Just for Laughs, the comedy festival that began in Canada in 1983, will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year with its first London outing, held at the O2 and including a series of shows in partnership with Comic Relief.
Hollywood actor Ryan Reynolds is one of the headline draws at the festival, which runs from 2 to 5 March and takes place in the arena and other venues at the O2 complex. In an event entitled Maximum Effort (named after his production company), Reynolds will look back on a career that has taken him from sitcom and romcom star to Marvel superhero and Wrexham AFC co-owner. He will be in conversation with his Deadpool 2 co-star, standup Rob Delaney.
Other events at the festival include a variety gala hosted by Graham Norton, an evening with Katherine Ryan and friends, and performances by Reggie Watts, Aisling Bea, The Horne Section, Shaparak Khorsandi and Jessica Fostekew. Kemah Bob will host an edition of the FOC It Up! comedy club, Adam Buxton will present his music video show Bug, standup Craig Robinson will appear with his band the Nasty Delicious and there will be live podcast recordings and panel events.
The Comic Relief events include The Truth and Everything Except the Truth, hosted by Richard Curtis, co-founder of Red Nose Day, in which he will be joined by stars who have worked with the charity for an afternoon of “comedy, memories and mishaps”. Curtis said that Comic Relief believed in “the power of comedy and entertainment to drive positive change across the world”.
Just for Laughs was founded in Montreal and its festivals have taken place around Canada and in Australia, reaching huge audiences on television and online. Bruce Hills, president of Just for Laughs, said that the British contingent of comedians at the Montreal festival had been one of its highlights – “which I credit to the comedians’ distinctiveness, originality and a point of view unlike any other”.
Hills added: “Now is the perfect time for us to bring our festival to shine the international spotlight on the incredible UK scene, while also bringing global comedy stars to join forces in producing one epic comedy celebration.” Tickets go on sale on 24 November.