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Comic spin on mayoral race

Just for Laughs founder mulls Montreal race

It’s no joke: Just for Laughs Group founder and president Gilbert Rozon is openly musing about running for mayor of Montreal.

Rozon caused quite the stir by suggesting he might consider challenging mayor Gerald Tremblay for his job.

Rozon’s platform?

He wants to make Montreal “a city of fantasy, of creators,” and to build on the city’s strength as a hub of cultural action, noting that Montreal exports all kinds of artists, from Celine Dion to the Cirque du Soleil to Denys Arcand.

Rozon is no stranger to city politics. Two years ago, he publicly blasted Tremblay for what he saw as the mayor’s lack of vision.

Since then, Tremblay’s administration has been plagued by a series of scandals and, though the next mayoral election isn’t for three more years, many figure the top job in Montreal is up for grabs.

But would voters go for a guy who’s made a career out of hanging out with clowns?

The upside for Rozon is that he’s proven to be a crafty entrepreneur, creating one of the continent’s most influential comedy festivals in the unlikeliest of locations — a mostly French-speaking city far from the comedy hubs of Los Angeles and New York. He has used the fest to create a booming TV production and distribution company and an agency for handling comics on both sides of the Atlantic. The festival has also expanded, with editions in Toronto and Chicago.

And Rozon recently beefed up the exec team at Just for Laughs. He brought back Just for Laughs honcho Andy Nulman to take over the newly created position of president, festivals and television, and Mario Bertrand has been tapped as CEO of the Just for Laughs Group.

Is Rozon serious about his political ambitions? The only certainty is that he’s keeping all his options open.

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