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Canus Humorous Literature Review

March 2016


About Canus Humorous

Contact Us

This magazine is published annually as a supplement to the book What’s So Funny: Lessons from Canada’s Leacock Medal for Humour Writing.

Send us an email The book, published in 2016 by Burnstown Publishing House, reviews the

canushumorous@gmail.com

winners of the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour in the format of lessons on humour writing.

Or follow us on Twitter

So why do we need this magazine ?

@canushumorous

Canus Humorous – Literature Review continues the journey described in What’s so Funny? with reviews of the most recent Leacock Medal winners and

Or read the Blog

finalists along with interviews with Canadian humorists and scholars on the

canushumorous.blogspot.com

craft of humour writing. It also seeks to promote the Medal, the organization behind it (the Leacock Associates), and its mission to encourage humorous writing in Canada. Dick Bourgeois-Doyle Editor March 2016 Canus Humorous – Literature Review c/o Stubbornbooks 134 Felicity Cr. Ottawa ON Canada K1W 0C3


Canus Humorous March 2016

Literature Review – Volume 1

This Issue

“Remarkably interesting and perceptive … a significant contribution to the field of Canadian Studies.”

This issue provides an update on the most recent developments involving the Leacock Medal for Humour as well as other information of interest to students and admirers of Canadian humour writing.

T.H.B. Symons Chair Ontario Heritage Trust Founding President Trent University Chair Commission on Canadian Studies

Join the Leacock Associates http://leacock.ca Membership The Leacock Associates PO Box 854 Orillia, ON L3V 6K8

Commenting on: What’s So Funny?

Or just attend one of the events

For ebooks or copies http://burnstownpublishing.com/

http://leacock.ca/important-dates/

In This Issue •

Report on 2015 Banquet

Review of 2015 Leacock Medal Winner No Relation by Terry Fallis

Leacock Medal Winners

Reviews of others on 2015 Shortlist

Back Page Column


Dan Needles, O.C. Another real world occurrence celebrated at the 2015 banquet was the selection of Dan Needles the 21st century writer for appointment to the Order of Canada. In contrast with the requisite humility of Leacock Medal winners, Needles, as mayor, referenced it as just his “most recent decoration”, and one of a string of “honours and distinctions bestowed upon me by a grateful nation.”

Geneva Park - Lake Couchiching - before Leacock Medal Banquet

A Decade of Good Government (Orillia – June 2015) “(If you) follow the advice of Henry David Thoreau - that government is best which governs least,” Mayor Dan Needles said in his 2015 State of Mariposa address. “By that measure, my term in office has been an extraordinary success.” Last year marked a decade since the appointment of the farmer, playwright, and Leacock Medalist as Mayor of Mariposa, a role largely fulfilled with a speech at the Annual Leacock Medal Awards Banquet and Gala.

“Imagine how disappointed I was to learn that I would not be giving a speech in Ottawa,” he said. In a closing aside as the man, not the mayor, Needles noted that the criterion for the national honour is “to build a better country” and that he was cheered that making people laugh would be considered worthy in this vein. “And this is just one reason I prize my citizenship.”

DBD - June 2015

In his June 2015 remarks, the Mayor reflected upon his “decade of good government” with an inventory of inactions and with a renewed commitment to not doing anything. Needles assumed office in 2005, the year his predecessor, two-time Leacock Medalist Harry J. Boyle passed away at the age of 89. Boyle, who served for twenty years as honorary Mayor, also took pride in his lack of service.

“Act of God – Not me!” Although the current officeholder framed his report with imaginings, Needles did remind the audience of a memorable and real experience that marked the very first exercise of his official duties. At the Leacock Medal banquet in 2005, a lightning strike at Geneva Park killed the microphone, the lights, and the air conditioning forcing an early termination of the event. Attendees went home soaking in sweat, parched, and grateful that some speeches were left undelivered. “Fourteen speeches died in the womb that night,” Needles as mayor lamented. “But everyone liked the new format - thus a new era began and we have been wrapping these things up by 9-30 ever since – this has been my sole reform as your mayor – and that was (the result of the lightning and) really an act of God – not me.” The mix of actual events with an imagined mayor and municipality lifted the banquet room just slightly off the ground to float on a blend of good will and humour. Those sitting in at the tables are all in on the joke, laughing at themselves, and imagining, for just a few moments, that they are somewhere else back in time. “There is care, there is affection in this room,” Needles would say to end his speech.

