To say that Jessimae Peluso is happy with her Just for Laughs booking this year would be quite the understatement.

“It’s the one show,” Paluso says of her upcoming gig, JFL staple The Nasty Show, “that for years I’ve said this is my show, this is my jam!”

Peluso has played JFL before. as part of Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud Live! series. While she considers her previous experience both enlightening and even a bit overwhelming. This time, though, she’s excited to bring the nasty.

“It’s purely based in what I love to do most and how I like to perform, which is uncensored and straight from my brain to my mouth,” Peluso commented in a phone interview, adding: “which, for the better part of my life, I’ve been in trouble for.”

Exile from the classroom and mouth washed out with soap (both of which Peluso mentioned) aside, the comic also hosts not one, but two podcasts. I asked her why so many comedians turn to podcasting and for her, creative control is the most alluring aspect.

“There’s no red tape, there’s no waiting for the network to okay the content, there’s no network notes or anything from people who have never set foot on a stage or written anything creative in their life,” Peluso observed, “it’s a liberating medium for any sort of performer or public speaker. It’s a great way to talk about something that interests you.”

And what interests Peluso? Well, talking comedy on her Sharp Tongue Podcast clearly does. Her Highlarious Podcast, though, has a dual focus of raising awareness about Alzheimers, which her father passed away from in October (and Seth Rogan’s Hilarity for Charity), and talking about the benefits of cannabis, in particular legalization.

When I mentioned that weed is legal now north of the border, Peluso was quite aware and prepared:

“I’m going to be out in a bikini at 8am smoking weed in public saying ‘sorry, sorry, just living my truth’, I’m excited.”

I could tell she was excited throughout the interview. I’d like to bring up more of what we touched on, like how a video of her LOL performance is inexplicably bleeped on YouTube, her discovery that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s mom is also playing JFL, her three dogs or the fact she started the interview by calling me Jason Voorhees (some real dad joke-level humour there), but I can’t include it all.

Instead, I’ll leave the last word to Peluso. When I asked her what audiences can expect from her this year, she said:

“They can expect to see somebody who feels real honoured and at home on a stage that celebrates comedy without restrictions.”

Catch Jessimae Peluso as part of The Nasty Show July 17-27. Tickets available through hahaha.com

The Ethnic Show is a Just for Laughs staple. Promoted as a “hilarious celebration of global perspectives” it features an ethnically diverse cast of comics cracking jokes about their own cultures and how whites treat them. It’s one of the few events where white people can feel comfortable laughing at ethnic jokes, guilt-free.

In the past, The Ethnic Show has been kind of hit or miss for me. Some of the comics are great, pulling no punches with their critiques of their own cultures and how white people react to them, while others are lame, opting for the most clichéd ethnic jokes or lame-duck tactics like busting out a guitar.

I was pleasantly surprised this year.

The host is Cristela Alonzo, a Mexican-American from Texas. Though tiny and sweet looking, she made a perfect host, not just because her material was funny, but because as a comedian, she’s relatable and likeable.

Host Cristela Alonzo

Her material ranged from encountering racism for the first time, to her homogenous upbringing, to the adventures of getting older. She also made one of the best Trump jokes of the night, saying she’s ok with the wall…

“Because we build tunnels now!”

Next up was Italian comedian Anthony DeVito, who began his set bemoaning the fact that he looks ethnically ambiguous. His comedy is primarily self-deprecating, his set taking jabs at himself, his girlfriend, and his grandmother (or Nonna), and the racism of older generations.

Anthony DeVito

His set was very stereotypically Italian, but the shy, angry, self-deprecation of his delivery made it hilariously endearing and a joy to watch.

DeVito was followed by Brazilian comedian Rafinha ‘Rafi’ Bastos, who was one of the funniest acts of the night. I had seen Bastos perform as part of Laugh Out Loud Live! last year and in my review I said he’d be a great addition to The Ethnic Show, so I was overjoyed to see him on last night’s roster.

While a lot of his material – like his bemoaning the fact that Brazil is known for bald pussies – was repeated from last year, he had enough new material to keep the set fresh, and his loud angry delivery was hilarious enough to make me not care about the old stuff. In addition to making fun of himself, he took potshots at plastic straw bans, turtles, and English insults – pointing out that ‘pussy’ doesn’t work as an insult because every pussy he’s encountered has been strong and durable.

Dave Merheje, a Lebanese Canadian comedian, was on next and I had high hopes for him. I had had a chance to interview Merheje before the festival and had seen past performances on YouTube. He is incredibly funny.

Unfortunately he spent too much of his time last night trying to engage the audience, who weren’t having it. When he finally did launch into his material, he was great. Here’s hoping he focuses on that for future performances.

After intermission Robby Hoffman took the stage. A former Lubavitch Chasidic Jew-turned-Lesbian, a lot of her set was about growing up in a religious household with a Jewish mom and nine siblings.

As a Jew, I found this material kind of tired, but that’s probably because her jokes were things I hear about all the time from my friends. She also had a bit on dried fruit that could only be described as lame. Her set vastly improved when she started joking about gender, sexuality, and the pay gap, saying that men should pay for women because:

“Pussy is expensive. You want free? DICK is free!” A joke that had the audience hysterical.

Last to go on was Donnell Rawlings. Other media I met at the event described him as a disciple of Dave Chappelle. In addition to being a comedian, he also has an upcoming role in Kevin Smith’s Jay and Silent Bob Reboot film.

He came on stage loud and proud, singing along to the country song Old Town Road by Lil Nas X with the vocal prowess that showed that if he ever decided to quit comedy, he might have a shot as a singer.

