Saturday 14 May 2011

The great Russell Peters headlines Just For Laughs

I attended last week's Just For Laughs Festival press conference, at which time the 2011 summer lineup was announced. The highlight for me was meeting Canadian superstar of comedy Russell Peters (left), whom I loved watching in the motion picture Source Code.

With big names and new themed galas, this summer’s Just For Laughs Festival presented by Videotron in association with Loto-Québec has the shows you need, the stars you love and the hot topics you can’t get enough of. Our Festival’s 29th edition has matured and evolved into a completely different event, complete with a bevy of brand-new shows to launch, so a typical press conference just couldn’t cut it this year. Last week, for the first time ever, fans joined the media at HaHaHa U, a one-shot comedy tutorial to share everything in store for this summer’s Festival.


To accommodate their new special event Videotron Just For Laughs Galas, they have moved from the St. Denis Theatre to a new home at the illustrious Salle Wilfrid-Pelletier in Place des Arts. They have also extended anglophone programming to span from July 11 to 31, so comedy fans will have more time than ever to experience the vast array of Festival shows.


To launch their new home with a bang, they asked one of the biggest comedy stars in the world, Russell Peters, to host an inaugural Videotron Just For Laughs Gala at Place des Arts. Thought he couldn’t outdo himself after selling out the Bell Centre at theFestival in 2009 Russell Peters: Best Night Ever, Just For Laughs takes a break and outsources the Gala talent booking to none other than Russell himself. When you’re as big as Russell, not only do you get to host a Gala, but you also get to cherry-pick your favourite comics and friends to share the stage with you for a guaranteed epic time. It’s his Best Night Ever and ours too. (For broadcast on the CBC.)

For much more details log on to your local Suburban.

Chomedey native Lieberman hits it big at Sun News Network

As the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors, television reporter Caryn Lieberman has always wanted to do that little extra to sensitize the public about the horrors of what the Nazis did. So when she was hired recently by the newly established Sun News Network one of the first things she asked her new superiors about was whether she could voluntary continue a special project she had started while at CP24, CTV’s all-news channel in Toronto.

SNN is now being streamed live on the internet for folks like me who do not get it on local cable.

“For the past four years I have taken the opportunity during Holocaust Education Week in November to do a program by interviewing survivors and allowing them to tell their stories,” said Lieberman, who won the 2010 Adrienne Clarkson Award for Diversity for her latest one hour special on CP24. “I am looking forward to bringing this to Sun TV.”

Sun TV officially hit the airwaves in late April as Canada’s third English-language national all-news channel. The ravishing 30 year old Lieberman is the weekend anchor. During the weekdays she will serve as a news reporter covering stories of national and international interest. Lieberman has provided live coverage of major breaking news stories from Toronto, Montreal and Quebec City for Global Television and CTV News. She began her journalism career in Montreal in 2000 after graduating cum laude from Concordia University, specializing in journalism and communication studies. She left Global without any specific job prospects, intent upon finding work in the media capital of Canada. After knocking on the door of CTV she got a lucky break and was hired as a writer. She returned to the air with CP24, where she was quite happy.

“I applied for a job at Sun TV some time ago and did not hear anything,” Lieberman recalled. “Then one day I was called for an interview by a panel of four people. Three months passed until they got back to me and made an offer. I had never anchored before, so that was a pleasant surprise. I am really enjoying the whole experience.”

Lieberman, who attended the United Talmud Torahs and Herzliah Jewish day schools is married to online marketing researcher Brian Lafleche. Regarding SUN TV. Lieberman notes how “everything I imagined became a reality here with a different take on traditional news coverage that people will welcome with open arms. On the weekends we will be injecting a combination of flavour, fun, and fact into our coverage with human interest and political stories that affect people.”

Coach Sergio Momesso? Pi Athlete Management plucks former Hab

Making waves in Boston, Massachusetts recently was Montreal’s Pi Athlete Management, a sports management firm which is sure to become a future heavyweight in the sports industry. Appearing in their first Pre-Draft Showcase, one of North America’s premiere hockey tournaments, Pi Athlete Management was able to take advantage of the coaching prowess of former Stanley Cup Champion and current colour commentator for CJAD 800 Sergio Momesso.

Momesso, who was in Boston for the weekend to watch his son Stefano (pictured with the "C" on his jersey) lace up for the Pi Athlete Management club, stepped behind the bench for the team’s first game to offer his guidance and help them get over any pre-game jitters. Momesso, along with head coach Jon Silver, helped the team skate to a 2-2 tie against the Skyland Selects of New Jersey. For more information on Pi Athlete Management, check out their website, follow them on Twitter at @piathlete or on Facebook,

Everklian gains high marks

Agop Everklian is one classy guy. The defeated Tory candidate in Pierrefonds–Dollard still arranged for Federal Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism Jason Kenney to attend last week’s gigantic Israel Independence Day Rally downtown. Everklian was Kenney’s chief of staff, before he stepped down to work full-time on his campaign. He was considered a good bet to defeat incumbent Liberal Bernard Patry, but ended up getting caught in the surprise NDP orange wave and virtual unknown candidate Lysanne Blanchette-Lamothe.