Needles and Newton Apple Seed


Different Humour Tricks

Terry Fallis – 2015 Leacock Medal Winner

My Relation to No Relation “Dick … Dick.” “Is there a Dick ?” the barista shouts. “We’ve got a grandé nonfat latté for - a Dick.” Smirks. Snickering sounds. Throat clearing. “Uh, uh … that would be me.” Given the double-entendre awkwardness, you might ask - Why doesn’t he use a pseudonym at Starbucks? But, as I will explain later, I stick with “Dick” out of the same sense of familial duty and respect that bound struggling writer and underwear heir Earnest Hemmingway to his given name. Earnest is the protagonist in No Relation, the second book to win a Leacock Medal (2015) for Toronto novelist and PR guy Terry Fallis. In the book, Earnest suffers with a name that evokes that of the Nobel Laureate and thus invites unfortunate comparisons as well as suspicion and complication into his daily life. But the not-famous and double “m” Hemmingway dismisses suggestions that he shed his troublesome name. It came to him through his father, another Earnest Hemmingway and another eldest male in the line of underwear manufacturers. Earnest, our No Relation hero, is the fourth one and efficiently referred to as EH IV in business and family circles, but elsewhere he wears the yoke of confusion and comparison. The book tells the intertwined story of Hemmingway’s effort to extinguish expectations that he will take over the family firm while also trying to shake off the ghost of Ernest M. Hemingway, the better known writer, whom lesser known Earnest - with an “a” - blames for his own writer’s block.

Two Threads The first thread encompasses Earnest’s more deserving, business-minded, but overlooked younger sister, and the latter story line prompts him to take a Michael Palin Hemingway Adventure tour in the hope of confronting and exorcising that famous-author ghost.The double-barrelled journey carries the reader along, and Fallis sprinkles his usual self-deprecating, gentle humour throughout along with inoffensive, but quirky characters and some cremated remains.

.

Fallis employs lots of standard humour writing tools, but not in excess or in concentration, and it may be this orchestration of the parts that gives his work its broad appeal. He, for example, has a few similar-sounding episodes of slapstick like the bar fight in Key West, ejection from the DMV in New York, and the spilling of those ashes in Paris that seem nicely spaced to jolt the reader and break up the gentler, unhurried humour of the larger stories at play. Interestingly, Terry Fallis, as expressed through Earnest and in his own talks, is not Hemingway’s greatest fan, finds terseness cold, and enjoys ameliorating words, explanatory dialogue, and clearly attributed quotes. Rather than a fault, this inclination might be at least one reason books by Terry Fallis are so accessible and so darn popular. Aside from the humour and easy read, No Relation can be seen as a reference for family relationships – I think it makes a good Father’s Day gift as the book spins around both father-son and fatherdaughter dynamics – and as Will Ferguson suggests it’s an exploration of the question of “Who are you really?”


My SemiFamous Name Post-Script In the fall of 1985, I was charged with delivering sensitive documents to the Prime Minister’s Office. At the reception desk, I was told that the PM’s Chief of Staff Mr. Roy wanted to see me. I walked into the big office down the hall, sat down across from his desk, and waited to hear him speak. He looked up, squinted, looked over at the door, looked back at me, squinted again, and finally said “can I help you?” I introduced myself and said that I was told he wanted to see me. He got up and went out. The receptionist returned to explain that the Chief of Staff thought “Dic Doyle,” the former Globe and Mail Editor and now Senator was in the building. Mr. Roy, possibly feeling as embarrassed as me, called me back and asked if I would like a couple of tickets to the Grey Cup in Montreal. I watched the B.C. Lions beat Hamilton in the Big O a month later and wondered how I might use this “Dic Doyle” thing again.

