has caused many Americans to feel threatened. He said people can’t laugh and be afraid at the same time, and comedy is often used as a way to cope with fear.
“As someone who came from a country where people were oppressed, to someone who lives in a country where many people feel oppressed, I think that’s what makes comedy one of the best tools.”
Starting out in Montreal
Scottish-American TV personality Craig Ferguson of Celebrity Name Game and The Late Late Show fame received the alumni tribute at the awards gala. The Sirius XM show started his career in Montreal in 1987.
“I was waking up this morning at the hotel and thinking, ‘Wow, it’s been 30 years,”‘ Ferguson said. “I remember the first time I came here — well, I remember it vaguely, I didn’t get sober until I was 29.”
Joining Carrey, Noah and Ferguson among the Just For Laughs Awards honourees were Kenya Barris, co-creator of the hit ABC family sitcom Black-ish, and American standup comedians Mike Birbiglia and Ali Wong.