In the midst of Montreal’s notorious Just for Laughs fest, I received an invitation to a barbeque shindig for industry insiders hosted by The Comedy Network at a downtown club. Okay, it was a hand-me-down invitation. My agent wasn’t interested in coming to Montreal for hamburgers and shop talk, so she sent me in her place.

I’ve been to this sort of professional social mixer in the past. They’re all pretty much the same, with only the quality of food and the variety of free booze switching things up between venues. They’re filled with people like me, sniffing around for work or leads on work, having conversations that live only as long as it takes the participants to realize they can do nothing for each other’s careers. Eyes wander throughout the pleasantries, hunting for the next viable person to talk to, always searching for a conversation upgrade. Then with a “I just have to say ‘hello’ to…” they split apart and vanish into the throng, never to acknowledge each other again.

This particular schmooze-a-thon offered up gift baskets for all those on the invite list. Not quite the gift baskets of Academy Awards lore. The “gift” part of the score was meager enough to draw attention to all that empty space in the “basket” part. So much so, I was tempted to round it out with pilfered selections from the social-lubricant Merlot table. Aside from the obligatory promotional t-shirt, the bounty included a Comedy Network nerf football and a rubber-chicken pen.

Comedy festival. Rubber chicken. Get it?

I was hoping to spot a celebrity or two at the event. Famous people like free food. They like free booze even more. This place had both. But despite the large number of familiar faces and notable names that come to town during Just for Laughs, the barbeque was brimming with unfamiliar faces and names I’ve never heard of. In fact, the collection of misfits put me in mind not so much of stand-up comics, but comic books. They all looked like the usual suspects you’d expect to see at a comic-book industry schmooze-a-thon. Only, you know, slightly more attractive and personable.

But then I saw someone genuinely famous had made an appearance after all. That’s right, none other than George Stroumboulopoulos. And yes, I did have to look up the spelling on his name to confirm that it is, in fact, G-E-O-R-G-E. I nearly didn’t recognize him. He was only wearing half the usual piercings.

Who the hell is George Stroumboulollapalooza? I guess you don’t watch much Newsworld. Hmm, how can I describe his career? Well, my American readers won’t remember him at all from his hosting duties on the microscopically short-lived TV talent show, The One –- infamous for being the most ill-advised move by a Canadian into the U.S. television milieu since Alan Thicke vowed to kick Johnny Carson’s ass with a talk show of his own.

That pretty much sums it up. I didn’t actually speak to him, but I was asked to get the hell out of the way by the hot chick who was on her way to speak to him. After such an intimate encounter, I feel like I’ve practically sport-fucked George.

The event went on for three hours. I only lasted one. Although there was little new information to be gleaned from the whole excursion, I did come away with one or two things of value. You can see just how valuable they are once I put them up for sale on eBay. Go make a bid. You know you want a Comedy Network nerf football of your very own. I’ll even have it signed by a real celebrity with a real rubber-chicken pen. Let’s see…how does it go? G-E-O-R…

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