“Like most of us the NDP tide was a surprise in Pierrefonds-Dollard because I was sure West-Islanders would want to be represented with a strong voice in Ottawa in a strong majority government,” he said. “But I guess they're no different here from the rest of Quebec. The results here were at least respectable. After 19 months of ground work we didn't have a crushing results, especially by an NDP candidate who only campaigned two week-ends out of the whole 37 days."

Friday 13 May 2011

TV Update: Orchard is back; Arbec heads to CBC

This is indeed a big week in Montreal English language television circles when it comes to the evening news anchors and it involves all three stations: Global, CTV and CBC.

The folks at Global TV are all smiles as the wonderful Jamie Orchard gets set to return to her post as senior news anchor/news editor of the evening news on Monday, May 16. She is coming back from maternity leave after giving birth to her second son, Liam. I co-hosted a school board gala honouring our volunteers a few weeks ago and Jamie looked just grand.

There is also a great vive at CBC TV with the news that Debra Arbec is leaving CTV Montreal News, where she anchored late night and did a superb special “My Montreal” feature, to take over from Jennifer Hall as Andrew Chang’s co-anchor. Arbec starts in early July after Hall and her family head back to their native land of London, Ontario.

How will CTV Montreal replace Arbec? While Paul Karwatsky has been anchoring late nights this week, his weekend co-anchor Tara Schwartz could get the gig. Reporter Aphrodite Salas filled in for Orchard at Global during her first maternity leave. Check out the great Fagstein blog for more on Arbec’s move.

Mom’s The Word

Global news director Karen MacDonald has found a novel way to welcome Jamie back with a new series on working moms, which kicks off on May 13 (6 p.m.). It is of course repeated at 11 a.m. and accessible online at Mom’s the Word is the title and focuses on ladies heading back to work after maternity leave, having trouble finding a day care and struggling to juggle career and family.

The six distinct features will be reported by Anne Leclair, a mother of three herself. You’ll hear from a single mom sacrificing it all for her kids, watch maternity moms get back into shape, and hear how successful career mom/blogger Erica Diamond inspires mothers to “get off the fence” and follow their dreams. Plus, after each episode, you can share your thoughts with other working moms on Global Montreal's Facebook page.

On Thursday, May 19 at 8 p.m., you can connect with many of these successful working moms, including Diamond and Leclair in a LIVE BLOG. Jamie Orchard’s Return “Trying to balance work and motherhood—I could tell you a few stories,” Orchard said. “In this series, we talk to other working moms to see how they’re coping.”

Although Orchard has enjoyed her time with sons Liam and Luc, she is eager to return to the newsroom. “Newsrooms are very special places to work at – a bunch of adrenaline junkies grouped together, challenging each other to cover our local Montreal scene better than anyone else – that’s addictive,” says Orchard. “It’s an insanely fun place to work and I really like the people I work with, so I’m excited to get back into it.”

The Evening News with Jamie as anchor has received Best Newscast and Best Breaking News awards from the Radio/Television News Director’s Association in the past five years. Born and raised in Montreal, Orchard is an active supporter of her community, and has been a board member of the Generations Foundation, the Missing Children’s Network and the Action Centre, a day centre for Montrealers with disabilities. In 2004, Orchard was named one of Montreal`s most remarkable women by the Board of Trade of Montreal, she was a finalist in the YWCA Women of merit gala in 2007, and in 2008 she won the Izzy Asper Community Service Award for her work with The Action Centre.

Debra Arbec’s New Role

Arbec (pictured below with some students from Merton Elementary School) will jointly host local CBC newscasts at 5 p.m., 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. alongside Chang and weather specialist Frank Cavallaro. This was a sharp move by CBC. Cavallaro already brought over a lot of credibility and viewers to the station when he signed on a few years ago. "We pride ourselves on delivering the best local coverage from a team of journalists who understand Montreal issues," Pia Marquard, managing director for CBC Quebec. "Debra is definitely one of those journalists so we are delighted to have her join the CBC Montreal News team."

Born in Montreal and a graduate of Concordia's Journalism Department, Arbec also worked at CJAD, Mix 96 and The Weather Network. Throughout her career, she has received several journalism awards including the RTNDA Dan MacArthur Award for a special report on teen gambling. Most recently, she was a Canadian Association of Broadcasters Gold Ribbon finalist for her "My Montreal" reports on culture and traditions of multi-ethnic Montreal.

