To the extent that there is an intrinsically Canadian brand of humor, as I wrote in a post over the weekend, it can feel like a coping mechanism for dealing with that big, boisterous, sometimes overbearing neighbor to the south. It's not so much about mocking America – although that's definitely part of the fun – as it is about asserting and preserving a sense of Canadianness that can sometimes feel subsumed.
Canadian humor has been so successful that, although its population is only one tenth the size of America's, a seemingly much larger share of the U.S.'s most celebrated comedians are actually from up north. The northern infiltrators generally drop their America-mocking once they find success down in the U.S. (one great exception is this clip from Jim Carrey's early career). But the jokes up in Canada can be a little more direct.
At the top of this page is a 43-minute TV special, "Talking to Americans," by a Canadian comedian named Rick Mercer, from 2001. It attracted 2.7 million viewers, making it the then most-watched special ever on Canadian TV. It's Borat-style a love letter to American stereotypes, helpfully documented by unwitting Americans doing on-the-street interviewees.
People nod along knowingly when he references Dutch as the official language of Quebec. New Yorkers furrow their brows and answer in resounding affirmatives, for example, when Mercer asks them whether or not the U.S. should bomb and maybe invade "Chechnya and Saskatchewan." Chicagoans tell him they support the president's decision to bomb West Edmonton. He goads a series of Arkansans, including a governor by the name of Mike Huckabee, into discussing the Canadian national igloo. There's even an appearance by then-presidential candidate George W. Bush, who winkingly referenced the then-famous incident on a 2004 visit to Halifax.
A Canadian reader who sent the video along writes, "I guarantee you 99% of Canadians have seen at least some portion of this video." She adds that her husband, with whom she lives in the District, recently convinced some of his co-workers that Canada runs on a 25-hour clock. He works at a hospital.
Beyond being funny, it's also a fascinating window – seriously – into how Americans are perceived abroad. Between the shared language, shared history, deep trade, complimentary foreign policies, and common cross-border movement, it's hard to think of a country more similar to the U.S. And who knows you better than your closest friend?
Update: The above video appears to be taken offline, but you can still watch "Talking to Americans" on YouTube.