Rawlings is a comedic powerhouse. Every joke hit the mark, from his bit about how black people don’t pick up shit, to being into white women who work for non-profits, to his rant about rock music.

He was a great way to end the show and people left the theatre still laughing at his performance.

The Ethnic Show runs from July 11-25 at the Just for Laughs Festival. Check it out

I arrive at my first Piknic Électronik of this summer, (#8 of 2019), two road-beers down the hatch and eager as ever after a long week to get some sun and dance to some electronic music (or more so in my case, sway back and forth as rhythmically as I can relative to the ratio of sangria I’ve consumed over time).

I, of course, have naively failed to account for the rather large crowd that Piknic often attracts on a day as beautiful as this, and with the same idea (and perhaps gusto) as everyone else, head for Parc Jean-Drapeau at peak hour, and am consequently forced to sober up some while I wait in the tunnels of the vastly over-crowded yellow line.

The train is packed full, and we all spill out of the station in a mass, ambling to the main entrance of Piknic. Luckily, though, the line at the rather densely packed entrance is quite large, it moves slowly but surely, and as I wait to receive an entrance bracelet from a smiling staff member, the atmosphere is reinvigorated by the excitement of those around me. Their enthusiasm fuelled most likely in part by a similar cocktail to mine: excitement, anticipation, alcohol, and an absolutely perfect amount of sunshine. 

Inside the festival there awaits a sea of animated festival goers; a diverse crowd of people united by their attire of tank-tops, shorts, and fanny packs, and a palpable enthusiasm. They’re talking, drinking, dancing, swaying.

Some are sitting in the lounge chairs on the outskirts, or hammocks, watching their friends playing volleyball  under the sun at the sand court between the two stages. Many people are in line waiting to refill their cups and buckets of Sangria and beer, but the largest sea of people is situated in front of the main stage, the perfect place for imbibing both sound and sun, and neither come as a disappointment on this day. 

A game of volleyball if you look closely… But if all you see is sun and trees you still get the picture!

At the main stage French DJ, Groj, who is known for his live singing during his performances opens with a rhythmic and psychedelic set that grabs the crowd’s attention. The music is resonant, sonorous amidst all the trees, and yet somehow still bright and energetic, in a way that somewhat mirrors the energy of the crowd.

Groj’s performance is followed by the headliner of the evening: German DJ, HOSH, part of Diynamic record label. His lively house and techno sound has been likened to the journey of a collapsing star, and the comparison does not disappoint.

HOSH’s music captivates his audience, with its spirited buildups and explosive melodic peaks. And as the beautiful day transitions into a beautiful dusk with the sun setting over the main stage, it’s time go home again although this time I decide to walk instead of bother with the crowds at the metro. If you ever get the chance and don’t mind a bit of a walk, the view from the bridge at sunset is rather captivating.

For tickets and information on upcoming shows, please visit Piknic Électronik’s website.

DJ HOSH: Soundcloud | Spotify | Facebook

DJ Groj: Soundcloud | Spotify | Facebook

ShazamFest, a unique outdoor annual summer festival, returns for its 14th edition, and this year with more whimsy than ever. It has perhaps the most eclectic diversity of performances to occur at a single festival.

ShazamFest features a diverse range of entertainment including, but not limited to: live music performances, circus acts, burlesque, dance, theatre, poetry, wrestling, skateboarding, and much more. The festival is set to take place from the 11th to the 14th of July (this weekend), and is to be hosted in the Eastern Townships, 90 minutes outside of Montréal at festival founder Ziv Przytyk’s organic family farm. Free roundtrip shuttle services from Montréal are available, as well as free on-site camping. 

The festival is also particularly distinctive for its green initiatives, as part of its dedication to an eco-responsible and sustainable approach. ShazamFest is very encouraging of its zero-waste initiatives, having only produced 12 bags of garbage at its 13th edition last year and aiming to create even less this year by encouraging festival goers not to bring single-use bags, using only reusable or compostable dishware, providing unlimited free local source water, bringing in organic local food vendors, and numerous other eco-friendly features.

The headlining acts of ShazamFest XIV will be Afrikana Soul Sister, Les Hôtesses d’Hilaire, the Souljazz Orchestra, and Susie Arioli. A few additional must-see features include Matthew Silver, Ziv’s Sunset Show, Bibi Lolo BangBang the clown, a burlesque segment by Swell Sisters La PetiteFleur and Queeny Ives, and many more.

Here’s the full lineup:  

Visit ShazamFest’s website for more information about the artists and tickets.

Win Tickets!

That’s right, FTB is giving you a chance to win a pair of tickets ($125 value) to Shazamfest! Simply share this post on Facebook or Twitter, tag @forgetthebox and say Shazam!

We will draw a winner from the entrants and announce it Friday morning.

For everyone else, tickets are available through ShazamFest.com

Happening on July 11-14, 2019, 2722 Way’s Mills, Ayer’s Cliff, QC J0B 1C0 in the Eastern Townships.

Free entry for children 12 years & under
Free admission all day Sunday 
Free roundtrip shuttle services from Montréal 
Free on-site camping

As anyone who has attended Montreal Comic Con knows, one of its great privileges – in addition to hobnobbing with creators and celebs – is seeing the best of our local cosplay scene. This year proved no exception, as can be seen in following gallery of costumes covering everything from Star Wars and Disney characters to Horror icons and Burton films. Enjoy!

