Can you say one country’s comedians are ‘better’ than another’s?

April 7, 2010

By Dylan Gadino
Editor in Chief
Punchline Magazine

NEW YORK, Apr. 7, 2010/ Troy Media/ — In what I can only describe as one of the most pointless and ill-conceived analyses on the subject of comedy, Troy Media yesterday, in a pair of op-eds (“American Comedians Can’t Hold a Candle to their Canadian Counterparts” and “Why Americans Love Canadian Comedians“) makes the point that Canadian comedians are better than American comedians. “Better” –  as if it can be quantified. I actually had to make sure, before writing what’s below, that Troy Media was not part of the Onion News Network.

To be clear, I’m not annoyed that Troy Media – an online news service that covers “issues shaping Canada and the world” – thinks Canadian comedians are funnier than American comedians. I’m annoyed that as a news organization, they feel that this is something that can be proven; they take an art as complex, personal and subjective as stand-up comedy and attempt – failingly – to compare the two camps (as if there are two camps and not just comedians from two different countries) as if they’re comparing sedans or bathroom cleaning products.

What reasons?

That said and out of the way, the most disturbing parts of the editorials are the reasons they give for Canadian comedians’ dominance.

This is my favorite: Canadian comics have “no need to spill their psychological guts.” It continues:

“Why? Because they don’t have the need to talk about the psychological horrors of their upbringings the way American comedians do. Canadians are either free of them or throw themselves into their work and hide behind their characters in an attempt to avoid confronting them.”

Listen, there are many American comedians that I love to watch who do not feel the need to share their inner most scars – see Brian Regan, Jim Gaffigan – but the comedians who bare their souls artfully are the ones that fuel my passion for covering comedy and embedding myself into their world. Guys like Doug Stanhope, Jim Norton, Marc Maron and Greg Giraldo would no doubt fall into the “spilling of their psychological guts” categories Troy Media disdains. And that’s exactly why those comedians resonate so powerfully with their fans.

Troy Media simplifies US comedians, describing them as people who go onstage and say shocking things. It’s short sighted. Sure, Norton talks about his sexual deviances and yes, it’s funny. But it’s the honesty and sensitivity that runs throughout his comedy that makes us love him. The fact that there’s someone out there willing to expose his hurt, his darkness, makes us feel better. We’re not alone. We’re engaged. We’re thankful.

That your country’s comedians seem to have no soul, depth or passion (or at least the courage to show it onstage) isn’t an attribute; it’s a crippling disability.

Another reason Troy Media uses to prove Canadian comedians’ superiority over their American counterparts? Diversity. In their words:

“Unlike Canadian comedians, American comedians lack an identifiable style. Like its country’s melting-pot society, its comedians serve up a potpourri of styles that range from outrageous, clever and eccentric to ribald, off-color and brassy.”

Comedians deserve more respect

Now, if I hadn’t told you that the preceding excerpt was part of an editorial about why American comedy is inferior to Canada’s comedy, wouldn’t you think that the passage was part of a larger story about why American comedy is superior?

Yes, our comedians deliver all types of comedy. That’s a good thing! And I guarantee if you polled Canada’s comedians, they would not, for a minute, be pleased with the way you’ve inaccurately described them as this homogeneous band of boring, passionless joke slingers too afraid to talk about their feelings or challenge an audience.

Your editorials, Troy Media, do not treat American or Canadian comedians with the respect each group deserves. And your attempt to simplify the art of comedy with a “we’re better than you” argument will only make those not embedded in the comedy world think the art form is as black-and-white as you present it.

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