Laughs taps new Euro head

In a move to expand its growing international comedy franchise, Just For Laughs has named former IMAX veep Andre Picard to head its European headquarters in Paris.

Just For Laughs, which is involved in comedy television and video production in Canada, is best known for its annual two-week summer comedy festival that airs on Showtime and has become a mecca for the comedy industry.

On Monday, Picard, 37, arrived in Paris as president and CEO of Sarl Rozon, one of the sibling companies under Le Groupe Juste pour Rire, the Montreal-based parent company of the Just For Laughs Festival. He was appointed by Gilbert Rozon, Le Groupe’s founder/CEO, who is now also Sarl Rozon’s chairman. Rozon will continue to work with Picard as well as on the world’s first comedy museum, the $ 21 million Un Nouveau Musee … pour Rire, the International Museum of Humour, slated to open April 1 in Montreal.

In his new position, Picard plans to expand Just For Laughs’ television and video product in Europe by tapping Quebec’s and France’s comedy talent pool for management and original programming. While there are no plans for a Just For Laughs Festival in Paris, it has deals with France 2 Television and England’s Channel 4.

“Our goal is to repeat some of the same successes that have made Just For Laughs what it is in North America, by establishing us on French TV as a distributor and producer of original comedy shows,” says Picard.

“While initially variety based, we may eventually move into drama and sitcoms , and hope to have shows on the air by next fall. Eventually the Paris and Montreal offices will collaborate on a documentary series on the history of comedy to be distributed worldwide. We also want to bring a North American visual and stylistic approach to French TV.”

Picard spent a month working with the Montreal office before heading to Paris. Before that he spent four years as the Toronto-based IMAX Corp.’s VP of film, where he oversaw worldwide development, financing, merchandising, production and distribution of IMAX films. He also was co-executive producer on several IMAX features, including “Rolling Stones at the Max,” and the more recent “Fires of Kuwait” and “Titanica.”

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