Bonnie McFarlane is a Canadian success story. Hailing from Cold Lake, Alberta; she’s a comedian, writer, director, and co-hosts a radio show on Sirius XM. As a filmmaker she’s worked to combat sexism in comedy with the award-winning documentary Women Aren’t Funny. She’s returning to Montreal as part of The Nasty Show, and co-hosting a game show at Just for Laughs with her husband, comedian Rich Vos.

I had the opportunity to meet with Bonnie McFarlane so I asked her why there is the assumption that women aren’t funny. McFarlane has a lot of theories about it.

She said that comedy clubs have been catering to “bro audiences” for a long time so when a woman goes on and performs something other than “bro comedy”, they may not receive a positive response.

McFarlane herself identifies as male-friendly and she’s been working in this system for so long that she’s learned to tailor her act to those audiences. She thinks, however, that it’s important to make room for voices outside “bro comedy”, speaking with deference about comedian Hanna Gadsby and director Jill Soloway, who helped pave the way for female voices in comedy.

Macfarlane experiences inequality when people boycotting Louis CK and urging others to do the same asked her not to play at The Comedy Cellar in New York due to their reputation to book comedians like Louis CK, who in 2017 was accused of sexual misconduct.

“Why should I have to not work because of things that he did? If you want to stop going to The Comedy Cellar that’s fantastic, do whatever you want to do, but I’m not going to work less.”

For McFarlane, the problem lies in boycott and cancel culture, describing once being at a show where Louis CK came in unannounced and did a set. She went on stage after him and people told her after the show that she shouldn’t have gone on.

McFarlane doesn’t see how having fewer female voices is going to help sexism in comedy. There’s a lot of debate in comedy about political correctness and feminism often takes part of the blame for that.

McFarlane acknowledges that it’s a complicated issue but she believes in free speech and that comedians should hold themselves more accountable for what they say. She says it’s especially hard if you’re a female comic because you’re expected to have such strong opinions about these things.

While she has no sympathy for comedians like Louis CK, she personally does not want to stop him from working, highlighting the importance of moving forward instead of constantly drawing attention to bad people.

As she often opens her sets by announcing she’s a feminist, an atheist, and a vegan, I wondered what her take was on whether feminism was compatible with comedy. Her response was an enthusiastic no, saying that making fun of oneself is another way of taking charge.

“We know how far we’ve come when we can laugh at ourselves,” she said.

In addition to being a comic, McFarlane is an author, she directs, and she co-hosts has a radio show, so I asked her which role she identifies with most.

“I’ll always love standup most because it’s given me everything else,” she said.

While her favourite thing in the world is writing jokes, she also loves writing screenplays and TV shows and directing.

“I love taking something from one idea and seeing it all the way through to the end. It’s such a satisfying process.”

In addition to doing The Nasty Show, Bonnie McFarlane is co-hosting Would You Bang Him? with her husband, comedian, Rich Vos. The show is a contest in which a panel of female judges assess male comedians and whether they’d sleep with them. McFarlane cheerfully promises there will be beefy guys in addition to the comedians. Check it out.

Tickets for The Nasty Show and Would You Bang Him available through hahaha.com

Bust out your back issues and binoculars folks, because it’s that time of year again. Montreal Comic Con descends upon the Palais Des Congres this weekend for three days of autographs, celebrity encounters, cosplay and of course, comic books.

This year, the 1990s will be very well represented, and not just by those sporting fashions from Forever 21. Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman’s very own Man of Steel, Dean Cain, will be present to reflect on his time in the iconic red and blue tights, as well as his turns as Vandal Savage on Smallville and Jeremiah Danvers – aka Supergirl’s foster father – on CW’s Supergirl.

Dean Cain, 90s Superman, will be there

Voiceover actor extraordinaire Jim Cummings will also be making a long-awaited appearance at the Con. If the name doesn’t ring a bell, his voice certainly will.

Remember the classic after-school programming block known as the Disney Afternoon? Cummings worked on nearly every animated series you raced home from the bus stop to check out, from Gummy Bears, Duck Tales, Chip ‘N Dale Rescue Rangers, Aladdin and Gargoyles, to the comic book/sitcom Darkwing Duck, where he brought the titular Masked Mallard to vivid, egomaniacal life.

He’s also voiced both Winnie the Pooh and Tigger for the last few decades, and stood in for Jeremy Irons and Christopher Lloyd as the singing voices of The Lion King’s Scar and Anastasia’s Rasputin. He’s lent his pipes to various Looney Tunes projects, all sorts of video games and even theme park attractions. Suffice it to say, if there’s an animated property you hold dear to your heart, he was likely involved.

Speaking of Disney, the voice of Belle herself, Paige O’Hara, will be present to reflect on that tale as old as time, Beauty and the Beast. Given her character’s reappearance in Ralph Breaks the Internet and the continual popularity of the ‘Disney Princess’ brand, one can only wonder whether we’ll be seeing more of the brunette bookworm in the years to come.

So will Paige O’Hara, voice of the animated Belle

Celebrated Canadian comic artist and writer Ty Templeton will also be in attendance once again this year, telling stories and taking commissions from his booth in Artists Alley. Templeton is best known for having adapted the classic superhero cartoon Batman: The Animated Series into a monthly comic for DC through the 90s and 00s.

The Batman Adventures series won multiple Eisner Awards and helped introduce a whole new generation to the Dark Knight Detective. Though Templeton’s credits span multiple DC and Marvel titles, as well as the late, great Mad Magazine, which only this week was cancelled after 67 years in print. Try not to bum him out about that one.

