Canada, A Nation of Cranks
Every country has their negative stereotype: the French? Stinky; Americans? Obnoxious; Italians? Moped riders (shudder). Canada’s stereotype, in contrast, is supposed to be great. We’re nice. We’re nicey-nice, nice people, helping old ladies across the street and saying “sorry” even if you bump into us. It would seem, to the international community, we’re the equivalent of the guy that the hot girl is “just friends” with. We’re not good enough to date, but one day she’ll probably give us a hand job out of pity as long as we promise not to tell anyone.
Well, I hate to break it to you world, but Canada isn’t the boring sweater-vest wearing place you think it is. Canada is a nation built by and for cranks. See, what the rest of the world doesn’t realize is when you think we’re being self-effacing and modest we’re probably making fun of you right to your face.
Canadian Pop Culture (well, good Canadian pop culture) is run entirely by those too snarky smart alecs with a clever remark at the ready. Now believe me, not every Canadian is Oscar Wilde in a toque. The popularity of Nickelback alone proves that.
However, with such a small amount of money available for the arts, combined with winters that are long enough to negatively affect anyone’s mood, it’s no surprise that one particular (cranky) type dominates the scene.
Besides having a name rivaling Max Power in the scope of it’s grandiose — Dick was, well, kind of a Dick. Mr. Pound is a lawyer, was an Olympic swimmer, vice-president of the International Olympic Committee and the former president of the World Anti-Doping Agency. It is this last position that really cemented his reputation as a cranky bastard and who can blame him? Ever since the Ben Johnson incident, Canadians take their doping pretty seriously and Mr. Pound is no exception. As the president of WADA, Dick was fond of throwing around accusations of performance enhancement and scoffed at so-called lack of factual evidence. Funny thing though, a lot of the time, he was right. Let us look at some of his more famous declarations:
On Hockey: “You wouldn’t be far wrong if you said a third of hockey players are gaining some pharmaceutical assistance.” Dick would later admit that he just kind of fabricated that number. Whoops!
On Floyd Landis - Tour De France stage winner after testing positive for elevated testosterone: “I mean, it was 11 to 1!” referring to the testosterone-to-epitestosterone level. “You’d think he’d be violating every virgin within 100 miles. How does he even get on his bicycle?”
On the Tour de France Riders in general: “The public knows that the riders in the Tour de France and the others are doping.” This earned a strong rebuke from none other than Lance Armstrong, but an unsubstantiated newspaper article claimed to have found a report linking Lance to some of the samples that had tested positive. So, in typical Poundian fashion, Dick stated, “now an onus on Lance Armstrong and the others to explain how it is EPO got into their systems.” Classy.
On the relationship between China and Canadian Aboriginal people: “We must not forget that 400 years ago, Canada was a land of savages, with scarcely 10,000 inhabitants of European origin, while in China, we’re talking about a 5,000-year-old civilization.”
Whoa Dick, you’re kind of being a…jerk. ~Admin
Mordecai Richler and Pierre Berton
Canadian cranks are a busy bunch, and there have never been two cranks busier then Richler and Berton. Why just write a clever book, when you can write a clever film?
Richler — What about a series of beautifully written and well-researched history books? Berton — While your at it, why not write an entire book telling French Canadians that their desire to take Quebec out of Canada is dumb and seems kinda Anti-Semitic? Richler — How about being an award-winning broadcaster?
Berton - Now that those things are out of the way, why not write “The Secret World of Og”, a children’s book that will become a Canadian classic.
The average Canadian library would be almost completely bare without the works of Berton and Richler. They paved the way for a new generation of cranky, clever writers to stay in Canada instead of going to New York or London. Canada was now a place you could stay, not just a place you had to escape from to be an artist.
In fact, Richler and Berton were the kind of eccentrics that the English have been bragging about for years. Not only were they both smarter and better read than you, they were also very funny. Seemingly aware that being talented, smart, and funny would cause pangs of jealousy in the less gifted, Berton also had a generous side. Through most of his adult life he wore a stupid-looking bow tie, an affectation guaranteed to lessen the sting of any well-placed jibes.
Want further proof how amazing Berton was? Here’s a segment he filmed for Canadian TV when he was dying of cancer. Being as sick as he was, he could have done something maudlin, but the sarcastic old bastard wouldn’t do it. Instead he taught Canada how to roll a proper joint: ~Park
Perhaps you have detected a possible flaw in my argument. “Park,” you may be saying, “most of your previous examples rose to fame in the 1960’s. Hell, they’re all dead. Do you have even one modern example?” Well my friends, I’ve saved the best for last.
Rick Mercer is the poster boy for the modern Canadian crank. He’s charming, smart, funny, and completely fearless in his critiques of Canada. Also, unlike many curmudgeons, he’s been at it for half of his forty years.
Through his work in “This Hour Has 22 Minutes” and later his own “Rick Mercer Report” he has publicly skewered some of the most important figures of Canadian politics. But he doesn’t stop there. Remember how funny it was to watch Conan O’Brien, Stephen Colbert, and Jon Stewart argue about who had “created” Mike Huckabee?” Well, I hate to tell you, but Rick Mercer exposed the Huckabee’s majestic dumbassedness years before any of them:
I’m convinced that stashed in a pocket of one of his old suits is a rumpled piece of paper where Mercer has scrawled the equation that allows him to know exactly how much rope he needs to feed to politicians for them to hang themselves.
It’s not just his love of embarrassing politicians that that makes Mercer such an icon, Mercer truly is fearless. In “This Hour Has 22 Minutes,” Mercer was famous for his rants in which he seemed to say everything that the average Canadian wanted to. He was unafraid to topple Can-cons sacred cows, publicly calling out such famous (boring) figures as writer Farley Mowat, children’s entertainers Sharon, Lois, and Bram and the CBC itself.
Now, I realize that in US this kind of thing seems like no big deal. Conan making fun of NBC made them look stupid, but it also made them millions as viewership increased. However, in Canada the CBC is pretty much the only game in town for original Canadian programming. This explains the boring nature of 99.9 percent of Canada TV. Most people are too afraid of losing their jobs to do anything interesting. Mercer, by comparison, is not only biting the hand that feeds him, he’s chomping on the shoulder too.
And how do average Canadians feel about Mercer? Well, his 2001 special “Talking to Americans” had 2.7 million Canadian viewers, making it the highest-rated comedy special in the history of CBC.
So next time you make some stupid joke about how Canadians say “aboot” or ask if we know your friend Laura because “she lives in Canada” listen really closely, because something very mean is likely going to be (quietly) said. God help you if it’s said by someone with a comb-over or someone wearing a stupid-looking bow tie, because it will probably make you cry. ~Park
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