Post-Post Script “Hey, maybe you’ll meet him someday,” my wife said. “That should be funny – Dick meet Phallus - Phallus meet Dick.” “You know it is not spelled that way, don’t you ?” I corrected. “Don’t be such a dick.”

Highway Bookstore – Cobalt, Ontario

Fragile Connections can make Communities But, for my part, the most interesting feature of No Relation and the one that makes it Leacock Medal worthy lies in the pages that remind us of the value of friendships and how fragile connections can grow into strong Mariposan communities. Earnest finds his in a support group for people who share names with the famous and struggle under the perceptions these names carry. So we have a Mario Andretti who can’t drive, a Mahatma Ghandi with a temper, and others with varying degrees of similarities with and differences from their namesakes. These sub-incongruities make up a funnier whole than the sum of the quirky parts. At first, it also seems funny that such a vaguely connected subset of humanity might need a support group. But our names infiltrate every corner of our lives including the purchase of a coffee and certainly speak to the whole of our experience more than dart-throwing, chess-playing interests that underpin most clubs or associations. I’m not ready to form an Association of Dicks, but I feel a natural affinity for people with that name as well as people with hyphenated, multi-lingual surnames knowing that they give of their time to spell out the words anytime I.D. is checked or credit cards are used. I also have empathy for Earnest Hemmingway and his reluctance to abandon the familial banner. My parents wanted a Daniel – Oh Danny Boy – son. But before the christening, my mom’s brother, my Uncle Dick, dropped by to see the baby. When asked about intentions for a name, my dad, always a joker, said “Oh, we think we’ll name him after his Uncle Richard – so he’ll always be – Rich.” Dick didn’t say much, but heading out to his pickup truck to drive home, he stopped, turned around, and came back into the farm house with moistened eyes to say how touched he was. My parents had no choice but to follow through with what was intended as humour and christen the baby in Dick’s honour. So, I keep Dick as the short form and eschew variations like Rickie, Richie, or Ricardo and try to accept any awkwardness with Earnest Hemmingway –Terry Fallis - No Relation sanguinity. Still, I’m glad that some Starbucks baristas ask for initials only. DBD June 2015 Writing Exercise Write a short story about a Canadian humour writer named Stephen Harper Leacock.


2015 Finalist This story circles around an effort to stage Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream in an outdoor theatre near Kelowna.

The narrator Alex, a playwright who has more than a little in common with the author, flees Vancouver, a failed relationship, and the sting of bad reviews. His plays are said to lack soul.

He heads to the Okanagan to get away, to take another stab at writing amid the flowing red wine, and to support Roy, the named director of the Bard in the Vineyard

Quoteless Curtains

project and a lung cancer victim with months to live I like the story a lot.

Maybe they could shoot the back of his head or just his eyes. Or focus on his butt or the faces of other people. I’m talking to myself here and trying to figure out how you could make a movie based on

It has thoughtfulness as well as action and humour that, in combination, feel unique.

the novel Curtains for Roy. The book, a finalist for the 2015 Leacock Medal for Humour, could be easily developed as a smarter, northern version of Sideways. Roy has all the elements of a good movie: a road-trip-style adventure with a dying buddy, sexual tension and sexual characters, a venue for great visuals, menacing forest fires and biker gangs, and lubricated dialogue that sounds intense, but authentic. Oh yeah, and some Shakespeare and a bit of Zen.

But as someone who has reviewed all of the Leacock Medal winners, I am hardwired by the framework of those old books and always see echoes of them in any Canadian humour I read.

This kind of stuff makes good fodder for a screenplay. But I liked the book because of a feature that is hard to imagine on film: the punctuation. The author, creative-and-successful-by-most-Canadian-standards playwright Aaron Buskhowsky doesn’t use quotation marks, and this means you are constantly dared to decide who is talking, whether the text is dialogue or narration, and, most often, whether

By

you are reading thoughts or the “outside voice” of spoken words. To maintain this effect,

Aaron Bushkowsky

a moviemaker might have to shoot the protagonist Alex from behind when he speaks or point the camera at other bodies or body parts. The absence of quotations may sound frustrating, but I found it fun. It feels like a game, and the technique puts you inside Alex’s body more than a standard narrative style would. Curtains for Roy also pours out like a stream of consciousness and tells its story in real-time, present tense. The combination pulls you along through the adventure while challenging you at every quotation-less page.