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers fans will be tickled by the appearances of Austin St. John, Karan Ashley, Walter E. Jones and David Fielding aka the Red, Yellow and Black Rangers and their amorphous floating head of a leader, Zordon. Though the action-packed live action kids series became a pop culture phenomenon in its day, it also left us with plenty of unanswered questions, such as: how exactly is saber-tooth tiger a dinosaur?

Ray Park will be there too, probably without the makeup

All this isn’t to suggest other decades of comic book and pop culture deliciousness won’t be equally represented, mind you. 70’s Hulk Lou Ferrigno will be hulking about, X-Men and Star Wars actor/athlete Ray Park will also be around (and maybe even demonstrating roundhouse kicks? No?) and Elijah Wood will be reminiscing about the Lord of the Rings films with the one and only Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, holding court for autograph seekers, no doubt surrounded by Starship Enterprise memorabilia.

Comic Con is the perfect time to let your inner geek out, whichever era you prefer, so take some time this weekend to enjoy its more than 200 activities and remember to invite children under the age of five to tag along. Because they get in for free…and because it’s never too early to start obsessing over sci-fi.

For full program details and ticket information, visit montrealcomiccon.com. Comic Con runs from July 5th to the 7th

comedian dave merheje

Dave Merheje is a comedic force to be reckoned with. Growing up in Windsor, Ontario to Lebanese immigrant parents, he worked for a sightseeing company along with other odd jobs, soon after, he got into comedy.

Since then his star has only risen; he’s played at multiple Just for Laughs festivals in Montreal, the Winnipeg Comedy Festival, the Halifax Comedy Festival, and his 2018 comedy special Good Friends, Bad Grammar was nominated for a 2019 Juno Award. This year, Merheje is appearing at Just for Laughs as part of The Ethnic Show and a solo show at Katacombes as part of Off-JFL & Zoofest.

I had the opportunity to sit down with Merheje at Just for Laughs HQ downtown.

As he’s doing The Ethnic Show this year, I asked if he considers himself to be an ethnic comedian. He smiled, calling it a tricky question and said that he never sought out to be an ethnic comic, but sharing his culture, upbringing and experiences may lead others to perceive him as such.

He considers his comedy to be closest version of himself, on stage as off stage. Early on in his career, he says a fellow comedian advised him to avoid talking about his ethnicity because “everyone was doing it”. It led him to shy away from the sensitive material, until, while talking about his father to another comedian, they suggested he discuss it on stage, now he embraces the subject, and so do audiences.

Merheje portrays his family as this hilarious dichotomy between his calm serene mother, and his aggressive matter-of-fact father. I asked him how his family feels about how he represents them, and he said they’re “dope” about it. Though his father won’t be at Just for Laughs, he comes to many of Merheje’s shows including the Juno Awards this year.

“They can take it.” He says, “they understand it’s humour and they’re not offended.”

Merheje says that some people build their own narratives about him when they find out he’s Middle Eastern, and he considers it his job to tell his truth on stage. He has experienced problems with xenophobic heckling before, with one heckler asking what age he learned to detonate bombs, but he rolls with the punches because at least the comments are said to his face.

He said some Middle Eastern people enjoy his comedy while others think he’s giving people the wrong impression about his culture but if they do. It’s on them, and he’s still going to keep doing what he does.

When I asked Merheje how feels about Montreal audiences compared to others, he said they’re a very comedy-savvy audience.

“It’s a good energy. They watch comedy, they see it every year, it’s the biggest festival in the world so they’re here for it. They’re hip to it.”

Merheje is grateful for all the extra attention he’s been getting lately but is determined to maintain a proper work ethic. He knows that you can’t buy into the attention too much or you can get hurt when it doesn’t go your way.

I asked him if there was one thing he could say to audiences, what would it be.

“Just have fun. Don’t take everything so personally. It’s just a show. It’s entertainment. Just have fun with it.”

In addition to his set at Just for Laughs’ The Ethnic Show and his solo show for Off JFL & Zoofest this year, Dave Merheje can also be seen on the Hulu show, Ramy, where he plays the main character’s devout Muslim friend (a character he says is very different from himself). Check him out.

For tickets go to hahaha.com

A Brief History of Time is a show with a daunting task. It aims to present a heavily abridged history of physics in just an hour. The snippet I saw at Fringe for All gave me high hopes for the show and I’m glad to say that I wasn’t disappointed.

I had the opportunity to email back and forth with the show’s creator and Artistic Director of Théatre du Renard, Antonia Leney-Granger. She said the show was inspired by Stephen Hawking’s book, A Brief History of Time and that all the scientific theories in the show are accurately presented.

She added that the portrayal of the historical context of the discovery of those theories should be taken with a grain of salt as they were tweaked to make the show more funny and relatable. Though the show is very educational, Leney-Granger admits that her background isn’t in science or teaching.

“I’ve always had a very curious mind and bucketloads of hobbies and interests: I’m interested in learning the basics of pretty much everything, from pottery making to quantum physics! A Brief History of Time started me off on a path that became the mission of my company, Théâtre du Renard: disseminating complex or seemingly inaccessible ideas to a variety of audiences through the playfulness and poetry of object theatre.”

For those unfamiliar with object theatre – sometimes referred to as object puppetry – it’s a kind of theatre where objects are used to create a story with characters. In the case of A Brief History of Time, Leney-Granger uses everything from troll dolls to paper lanterns to magic eight balls to teach the audience about Copernicus, Galileo, Newton, Einstein, and Hubble. The ensuing show is informative, funny, and enlightening.

I asked Leney-Granger what her target audience is and she said it was created with adults in mind, but she has also performed the show for high school groups and even kids age ten and up. She has had physicists and scientists come to the first shows and aside from a few vocabulary changes, they were very happy with it.

