It’s festival season in Montreal and FTB is ready for it. Once again, we will be covering Just for Laughs, the world’s largest comedy festival, now under the stewardship of Howie Mandel among others after founder Gilbert Rozon was forced to step down after several women accused him of sexual assault and harassment.

The festival released a new anti-harassment policy today. While  they promise a better environment behind the scenes, they certainly seem to be staying the (successful) course on stage.

There are the big names like Trevor Noah, Dave Chappelle, Kevin Hart, David Cross, Tiffany Haddish, William H. Macy (I had no idea he did standup) and the aforementioned Mandel. There are also the up-and-coming comics and eternally solid comedians populating the OFF-JFL stages. Festival staples like The Nasty Show and The Ethnic Show are back, too.

Our four-person coverage team is off and running even before the festival kicks off. In the next few days, expect to read Samantha Gold’s interview with Francisco Ramos performing at The Ethnic Show, Ellana Blacher’s conversation with The Nasty Show’s Ms. Pat and my Canadian History lesson from none other than Tom Green. Hannah Besseau will round out our pre-festival coverage with some audio interviews.

Then the real fun begins!

Just for Laughs runs July 11-29. Check hahaha.com for the complete schedule and to purchase tickets and check FTB for our coverage!

Comedians are our best social and political critics, our first line of defense against taking ourselves too seriously. It is for this reason that I jumped at the chance to interview Bobby Slayton a.k.a. Yid Vicious, The Pitbull of Comedy. Slayton is a legend in his own right, an old-school insult comic with a raspy take-no-prisoners approach to comedy. Here’s what we talked about:

SG: You’ve hosted the Nasty Show many times in the past. Do you approach it differently every time?

Bobby Slayton: Besides changing my underwear… you know, I’ve been doing it for so long and though I’m not hosting it this year, which is a thrill and a half for me. I can’t tell you how GREAT it is just to be able to go on and do a ten or fifteen-minute set. To answer your original question, I don’t approach it differently. The only difference is – and it’s a big difference – every year I try to have as much new material as I can. You know there’s different comics on the bill, it’s the same people very often but it’s always a different lineup so I’ve got to adjust my material depending on what another comic’s doing. That’s part of being a good host. If I know a comic has a big routine about midgets or whatever, I don’t want to do my midget routine before his, because I think the MC, the host of the show, has to really service the show. It’s your job – like the host of a party – to make everybody comfortable and keep things moving along so that’s the only way I would change things every year. But like I said: this year I don’t have to host it.

They got this new guy Mike Ward and everybody says to me: Aren’t you upset you’re not hosting? No! It’s too much work! For comedy it’s a lot of work. You gotta get up there, you got to warm up the crowd, you gotta get ‘em laughing. By the time you get ’em laughing, you gotta bring out the first guy, you gotta do a minute or two between each comic, you gotta get the audience focused again, you gotta take a break and go back. On a weekend doing two or three shows, by the third show and a couple of glasses of wine you go: Did I just say that joke? Did I say that at the first show? It gets a little confusing.

SG: You’ve done The Nasty Show for many years now and you sometimes participate in the galas. Are there any other Just For Laughs Shows you’d like to do in the future?

BS: Nope! I love the whole festival but they used to have me do the Relationship Show – a lot of the shows they don’t have anymore; Bubble with Laughter, I used to do the Bar Mitzvah Show, you gotta work much cleaner and it’s 90% Jews out there – it’s more Borsht Belt Catskills sensibility. I remember Amy Schumer did it one year and she didn’t do very well. I remember Amy saying to me afterward:

“You know, this isn’t really my kind of crowd. This isn’t really what I do”

And Amy’s great. But those shows I wasn’t crazy about. That’s why I love the Nasty Show so much. People always say to me:

“You’re doing the dirty show this year?”

No, it’s the Nasty Show. The difference is… The Nasty Show is more honest. It lets the comics do what they want. It gives you this ability to not worry about anything. There’s no constraints of television or radio or offending some Bible-belt Christian idiot in Kentucky… and if anybody groans, anybody gets pissed, you get to say: F-you! It’s the Nasty Show! You don’t like it? Go Bubble with laughter! And that was always a joy for me, to do stuff like that. And I think when people come to the show they kinda know what it’s going to be. You go to a James Bond movie and go:

“What are you? Sleeping with that Russian Spy?!”

You kinda know when you watch the Three Stooges that Moe is going to hit Curly in the head with the shovel. You should expect that or you shouldn’t be going to see it.