"I love this city and telling stories about our culture and the people who live here," said Arbec, whose husband Brian Wilde is a CTV sporstcaster. "I'm thrilled to join the CBC News team, so widely respected for its in-depth journalism and original reporting."

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Andy Nulman's inside scoop on Howie Mandel

While comic Howie Mandel (left) has performed in Montreal many times, he will be back here Wed. May 18 (7:30 p.m.) at the Centre Mont-Royal (2200 Mansfield) with a much different purpose in a benefit for AMI-Québec Action on Mental Illness. There is probably nobody in Montreal who knows Mandel better than Andy Nulman, the head of the Just For Laughs Festival.

Andy and I go way back to when we worked together at the former Sunday Express Newspaper, where he was the entertainment editor. He soon moved on to promoting events and as I recalled in a conversation with me the other day, Toronto native Mandel became one of his clients. “The first time Howie performed in Montreal was in 1983,” Nulman said. “ He was 23 years old at the time. I had actually met him three years earlier when I was working for the Sunday Express. I ended up meeting my wife Lynn via Howie. She was dating his brother Steve. I showed up to meet Howie, saw this cute girl. Steve went back to Toronto, I asked Lynn out on a date and well, we ended up getting married.”

While on a trip to Los Angeles in 1979, Mandel made a big splash on amateur night at the Comedy Store. Soon the neophyte funnyman was booking professional gigs both on stage and TV. In 1982 he was cast in a dramatic role on NBC's St. Elsewhere, and during the series' six seasons, he made a number of TV comedy specials and branched out onto the big screen in a string of comedies, including The Funny Farm and A Fine Mess. In the 1990s Mandel signed on to a variety of short-lived TV projects including a sitcom (Good Grief) and an eponymous daytime talk show, but it was his Emmy-nominated animated series Bobby's World, which ran for eight seasons, that had the most success.

Mandel also kept busy with live performances and regular talk-show appearances, including frequent hidden-camera segments on the Tonight Show With Jay Leno, but didn't take center stage again until 2005 when he became the host of NBC's Deal or No Deal. The wildly popular game show led to triple hosting duties for Mandel, who took the helm of the Canadian and syndicated versions as well. In late 2009, he released Here's the Deal: Don't Touch Me, a memoir detailing his struggles with OCD and ADHD and how each has affected his career. A few months later, NBC announced that Mandel would take over David Hasselhoff's judging seat on the summer series America's Got Talent.

Off screen, Mandel plays the role of husband and father with his wife, Terry, and their three kids in Los Angeles. Nulman calls Mandel a role model for anyone dealing with mental illness. “Many say that mental illness is like a death sentence,” he says. “Yet here is a guy who has enjoyed success time and time again, despite dealing with a very serious problem.”

When Andy and Lynn (pictured) were asked to organize a fundraiser for AMI-Quebec they wanted to come up with an idea whereby the audience would have an entertaining evening, yet learn something about the issue at hand as well. Nulman called in a favor and asked Mandel if he would perform. “He is doing us a massive favor by coming to Montreal,” Nulman says. I asked Nulman whether he has ever shaken Mandel’s hand. “Yes I have,” he responded. “I also got kicked out of a room by him for sneezing. The fact is OCD and ADHD are mental illnesses. It is incredibly cruel to make fun of that. It is like asking a blind man if you can trip him or asking someone with a limp if they’d liked to go for a jog. What we want to do with this evening on May 18 is destigmatize mental illness.”

The format for the evening will be a question and answer format, with noted French language television journalist Stefan Bureau interviewing Mandel. Nulman said that this will be a very interesting format for those on hand. Mandel has in fact done it before at other venues. AMI-Québec is a non-profit, registered Canadian charity located in Montreal. Its mission is to help families manage the impact of mental illness through support, education, guidance and advocacy.

By promoting understanding in communities at large, AMI works to dispel the stigma still surrounding mental illness. Family caregivers need help in many ways to provide their ill relative with effective care giving and to protect their own well-being. AMI-Québec unites families with similar problems, allowing them to share their concerns and take comfort in mutual support.Tickets for the event are $300 (with an invitation to a pre-show cocktail) and $175 (general admission). To purchase seats contact AMI-Quebec at 514- 486-1448, or log on to

A closeup look at Montreal-bound Shawn Desman

When Canadian R&B and pop sensation Shawn Desman hits the stage of The Telus Theatre (1290 Rue St. Denis ) on Saturday evening May 28, his mere presence will help the Just for Kids Foundation (JFK) continues its fabulous work of buying much needed equipment for the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Desman is part of reFresh 2011, presented by FRESH Entertainment and Garage.