It should be noted that there is some content in the show that wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate for younger audiences. There are mentions of alcohol and orgies that may make parents think twice about letting their kids see it. If Leney-Granger has a tweaked version that leaves these things out, the show will be a definite hit among groups looking for educational entertainment that’s fun, engaging, and available in both official languages.

You won’t just see a woman playing with toys on stage, you’ll receive an education on the theories about our universe, the philosophers and scientists that developed them, and the hidden figures that contributed to their development but were never credited. In addition, the setup of the show is fairly light technically, so it can be done in a variety of settings.

What makes A Brief History of Time particularly special is its timing and use of sound. There is no wasted time in the piece and the audio jokes and pop culture references are everything you’d hope they would be.

Though Montreal Fringe is over, Théatre du Renard is planning to take A Brief History of Time on tour in Quebec and internationally, so you may have a chance to check it out.

Whether science, history, or physics are your thing or not, go see A Brief History of Time. You might learn something.

Summer is back and so is Piknic Électronik, with an exciting line-up of local and international electronic artists playing every Sunday from May 19th to September 29th. The 17th edition kicked off on May 19th with DJs Adam Husa, Mike Haddad, and Dufire, as well as others.

This weekend catch Bonobo and his traveling festival Outlier at Piknic Élektronic for a special Saturday OFF-Piknic event also featuring Totally Enourmous Extinct Dinosaurs, JETS, Prefuse73, and Durante, followed by a 100% local line-up on the island this Sunday including DJs Kora, Sinca, DJ Sunset, Lou Fre$h, and a special surprise guest!

Just picture it: you, your friends, a bucket of alcohol (yes, they have buckets), the sun setting over the St-Lawrence river, and Piknic’s consistently eclectic and electric line-up of artists. What better way to spend any summer Sunday than dancing in the sun?

The festival takes place in Parc Jean-Drapeau, just 10 minutes outside of the city on the Metro’s Yellow Line and goes on every Sunday from 2pm until the sun goes down.

Watch the full summer 2019 line-up below:

Visit Piknic Électronik’s website for complete line-up details and to purchase tickets! Season, family & student passes are also available

I had high hopes for the mayor of Montreal. I thought that in all the discourse about Bill 21, Mayor Valérie Plante, the leader of Quebec’s most multicultural city, would take a stand against it.

Instead, despite evidence that applying the law will only hurt Muslim women and prevent the Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, and Sikh people of Montreal from participating fully in our democracy, Mayor Plante has publicly stated that despite her objections to it, she will uphold Bill 21.

I have therefore drafted an open letter to our Mayor in both official languages which you can read below. You can add your voice to mine on change.org and I encourage everyone opposed to this law and the Mayor’s stance on it to send it to City Hall via their contact portal.

Dear Mayor Valérie Plante,

As a citizen of Montreal, I was overjoyed to see that we had finally elected a female mayor. I thought that as a woman elected to head the most multicultural city in Quebec, you would do what is necessary to stand up for the people you were chosen to lead. It is therefore disappointing to see that you have publicly stated that while you disagree with Bill 21, you will enforce and uphold it.

I understand that your position is difficult. As a woman in politics you are under greater scrutiny than your male peers, and as leader of our City you feel obligated to uphold the law. But history does not remember those who enforced unjust laws while wringing their hands in supposed discomfort. History remembers those who stood up in the face of them and said NO.

According to a 2011 study by Statistics Canada, 5.6% of Montrealers are Jewish and 9.6% are Muslim. Another 1.3% of the city’s populations are Hindus and Sikhs. All of these people will be affected by this law and thus denied a chance to assimilate and participate fully in our democracy. In these troubled times, they turned to you for guidance and in response you have turned your back on them. We therefore implore you to reconsider your position and prove yourself to be the leader we know you can be.

Stand up and say the City of Montreal cannot and will not enforce Bill 21.

We are counting on you.

Add your name to the petition

Featured Image: Painting by Samantha Gold

The Man Behind the Curtain is a hard show to review. Inspired by magic, the show is cramped, unpredictable, and uncomfortable, but it’s also fast-paced, hilarious, and intense.

The venue is set up in the apartment of co-writer and director Sam Jameson. Anyone who feels squeamish about attending a performance in someone’s home is missing out on a great show. Productions Presents describes the show as:

“A series of fantastical vignettes that are all tied together by the theme of magic… The show consists of the performance itself, the physical space around you, and the how the physical space changes over the course of the show. “

The Man Behind the Curtain stars Erik Leisinger and is directed by Sam Jameson who met on themet on the set of Glam Gam’s Fringe Production, Peter Pansexual, when Sam was director and Erik was a performer. They worked together again last year on Glam Gam’s Greasy: A Lesbian Love Story – currently the highest grossing Fringe play of all time.

In 2018, Jameson and Leisinger founded Productions Presents, a company for the work they produce together. When I had the chance to speak to them, the question on my mind was whether Jameson or Leisinger were actually magicians, given the show’s magic theme.

“Neither Sam or Erik are professional magicians, and quite frankly can’t really do magic to save their lives. Fortunately, Erik Leisinger’s childhood friend, Erin the Magician is a hotshot magician from the west coast and has helped us throughout the process.”

You will see magic tricks in this show, but they’re nothing spectacular, and as a viewer, you really won’t care because you’ll be too busy laughing. Unlike the classic theatre setup where audience and performance spaces are separate and distinct, The Man Behind the Curtain is immersive theatre, a type of show where “the entire performance area is a part of the show, and the audience has far more freedom to interact with the performance environment and the performers themselves.”