Cormorant Books (2014)


Writing Exercise Write a conversation of about 600 words between three drunk brothers fighting about a girl - without attributing any of the quotes.

Aaron Bushkowsky

Echoes of other Medal Winners “Several of the past winners came to mind as I read Curtains for Roy. Most of the references made sense immediately. The actors, writers, the hovering death, and mix of delusion and reality recalled Richler’s Barney’s Version; the authenticity of the F-filled inside and outside voices of the narrator made me think about the 1950 war-story winner Turvey; and the “Drink. Swirl. Drink. Drink. Swirl.” of wine reminded me of the booze that buoyed Farley Mowat’s Boat Who Wouldn’t Float.

Oddly, however, the Leacock Medal book that came to mind most often was the first one, Ojibway Melody, the folksy, simple celebration of 1940’s summers at the cottage. This surprised me because when I first read the stream-of-consciousness, realtime musings in Ojibway, I thought it was quaint, unsophisticated, and even a little amateurish. But Bushkowsky’s words immediately struck me as clever,edgy, and innovative.

I’m not exactly sure why, but my best guess lies in my own life experience and my easy associations with thoughts of the Okanagan and Vancouver as well as an admiration for creative word combinations, metaphors, and thoughts. Earlier this year, Bushkowsky told an interviewer that he wrote his humour book with one different, dominating thought: “Don’t try to be funny.”

If that’s true, I can probably learn something from studying his style and have maybe been overthinking this Canadian humour writing thing. So, I am re-reading Ojibway Melody through a different lens and am adding Curtains for Roy to the list of books that I intend to rip off someday. Hey, did I say that with my outside voice ? .


Echo of Eric I don’t usually laugh at Alzheimer’s

Another 2015 Finalist

patients.

Humorist Eric Nicol left over thirty books of humour behind when he passed away in 2011, and I have yet to read them all. He also influenced a generation of Canadian

But I made an exception a few years ago for Eric Nicol. I nodded, smiled, and, a

writers, and you can find echoes of Eric in many other books, plays, and columns today. I do not lack the means to hear his voice. But I sense the spirit of Eric Nicol most strongly in the writing of one young

few times, snorted laugh-out-loud sounds

humorist: British born, sometimes Montrealer Robert Wringham, a short-listed

as I read his final book (Script Tease – A

finalist for the 2015 Leacock Medal for Humour.

Wordsmith’s Waxings on Life and Writing) published after the writer’s 90th birthday

Wringham’s book, A Loose Egg, cracks me up like few others. Light and silly, it

and written after he’d received the above

seems dedicated to no other purpose than to amuse people like me. Egg is an essay

diagnosis. The next year, 2011, Nicol died. Evidently, death was the only way to put an end to his literary career and his

collection that floats over the writer’s life as a boy in Dudley, England where he gloats about his Hungry Hungry Hippo victories on to university days in Glasgow where he and colleagues in the library pass time trying to get the cash register to spit out an unbroken chain.

efforts to make me laugh. Married life in Montreal consumes the last part of the book with the anxious account

His life as a writer and humorist ran over seventy years. During that period, he piled up 6,000 newspaper columns, pumped out written works of all kinds,

of a loose egg in the refrigerator. It also describes the procrastination perils of hammock ownership and pastimes like psychic air traffic control of flies. It all made me laugh, sometimes uncontrollably, and recalled Eric Nicol’s capacity to capture the vapors around what others might label “nothing” and package them in a way that resonates and makes us smile. Wringham’s tight style does this really,

and nabbed three Leacock Medals for

really well, but I admit it is a struggle to find the fibres that might hint at deeper or

Humour.

more-than-the-sum-of-the-parts meaning to his book.

