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Is “Saturday Night Live Québec” the key to bringing more attention to Canadian comedy?

Anne T. Donahue
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Thanks to the Just For Laughs festival, Québec has already established itself as a stand-up mecca. But can it do for TV what it's done for live acts?

CNL Telbec thinks so, and plans to launch "Saturday Night Live Québec’" next year in the form of two 90-minute specials. Scheduled to air Feb. 8 and March 22, 2014, the show will follow an "SNL" format, but will be hosted by French comedians Louis-José Houde and Stéphane Rousseau.

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Like the NBC original, the series will be filmed in front a live studio audience, and will feature weekly celebrity guest hosts, a house band, original sketches, musical guests, a "Weekend Update"-like news desk, cameos, and regular performers. However, unlike "SNL," the show will be staffed exclusively with comedians from the province -- specifically, with those hailing from Québec’s École nationale de l’humour.

“We are very proud to be presenting this event programming," Dominique Chaloult, programming and digital media director of Télé Québec, said in a press release. “'SNL Québec' will most assuredly rally Quebecers around a dynamic viewing experience.”

Homegrown talent deserves to be championed, but Canada is infamous for its lack of national comedic platforms (especially over the past decade, with reality series like "The Bachelor Canada" and "Real Housewives: Vancouver" raking in the most viewer attention). Maybe making comedy more localized and specialized will help earn more recognition for Canada in the long run.

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In terms of "SNL Québec," by plucking talent from local schools and from around the province, it will create Québec-centric material for those who will appreciate it. The show won't have to broaden jokes, or appeal to an enormous status quo set by an enormous nation; it can please Québec residents, whose topical jokes differ from those of residents of, say, Calgary or Winnipeg. It will also create a support system for French comedians, who deserve to be championed for their hard work.

Perhaps more programming like "SNL Québec" is the key: since many Canadian comics leave Canada to work (and earn recognition) in the U.S., building programming that gives comics a specific audience will not only help set Canadian talent up to succeed from the starting line, but give them a built-in fanbase when they move onto bigger things and earn international recognition. A lot like the original "SNL," when you think about it.

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