A logistical feat and artistic renewal: the Grand Montréal comédie fest team rises to the challenge!

Several months ago, an idea came to Québec comedian, actor, and filmmaker Martin Petit. He was pondering the inequalities that exist in some workplaces—the comedy stage among them—so Petit began to reimagine the meaning of the word ‘inclusive’. He joined forces with a team of like-minded artists who shared his vision, and together, they brought a new direction to comedy shows: the Grand Montréal comédie fest (GMCF) was born! “It’s a crazy idea!” proclaims the team responsible for this exciting, hilarious, and uniting event, presented in partnership with Videotron.

Conceived and created to experiment with new ways of working and collaborating together in the performing arts industry, the Grand Montréal comédie fest is set to take place in an environment where inclusivity is key, and all comedians are on the same team. Young or old, women or men, everyone is welcome and most importantly, equal. For artists it represents a unique occasion to push the limits of their craft, by stepping out of their comfort zones, giving an energetic performance to fans, and sharing moments of professional comradery.

Above and beyond the idea of restoring humour’s stature and wanting to present this time-honoured art on famous stages throughout the city, the Grand Montréal comédie fest also seeks to charm comedy fans who may not live in Montréal, via a daring staging experiment. July 5 and 6, Martin Petit and company will undertake a James Bond-esque mission, presenting Québec comedy’s best on three different stages, simultaneously! Without a doubt this event is set to be the highlight of the Grand Montréal comédie fest!

“There aren’t a lot of equivalents to this kind of event,” confides Petit. “Festivals that are created and managed by artists themselves are pretty rare. I do think it’s becoming more of a trend though—one only has to think of what Djamel accomplished in Morocco.” It’s a trend that easily woos audiences; after all, what’s better than favourite artists being able to shape the themes and presentation of their own art?

A rebellious birth!

“We were aware that it was impossible to keep working the way we did before, knowing that our relationship with the industry was no longer positive,” confides Petit. “The creation of the Grand Montréal comédie fest is an example of simple good sense, in terms of humanity and logic, too. A lot of Québec artists, performers, and actors were looking for this sort of evolution,” he continues.

“As artists, we thought it would be both beneficial and interesting to use a different model of management where we could control and arrange everything from A to Z, instead of having to submit ourselves to the standard industry hierarchy that we had to deal with before.” The Grand Montréal comédie fest is the incarnation of Petit and his fellow artists’ drive to create a new paradigm.

Once everyone was on board for the artistic adventure, the team dove into action, finding solutions and blazing trails. “We wanted to change the industry dynamic. Everyone was a little nervous and unsure about whether it was really a good idea, but in the end, you have to act and make change, not wait for change to come to you.” The creation of the Grand Montréal comédie fest embodies this positive change in the industry, which Petit estimates will soon gain ground. “We probably could have spent months just talking about it, but talking and doing nothing just wasn’t an option. Besides, creative people always have new innovative ideas!”

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… and a logistical feat!

“Given that this kind of festival is totally new outside of Montréal, one of our ideas was to present a show outside our city for a change. We thought it would be fitting to offer the festival to people from all over Québec. Not just on the island,” explains Petit.

A noble idea—but one that hides some significant challenges, logistical and otherwise. Not least among these concerns: how can the festival’s message of equality be shared with audiences across la belle province? How can a performance happen in three locations at the same time?

“As soon as we started brainstorming, I envisioned performances in three different locations, so I needed to find something that would send a clear message. I immediately thought of our slogan: “Une idée de fous !” So, arranging and executing the transport of artists from one stage to another by car or helicopter is not a simple task! It takes a lot of logistical organization, perfect timing, and even the weather and traffic to be on our side, and even then we’ll need to think of plan b, c, and d!”

Petit is certain that this year’s Grand Montréal comédie fest is just the beginning of many to come, with more crazy ideas and a clearer identity. “Everything happened to fast. In January, we didn’t even exist as an organization! For next year’s festival, we intend to start planning in September so we can have the time to really stretch the boundaries of the concept, and offer really original programming,” muses Petit. “I think ideas can bring people together—that’s what happened with our festival. What will come of it? We’ll have to wait and see. But, already the concept has incredible value in my opinion,” he concludes.

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