Canada’s Top Comics, Ctd

A reader writes:

Amusingly, none of the people mentioned in the Bruce McCall article are Canada's Top Comic (as I assume McCall is aware). That honour would currently belong to Russell Peters, who earns a ridiculous amount of money doing stand up (at least, according to Forbes). He also mentions Canada plenty in his act. I got a chance to see him early in his career when he did a show during Frosh Week at the University of Toronto, 20 years ago. Now I feel old.

Peters is seen above. Another writes:

Both of your sources neglected to mention Leslie Nielsen! He's especially relevant because (a) he's one of the few comics (or famous people in general) from the Northwest Territories, and (b) his brother was the deputy prime minister of Canada. In fact, there was a mockumentary made about this connection.


Count me in as a Dishhead – I plunked down $30 for a subscription to the upcoming Dish, which seemed a fair figure to me. But two smacks on you for the approving cite of Bruce McCall's piece.

I read his article while at my uncle's house in Toronto and it irritated me no end. It was not just the dumb and outdated stereotypes of Canadians. It was the assumption that all Canadian comics and comedy come from English-language people. Many of Canada's greatest comedians, from the late Yvon Deschamps to Louis-José Houde and Lise Dion, among others, have been French speakers, and they have exerted an influence far beyond Quebec.

What is more, because of the language and culture barriers, they tend not to move to the US. Yet the only mention McCall makes of French Canadians is as the butt of jokes. He should take to heart Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson's bon mot that "When Canadians are asked what is the difference between their country and the United States, they should answer in French."


It's no wonder Americans are so ill-informed about Canadian culture. The piece by Bruce McCall is so lazy, misguided, and just plain wrong it's hard to know where to start. "A distinctive Canadian humour style never had a chance"? I give you The Kids In The Hall. Do you think Bobby versus Satan would ever have seen the light of day on network television in America? And Stephen Leacock? Seriously? It's a very, very small group of people with English degrees from Canadian schools that have even heard of him. McCall also mentions two shows that apparently "entertain the native population" - This Hour Has 22 Minutes is about as cutting-edge as an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, and not only has Royal Canadian Air Farce been off the air for years, one of their members is dead. 

What's so annoying is that fantastic Canadian comedy is so easy to find. Just For Laughs is the biggest comedy festival in the world, and is approaching its 30th anniversary. Mainstream Canadian comics with a wide following include Rick Mercer, Shaun Majumder, Ron James – to say nothing of one of the biggest acts in the world today, Russell Peters.  

The Dish, of course, is partial to this comic duo from Canada: