MONTREAL — There might not be any animals at Zoofest, but that’s pretty much all that seems to be missing.
“We have lots of things,” says an enthusiastic Lucy Eveleigh, who oversees the roughly 120 performers in 70 shows in one of Montreal’s newest festivals.
“Theatre, music, dance, comedy, improvised shows, a little bit of circus, family shows, French and English — it’s a bilingual festival,” Eveleigh says.
“It’s not just comedy. It’s a lot of other things as well.”
Zoofest is the brainchild of Gilbert Rozon, founder of the Just for Laughs festival, which is running at the same time as Zoofest. Both events wrap up on July 26.
While Zoofest is an independent entity, Just for Laughs is supporting it by sending it some shows that used to be part of the annual comedy festival.
Audience favourites such as the New Faces of Comedy, the Homegrown Comic Competition, the Flying Solo series of individual acts and the Sketch Show are among the Just for Laughs staples now being staged under the Zoofest banner.
Eveleigh, who comes to the event with experience from the world-renowned Edinburgh Fringe Festival, says Zoofest has some obvious differences from Just for Laughs.
“It’s more alternative programming, kind of quirkier acts,” she said of Zoofest. “It’s concentrating on hour-long shows.
“It’s cheaper — most of its shows are around $15 — so you can get to see a lot in one evening.”
Variety is key at Zoofest.
For example, in “Improvised Shakespeare,” an intrepid group of performers challenges the audience to suggest a title for a Shakespearean play and then whip one up on the spot, always to uproarious results.
Adolescence is also examined in all its messy glory in Once And For All We’re Gonna Tell You Who We Are So Shut Up And Listen, which is staged by 13 Belgian youngsters.
Doe-eyed Kate Micucci of TV’s “Scrubs,” meanwhile, wields a ukulele to powerful comic results in her one-of-a-kind one-woman show.
Eveleigh says people can cap off their night with Silent Disco, a nightly dance party where people don wireless headsets and boogie to music styles ranging from punk to Dixieland.
“It’s a fun way to spend the last hours of the evening,” she says.
Bruce Hills, chief operating officer for Just for Laughs, says Zoofest is a chance to expand what it was doing with its solo show series and complement the comedy monolith that Just for Laughs has become.
Organizers are so confident in the quality of the events that they are offering a “satisfaction guarantee,” where if someone doesn’t like a Just for Laughs or Zoofest show, they’ll be offered a ticket to another show.