SG: There’s been a lot of ranting both in politics and in comedy about so-called “political correctness”? How do you feel about all that?

BS: It’s just moronic. It’s always been going on – they just didn’t call it political correctness when I started out. But I was one of those guys, and I certainly wasn’t the first. When I started out in San Francisco in the 70s early 80s there was a big comedy boom and there was a lot of comics. I was in San Francisco and I remember doing a couple of gay jokes and a couple of gay people getting pissed – they weren’t faggot jokes, they weren’t mean, they weren’t AIDS jokes. I would do black jokes and I saw I got a rise out of people and what always pissed me off is they would have a gay comedy night or a black comedy night and you see black comics going:

“White people! White people!”

And I understand they’re minorities and they got a right to do it, but don’t tell me I can’t make a joke about you if you can make a joke about me.

SG: You’re 61 now, do you think you’ll ever retire?

BS: I’ve been doing this for so long, worked in so many crappy clubs, have so many frequent flyer miles on my ass, that I’d love to retire. I still love doing standup, I don’t like the pressure of I HAVE to go somewhere. I gotta take this gig ‘cause I need the money. I don’t know if I’ll ever retire.

See Bobby Slayton at The Nasty Show playing at the Metropolis in Montreal July 20th to 30th. For ticket info, check out the JFL website.

The Nasty Show is kicking off this year’s Just for Laughs Festival, featuring the talents of Ari Shaffir, Derek Seguin, Hailey Boyle, Kurt Metzger and Nick DiPaolo. The show promises to “push the limits of even the dirtiest of minds.” Returning to host is the “Pitbull of Comedy” and one of the self acclaimed nastiest comedians in the business, Bobby Slayton. I had the chance to interview Slayton on his expectations for the upcoming show.

Living up to his, shall we say bold, comedic reputation, Slayton didn’t miss a beat when I began the interview confirming it was in fact Bobby Slayton on the line. “No its Carrot Top, Bobby’s just fucking me in the ass, so he’s kind of tied up right now,” Slayton started. “Is that nasty enough for you?”

What audience do you expect to come to this year’s Nasty Show?

A lot of women have been coming to the nasty show these days. Over the years, the nasty show […] was a real boys night out, which was great. But over the past few years you saw more guys bringing their wives and girlfriends, and then we saw tables of women. It’s great that women appreciate nasty.

Why do you think more women are coming out?

They’re falling in love with me. I’m not a comedian, I’ve become a sex idol. It’s also such a big show. And its not because its nasty, people says to me ‘hey you’re doing the dirty show this year’ well its not the dirty show, its the Nasty Show. The thing about the Nasty Show is that no one gives a shit, it’s just comics. It’s almost the antithesis shows because they could just let loose and not give a shit what people thought, and you could push the envelope. Each comic would try to get more outrageous than the last comic. Now we have so many professional guys we don’t try to top each other, they just do their show.

What brings you back each year?

Paycheques. I don’t get to see my friends, other comedians, very often, because they’re on the road. I don’t get to see them, so that’s one [thing that brings me back each year]. The Moishe Steakhouse, my favourite restaurant. When I’m not working I walk around a lot, and Montreal’s a great town for that. Montreal’s a great city in the summer.

How is Montreal as an audience for comedy?

Well they wouldn’t be doing the festival for thirty something years […] if it wasn’t a great town for comedy. there’s a lot of great towns for comedy, but I’m not sure if they have a festival like this festival. I think Montreal is great for comedy. Maybe it’s the winter, you guys are locked inside all winter.

Why do you think you’re the best comedian to host the Nasty Show

I’m the nastiest comic, and Bill Burr probably wants too much money. Part of my job is not just being funny, but keeping the show moving along. If someone doesn’t have a great set, which rarely happens, I can move things along, and if somebody kills, which always happens, people start chatting about how great, and I’ve got to bring them down a bit as a courtesy to the next comic. It’s not about funny, its the energy in the room. I don’t think they’d have me back if I wasn’t good at it.

What can you tell us about this year’s lineup for the Nasty Show?

Last year was so good, they have to try to top next year, so they’ve put a lot of effort to get this lineup. [They have some returning talents] because last year’s show was so good. I’m not sure what’s going to happen this year, I never know till I get there and see when it happens.

What are your hopes for this year’s Show?

That hookers will come backstage and give me free blow jobs and there’ll be tons of cocaine and cheeseburgers. That won’t happen. Its one of my hopes, but it’s never happened before. And then that there’ll be so many laughs, they’ll come up to me and say ‘Bobby is doing so well this year we’re going to pay him twice as much.’