April Fool, a Canadian love
The laugh. No historian has confirmed but it’s likely our human ancestors had a sense of humour, the ones who invented paper in China around 500 BCE but didn’t think of toilet paper for another 2300 years, 1857 CE. It’s been reported that Chimpanzees, the ancestors of our ancestors, have been observed laughing. If they can laugh at each other for dropping a banana it’s likely our ancestors laughed at each other for burning themselves while cooking a bunny or stubbing toes on the beta wheel.
It’s widely known many consider that “laughter is the best medicine”. What many don’t know: Canadians are not just polite, they’re funny. (It’s true. They’re not always smiling at you to be polite. In the future it might be smiling because they’re high.)
Canada. Today the nation is more known than ever before; instead of being known worldwide as the Americans’ neighbour more people are considering making Canada a primary vacation stop instead of a side stop while touring America. What many still don’t know: Canadians have a sense of humour. On April 1, 2001 (16 years ago) CBC aired a Rick Mercer’s special: “Talking to Americans”. It was a comedic feature of Rick Mercer talking to Americans about stereotypical Canada to display Americans’ ignorance of the Great White North. It was proven Americans didn’t know much about Canada. Canadians were shocked when they learned Americans actually thought there was no McDonald’s in Canada. What was most funny: Canadians laughing at the jokes about Canada.
Mercer’s special asked Americans what they thought of Canada’s national igloo and the Canadian tradition of putting senior on icebergs and letting them float away when they became too old. Reality: Canada seniors usually transform into Snowbirds, a relative of the Canada Goose; they migrate to Hollywood or South Beach, Florida for winter to avoid icebergs as much as they can.
Americans also thought Canadians were considering legalizing the seal hunt in Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan is a province that’s landlocked, has wheat on its provincial flag, and year-round Farmer’s Markets and Potash festivals. The province does have winter but sadly no seals. If you tell a Canadian something fun is happening in Saskatchewan you’ll need variable proof.
The funniest part of the special: not the ignorance of Americans about Canada but Canadians laughing at themselves, the crazy Canucks; the Northerners loved it.
Part of the special was a satirical, humorous version of Canada’s national anthem. To the tune of Canada’s official anthem a set of clips showed Americans singing
A great big empty land.
We look to America
for a helping hand!
With Bannock Bread
and caribou eggs
The True North Big and Cold!
We are on top
We’re close to the North Pole!
Fermez la bouche [close your mouth]
Mangez Poutine [eat poutine]
A lovely Winter dream!
La La La La
with an end of Americans shouting “Go Canada!” Many believe Nova’s Rays did the same, create a false national anthem. Rather than facing backlash from Canadians both anthems, Rick Mercer’s and the future anthem revealed by Nova’s Rays have received likes.
Rick Mercer has said he has repeatedly been asked to do a second Talking to Americans by Canadians but tells CBC it was a one time episode. The Harvard Crimson, posted a video asking Harvard students the capital of Canada. Rick Mercer said Americans weren’t able to do the same to Canadians; they weren’t able to find Canadians who knew little about America. Canadians know all Texans aren’t cowboys, not all Americans carry a gun, hate Latinos, and that there are polite Americans. In the North, it’s known from coast to coast to coast that many Americans from coast to coast have experienced winter and play other sports, not just football and baseball. America has Olympic level hockey, basketball, and football teams, they’re one of the few who can say they’ve beaten Canada in hockey and can say they’ve qualified multiple times for the FIFA Football World Cup.
A year before Rick Mercer aired his special Molson Canadian released a commercial featuring the “The Rant”. The Rant stars Joe playing on Canadian stereotypes on a stage in front of a crowd saying
I’m not a lumber jack
or a fur trader,
and I don’t live in an igloo
or eat blubber
or own a dog sled.
And I don’t know
Jimmy, Sally or Suzie from Canada,
although I’m sure they’re really really nice.
I have a Prime Minister not a President
I speak English and French not American
and I pronounce it about not “a-boot”
I can proudly sew my country’s flag on my backpack
I believe in peacekeeping not policing,
diversity not assimilation.
And that the beaver is a truly proud and noble animal!
A toque is a hat!
A chesterfield is a couch!
And it is pronounced “zed”! Not “zee” “zed”!
Canada is the second largest landmass!
The first nation of hockey!
And the best part of North America!
My name is Joe!
And I am Canadian!
Beginning with a low volume and slow tone, Joe grows more passionate with growing cheers; Joe ends his rant to a lively audience when he loudly and passionately says “I am Canadian!” followed by “Thank you” in a conversational manner. The commercial ends with a flash of the Molson Canadian logo.