Some commentators suggest his silly style

Recently, I heard award-winning author Miriam Toews say “that when nothing is

and his focus on everyday life fell out of

happening; it still is life” and worth documenting and celebrating. This might hint at

fashion as post-Watergate political satire and rougher comedy ascended.

the higher merit of a collection like A Loose Egg though, for me, it’s more than enough that it makes me laugh.

.

But it never fell out of fashion with me, and I have defended Nicol’s work as carrying a message and meaning beyond the surface-level, buying-a-shoe, riding-abike and doing-the-laundry subject matter might imply.


Lifting Moods “I’m a humorist. I lift people’s moods,” Robert Wringham says in comparing his worth to the work of a crane operator.

I was rooting for Wringham in the final phase of the 2015 Leacock Medal competition because I liked him and thought his career needed the boost more than the other

Writing Exercise

finalists.

But against the criteria of literary style, I am afraid a more meritorious book may have won. Nevertheless, you can find something profound in Robert Wringham’s writing.

A profoundly creative take on the world and an imagination that can muse over Mr. Peanut’s monocle and 3-D movies, can mix organ transplants with an egg sandwich, and can intertwine dental hygiene with geo-politics. His essays are tightly written with a skill that Eric Nicol might have admired even at his prime.

Perhaps, someday Robert will roll up his creativity and skill in a novel or collection with some lofty, integrated objective.

But I hope he puts it off until I turn 90, start showing signs of Alzheimer’s, and have forgotten the sweet, silly, first-time experience of reading his stuff about nothing.

.

Robertt Wringham 2015 Leacock Medal Finalist

Your hammock breaks on the same day as a new magazine arrives in the mail. In 500 words, explain how you respond to the crisis.


Don’t want it to end I loved it when you could walk down George onto Water and up to Duckworth and pretend it was just a big fishing village with crazy stores that you saw nowhere else, with pub music that you heard nowhere else, and with people that talked like no one else. You can still find all this, but Pieces of Rock falling off into the Sea

you need to look harder, and it seems surrounded increasingly by

“Yeah, we’re cousins.”

Newfoundlanders with “Canadian accents,” concerns about real estate prices, and an interest in high tech

“Are you related to Alan Doyle?” my daughter was asked throughout high school in St.

stocks. I shiver with the thought of

John’s and later at Memorial. “No, no relation,” she would sigh – for a couple of

someday meeting a Newfoundlander

years. Later it became “not that I know of” and “very distant relatives.” Then, finally,

who can’t sing, play an instrument, or

“yeah, we’re cousins.”

tell a funny story.

Becky’s answers evolved along with the fame of that other Doyle, the success of his

Jann Arden says in the Foreword

band Great Big Sea, and her own Newfoundland storytelling skill. Like all good stories,

to Where I Belong that she “didn’t

each of hers had a bit of truth, and like all Newfoundland stories, they mixed growing

want it to end,” and I don’t want the

confidence with wistfulness, a wink, and a smile.

old Newfoundland to end.

This blend of nostalgia and pride flows through the pages of Alan Doyle’s charismatic memoir, the 2015 Leacock Medal finalist Where I Belong: Small Town to Great Big Sea. Doyle’s book attests to the Newfoundland (and Labrador)’s love of story. It’s a collection of, just slightly polished, childhood reminisces that reminds us of what makes the province (that was once a country and colony) special. I needed this reminder.

In recent years, flying into Newfoundland, I imagined pieces of “The Rock” breaking off and falling into the sea to take away the things that set the place apart. St. John’s, in particular, keeps growing and changing. The increasing affluence, the cultural tsunami of the Internet, offshore oil, the foot prints of millions of tourists, and branches of international business give the city the feel of a – well, uh – a city.

.


Passchendaele to Petty Harbour After its entry into Canada, through very challenging times, and despite tremendous pressure to do otherwise, the Province and Memorial University have kept this commitment to the fallen with the lowest tuition fees in our country. This, to me, is Alan Doyle – 2015 Leacock Medal Finalist

the substance of a great society.

