An entrenched ‘old guard’ of network and industry executives is in a battle for its own survival, best deconstructed by Patton Oswalt in his Just For Laughs 2012 keynote speech. If you haven’t seen it yet, watch it below. Then bookmark it, and return every time you feel adrift in a media landscape that seems to change by the week.
Every industry has its flagship convention or trade show. Electronics has the Consumer Electronics Show. Music has Coachella. Your uncle Kenny has the annual vaseline tickle-fight championship. (Right??).
For the world of Comedy, that once-a-year event is the Just For Laughs festival, held each Summer in Montreal, Canada. I had the good fortune of going to JFL in 2012 and I’ll sum it up thusly: if you are at all a fan of comedy and you have the chance to attend, GO. Not only is Montreal in the summertime a treat in and of itself, but…well, if it’s possible for a festival that already holds the title of industry’s most famous annual event to STILL somehow be underrated, it’s JFL. I bought the $99 “Passport” that got me in to dozens of performances (including several of the festival’s flagship “Galas”, which are stand-up showcases with several A-list performers). They could have priced that at $299, and it still would have been a bargain. One day the event organizers will realize that they can probably double its price without chilling demand, but as of this writing they’re still offering them up for the same $99 price.
In addition to hundreds of live performances, podcast recordings, and street fairs, there’s an Industry component to the festival: 2 or 3 days of workshops, panels, and schmoozing events attended by some of the biggest stars and network executives, the centerpiece of which is a keynote address, typically given by some household name. By a good stroke of luck, the JFL 2012 keynote was being given by my favorite stand-up comedian, Patton Oswalt. Some of you may know Patton as the schlubby neighbor on King of Queens, but I think him to be one of the best comedians working today. “Best” in the world of comedy is obviously a lumpy superlative inviting endless debate, but let’s not belabor the point. I like him. If you want a quick sampling on his comedy, here:
Anyway, I showed up early to the scheduled keynote speech, thinking that it would fill up quickly, but to my surprise, there were only a couple dozen people milling about the conference room, so I walked up to the front row and took a seat 5 feet from the dais. Patton’s speech was exceptional — it took the form of 2 ‘open letters’, one directed to young artists and comics, and the 2nd to the industry executives (or ‘gatekeepers’, as he termed them.) I noticed the speech was being videotaped, and I approached the cameraman afterward to ask where the video was going to appear, but he responded that it was only for the festival’s internal archives and wouldn’t be made publicly available. Which made me sad, because it was brilliant. But lo and behold, I was recently combing through YouTube and found that video of the speech was ultimately uploaded to YouTube, so here it is:
I won’t embarrass myself by trying to deconstruct Patton’s exceptional commentary with any try-hard commentary of my own, so I’ll offer only that I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.