As audience members you won’t be picked on by the performers, but you will be expected to participate a little. That said, the venue has extremely limited space, with a maximum capacity of ten people.

Shows are often sold out so get your tickets in advance. You won’t be disappointed!

The Man Behind the Curtain runs through June 15. Tickets available at montrealfringe.ca

The weather is warming up, the city is a war zone of traffic and construction, and this only means one thing: it’s festival season in Montreal. On May 22, 2019 media reps attended a press conference for the 37th edition of the Just for Laughs festival. At the event, media members, myself included, were treated to a preview of the festival to come, and it looks to be a great one.

Wanda Sykes is coming to town to host a gala on July 26th, joining comedy stars Howie Mandel, Hasan Minhaj, and Jim Jeffries, who are all hosting their own galas. Trevor Noah is back to do a show, and festival staples like Brit-Ish and The Ethnic Show are back, with Jimmy Carr and Cristela Alonzo hosting.

The festival is also featuring rising stars like Malaysian comic Ronny Chieng, and American Nicole Byer. The Nasty Show, a festival favorite, is being hosted by comedian Bobby Lee this year.

Just for Laughs is a festival known to have launched the careers of Ali Wong, Amy Schumer, Kevin Hart, and Margaret Cho. Every year they offer an opportunity to new faces in comedy and this year is no exception. In addition to their regular New Faces series, this year will feature New Faces: Canada, featuring rising Canadian stars in comedy.

In addition to the regular fare, this year’s festival highlights the achievement of great women. Just for Laughs will feature Certain Woman of an Age, the critically-acclaimed autobiographical one-woman show by Canadian icon and international mental health advocate (and mother of our current Prime Minister) Margaret Trudeau. The show will have a three night run at the festival, from July 25th to 27th at Gesu.

The Second City Toronto is also bringing their show, She the People, to Just for Laughs, a sketch show created, written, designed, and performed by women, tackling everything from the patriarchy to the government.

This year also brings the return of the Zoofest/Off-JFL festival. Since its creation in 2009, this festival prides itself on giving more room to the next generation, allowing creators more freedom to do shows outside the traditional box of regular Just for Laughs fare. An added bonus is that tickets to these shows are generally cheaper too.

Artists this year include Ron Funches, Adam Conover from the hit College Humor series Adam Ruins Everything, Cameron Esposito, Sasheer Zamata, Andy Kindler, and the Lucas Brothers.

All that said, Just for Laughs 2019 looks like a blast. I’m going! Are you?

Tickets and info: hahaha.com

In light of the video going viral of Juliano Gray being brutally beaten by STM security at Villa Maria metro, the STM announced their plan to set up a committee to investigate complaints their security. As one of the witnesses to come forward about the Villa Maria incident, I have a unique perspective on their actions and I am here to share them.

A lot has happened since the incident on March 7, 2019. I’ve been on the news a few times, I’ve spoken to a city counselor, and I’ve had people point at me and say they saw me on the news. I’ve seen a copy of the STM’s report about the incident, forwarded to me by City Councilor Marvin Rotrand, and it reminded me of a quote from the comedian Groucho Marx:

“Who you gonna believe?! Me or your own eyes?!”

Though the report claims that they investigated the incident, not ONCE did the STM reach out to ask me about it, despite the fact that everyone from CTV to TVA somehow got my phone number. I am certain that the level of violence to which Mr. Gray was treated with had everything to do with his race.

In response to the notion that Gray was racially profiled, the STM’s report boasted of the ethnic diversity of their employees and the fact that they hardly get any complaints of racial profiling anymore, to which I say the following:

Having people of colour working for you does not mean that your white employees aren’t racist.

Montreal’s black community no longer bothers to file complaints of harassment and racial profiling by security with the STM anymore, because the STM almost always sides with their people. Instead, they tend to go directly to the Quebec Human Rights Commission, where they have a better chance of having their complaints taken seriously and treated fairly.

That said, the STM had better think REAL hard about how this committee will be set up, who it will be made up of, and who will be in charge of oversight.

If the STM is really determined to fix relations between their security and the public with this committee, the first act of good faith would be to ensure that they are NOT the ones in charge of overseeing it. If they are truly committed to showing that their security is there to help not harass, they need to make sure the committee is diverse. That means a committee that is made up of representatives of groups who feel they’ve been targeted in the past and is diverse in terms of ethnicities, faiths, ages, and genders.

It also means that the STM should not be paying the salaries of committee members, so members don’t feel that their paychecks are reliant on pleasing the STM. If they are truly committed to social justice, they need to make sure that the committee’s recommendations and decisions have teeth, so that any legitimate complaints against security result in actual suspensions and dismissals.

Many groups, including the Center for Research Action on Race Relations, a Montreal-based non-profit civil rights organization, have called for an external, independent complaints examination system to investigate complaints against STM security and they are right to do so. As long as the STM is handling complaints against their own people, there will never be justice for those harassed, assaulted, endangered or otherwise abused by their security.

Montreal police have informed me of what powers STM security guards actually have and the answer will shock you. They have as much police-like power as you or me, meaning that they can make a citizen’s arrest and detain anyone committing a crime.

The second the real cops arrive, they are legally bound to hand over the suspect. People have been highly critical of the STM’s demands to give their security more police-like powers, but at the same time people want STM security to be subject to the Code of Ethics of Quebec Police Officers.

Unfortunately, only those considered peace officers under the law can be held accountable under the Code, so we can either have STM security recognized as peace officers so they can be subject to the Code, or we can keep using other laws to hold them to account for their actions.

