Monday, August 27, 2012

My Gripes With the JFL42 Toronto Festival

By Jeff Cover

I am a big fan of stand-up comedy. I am also a big fan of the Nerdist podcast. That's why I was ecstatic when I heard that the Nerdist podcast was doing a live episode at the Just For Laughs Festival in Toronto this September. Wow! Great news!

I looked it up, and I thought it seemed a bit complicated, you know, for a comedy festival. One is supposed to buy tickets for the Louis CK show, and then one will be e-mailed a passcode to reserve other spots in the festival. I thought it was a little unorthodox, but I was still excited and still on board. So I bought my tickets. That's when the problems began.

On Tuesday I bought two passes to the festival, and was immediately given access to print the Louis CK tickets. Printing, by the way, is the only way to get the tickets. You cannot pick them up at one of the many TicketMaster outlets, you cannot have them delivered by rush, you cannot have them delivered by mail. The only option is to print them. For those of you without a printer (because who needs a printer these days?), good luck with that.

I expected to be e-mailed the online passcode within a few minutes. You know how these companies are; they always say 48 hours, but it never takes that long. Well, they didn't arrive within a few minutes. 24 hours passed, still no passcode. 48 hours passed, still no passcode. Three days passed, still no passcode. This is when I decided to take action.

On Friday I called the phone number on the website. It was a busy signal. I e-mailed the e-mail address on the website. No one responded. I called the number again. Again, I got a busy signal. I notice that beside the phone number, they've written TicketMaster in parentheses. So I call TicketMaster's customer service line. Guess what? It was a busy signal. So I called the TicketMaster line for buying tickets. Surely someone will pick up there. They did, and managed to transfer me over to customer service. Customer service had no idea about this festival or the passcodes. I had to explain to the representative the unorthodox nature of this festival's ticketing procedure. This was when I began to realize how fucked up this festival is.

Anyways, yesterday, Monday, I spent two hours on the phone with TicketMaster, sent three increasingly angry e-mails to a non-responding address, pestered the JFL42 Twitter and Facebook accounts, and still got nowhere. And I mean, nowhere. I was no closer to getting my passcodes than I was on Tuesday. No matter what I did, I could not get a hold of anyone in the company. My final e-mail to JFL42 threatened to file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau and Visa (my preferred method of payment).

I guess that worked, because finally, at about 3:00 pm, more than three days after I sent the first e-mail, more than six days since I purchased my tickets, I finally got my passcodes.

And guess what? The Nerdist podcast taping is sold out. Fucking awesome.

I'm not done. Yes, there is more. Because once you get the passcode, good luck going to a show with someone else.

Here's how the festival is supposed to work, in theory:

1. Buy a ticket to see Louis CK
2. Get your passcode e-mailed to you
3. Create an account at
4. Link it with your Facebook account (Facebook is mandatory)
5. Enter your passcode into your account
6. Reserve spots at shows
7. Download the JFL42 app on your smartphone
8. Get Access to shows using your smartphone app
7. Print off the barcode that corresponds to your passcode
8. Use the barcode to get access to shows

Now some of those steps seem innocuous, but I'm guessing that some of you tilted your heads slightly when you saw steps three and four. You might be thinking "Create an account? To go to comedy festival? That's strange." And you'd be right! It is strange! You also might be thinking "I already have a Facebook account, but it seems outrageous that it would be mandatory." And you're so fucking right. It is outrageous that a comedy festival would require all of its goers to have a Facebook account.

But here's the kicker. This whole unnecessarily complex and convoluted process is made damn-near impossible if you're not planning on going to these shows alone. For one, the passes are supposed to be non-transferable, therefore only one person can enter one passcode into their account. One person can only reserve one spot at any show. One person cannot plan a surprise for someone else. One person cannot buy two tickets to five shows and take different people.

No. Everyone has to do this on their own. Even a couple has to do this separately. It's as if JFL42 is thinking "What do we care if you're a couple? You can't buy tickets together! You have to do it separately like everybody else! Why do you have to do everything together? Do you share the same Facebook account?"

So, it's impossible for one person to buy tickets for two or more people. At least in theory.

Here's what I'm doing. I created a fake Facebook account with a different e-mail address, and I'm not downloading the app, I'm printing out the barcode. And I'm going to transfer that non-transferable ticket like it was going out of style. Why? Because I'm a bad-ass.

Also because I'm the biggest stand-up comedy fan that I know. I don't know anyone who's going to want to come to five shows of my choosing within nine days. But I know someone who will go with me to see Louis CK, and I know someone who'd see Patton Oswalt, and I can probably find another Nerdist fan (if I can get tickets).

In short, it shouldn't be this hard to buy tickets for anything. Ever. Fucking anything.

And I kind of feel bad for TicketMaster. Don't get me wrong, they're still a bunch of greedy, blood-sucking, exploitative, service-charging, corporate motherfuckers over there, but they usually know how to handle tickets. It's what they do.

JFL42, on the other hand, has no fucking clue what they're doing with these tickets. They've managed to complicate something so easy. Why? I'm guessing money.

My guess is that some young recent graduate pitched this idea. He was probably wearing a "power suit" with a really bold colour of shirt and tie. Something like fuchsia or lime green. I assumed he used words like "synergy" and "paperless" and "high-tech". He pitched this idea which would vastly complicate things, but save on shipping costs and deter scalpers. The people hearing this pitch probably loved it. The impressionable young ones might have thought that they were part of a new way of festival ticketing. The older ones probably thought it sounded a little complex, but didn't want to appear non-savvy in front of the younger ones.

So they went with this clusterfuck of an idea.

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Twitter: @TheJeffCover


  1. I too have been having problems with this dang "interactive" ticketing. Thanks for the idea of creating a fake FB profile. If FB is going to go along with stuff like this, serves them right!!

  2. What an unnecessarily stupid process.

    I also ran afoul of the no printer and no Facebook requirements. I also had to bloody upgrade my phone to be able to get the barcode on it. I still have no idea why, despite reserving a show more than a month ago I have to check in an hour before. I worry there is still a good possibility of mysteriously losing my seats.

    I have concluded that the organizers are fetuses who don't understand that not every person who wants to see a comedy show is a 20-something who lives a mostly virtual internet existence.

    Also the making everyone have to deal with their individual ticket is a pain in the ass. I am bringing a friend who is disabled and not a computer or smartphone user with me, and instead of just booking, I've had to run this idiotic obstacle course twice.

    Way to limit and alienate your customers JFL. Never again.