Putting off the Ritz

There’s a Canadian federal election in full swing. Or should I say in full baby swing – as in fun if you’re in it, but other than that quite dull.

It’s the same old posturing, spinning and name calling we remember in the past – only this time the ties are off. I guess our political leaders want to appear ‘political casual’. Me, I miss the formality.

One thing for certain, elections help take our generally full dose of political correctness to a higher level.

This past week there was a brouhaha over Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz’s private remarks. Why? He did something no politician should ever do: he made a funny joke.

I’m not talking about a pre-written ice breaker, I mean two one-liners of relatively high comedic calibre, in my humble opinion.

Now, were the jokes in question tasteless and mean? Absolutely. But where I come from, some of the best humour is rarely in the best of taste. It’s often crass and edgy. It says things that we may not want to admit or hear, but does so in such a way that enables us to laugh at them; and then, when the joke is over, shake our heads at the horror.

That’s why so many people have walked out of Yuk Yuk’s over the years. It’s also why Yuk Yuk’s is one of the funniest, most unpredictable and entertaining places in the country. (Disclosure: Yuk Yuk’s is a client and Mark Breslin is a close friend).

Have a look at Christie Blatchford’s Saturday column in the Globe and Mail. She’s written what many of us have been thinking about one-liner-gate and she did it in her usual acerbic, honest and stylish way.

Did this slip of the tongue warrant all the news coverage? I don’t think so. But I’m sure many of the country’s comedians wish their jokes would get this kind of attention.

It’s just another example of a country that’s taken politeness to a sad, new extreme.

And, Christie, I happen to be one of those people who’s allergic to nuts. But I want to tell you that I have no problem if airlines serve them. I just wish they’d provide an alternative to those of us who can’t enjoy the good taste.

They started a joke…

With apologies to the Bee Gees, but this joke didn’t start ‘the whole world crying’. It was more like a frustrated sigh of bemusement.

It happened a week ago, on the stalwart CBC Radio interview show, ‘As It Happens’*. I was in my car and caught the middle of an item which purported to feature a representative of Canada’s mint. The gentleman was extolling the virtues of a new three-dollar coin – the threenie – that was going to replace the five dollar bill.

At first, I was incensed. How could they do this? What a typically bureaucratic, cost-saving move? (I admit I had forgotten it was April 1.)

I meant to blog about the situation that night but got busy. Later, when I did a search, I discovered it the whole thing was a lame joke.

Now first off, let me applaud CBC’s efforts at jocularity.

But second, I’d like to charge them with the heinous crime of attempted humour (without a license).

The premise of the joke was good. But oh, the delivery… It was too earnest and low-key; in other words it had the standard CBC tonality we Canadians are supposed to appreciate after we turn 40. That’s a right of passage, eh?

There was no signal of silly (i.e. a nearly hysterical bureaucrat), no frustration on the part of the interviewer, no absurd pronouncements, no delicious irony. In order to make people laugh, we need to sense a twinkle, a hint of mischief, a face full of pie. Otherwise, we miss the nuance.

Perhaps CBC needs to tune into itself and adjust its blandwidth. And maybe then, the next time it starts a joke, the world might catch on and start laughing (or at least crack a smile).

And by the way, can someone please tell them they don’t need the cover of April Fool’s Day to be witty.

Don’t look a gift blog…

… in the word-of-mouth…

What I mean to say (if you’ve recovered from that pun) is that blogging is hard work: write; edit; publish; repeat ad infinitum.

Sure, it’s fun and rewarding but there’s no mistaking the commitment. And every once in a while, the task of coming up with yet another post feels a bit daunting. (At least it does to me.)

But sometimes, we get lucky and are handed a gift blog.

‘So what’s a gift blog?’ you may ask.

A gift blog is a short, pithy post that pretty much writes itself. Maybe it’s a pointer to another blog that tickled your fancy, an interesting link or two, a reprise of an older entry, a plug for something you’re doing.

Gift blogs are also an easy way to drive traffic to your site when you’re in desperate need of a new post.

My advice is not to get too reliant on them (though some bloggers do).

Then, when one comes your way, you can treat it as a welcome respite and enjoy it… and the bonus gift of time.

But seriously ladies and germs…

True confession: I used to be a comedy writer/performer a long time ago (I even collaborated on a political joke book). And since I now have this forum, I’m taking the liberty of posting a few jokes and puns.

Feel free to add a laugh track (comments) – good or bad, improve the punchlines or submit your own.

Here are three to start:

What do comedians use for writing really bad jokes?
A pun.

What do you call an unruly group of snobs?
A smob.

Where do you bury jazz musicians?
In a groove-yard.