The STM is claiming that they are determined to improve relations between their people and the public.

I say: prove it.

Hand the establishment and oversight of this committee to people who will treat it as a real tool for social justice and not just as a pathetically meaningless PR move.

Luc Ferrandez, Borough Mayor of Plateau Mont-Royal since 2009, former interim leader of Projet Montréal and more recently the Executive Committee member responsible for Montreal’s large parks, is out. He announced that he is leaving politics in a Facebook post earlier today. He has already submitted his resignation and it goes into effect in June.

Frequently controversial and never afraid to say exactly what was on his mind, sometimes to a fault, his departure announcement was very on-brand:

He didn’t give a benign reason (spending time with his family, etc.) and then follow it up with a bunch of thank-yous to his colleagues like a typical politician would. Instead he attacked the Plante Administration’s environmental bona fides and then followed it up with a bunch of thank-yous to his colleagues in that same administration as only Luc Ferrandez would.

His Rationale

Basically,Ferrandez feels that the current city government isn’t doing all it can to protect the environment. He also feels that he is someone known for his commitment to protecting the environment. Therefore, as he explained, his continued presence in the administration maintained a “false image” that they were doing all they could.

For Ferrandez, all they could be doing is a pretty extensive list. It includes proposals Plateau residents might expect, like taxing all parking spaces, taxing all cars coming into downtown and increasing the size of green spaces. There are also proposed limits and taxes on petrol products coming through our port.

The most interesting part, though, is his plan to limit the height of buildings in certain areas, but increase the height of buildings near parks and Metro stations. Basically, it’s designed to limit the need for daily car travel, something that’s probably worth its own article, but not today.

A Double-Edged Sword for Plante

Now the focus is, has to be, on what his departure means for Mayor Valérie Plante and Projet Montréal. The next municipal election is still two years away, but running without Ferrandez on the ballot will definitely be a factor.

On one hand, this may help Plante city-wide. Last election, incumbent Mayor Denis Coderre made “in a Plante-Ferrandez administration” his go-to snide remark in debates, knowing that the Plateau Mayor’s reputation, bolstered by local corporate media, was something that could hurt his opponent in parts of the city that were markedly different than the Plateau.

In the Plateau, though, Plante’s party loses someone who was re-elected, along with his entire team of councillors, twice, each time a landslide victory. Replacing him won’t be the easiest task, and it’s one that Projet needs to accomplish soon, because when his resignation takes effect in June, they have a 120 day by-election campaign to retain control of the borough that has been at the core of the party for a decade.

Featured Image via Facebook

For the 550 some-odd people who made their way downtown to Hotel Bonaventure last Sunday, there was no place they would rather be. Montreal’s first Cat Expo in here, and with special guest television star Jackson “Cat Daddy” Galaxy in town, the excitement is palpable.

The Cat Expo is the first of its kind in Montreal. Sponsored by Mondou and presented by Humane Canada and the Montreal SPCA, the unique exhibition brings together local and international humanitarian organizations, artists and vendors. Guaranteeing an evening of educational and entertaining activities, freebies and talks, the Cat Expo has it all. From adorable, adoptable kitties to a DIY catnip station, the Cat Expo has all of our cat needs covered.

I wish I had a cat, I really do, but a university lifestyle and two hesitant roommates means I may have to wait awhile. But I’m excited nonetheless – I’ve grown up with cats my whole life and love to cuddle with my childhood BFFS (best feline friends) whenever I stop by mom’s house for dinner and laundry. The Cat Expo marks an important day for me, too – I may have to pull myself back from making an impulsive decision (i.e.; rehoming one of the kittens the SPCA is bringing for adopting), but, alas. The things we do for passion.

I make my way into the exposition hall just as the vendors are preparing for the influx of people. Big, silver balloons at the back of the hall spell out the words “MEOW” and “CAT EXPO”. A charicature artist – who draws humans with cat features – sets up her station near the stage, where the events special guest is to perform later on in the evening. After scouting the room, I sit down to speak with Daniel Filion, founder of Educhateur (or Cateducator in English).

From peeing outside the litter box to excess nightly meowing, Educhateur is a local company that provides solutions for problems in cat behaviour. With a team of over 15 people at its Montreal location, the organization provides interventions for all types of feline behavioural issues. They’ll come to your house, come to meet your furry baby, and work with you and your household to figure out how to adapt your behaviour and your conditions to meet the cat’s needs. Whatever the problem may be, Phillion’s got a solution – but you’ve got to be willing to compromise.

He’s got a charismatic energy, a natural entertainer who is eager to share with me his knowledge and passion. “We believe in a day where a vast majority of people will understand their cats and their needs to live in harmony with them,” he says.

Phillion works hand in hand with local veterinarians, explaining that many feline behavioural problems often have some undiagnosed medical issue. He started the company by himself in 2007, after finding that there was an extreme lack of specialists in the industry in Quebec.

The first thing he did was to go see Diane Frank, the head of Universite de Montreal’s veterinary department. “There’s no school, there’s nothing that exists. It’s a very new profession,” he explains. “I asked her, what can I do to help? Cause there were only two cat behaviourlists at that time.”

While animal behaviourists have been around for more than a few decades, Phillion addresses a important issue – we simply don’t know cats, or at least not as well as we should. “Even though [cats are] the most popular domestic animal in the world, people just don’t know what they need, don’t know how they are working. We need to inform people on this and we’re going to get better and better.”

