We’re no longer hewers of wood and drawers of water. That was a different role for a different time, born of a different economy that once was resource based.
Now, in this new Epoch of Info-tainment, Canadians have anxiously emerged as baggy-pants Jesters to the World, the light-hearted stoner sidekicks to the leading players of the day. We’re Zonker Harris to America’s Mike Doonesbury — or, Chong to the USA’s Cheech, which is perhaps the more apt comparison, given Tommy Chong‘s Vancouver origins.
Once we thought we could lead the world. A couple of generations back, Canada played an essential strategic military role in defeating the Axis. We created and supplied important new medicines and surgical procedures, sent educators, economists and churchmen into the world, and dispatched our brightest minds to the United Nations, to steer the planet toward a new era of peace and understanding.
Now all we want is for the world to chuckle along with us. The easiest explanation is to blame the audacity of dope, courtesy of the ready availability of the so-called B.C. Bud, reportedly vended openly on Robson, Davie and Denman Streets, Vancouver. I don’t think that’s entirely what’s behind the giggle-fit, however.
Beside which, that sound of merry-making might not be so bad, except that they’re laughing at us. All, that is, except the monied leftists of London postcodes NW1, NW3, and NW8, who have placed Canadians high on their current roster of global scoundrels, based on our oil sands, and our seal hunt, and also based on their heads being jammed seven-eighths of the way up their own Primrose Hill arses. But why whisten to the angwy widdle columnists of the sewious Wondon pwess, when it’s so much more satisfying to just make fun of them? That, after all, is what jesters do, especially when they’re one toke over the line.
Last night’s extravaganza of not-quite-gut-busting in-jokes that spiced up the Olympic wrap-up smacked of those self-consciously hep 1970s TV comedy shows that were all written for export by Hollywood Canucks such as John Aylesworth and Frank Peppiat, or smugly performed by stay-at-home talents such as Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster — which is to say, I found it more depressing than funny. Possibly you have to have lived through the ’70s in Canada to not-get the humor.
Take that ultimate ’70s-survivor Bill Shatner. Please. He can be a laff-riot in those Priceline commercials, and, as he’s grown thicker of frame, more bulbous of nose, and more coarse of toupee, he has taken on a notable resemblance to the great comedian W.C. Fields. That qualifies him as an adequate buffoon, but you don’t want Emmett Kelly, Jr. or any entertainment figure whose last name is “The Clown” purporting to represent your country, for goodness sake. Yet, there he was, brazenly stealing the late Pierre Berton’s mediocre ’70s line about a Canadian being someone who can make love in a canoe, and claiming to be a graduate of the “University of McGill,” which, he neglected to add, is sometimes referred to as Canada’s equivalent of the “University of Harvard.” With three-and-a-half billion people watching on television, it should have been something other than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Bill to reprise his very worst work from “The $20,000 Pyramid.” (Transponder message to Capt. Kirk: It can’t be self-parody if no one’s laughing.)
You want to know who else wasn’t funny? Catherine O’Hara wasn’t funny. Here you have a gifted comic whose characterization of Lola Hetherington can make anyone roll on the floor, howling. But Lola stayed home, and instead Ms. O’Hara presented herself as your dipso grandma who imbibed a couple of Rob Roys at a wedding and imagines that she’s being high-sterical. A brutal tableau, if ever there was.