Alan Doyle’s book gave me comfort that the fading of Newfoundland culture may still be

I see a direct line between the blood

a ways off. His Newfoundland still recalls a time when kids made spare change cutting

stained battlefields of France and Alan

fish on the wharf, Catholic boys regarded Anglican girls as exotic, fun came from your

Doyle of Petty Harbour’s opportunity to

own voice box, and family was everything. His stories are vivid, and though he confesses

move out of his poor childhood and earn a

little experience writing dialogue, I thought his account of kids teasing each other and

degree in literature so that he could

debating the facts of life to be authentic. It’s easy to lose yourself in the pages, and that’s

someday, not only pursue his dreams, but

the way I like written stories.

share that experience with you and me in written words.

Though this was all reassuring and fun, I recognize my desire to keep Newfoundland in a stereotype box as selfish. At least part of its culture flows from years of isolation, dangerous work, and limited means that no fellow Canadian could want as enduring circumstance for their East Coast cousins. Farley Mowat once described Newfoundlanders as epitomizing “all the qualities that make the human species viable ... worthwhile ... durable.” They can and have demonstrated the noblest attributes of creativity, bravery, and, surprising to some, a nationalistic commitment to learning.

When WWI broke out, Newfoundland, as an independent Dominion, mustered a great swath of its young men into a national battalion-sized force to fight for Europe. The First Newfoundland Regiment suffered horrible, 90-per-cent casualties, close to 700 soldiers, piled up in some of the worst fighting including the opening clash of the Battle of the Somme and earlier, as the only North Americans, the catastrophe at Gallipoli.

After the War, despite heavy debts incurred in fighting for England and a decimated workforce, the people of Newfoundland were determined to honour those who sacrificed. The national consensus was to do something in education – to build a university – it would be the ideal - “Memorial.”

.


Writing Exercise It's the summer of 1981 in Petty Harbour, Newfoundland.

Write a conversation between two girls on their way to the Anglican Church

Newfoundland Avalon Peninsula

who are checking out the

In his book Where I Belong, Doyle often calls himself “The Boy on the Bridge” in reference to

boys working on the wharf.

his bit part credit in the 1980s TV Movie A Whale for the Killing. After reading his book, I think his “bridge” is the one that connects that proud and rough, no toilets, fish cutting, and rags past to a new era.

Great Big Sea certainly does that by linking traditional Newfoundland folk songs and sea shanties to rock music in a way that respects the past and makes a better present. You can’t stop the world or Newfoundland from changing. The only thing you can ask is whether it is for the better. Though some things have slipped away, today we are better off because we have Great Big Sea and books like Where I Belong.

In 2015, young Newfoundlanders took the top prizes at the Montreal International Guitar Festival, Canada’s prestigious classical guitar competition. They have taken their Newfoundland love of music and the priorities of Memorial into yet another realm. One of them is my son-in-law, who is pursuing his doctorate in music in Toronto, and my daughter is happy today to answer questions about her relation to this other Newfoundland musician and to be recognized for her own work in marine and evolutionary biology.

They are Newfoundland’s future – and heading out to that real Great Big Sea – the wider world. When the now famous Alan Doyle Tweeted that month about her husband’s classical guitar successes, my daughter was only mildly impressed.

“Yep, a Newfoundland guitar player promoting another Newfoundland guitar player,” she said. “That’s a very Newfoundlander thing to do, you know.”

So in a way, I guess they really are related to Alan Doyle from Petty Harbour.


2015 Finalist In her 2015 Leacock Medal shortlist book, Zarqa Nawaz, the creator of the successful CBC series Little Mosque on the Prairie, shares her life through vignettes that rely heavily on dialogue and have the feel of a TV sitcom at times.

Conference Program – May 2015

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque does what viewers of the TV show might expect. It documents in a cheerful way

Need a new Metaphor for Canada

the incongruous circumstance of a girl growing up in the Canadian west as the

Here’s a challenge for Canadian writers: “We need a new metaphor for our country.”