The audience will consist entirely of teens. Desman, an accomplished dancer, producer, songwriter and singer of hits such as Electric,” “Shiver and “Night Like This” will be the main attraction of the event.

His 45-minute concert is expected to excite a sellout crowd of 1,200 teen party goers. The Juno award winning artist, who has both platinum and gold albums to his name, will take the stage after the opening act of up and coming R&B singer Patrick Christopher. From the moment he released his self titled debut platinum-selling album in the fall of 2002, Desman has enjoyed phenomenal success in the music industry. His album spent an incredible 49 weeks on the SoundScan Top 200 sales chart and produced two Top 10 singles and two number one videos. He instantly proved he was about to become a superstar entertainer worthy of all the critical acclaim and destined to be at the forefront of the global music stage.

Desman’s visibility then soared to even greater heights after the subsequent release of his sophomore gold-selling album “Back for More” which produced a #1 hit single, three Top 10 hit singles, and also garnered him a Juno Award for Best R&B/Soul Recording. Desman’s hit single “Spread My Wings” was featured in the film “Kangaroo Jack” and appeared on the soundtrack. Desman has also worked with acclaimed producers Rodney Jerkins (Michael Jackson, Destiny’s Child, and Whitney Houston) and Tricky Stewart (Beyonce, Rihanna, and Mary J Blige) His high-energy, infectious single, “Let’s Go,” exploded onto the Top 40 radio chart after just one week, peaking at number one. His extensive tour schedules, both in Canada and abroad, showcased him as a dynamic and energetic performer and received extensive praise from international fans. It was these stellar live shows, coupled with the awards and album sales, which further bolstered Desman’s successful debut and international growth.

The release of “Back for More” in Europe resulted in Desman moving to Germany for a short time as the singles flew up the international charts. Despite the frenetic pace of his own career, Desman, has collaborated with other artists and producers to continue to explore the possibilities of music. He has co-written and co-produced three consecutive Juno Award winning albums in the Best R&B/Soul category. His passion for music continues to have him write and produce for artists and labels around the world. Desman continues to have a very successful acting career including roles in Paramount MTV”s feature film “How She Move,” “Honey” starring Jessica Alba and “Get Over It” featuring Carmen Electra. Having spent most of his life working diligently as a world renowned entertainer and performer, Desman continues to strive to leave an indelible mark on the human experience.

FRESH Entertainment’s Mike Goldfarb snagged a pretty impressive main sponsor in Garage, the Montreal based brand that creates, designs, markets and distributes young women’s fashion apparel to its boutiques across Canada, in the U.S and in parts of the Middle East. Party goers will be able to win prizes at the event that range from t-shirts and other apparel to gift cards. “Garage recognizes and embraces the need to stay on trend both from the fashion and recreational perspective with our market,” says marketing manager, Melissa Bissell, “We continually interact with our customers in non-traditional forms and feel that ‘reFRESH’ is an excellent way to reach our target audience for a great cause.”

FRESH Entertainment is a Montreal-based entertainment company that was launched in 2009. Despite emerging on the scene as a DJ company, in 2011, the brand repositioned itself as a full-fledged events agency offering turnkey management and an exclusive roster of specialty performers for corporate and private functions. Since 2009, Fresh Entertainment has launched several parties similar to ‘reFRESH’ with the same successful recipe of an inter-high school party that gives back to a good cause. “These events can attract up to 1,200 teens,” says Goldfarb, founder and president of FRESH Entertainment. “The first event we launched garnered so much attention that it inspired us to develop an entire series of events geared specifically to stimulation-seeking teens. We always make it our mandate to collaborate with a charity organization. We feel it is our duty as role models to educate teens to give back and be more socially active."

This time, the charity of choice is the "Just for Kids" Foundation (JFK) which raises funds to purchase new, high-priority equipment for The Montreal Children's Hospital (MCH). This equipment becomes a vital part of The MCH's everyday operations, as it helps diagnose and treat its young and vulnerable patients. This new equipment is state-of-the-art and provides less invasive and often lifesaving-procedures. “Teens have the opportunity to party with friends, meet new people, and get up close and personal with Shawn Desman in a safe atmosphere that is alcohol and drug free, while supporting a cause that is close to home,” says Goldfarb. Living in a generation widely dominated by social-media, students spanning across and off the island of Montreal are promoting the ticket sales of the event on Facebook. This gives them a sense of entitlement, responsibility and excitement towards achieving a successful turnout and guarantees that the event reaches its target audience. With incentives for the highest number of tickets sold, the buzz on Facebook is tremendous.

Tickets are $20 and went on sale May 9 at the Telus Theatre box office and through all Admission outlets: online at or by telephone (514) 790-1245, or by contacting one of the student promoters. The complete list of student promoters is available on the official FRESH Facebook events page (