Tuesday, January 6, 2009

"Why I Love Canada"

Sometimes, they make movies where, primarily for budgetary reasons, Toronto stands in for New York. In order to simulate the gritty New York ambience, the set decorators find it necessary to “dirty up” the “location.” The more pristine Toronto street is meticulously “re-dressed”, adding overflowing trashcans, discarded newspapers, random dog poop. Dirt and detritus everywhere, trying to make Toronto look authentically “New York.”

One day, the cast and crew “broke” for lunch.

When they returned an hour later, the entire “location” had been cleaned up.

This story, I heard from a writer named Mike Short. We were both guest speakers at the Banff Television Festival, in Banff, Alberta, Canada.

Mike was a writer for the classic comedy series, SCTV, which was produced at studios in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

One day, they’re shooting this sketch, and in it, a boorish character takes a “shot” at another character saying, “Where are you from, Cleveland?”

This is a standard, old-fashioned form of comedy. It’s called a “name joke.” Because of its connotation as a generally acknowledged urban disgrace, merely mentioning the name “Cleveland” is considered to be funny. (Although on SCTV, we’re not laughing at the joke, we’re laughing at the boorish character’s indulging in a standard, old-fashioned form of comedy.)

In addition, the word “Cleveland” contains the “hard-K” sound, guaranteed to elicit a laugh.

Cookie. Cumquat. Coconut. “Hard K”? Always funny.

So they’re doing this sketch, and the character says, “Where you from, Cleveland?”

The scene is taped. They’re ready to move on. Suddenly, the Canadian Content executive (the show is being shot in Canada) comes up and says,

“Very funny sketch. But I wonder. Does it have to be Cleveland? I mean, this is a Canadian program. Why not use a Canadian reference?

The writers confer. They replace the offending American reference with the Canadian reference, and they re-tape the sketch.

Where the line once read, “Where you from, Cleveland?”, the boorish character now says,

“Where are you from, Moncton?”

(Moncton is a city in New Brunswick, Canada. I know nothing more about it, except that it too contains the reliable “hard K.”)

Mission accomplished. The taping of the new version has been completed. And which point, the Canadian Content executive comes up and says,

“What have you got against Moncton?”


Anonymous said...

Okay, my office mates think I'm nuts -- I just laughed out loud (as the kids say, LOL'd) at that. Great stuff!

Anonymous said...

In all fairness, the "hard B" sound is funny too.

Unknown said...

I just laughed out loud too - luckily I working from home today so the only person I startled was me.

I have the dubious honour of having visited both Cleveland and Moncton, and as a random man gave me $10US in Cleveland (long story, I was crying on a train over a breakup and possibly he thought I was homeless) and I ran out of petrol about an hour after Moncton (if you know anything about the geography of New Brunswick, you'll know that's approximately the middle of bugger all) - I am going to say I prefer Cleveland. Which is of course irrelevant to your story, but you know. I'm working from home alone.

Garnet said...

Of course, Toronto is plenty dirty enough now; those days are gone. What draws some film shoots up here is some streets still have a down-at-heels '70s look to them. Wouldn't want to speculate why they can't find that in the U.S., but it's what the film people say.