Friday, June 10, 2016

"Faulty Labeling"

It is not unusual for purveyors of public lectures and conversations to misrepresent the content of those events in order to hype ticket sales.

“Aliens from Outer Space – Real or Imagined?”

You show up, and it’s “Imagined.”

It happens.  It’s wrong… but it happens.  And when it does, you can bet this intrepid reporter will be dutifully “on the case”, for I am nothing if not passionate about exposing issues that in the final analysis make no difference whatsoever.

It’s my “calling” and I do it.


I am reading a short piece in The New Yorker, chronicling Eugene Levy (born in Hamilton, Ontario) and Catherine O’Hara’s (born in Toronto) visit to New York City’s 92nd Street Y, where they will participate in a conversation – for which tickets were sold – considering the topic:

“Why Are Canadians Funny?”

My answer to which, which is one though hardly the only reason I was excluded from the conversation, is…

They’re not.

Hold your horses, Canadians.   Before you don hoods and burn a maple leaf on my front lawn, take a gander at who was selected to represent “Canadians” – two hilarious performers, raised in Canada.  But what else do they both have in common?

They left Canada. 

(To pursue fame and fortune, although Eugene Levy, who does a Canadian sitcom with his son, lives in Toronto.) 

Although its promotional banner may read, “Why Are Canadians Funny?”, the 92nd Street Y is in no way talking about “Canadians” in general.  They did not fly up and select some Canadian walking down the street and ask them, “Why are you funny?”, the reaction to which would most likely have been, “Buzz of, eh?”

What they are talking about is a slivery sub-section of Canadians, a more honest and accurate title for their gathering being,

“Why Canadians Who Left Canada And Therefore We Know Who They Are In
Contrast To Canadians We Have Never Met And Therefore Have No Clue Whatsoever Concerning Their Senses of Humor Are So Guldarn Funny?”   

They decided on the other title.  Athough mine is more demonstrably “to the point”.

Once you had them there, however, arguably, at least from the paying audience standpoint, under false pretenses, I would, had I been moderating the conversation, veered rapidly away from the mislabeled “Why Are Canadians Funny?” to a question that has always intrigued me; to wit,

“Why do Canadian comedians perform “in character”, while American comedians face the audience as themselves?”

You ever notice that?  Think about it.  (As I have, to minimum avail.)

Eugene Levy, Catherine O’Hara, John Candy, Martin Short, Mike Meyers, Dave Thomas, Rick Moranis…


Lenny Bruce, Woody Allen, Joan Rivers, Jackie Mason, Richard Pryor, Lewis Black, Chris Rock...

All are talented comedians.  But the first list – all Canadians – appear as characters – “Ed Grimley”,  “Johnny La Rue”, “The McKenzie Brothers”….

… while the members of the second list – all Americans – come out and say, “Good evening, ladies and gentlemen.  This is me, and here is exactly what I think.”

It’s interesting, isn’t it?  We know what Lewis Black thinks about everything.  But we do not, at least conveyed by his performance, know Eugene Levy’s opinion about anything.

Maybe it’s not unusual.  Perhaps, upon further study, every country is funny in its nationalistical way.

“We channel all our humor through marionettes.”

“Our ‘Medium of Comedic Expression’ is cuckoo clocks.”

Every country unique, its style of comedy saying something revelatory about its culture.

I think Canadians were given the message – repeatedly and from many directions – not to “show off.”  I know I did.  But, you know, you want be funny, so you find and acceptable cultural “loophole”.

“That’s not me, Ma.  That’s ‘Charlie Farquharson’.”

That’s a Canadian “character”, conceived by Canadian comedian Don Harron.  Comedian Dave Broadfoot performed as a “Mountie”.  My own brother faced the cameras as “The Canadian Beaver.”

I have no idea about today.  But the Canadian comedians of the past…

Always in character. 

Never themselves.

Me?  I like presenting myself as myself.  But, unable to escape my conditioning, I developed my own brand of “Canadian-style” entertaining.

At a distance. 

And on paper.

(NOTE:  I did not at any point assert that Canadians are not funny.  If you think I did, read this again.)

1 comment:

CCroom said...

Could it be that Canadians are just so darn polite? Comedy might offend someone, but, if you do it in character, you, the person don't run the risk of drawing the ire of the audience. Many of the Americans you listed have gone out of their way to offend someone. But who doesn't love Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short and the rest.