December 28, 2012

Canada: the dominion of comedy

This is my last column of the year 2012, and normally that would be the occasion to reflect on this past year in Canadian affairs and look ahead to the new one.

But then I picked up the January edition of Vanity Fair (Special All-Star Comedy Edition) and read a couple things that got my dander up — in a benign Canadian way — and I thought it was only fitting to start 2013 with a token defense of Canadian honor.

The first pea-shooter across the bow is in the editor’s letter outlining the content of the issue, devoted entirely to the apparent boom in comedy on TV and in the movies. Writes Canadian ex-patriot Graydon Carter: “I might warn you that there are a lot of Canadians in this issue. (Please, I beg of you, read on.)”

Now, if one were to substitute the word “Canadians” with any other racial, religious or national group, it might be seen as an ugly slur. But, no, I guess, as Carter suggests, Canadians are just too polite to be offended and hence would just laugh off such a slight, perhaps even feeling a burst of pride that such a prestigious, celebrity-driven publication would acknowledge the Canuck presence.

Anyhoo, Carter was cuing up a piece by fellow ex-pat Bruce McCall, who is given little more than a page to expound upon the theory that it is the influence of British and American humor that shapes Canadian comedy, since “Canadians may be too nice, too passionless to be funny.” Further: “The very word ‘Canada may seem to incarnate the Webster’s definition of ‘bland.’”

(McCall is probably referring to definition 2a in Webster’s, “dull and insipid”, not 1a, “smooth and soothing.”)

What really got my maple syrup boiling was McCall’s grievous tampering with true, not satirical Canadian history. In the second asterisk of three footnotes in the article, the author declares: “The Dominion of Canada was the original name (of Canada), about as mild a term for a nation as there is, and consciously chosen instead of the more assertive Republic of Canada or United States of Canada.”

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