This seemed to be the consensus at the opening of the Contesting Canada's Future conference in Peterborough last week (May 21-23, 2015). None of the old concepts – “the cultural mosaic,” “the two solitudes,” “the frosty salad bowl,” “not-a-melting-pot,” “the fur trade folks,” “people living on land stolen from aboriginal people” - seem all that useful in today’s Canada.

This philosophical discussion spun around my head as I headed back to the Best Western on Lansdowne Street that night, flopped down on the bed, and picked up where I left off reading Laughing All the Way to the Mosque by journalist and screenwriter Zarqa Nawaz. The book stands out on the 2015 Leacock Medal shortlist as the work of a woman humorist, a story rooted in the Prairies, and a window on a particular element of our hard to describe society.

It kind of speaks to the need for a new national metaphor too.

protected product of Pakistani immigrant parents. The stress of hairy legs in gym class, the allure of tight jeans at Muslim summer camp, the adventure of talking to boys, and teenage rebellion (albeit by being more conservative than her parents) could fit into TV.


In 1948, it is likely that French Quebec was just as clichéd and “other” as the

Writing Exercise

Muslim community might feel today. (If you ever have a chance, read the jacket

You are the daughter of Canadian parents

cover of the 1940’s Truthfully Yours and

living in a small village in Morocco. Write a

then that of Laughing All the Way to the

short story describing how you

Mosque – I’m not sure publishers and

successfully make friends at your new

publicists do subtle humorists and

school by starting a hockey pool

.

affectionate memoirs a favour with hackneyed adjectives like “hilarious” and “laugh-out-loud,” but the shared spin shows how similar the presumptions about the market and context were.)

Zarqa Narwaz – 2015 Leacock Medal Finalist

Laughing All the Way to the Mosque also covers subjects like “ass washing,” clips and weights to restore the foreskin of circumcised penises, sex rules around the pilgrimage to Mecca, and references to “white people” ways that do not normally make it onto the little screen. This, of course, all adds to authenticity and avenues to connect with Zarqa’s experience.

Of course, misconceptions and the interface of cultures provides great raw material for humour and, perhaps, for finding our way as a country. That opening session at the Peterborough conference ended with the Chair

But these stories amount to something special because they go beyond the Muslim in Canada fish-out-of-water formula. They almost equally tell, with charity and humour, the experience of a Westernized, moderate Canadian in the Muslim world. Her reaction to the Halal butcher’s mix of prayer mats, trinkets, and Frankenstein cow parts could have come from the mouth and mind of any Canadian, and her naiveté in facing conservative backlash to the Little Mosque series comes across as the perspective of someone with one foot in and one foot outside each community.

suggesting, in a joking way, that the metaphor for Canada in the 21st century should be Hegel’s description of life as “the union of union and disunion.” A bit too theoretical for me, but I guess he meant the country consists of the things that hold us together whether there is a natural bond or not.

When she makes her Hajj pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, she and her husband view the spectacle as people from the Canadian prairies and are comfortably stationed in the camping area for Canadians. Through this mix, Nawaz pulls us into her story and allows us to laugh along with her. We recognize how much we all have in common, and there’s something hopeful in the fact that we have a nexus point where we can share the joke.

It’s like the spirit of Canada is the mortar between the tiles in the mosaic, not the individual tiles nor even the whole. I think you find that mortar in people, like the Canadian race – the

Often, I saw passages in Laughing All the Way to the Mosque which could have come with little alteration from early Leacock Medalists like Morley Torgov’s avoidance of medical school in the tiny Jewish community in Sault Ste. Marie or Sondra Gotlieb’s pressure to choose between marriage and university in 1950s Winnipeg. Leacock Medal winner Ian Ferguson’s life growing up as a “white kid” on an Alberta Indian reserve, and

Métis - that bridge different cultures and that teach the rest of us how to smile at the challenges. People like Ian Ferguson, Angéline Hango, Morley Torgov, and now, in 2015, Zarqa Nawaz.

