SiriusXM Canada and Just For Laughs reverse course on rebranded comedy channel

SiriusXM Canada has reversed a decision to feature non-Canadian talent on a rebrand of its Canada Laughs channel (168), set to launch this Spring as part of a partnership with Just for Laughs (JFL).

The satellite radio company announced last week that the new Just For Laughs Radio would feature standup with a focus on Canadian artists, in addition to comics from around the world. SiriusXM said the channel would feature performances from various JFL festivals and events, along with premium content from independent comedy albums. With the current Canada Laughs content exclusively featuring uncensored, Canadian stand-up, sketch and improv, many Canadian comedians, including Sandra Battaglini from the Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians (CASC), expressed concern that the changes would cut in to what’s been a consistent royalty stream for many Canadian comics.

Bruce Hills, President of Just For Laughs and John Lewis, SVP of Programming and Operations for SiriusXM Canada, issued a statement late Wednesday announcing a new strategy.

“We’ve listened carefully to the concerns of Canadian artists and regret the stress we have caused the comedy community. We are invested in the growth of Canada’s comedy industry and are working to include even more Canadian talent in all our initiatives. To that end, we will continue to engage directly with the industry and work with CASC to strengthen and advance Canadian comedy,” said Hills.

According to the statement, the new channel will now be called Just for Laughs Canada and showcase 100 per cent Canadian content, independent of the Just For Laughs catalogue. Canadian artists will be eligible for the same royalties as under the previous channel.

“Our partnership with Just For Laughs Canada provides an opportunity to bring Canada’s comedic talent to a larger audience in Canada and the United States. We understand the importance our platform has to comedians in Canada, and along with Just For Laughs, we will continue to work closely with that community to ensure its success,” said Lewis.

The comedy community took to social media to laud the announcement as a victory.

“The proof of the pudding is in the eating, but I am so bloody proud of our community and the solidarity comedians showed in the face of this attempt to cut us off from an absolutely essential income stream,” wrote Vancouver-based comedian and author Charles Demers in an Instagram post. “Thank you to Just For Laughs for realizing Canada’s biggest comedy brand can’t survive without Canadian comedy talent.”