Meet Josh Freed.
To say he is an energizer bunny of creativity is an understatement.
Consider these endeavours of his – award winning newspaper columnist, author of seven books, one leading to a classic movie.
And there are more, lots more.
Josh also is an award-winning Montreal-based filmmaker, journalist, author and playwright.
How does he do it – this one person bundle of endless energy and new ventures?
“I’m always inspired by the same thing: trying to take day-to-day life and write something inventive, and if possible humorous to give readers a different take on it. I like to make people smile, laugh and if possible, think.”
His attitude and endeavours have won him accolades galore.
His long-time column (more than 1,400) of 30 years – also syndicated – in the Montreal Gazette newspaper won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour and two National Newspaper Awards, as Canada’s best columnist.
A friend and former colleague of Freed’s – he prefers his name not be used – says this about the column
“Readers of the Gazette look forward to his weekly columns which range from the construction insanity in Montreal, a favorite of his, to technophobia, to Quebec politics. He captures the Zeitgeist
“He captures the Zeitgeist of boomers who went through the referendums and the technological innovations. Our frustrations with trying to reach any company on the phone with their dial 1 for, now if this call is about dial 1, if this call is about.. dial 2, to cookies on websites, and then to traffic cones everywhere, and a new legislation on language laws.”
And Covid-19 has not escaped Freed’s wry, comedic, ironic, perspective. He has written book – Postcards from Pandemica.
The book is a collection of his Montreal Gazette columns on the subject – adding another skill to his vast repertoire – recycling.
In 1983 Freed wrote an Anglos guide to survival in Quebec, coining the phrase, Neverendum Referendum.
Many Montreal Anglos have felt like second class citizens since the 70’s and he voices their angst, the friend says.
Freed’s talent lies in often writing about the absurdities of modern life.
Here is excerpt from a Freed column that is about shopping under the headline:
Why can’t we go back to the days when shopping was easy.
“In Days of Yore Before The Internet, you went to a nearby store where a fast-talking salesman escorted you around, blabbing about different products for 45 minutes.
“Eventually, he shoved a model at you that was “a deal” and “a steal” if you bought it there and then, cash “on the barrel.” You said “yes” because who knew where to get a better deal, without visiting 10 more stores?”
But all of that has changed with on-line shopping.
“Let’s say you want a shower head. Do you want the best inexpensive budget shower head, the best premium luxury shower head, or the best premium budget luxury one? Each will have its own separate ratings for every last element, including whether the product is scent free, soap free, gluten free, fat free, animal free and vegetable free, as well as whether the parts come from China, and are durable, usable, unlosable and reusable.”
He has written seven books, one of which Moonwebs, resulted in the movie, the United Artists Classics film,Ticket to Heaven.
The late Movie Critic Roger Ebert said this about Ticket to Heaven.
“Ticket To Heaven is about a young man who enters the all-encompassing world of a religious cult. What makes the movie absolutely spellbinding is that it shows us not only how he is recruited into the group, but how anyone could be indoctrinated into one of the many cults in America today. This is a movie that has done its research, and it is made with such artistry that we share the experience of the young man. “
Josh also is an award-winning documentary filmmaker. They run the gamut from being an insomniac to China’s sexual revolution.
He has made more than 25 films for the CBC – broadcast in more than 50 countries.
Late last year his latest comic play – The Four Anglos of the Covidapocalypse premiered to sold out audiences.
In 2019, he won Quebec’s Victor Goldbloom Distinguished Community Service Award – largely for making people laugh.
His documentary films have been seen on CTV and CBC in Canada, on PBS, A&E and The Disney Channel in the U.S., Channel 4 in the UK, and in 50 other countries.
He has a knack for turning almost anything into something fascinating and interesting.
Josh is a self-professed office slob.
So instead of lamenting it he creates a whimsical documentary about being an office slob.
My Messy Life – got rave reviews and ran on the CTV television network.
His inspirations are derived from a guiding principle.
“I’m always inspired by the same thing: trying to take day-to-day life and write something inventive, and if possible humorous to give readers a different take on it. I like to make people smile, laugh and if possible, think.
“I spend a lot of time on what I write, it forces me to think about whatever the subject is, often more than I have before.
“My life philosophy hasn’t changed much over the years: do your best to make everyone you deal with feel a little bit better than they did before encountering you, whether in print or on the street.”
Readership for his Montreal Gazette column soared in Quebec during the 1995 referendum and again during Covid – though this time his readership has increased in large numbers from elsewhere in Canada and the world.
Proving the point – humour matters.
“Our COVID anxieties are universal, and I think laughter is about the only other infectious thing that can counter pandemic infection in these otherwise difficult times.
“I get a lot of positive feedback from people who feel better after reading me, which makes me feel better too.”
Freed does get away from writing and producing.
“My main hobby during COVID has been cycling. I biked pretty much every day last winter as there wasn’t much else you were allowed to do. I think of it as cyclotherapy.”
He also plays tennis several times a week, reads a fair amount “and drinks a bit more than I should, if that counts as a hobby.”
“But writing takes up the bulk of my time. I rarely have a day when I don’t write something. It’s a compulsion.”
He loves travelling – having visited more than 80 countries for work or pleasure. “That’s probably what I missed most during Covid when as one friend says: ‘Our travel suitcases were forced to see therapists’.”
He loves his hometown – Montreal.
“Montreal has always suited me well, as it’s a city whose chaos, anarchy and craziness fit me like a warm winter glove. I worked several years hosting short docs at CBC’s “The Journal” when I spent way more time In Toronto than Montreal – but I always missed my city.”
He spent a year in Los Angeles – working on a film, his wife attending a school then.
“But the city was too laid back and too much of a hustle for me. Also, the weather was too good – life requires some clouds so you can appreciate the sunshine.”
“I’m an extrovert and a rational optimist: I look at things critically, but believe they’ll generally work out … eventually. I do my best to spread that philosophy around, particularly in rough times when pessimism prevails.”
Well said, a life well executed, Josh.
And at age 73 the Energizer Bunny still keeps ticking away.
Every Wednesday, veteran journalist, George Froehlich, gets personal – sharing with you, his amazing travel destinations, his wonderful recipes, art he loves, music he enjoys.
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