1948 medal winner Angéline Hango’s life as a French Quebecoise in English schools all had strong similarities, in essence, to experience mapped out in the Nawaz story. .


But book writing has other benefits. At the June 2015 Leacock Medal banquet in Orillia (where he picked up a medal for the novel No Relation), Terry Fallis expressed gratitude for his successes, which include a Canada Reads win, a television mini-series, and a stage production based on his bestselling work. And he talked about his family as his most important project. Yet the only time he choked up came when speaking of the people he had met and the friends he had made. It’s a great way to Leacock Medal Books – What’s So Funny ? Collection

measure the worth of a book, and through this lens (not the money, prizes, and fame ones), this book has been pretty successful

Reboot: What’s So Funny? Lessons from Canada’s Leacock Medal for Humour Writing

already. I think. See the blurbs below.

So, for this 70th anniversary year (20162017) and beyond, I will continue to read Leacock Medal books, to reflect on them,

As I prepared to launch What’s So Funny? in the first weeks of January 2015, media

and write about what I learned to implant

coverage, reviews, and my neat looking book cover pumped me up in anticipation of a

the lessons in my brain and share them

year flogging humour.

with you in this magazine.

Then one evening, an odd-looking email popped onto my screen.

The attachment from my publisher informed me and hundreds of simultaneous others that the company was shutting down after some thirty-five years in business, that distribution of existing inventory would cease, and rights would be returned to authors. My book and my heart started to dissolve, and my now refined Leacock-Medal-scholar sense of humour was put to the test.

Anyway, my now gone publisher had printed a quantity of books, so I went ahead with the launch at the Ottawa Comedy Night for Parkinsons and many other events including the June Leacock Medal banquet in Orillia where organizers treated be nobly.

In my book, I suggested that the study of humour had its greatest merit as a prod to take life less seriously. As my book prepared itself for re-issue by another publisher in 2016, I still believe this less serious thing and that, rather than being the cause of distraction, a head filled with humour empowers you to confront the realities of the world. I am now addicted to the subject and hope you are too. DBD and GBS Dublin Newton Apple Seed


Kind Kudos for What’s So Funny? “Remarkably interesting and perceptive … a significant contribution to the field of Canadian Studies.” T.H.B. Symons, Founding President Trent University, Chair National Commission on Canadian Studies

“A really fine, original work and writing ... I will be dipping into it again and again.” Gerald Lynch, University of Ottawa, Author Stephen Leacock: Humour and Humanity

“Bourgeois-Doyle informs, educates, and entertains in the tradition of the best of creative non-fiction." Cassie Stocks, 2013 Leacock Medal for Humour

A lovely book, well worth such a monumental effort of reading and research. I enjoyed it very much.” J.A. “Sandy” McFarlane Former Senior Editor The Globe and Mail and co-author Globe and Mail Style Book

“A herculean project ! I am inspired by your insightful pieces … I enjoyed the way you paid homage to (parodied?) my anecdotal introductory style !” John Levesque Author of Waiting for Aquarius and Stranded on the Information Highway Winner of the 1993 Leacock Medal for Humour

“I love it ! This may sound very grandiose, but I think you’re really adding something to Canadian literature with this kind of analysis and thought." Michael Hill President Leacock Associates (2015)

“a monumental task – with writing and ideas that are a breath of fresh air!” Adrian Raeside Editorial Cartoonist Victoria Times-Colonist and syndicated comic strip The Other Coast

“a thoughtful, erudite kind of Canadian humor code ... makes you feel good about our country.” Roy Mayer Best-selling Author of Inventing Canada Success Magazine Breakthrough Ideas Winner


For the book What’s So Funny? Lessons from Canada’s Leacock Medal for Humour Writing by Dick Bourgeois-Doyle http://burnstownpublishing.com/

Or future copies of this e-magazine Email: canushumorous@gmail.com

Or follow the blog http://canushumorous.blogspot.ca/

Canus Humorous Literature Review

Canus Humorous Literature Review  

Articles on the Leacock Medal for Humour Writing, book reviews, and author information as well as tips on humour writing and technique.

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