MONTREAL — This week was supposed to be one of celebrations for Just for Laughs given that the fest kicked off its 25th edition Monday night.
But instead, Gilbert Rozon, founder and president of the Montreal festival, has kicked up a fuss over funding. Rozon publicly blasted Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay for not giving enough support to the city’s festivals and sporting events. Just for Laughs annually receives from city coffers only C$100,000 ($95,000) — a tiny portion of the fest’s $38 million budget.
But Rozon insists the tiff is not just about money. It’s a vision thing.
“I want to know — what are you dreaming about, Mr. Mayor? Could you tell me what that vision is?” asked Rozon.
It seems the real reason Rozon is peeved is that Toronto Mayor David Miller is pushing to turn his city into Canada’s festival capital. Toronto already has the country’s leading film festival, and it just hosted the multidisciplinary arts fest Luminato, which was a rousing success.
But Rozon is playing both sides of the street on this one. At the same time that he’s raking Montreal’s mayor over the coals, he is also set to launch a satellite version of Just for Laughs in Toronto this month and says the city has welcomed him with open arms.
Meanwhile, a seriously miffed Tremblay showed up at Monday night’s opening Just for Laughs gala in Montreal and looked quite uncomfortable sitting in the center of the sixth row watching Rozon onstage as he introduced the soiree.