If you’ve sensed a bit of a seismic shift coming from the Montreal area it’s because a big shift just happened in the industry. Just For Laughs, one of the most influential comedy festivals in North America is down one of its highest ranking players. Robbie Praw, the programming wiz for JFL is headed to Hollywood. Praw as been scooped up by Netflix where he will handle stand-up comedy programming for the streaming giant. This means Netflix, who is already making large moves in the stand-up comedy universe is not only taking comedy seriously, but it’s going after A-list talent to make that happen.
Praw leaves JFL “with a heavy heart,” after spending 12 years with the festival. He started as a production assistant and moved up to VP and senior programmer on the anglo side. The offer Netflix made was a too tempting to Praw who will move to LA for the job.
Bottom line is Praw is more than qualified for the job as he’s helped usher in an era of influence on stand-up comedy that is unmatched with Just For Laughs in Montreal and offshoot fests in Toronto, Vancouver and Sydney, Australia.
Praw’s departure is big but JFL is happy for one of its own. JFL founder Bruce Hills stated, “It’s obviously a loss for us, but it’s a huge gain for him personally, and we have to be thrilled that Netflix reached out to Robbie for such an important job.” Hills added, “I’m only proud for him, because he’s perfect for the job. I’m glad Netflix was smart enough to realize that the best guy for the job was living in Montreal.”
Over the course of his tenure at the festival, Praw was able to land comedy legends like Steve Martin, Don Rickles, The Muppets, Mike Myers, Seth Meyers, Andy Samberg, Bill Hader, Sarah Silverman, Lewis Black, Seth Rogen and Neil Patrick Harris, among countless others. He’s helped shine a spotlight on now household comedians like Louis C.K., Amy Schumer, Hannibal Buress, Pete Davidson, and Jerrod Carmichael. Often bringing them in as JFL’s “New Faces” which many in the industry view as the comedians to watch in the months to come.
Can’t forget, either, that Praw booked then-unknown comics like Amy Schumer for the Bar Mitzvah Show and Hannibal Buress for New Faces before signing them to do major festival solo shows years later. The same process occurred for such up-and-comers like Saturday Night Live’s Pete Davidson and Jerrod Carmichael, star of the NBC series The Carmichael Show.
Under Praw’s guidance, the festival also morphed from mainly large gala events to more club-type shows throughout the downtown Montreal area allowing top notch talent to be seen in smaller venues for cheaper ticket prices, making comedy accessible to more people and turning the festival into one for fans rather than just a series of large shows in a major city.
Praw is also responsible for one of the festival’s biggest ticket sales stories. One was enticing Dave Chappelle out of semi-retirement to perform at the fest. Chappelle’s 2013 return to the festival marked the most tickets JFL sold for a run of appearances. One show turned into unprecedented demand and ended up selling out 10 shows. The second was luring Kevin Hart back to the festival 14 years after being a New Face and making said return the biggest single selling event in JFL history.
With comedy exploding on Netflix and the addition of Praw, stand-up comedy might just boom bigger and louder than we would’ve ever imagined.
Best of luck Robbie!