Our national self-deprecating sense of humour

Ottawa Citizen, March 4, 2010: Gag writer defends campy closing ceremony

Don’t blame Canada; blame Will Ferguson.

Depending on your reaction to Sunday’s closing ceremony of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics, the Calgary humourist is either a comic mastermind or the man behind an uncomfortably hackneyed dose of Canadiana served up on the world stage.

Ferguson was the lead writer, the man who put the words into the mouths of William Shatner, Catherine O’Hara and Michael J. Fox. Shatner’s references to “making love in a canoe,” O’Hara’s poking fun at our penchant for apologizing and Fox’s declaration that he’s a tuque-wearing poutine lover all came from the mind of one of the country’s most renowned humorists.

“I guess I’m the Nickelback of humorists now,” Ferguson says with a laugh of the strong reactions, both pro and con, to his monologues.

Some writers praised it as a welcome, witty display of self-deprecating humour.

Others just hated it. Criticism online was vicious, and some lambasted the show as “embarrassing” and “cringeworthy.”

I’m in the “witty” camp. I’m not sure I can really explain why I was less offended by the Vancouver 2010 closing ceremonies than I was by the opening ceremonies. I suppose it all depends on your sense of humour.

The opening ceremonies used a different set of Canadian stereotypes in an earnest and serious attempt to share our culture (do we really have one?) with the world, unfortunately reinforcing our image as a quaint and charming rustic little country. It’s a bit like proving that you really are the cute little kid your big brother keeps telling everyone you are.

It’s the seriousness with which the stereotypes were presented that annoyed me about the opening ceremonies,  not the stereotypes themselves. Seriousness has never really been our forte as a country. We’re the country that birthed Air Farce, This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Kids in the Hall, and SCTV, after all. We’re a country that is most comfortable when its poking fun at itself. The closing ceremonies took all of the classic Canadian stereotypes and just had fun with them. (Come on, table top hockey? Even I did that as a kid, and I hate hockey. By the way, you can own the inflatable moose for about $5000.)

Whether or not you not think the closing were embarrassing probably depends a great deal on your own sense of humour.


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