Quebec judge approves sale of Just for Laughs assets to ComediHa!

Quebec judge approves sale of Just for Laughs assets to ComediHa!

It's a new stage for Quebec comedy and Quebec City-based entertainment firm ComediHa!

A Quebec Superior Court judge approved an agreement Monday that will see the company obtain numerous assets from Just For Laughs, which sought creditor protection in March.

Under the terms of the agreement, ComediHa! will not acquire the company in its entirety, but take possession of the Juste pour rire, Just For Laughs, ZooFest, ComedyPro and Gags brands, plus its audiovisual catalogue.

On Tuesday, ComediHa! president and CEO Sylvain Parent-Bédard said the acquisition is a dream come true.

"I remember the days I used to come to Just For Laughs … so today, it's a great day for us. It's the first day of a new era for ComediHa!" he told CBC News.

Parent-Bédard says ComediHa! will work to attract international comedy artists to Quebec and help local comedians make a name for themselves internationally.

In a news release, ComediHa! said it also intends to "redefine its development plans in order to support growth in all of its sectors of activity, including festivals, production of live shows, television promotion, tour promotion, distribution and monetization of content."

The cost of the transaction was not disclosed.

Groupe Juste pour rire inc., the parent company of the Just for Laughs Montreal comedy festival and several other comedy-related businesses, cancelled this year's edition of the summer festival in March.

The company cited lost revenues during two years of the global pandemic and challenges facing the media industry, particularly reduced budgets at networks and streaming platforms, as reasons for restructuring.

A court filing earlier this year from insolvency trustee PwC said Groupe Juste pour rire booked a net loss of more than $7.9 million in the first 10 months of 2023. Court documents filed in March showed the company behind the comedy festival owed nearly $22.5 million to creditors.

Other documents released during the insolvency process revealed an additional $5 million in unpaid debts owed by the festival and other affiliated businesses.

Maintaining Montreal's reputation

Understanding Montrealers' affection for Just for Laughs, Parent-Bédard said his company will host a smaller "transition festival" this summer, called ComediHa! salue Montreal, the English portion of which will run under the Just For Laughs brand and include free outdoor shows.

But he says the festival that fans know and love — with a broad mix of French and English international comedy stars — will be back.


"This is a brand that has been built by many people … it's very important to come back as it used to be before," he said.

François Brouard, a professor at Carleton University who researches the comedy industry, is confident ComediHa! will be able to maintain Montreal's reputation as a comedy hub.

"They have the expertise to do it," he said, pointing to the success of the company's ComediHa! Fest in Quebec City, which will hold its 25th edition from Aug. 1 to 24.

Brouard believes the company's biggest challenge will be organizing programming for anglophones with the personnel it currently has.

Asked if Parent-Bédard will bring back any Just For Laughs employees, the vast majority of whom were laid off, to help make the transition smoother, he said his team is considering making some offers to between three to 10 people with connections in the English-language comedy world.

"We want to be prudent, we want to go slowly and make the good decision," he said.

ComediHa! salue Montreal will run between July 18 to 28. The lineup for the $10-million Montreal event will be announced Wednesday.