In case you needed any more proof that Canadians find it pretty easy to laugh at ourselves, here’s the latest example.
The city of Windsor, Ont., located across the river from Detroit, was recently the target of a rather asinine insult in a book published by comedian Stephen Colbert, best known for satirizing conservative American pundits on his late-night show The Colbert Report.
The book, America Again: Re-Becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t, refers to the city as potentially being “the Earth’s rectum.”
Windsor’s outraged citizens responded by inviting Colbert to tour the city in December, meet Santa Claus and lead the annual Christmas parade.
“If you can laugh at yourself, you can laugh at everything, and life is a lot easier,” Larry Horwitz, board chairman for the Downtown Windsor Business Improvement Area, told The Windsor Star on Thursday.
Furthermore, a poll on CBC’s website found that 85 per cent of respondents said Colbert’s description would prove beneficial to the city, a fact that the comedian highlighted on his show Wednesday.
“It seems that the ‘maplestream’ media have their mittens in a bunch,” he said, adding that Canadians were “oot-raged” and had their “tuques in a twist” about the insult to Windsor.
Based on the CBC poll results, Colbert predicted that the situation would be a “net positive for Canada,” observing that respondents appeared to view the characterization as an improvement over the city’s current reputation.
"You’re welcome, Windsor,” he said. “You just got the Colbert bump.”
Most of those interviewed about the matter, however, seemed like they were capable of taking a joke, including Windsor’s mayor, Eddie Francis, who told the network he’d chalked it up to “Colbert being Colbert.”
The CBC also reported that Colbert had already dissed the city once previously, calling it “the worst place on earth” during an episode of his show.
Windsor isn’t the only community to have been targeted by the comedian, who famously insulted Canton, Ga., in 2008, calling it “crappy” and contrasting it with Canton, Ohio, where John McCain had made a campaign stop during his campaign for the presidency.
The show soon turned the situation into a running joke, as Colbert issued repeated corrections, insisting he had confused Canton, Ga., with other similarly-named places in Kansas, South Dakota and Texas.
In cases like these, as the citizens of Windsor appear to understand, it’s better to demonstrate a sense of humour, rather than respond with offense and indignation.
Contrast the reaction of Pittsburgh residents in 2003 after the comic strip Get Fuzzy featured a joke referring to the city as foul-smelling.
Cartoonist Darby Conley, who said afterward that he intended the gag to be an inside joke directed at a friend, commented that he received a substantial amount of hate mail after the strip was published, including death threats.
Conley attempted to make amends with several tongue-in-cheek apologies, but he would ultimately have the last laugh, as two Pittsburgh daily papers, neither of which had run the strip before, began featuring it in their comics pages following the controversy.
Perhaps it's not true across the board, but by and large, Canadians seem willing to laugh at themselves. Just look at the success of ad campaigns based on this principle, like Molson’s “I Am Canadian” a few years back.
It also seems safe to assume that Moose Javians are similarly open to jokes about their community, based on the sheer number of events, businesses and projects with names or logos that play on the city’s name.
One thing’s for sure: having a sense of humour about life often makes things easier, whether it’s you or your hometown being targeted with a few wisecracks.
Joel van der Veen can be reached at 691-1256.