Humour, Transparency, and Breaking Wind

Okay, so here’s something about some things I read today: I’m not a Ricky Gervais fan. In fact, I’ve gone on record as saying I’l like to slap him in the mouth. That still holds true. What’s equally true is, Ricky would probably not like me much, either, except as fodder for a routine. But regardless of that, I found his articles interesting and informative.

I think Canadian humour is a weird gestalt of the American and British styles of comedy, in that it’s self-deprecating but generally pretty positive and hopeful despite that. It celebrates mediocrity and failure, largely because we have so few success stories we’re comfortable trumpeting about (mostly because, like England, we savage our success stories for being ‘un-Canadian’). My home town of Hamilton, Ontario, is an exemplar of this mixed up philosophy. We want to celebrate Hamiltonian success stories so badly, but we can’t bring ourselves to do it if the success is tainted in any way by things like our outspoken and outrageous rivalries with kid sister Toronto and Big Bad America. We’ve long held our failure to be able to keep our talent home as an indictment of our way of life, even though we’ve generated some of the greats. Most of our success stories don’t happen until they leave home. This is why I call Hamilton a crucible for Creatives. It’s not that we don’t generate them; we just don’t see the point in fostering them when they’re going to up and leave us. Totally cart-before-the-horse thinking.

What Hamilton needs is more of what it’s already got. And that goes for Canada, too. We’re finally trumpeting our home grown successes, and we’re starting to exert that Canadian sensibility worldwide. It’s a shame that it’s finally happening at a time when most of our national character is being castigated and our sacred institutions dismantled by our own Federal government, which is clearly aping the Bush philosophy ten years after it has been proven conclusively to be wrong Wrong WRONG. That’s Canada: so conservative that it won’t make a bold change in its character until it’s been proven conclusively to be the most backward move it could make. Incredibly disappointing. Maybe that’s another reason our biggest success stories tend to leave home (except Rush, but they’re kind of crazy).

This has been a bit of a ramble, so I’ll try to get back on target:

Canadian humour, unlike British humour, is self-deprecating, but in a nice way. We don’t want to hurt the feelings of anyone who might be listening. We’ll go hammer and tongs with anyone we perceive as being the weakest link in our society, but we won’t say it to their face. and yet, there is a kind of honesty in the way we quietly express our genius and our view point, even if we’re not always thoughtful about how we perceive the people around us.

So that just leaves breaking wind, which I tend to think is the slightly farty characteristic we often exhibit when we try to go head to head with the giants of American and British culture. It’s not that we aren’t funny, or talented (whatever that is). We just fail to go to eleven. We rarely go for the throat. So what might have been an open attack on someone that severely needs being taken down a peg or two often gets watered down to a slap on the wrist. But the thing is, in Canada, that translates. Only someone as obtuse and belligerent as our Prime Minister fails to comprehend how deeply unpopular and unwanted he is amongst many Canadians, stroking his precious mandate like it’s not just some phantasmal creation he invented to look good in print.

Sorry. It’s hard for me to talk about what makes Canada great when I think of what makes us pathetic, and our collective willingness to suffer that man’s reign of benevolent tyranny is a prime example. We need to learn to stand up for ourselves more, and taking Harper down a peg or two is mandatory to that. One way or another, he’ll get what he so desires: the complete transformation of Canada… but it might not be the one he bargained for.

Back to the fart analogy: Canada’s entertainment has traditionally had a hard time traveling beyond our borders, with certain exceptions like DeGrassi Jr High and Due South. We rarely even know what we’ve got until it’s gone. Witness the Barenaked Ladies, who had to go away and court American chart success before we would stop treating them like a novelty act. I think it’s all down tot he fact that we aren’t used to seeing our own story, as we’re too busy looking at the American and British experiences to care about our own. As a consequence, it’s taken decades for our creative people to start to catch up and produce things that are undeniably good.

I didn’t start out to make this blog article an indictment of the Canadian mindset. so I’ll turn it around by saying that, despite sometimes great adversity and an almost unfailing willingness to throw our darlings under the bus, nevertheless, we make great stuff, and we make people laugh (warmly, as it happens, which isn’t something to sniff at), and we make people think.

Now, if only we could get more Canadian humour on American and British television; we might watch more of it ourselves, and come to realize what a great country this actually is, or at least could be if we tried not to be so judgmental.

Time to stop. Thanks for reading. Album and webisode reviews coming soonish.


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