Just For Laughs to air only Canadian comics after blowback over radio deal
Howie Mandel speaks during a Canada's Walk of Fame ceremony honouring Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg in Vancouver, on February 15, 2019. (Darryl Dyck / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, February 28, 2019 9:23AM EST
MONTREAL -- Just For Laughs is assuring comics concerned by its takeover of a satellite radio comedy station that it will exclusively air Canadian content produced by artists outside of the Montreal entertainment company's catalogue.
Canadian comedians have been crying foul over this week's announced partnership between Just For Laughs and Sirius XM Canada to turn the Canada Laughs channel into Just For Laughs Radio, saying the move would deprive homegrown talent of a vital source of exposure and income.
Senior officials for the partner companies jointly announced Wednesday that the redubbed Just For Laughs Radio Canada would solely showcase independent Canadian comedians, who will be entitled to the same royalties as under the previous regime.
Just For Laughs president Bruce Hills and John Lewis, SiriusXM Canada's senior vice-president of programing and operations, say the companies have been in contact the Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians, which condemned the radio deal, about their plans for the channel.
The announcement walked back comments made by Canadian comedy legend Howie Mandel, who is part of the partnership that owns Just For Laughs, suggesting some of the station's content would now be drawn from the Just For Laughs archives, which include performers from around the world.
Mandel insisted in a Facebook post Sunday that the station would continue to broadcast content from Canadian comedians, including up-and-coming performers, but it wasn't long before backlash spread through Canada's comedy scene.
"We've listened carefully to the concerns of Canadian artists and regret the stress we have caused the comedy community," Hills said in a statement Wednesday.
"We are invested in the growth of Canada's comedy industry and are working to include even more Canadian talent in all our initiatives."
A spokeswoman for the CASC said the organization is excited with the decision.
"We look forward to continuing the discussion with Just For Laughs to develop new and exciting opportunities to support opportunities for Canadian comics," Battaglini said in a statement.