Next I stop by the Paw Project, who have been advocating against declawing for close to 20 years. Members of the Paw Project have been fighting legislation from state to state in the United States, and members have even been the cause of Canadian legislation banning the practice here. I had the honour of meeting the organizations founder, Dr. Jennifer Conrad herself.

The declawing of a cat is more than just removal of the nails, it includes complete amputation of the last joint. Declawing may result in arthritis and other permanent disability and can thus become the cause of bad behaviour in cats. A declawed cat may refuse to use a litter box because of post-surgical pain, and with her primary defence taken away – her nails – she may even begin to bite, along with other aggressive behaviours. Declawing has already been banned in the UK and over twenty other countries in the world, but is still legal in many states and provinces in North America.

“[In] Nova Scotia and for Atlantic Canada, it’s illegal. A Paw Project director did that,” she tells me. “In BC and Alberta, the veterinarians have now voted to ban declawing, and that is because we have provided them with the information, and BCSPCA pushed because they’re like, look at all of this information.” Her efforts have even gone as far as VCA Canada, largest chain of veterinary hospitals in Canada. All 110 hospitals have stopped the practice of declawing.

She hands me a DVD from a stack – the 2013 film The Paw Project starring the Dr. Herself. This documentary follows Dr. Conrad in her campaign to ban declawing all around California and the rest of the United States.

“It started because I was repairing the claws on big cats,” she explains. “The policy has to change, or else you’re going to sit there and try to do individual after individual. And if the policy were changed, then you protect a whole population. That’s why it became a question of policy.”

I leave with a small pin that says “arretons le degriffage!” and dutifully attach it to my jacket. Feeling humbled by our conversation, I make my way back around to snap a few pics of the expo space.

In terms of vendors, there is everything from new cat technology (a cat-sized running wheel and a self-cleaning litter box are among some of my favorites) to local cat artists selling mugs with cute, cat-inspired designs. Mookie and Lulu Designs specializes in hand-made cat tipis, made “with love” and inspired by the founders own cats, who are named – surprise – Mookie and Lulu.

Inspired by her late cat, co-founder and creative Mya specializes in ‘cat tipis’, where a cat can spend her time grooming and chillaxing under the home-made canvas.

I asked her what inspired her most about her cats. “The love. Oh, the love,” she tells me, her eyes welling with tears. She is, admittedly, very happy to be here. “Oh my god, my life would be so empty [without them].”

Catorday is another favorite of the evening – designs include a cat in a Habs shirt skating down the rink, and the infamous We Can Do It poster, superimposed with the words “We Cat Do It”.

As seven o’clock rolls around, people begin taking their seats. The guest speaker is about to begin, and he is not to be missed. Flying in from Los Angeles for his very first time in Canada, Jackson Galaxy has been taming cats for over a decade.

His show My Cat From Hell, which just closed its 10th season, follows Galaxy as he tours around America to heal both cat and owner with his unmistakable empathy and talent. Loveable and quirky and definitely unique, Galaxy is the main reason many are here tonight.

Galaxy takes his audience on a ride, combining fact with humour and a lively and warm energy. It is not hard to understand how the man holds such power over cats.

His audience is entirely captivated, holding onto his every word. He delivers calmly, devotedly sharing advice on how to cat-proof your home, when to give treats and how to deal with even the unruliest of cats. I take notes to share with my friends.

The only room at the exhibition hall to feature actual, live cats is an adoption room set up by the SPCA. The room has been packed with people all night, but what else would you expect at a cat expo? While I wait my turn to get a glimpse at the sweet furry babies, I engage in a conversation with a member of the SPCA’ Trap-Neuter-Release-Maintain program.

Not actually at the Expo, just good to have an actual pic of a cat

To my own surprise, I learn that the Montreal SPCA offers a street cat sterilization clinic that is open all over the island. Aiming to keep the number of street cats down, the SPCA has inaugurated a system that involves trapping, sterilizing, vaccinating and deworming adult cats before either adopting them out to a new forever home, or releasing them back onto the streets if they are too aggressive or wild. Since its inauguration in 2010, the TNRM program has sterilized nearly 7000 street cats, contributing to lower levels of kitten homelessness.

The program works with the help of citizens like us, the representative tells me. A quick phone call to the programs’ lead department will provide you with more information on how to get started in your own community.

I stop by the adoptable kittens again, trying not to poke my fingers through their cages to stroke their soft, soft skin. Through a chorus of coos, caws and meows, I manage to snap a few pics of the little poofs and wish them luck in their search for a forever home, though I know I’d make a better cat mom than anyone there. Obviously.

As the night comes to a close, I do my rounds and thank all of the vendors. The Mondou booth hands me a free catnip plant, and I stuff a few packs of Temptations in my back pocket for my friends cats – I’ll be the fairy catmother this week, blessing friends with all the free treats and cat toys. I feel complete, equipped with a mind full of knowledge and an intense urge to fight for animal advocacy.

There’s nothing more I want to do now than snuggle in bed with a cat on my legs, forcing me to keep as still as humanly possible. Maybe I’ll visit my mom more often, or offer to catsit for my friend on her monthly trips to Toronto, or even consider fostering a cat with the SPCA.

I would call this edition of Montreal’s Cat Expo a success. A purr-fect balance of inspiration, passion and activism, the Cat Expo has so, so much to offer.

I would recommend this event to every and any cat lover and to anybody interested and invested in animal rights activism. This event has been so very long-awaited by so many people, and now that it’s’ here, I am paw-sitive it is only going to get better and better.

The only thing we can do is hope for a better future – for our cats and us, their human counterparts. Here’s to many more like one, and for a fur-midable first in-cat-ation.

All photos by Bree Rockbrand