The rant commercial is known across Canada and known with pride and humour. Many Canadians will smile when they see or hear it; some laugh; others have memorised it. And all Canadians will tell you that Joe speaks truth; the beaver is a revered animal in Canada; it’s featured on the Canadian nickel. The beaver wasn’t legislated as Canada’s national animal until March 24, 1975 but it has a long and proud history. It was in the running to be Canada’s mascot for the 2015 PanAm/ParaPanAm Games but unfortunately lost to Patchi the Porcupine.
Although Joe doesn’t name any countries the rant brings smiles to Canadians about the world’s ignorance of the second largest country on Earth and the country with the largest coastline and supply of fresh water.
On 18 April 2016 Vice posted an article about what shocked immigrants the most when they came to Canada. Most of them, as expected by any Canadian, was snow; Canada does call itself the “Great White North”, has an anthem that calls Canada “The True North Strong and Free” and prides itself on 6-month winters (comedians and street Canadians alike; smiles come to faces when there’s rain in March instead of snow; it’s a nice day).
Julianne from France and Miranda from New Zealand spoke of Canada not having a true culture, more excitement in America than in Canada, and Canadians taking it all in stride. On the other hand Emma from the United States speaks about Roll-up-the-Rim from Tim Horton’s, what’s considered a central aspect of Canadian culture. She says that during Roll-up-the-Rim season Canadians are less polite and seem obsessed with getting a cup of coffee and friends picking up cups of coffee from the ground to make sure the rim was rolled. She says everyone has “his or her own superstitions and methods for winning”. Although she was surprised that people did all of this just for a free coffee, she says
It’s also starting to rub off on me now. That rush I feel when I see the “win” underneath the rim? Amazing. Can’t beat it.
Many do consider Canada as the humour centre of Earth. In October 2016 Rob Salem of the BBC wrote that as Canadians “[we] are known for our comedy. Or more to the point, our comedic talent“. He writes that many are shocked when they hear that great comedians in Hollywood are Canadian not American (Adam Sadler, Tim Allen, Jim Carrey, Mike Myers, Rick Mercer, Russel Peters). Chaque année le plus grand festival de comédie du monde, Juste Pour Rires, c’est au Montréal, une ville au la Terre des Rires. Every year the largest comedy festival in the world, Just For Laughs, is in Montreal, a city in the Land of Laughs. Salem writes that a comedian once told him
American humour is the art of overstatement, English humour is the art of understatement, and Canadian humour is the art of observation.
Canadians are able to be funny because they’re not part of the world. Canada is a nation that has one land neighbour and two neighbours immediately off of its coastline; northwest of Canada is Greenland; south is America; unknown to many France still has two overseas territories (St. Pierre et Miquelon) just off of the coast of Newfoundland (a Canadian province that was a British colony until 1949). Alaska, an American state, and the Arctic stand between Russia and Canada. China and Eastern Asia are 9 time zones away; the Queen, the leader of Canada and the Commonwealth, lives 3.5 time zones away (Newfoundland has its own timezone, 30 minutes ahead of Atlantic Canada.).
Canadians live in an underpopulated land; Statistics Canada reported that according to the 2006 and 2011 census Canada’s population density had increased to 3.7 persons per km² (If the country was properly divided 3.7 Canadians would be able to have 1 km² to themselves.). Unfortunately in Canada’s smallest province, Prince Edward Island (a province you can walk across in a day) 24.7 people would have to share a land patch. In Ontario, the most populous province (12,851,821 people in 2011) only 14 people would have to share 1 km². Second most populous Quebec (7,903,001) would be more convenient; 5.8 people could live on a patch. In Saskatchewan, the home of the seal hunt, 1,033,381 could almost equally divide the province, 1 km² for 1.8 person.
Seeing themselves in the shadow of the USA, Canada and Canadians have often been considered a joke outside of their nation; in turn they find comfort in comedy. Like all siblings, making fun of Big Brother America or Uncle Sam gives joy to the young Canadian before going to sleep when it’s –30°C outside. Salem says coming from a smaller community gives one a unique comedic perspective; outside of Southern Ontario, Western Quebec, Western British Columbia and Central Alberta, most Canadians live in small towns regionally isolated from fellow Canadians and the world.
Contrary to Miranda from New Zealand Canada does have its own culture with a historical basis on initial European immigration and abuse of the Aboriginals/Natives/Indigenous like in the United States (it’s true, Canada does have similarities with America) . After the Boston Tea Party, the day Americans said “We want to stop having tea with the Brits”, their revolution against Britain, making themselves a nation (telling Britain “leave us alone”), USA isolated itself; Americans kept themselves to themselves and built a culture on a “single American”, assimilating immigrants into a culture based on revolutionary leadership that stands up for itself and proud of itself no matter what others say. The world just knew America existed until World War 2 when they dropped the atomic bombs on Japan because of the bombings of Pearl Harbor; no one knew what Americans were. After the successful attacks on Japan that signalled an end to WW2 America had the courage to come out of its shell and show itself to the world.
