For years I have been telling a joke about being half American. The gist is that a homeless man yelled something rude to me and the Canadian in me wanted to say: “Sorry! Take my cell phone” and run away. But my mom’s American, so I told him where to go, and then I ran away because I am Canadian.
Canadians are often seen as America’s polite, apologetic sister who easily goes unnoticed. But lately, as the world looks away in shock from the US, we’re standing proudly off to the side and the world is paying attention.
Many of us Canadian comics only have a chance at a comedy career if we move to the US. Look at Samantha Bee, Lorne Michaels, Catherine O’Hara and Jim Carey. They are Canadian comedy icons and they got famous in Canada by ‘making it’ in the US.
But Canadian comedy is being forced to grow up. Our neighbour is a mess and the American Dream that Canadian showbiz has made us believe for years is being questioned. I have Canadian comic friends living in the US and many are wondering if it’s worth it.
Look at 2008 Funny Women Awards Katherine Ryan who did a solo show at The Canadian Just For Laughs festival this year. She skipped the US route and made herself a famous Canadian comic by working in the UK. She chose an uncharted path that I am sure other Canadian comics are now considering.
I have lived next to a superpower my whole life and I’ve accepted that I will always be number two. As Canadians we are used to people being unconcerned about our provinces, our weather, our history or our politics. We are used to being the underdog. I admire my American comic friends’ unyielding confidence and drive to be the best, but being number one has a cost and sometimes being number two is a lot more fun.
It’s a great year to be a Canadian. It’s Canada’s 150th anniversary, there are 30 Canadian companies going to Edinburgh Festival Fringe and our prime minister is on the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine.
For the first time in a long while it’s super cool to be from the Great White North. I’d like to think that our unique brand of humour may be more in need than ever before. Our unique perspective may be just what the world needs right now. This could be the Canadian comedy coming of age we have all been waiting for.
This year Canadians are noticing Edinburgh as a much more fun option than anywhere else and I have a sneaky feeling Edinburgh is going to notice us too!
Catch Rachelle Elie’s show Shit I’m in Love with You Again at theSpace @ Surgeons Hall 6th-12th, 21st-26th August at 21:15 15th-19th August 23:20