Canadian Humour

A humour built on embracing stereotypes
If there's one thing for certain, Canadians certainly know how to laugh at themselves. The stereotypes are everywhere, and we happily perpetuate them! Bob and Doug McKenzie were not all that far off in some respects. Laughing at the misguided stereotypes and accepting the ones that are not so misguided seems to truly bond Canadians together-what Canadian hasn't had to at one point or another say "No, it's not actually that cold". This can be shown through the widely popular "I Am Canadian" ads posted below, which were embraced and quoted by Canadians nation wide. 

Click here to watch "I Am Canadian" Pet Beaver 
Click here to watch "I Am Canadian", the Original  

Tim Horton's, another iconic "Canadian" company, also produces commercials that feature Canadian stereotypes (e.g. bulky knit sweaters, cold climate, and the ubiquitous toque) for its popular "Roll Up The Rim" promotion.

Click here to watch "Roll Up The Rim" 2010
Click here to watch "Roll Up the Rim" 2009

Jim Carey on Canada 

In this clip Jim Carrey, one of the world's most recognizable comedians and one of Canada's own, is ridiculing Americans for their out of touch perception of Canada and its people. As he points out, whenever he reveals that he was born and raised in Canada to people from the city of Los Angeles, they immediately present their distorted cliched views of Canada. It is even more mind-boggling that many happen to believe it! Jim Carrey confesses that after a while, he gets tired of the absurd questions being asked about Canada, and decides to play along with the cliche. This brings to mind the closing ceremony at the Vancouver Olympics, in which there were over-sized beavers, hockey players, and various other quintessential Canadian images. The method was one of self mockery in the hope that it would help the world realize just how misconstrued their perceptions are.

Click here to see a clip from the Closing Ceremonies.

United States of Canada

This cartoon presents the notion that America is split by religious ideologies. The "United States of Canada" seems to imply that the more liberated parts of America, are merely extensions of Canada, or vice versa. Some of the more populous cities in the U.S. including Los Angeles, New York City, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, etc., are part of this "United States of Canada". What this points out to us is the notion that these cities are more culturally and religiously diverse then those that live in "Jesusland". While this does necessitate a Christian minority in these cities, it does point to the fact that they citizens of these cities may not be as radically religious as those from "Jesusland". This also speaks volumes of those that live in "Jesusland". Their identity in this cartoon is that of overtly religious people. Most likely the kind of people that are narrow minded due to their religious beliefs. As well, this cartoon presents the belief that Canada as a whole is a liberated open minded state lacking any religious majority. The conclusive idea in this cartoon is that Canada and certain parts of America are identical in their ideologies, while the rest of the large majority of America is controlled by their religious beliefs.

Canadian, Please

Click here to watch Canadian, Please Video

          This video has spread like wild fire throughout social networks. With more than one million views on youtube, this comedic song entitled “Canadian, Please” is a perfect example of the Canadian will to embrace our stereotypes in the pursuit of humour and our national identity. The song is intelligent and fun, and goes as far as to not just simply accept Canadian typecasting, but to rather show pride in it. 

Stephen Colbert Visits, Attempts to Provoke Canada

        Stephen Colbert's Olympic interview with MP (and former Premier) Ujjal Dosanjh typifies, as much as it lampoons, the cult of politeness and avoidance of confrontation that surrounds the common definition of the Canadian identity. Filmed January 22nd and aired as a section of  Colbert's Vancouver 2010 coverage, Dosanjh was a model guest, ducking as many of Colbert's taunts and digs as can be expected, as well as playing along when necessary. When it came for more honest interchange between the two, however, Dosanjh made some particularly interesting and significant statements. As is his interviewing style, Colbert attempted to get a 'rise' out of Dosanjh, at one point reproaching him for a lack of passion, a lack of the confrontational spirit that typifies many of Colbert's American interviewees. Ujjal Dosanjh, when prompted for an aggressive response, simply stated "I won't scream." "Then you won't win!" Colbert retorted, prompting Dosanjh to calmly respond, "That's okay." Seemingly improvised, Dosanjh's response hits on an important part of Canadian identity: the avoidance and diffusion of confrontation, an unwillingness to enter into needlessly aggressive dialogue. Taken as both a serious statement or a subtle, self-referential joke, Dosanjh's response taps into this cult of politeness. His self-awareness of this fact was later made explicit, as his response when questioned about U.S. Foreign Policy consisted of a confident "I don't want to say anything about the U.S.A.", much to Colbert's exasperation. 

      Stephen Colbert may very well have been intentionally extracting these sorts of statements from Dosanjh, however Dosanjh's complicity is of note as well: at no point does he ever attempt to retract or modify his statements, regardless of Colbert's constant taunts. What this shows about Canadian identity, then, is a willingness to embrace our own characterization, a willingness to recognize our character and then parody it, while simultaneously retaining a character of dignity and distinct Canadian-ness. Dosanjh is at no point inauthentic, he is simply very frank. He says nothing of confrontational or offensive note. His tone throughout the interview embodies this part of Canadian identity, as much as his cheerful tone and laughs proceeding the interview betray his awareness of the situation. Dosanjh never attempts any sort of negative identification, nor any oppositional dialogue at all - he's fully willing to both remain calm and laugh at himself, and he's willing to do so within the setting of an internationally renowned comedy program. Much like the utterly inoffensive mascots, Dosanjh embodies the Canadian cult of politeness and stands in stark contrast to Colbert. His every word in the interview intentionally, self-referentially, contributes to a stereotype that is also a complement: Canada's fabled refusal to be openly rude. In reference to this self-awareness, as well as in parody of it, Colbert closes with a classic line, intentionally misdefining Canadian culture in the classic mode: "It doesn't matter whether you're Indian, Chinese, Asian, one thing unites you: you're not Americans." 

An Overview of the Interview 

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