While American culture is built on assimilation Canada has always prided itself on being on a “mosaic” of “multiculturalism”. People in America are one – Americans. On the other hand there are “multiple Canadians” – Indian-Canadian, African-Canadian, Chinese-Canadian, American-Canadian, Aboriginal-Canadian, anyone-Canadian. To compensate for the diversity and create a base for a single Canadian culture it embraces its stereotypes so all Canadians can relate to each other, a description of the “Canadian”. They laugh at themselves in a multicultural manner so they have something in common. Not all Canadians like roti, sushi, and rye bread but they’ve all tasted poutine and maple syrup; if a Canadian doesn’t know what poutine is and eats pancakes without maple syrup he’s not Canadian; some eat roti with maple syrup or have poutine as an appetizer before their sushi. They laugh at the Canadian and the “multiple Canadians”. Canada has more bases for jokes than any other country, no competition.
Since the end of the Cold War America has been viewed by many as the superpower on Earth (maybe not the solar system or the Milky Way). Around the world friends and enemies learn about the United States. South of the border Americans led the campaign of bringing themselves to the world to grow its popularity during the Cold War to gain allies. America’s campaign may not be as large today but it is still known worldwide. In turn people continue to learn about American culture, society and current issues that affect the United States such as politics and economy.
Canada is known for its humanitarian assistance worldwide. Canada is revered by those they help but it works quietly. Many know Canada as a nation that is home to the Canadarm on the International Space Station, the closest nation to the iceberg that sank the Titanic, and a strong player in the humanitarian efforts in Afghanistan after the 21st century war.
Just as the Brits pride themselves on their tea the Canadians pride themselves on their coffee. In 2016 a report by Euromonitor showed Canada: #1 in litres per capita via food service and #3 for total brewed coffee inside and outside the home. The Canadian, Irish-Canadian, American-Canadian, German-Canadian, and Scottish-Canadian enjoy drinking beer while watching a hockey game too.
It’s commonly known that Canadians are polite. They’re also easygoing on the flag. In America it’s likely there will be a riot or at least evil looks if the stars and stripes are flown upside down. Even worse: letting the flag touch the ground. North of the 49th Canadians of all ages temporary tattoo the Maple Leaf on their body on Canada Day. Some cover themselves; some just do their face. The only thing fellow Canadians will do is point out a spot missed or suggest a better place for the tattoo next year. Some will ask where they can get the tattoos or whether a beaver holding the flag would look better. Others may point to the booth where you can buy a wallet with the flag so the man can sit on it while he’s using the dog sled to meet friends and watch the Toronto Maple Leafs lose against the Montreal Canadiens at a bar in Yukon that serves ice cold beer even though it’s -40º and a light dusting of 50 cm of snow outside.
It’s ingrained in all Canadians: PEI is the potato capital and the round fruit that is often mistaken as a vegetable is a “toe-may-toe”. They do use “Eh”. In fact, a Canadian who married into the Royal family says she uses both. Prince Peter Phillips, the Queen’s oldest grandchild, and his Canadian wife, Princess Autumn Phillips were interviewed by Peter Mansbridge. Autumn Kelly met Prince Peter Phillips while volunteering at the Montreal Grande Prix. At the time she was interviewing with CSIS and is known by some as the Canadian spy in the royal family. The Royals aren’t afraid because she’s from CSIS not the CIA.
Autumn says she sees the Royal Family as a regular family and hasn’t been treated differently (as if she was Canadian). She says “I definitely have some Canadianisms that I bring to the table … I’ve never dropped the word ‘Eh’; that’s still at the end of my sentence replacing the question mark. The children correct me now when I say tomato [toe-may-toe], ‘Mama it’s tomato [toe-mah-toe]'”.
In October 2016 Canadians launched the “Tell America It’s Great” campaign that went viral worldwide. To help Americans combat the conflict of the election Canadians took to social media including YouTube and Twitter. Using videos and #TellAmericaItsGreat Canadians played on American and Canadian stereotypes to send smiles and laughs to Americans. In return many Americans showed their appreciation; some played on the Canadian stereotype of being polite to thank them.
For over 20 years Canada has had a two-dollar coin called the “Toonie” just
because their one-dollar coin is called the “Loonie” and is held with pride. Coincidentally the Loonie does have a picture of a loon but the Toonie has picture of a polar bear on an iceberg; no senior citizens are on the iceberg. Both have a picture of the Queen on the back. Not only that you’ll never find a penny in Canada; its confiscation began in 2012. Clear proof: Canadians are loony. They will always have something to laugh about: themselves.