Thoughts on culture, education, and having been a Canadian in the US
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Talking to Americans

Rick Mercer’s Talking to Americans special was on CBC again last night. That show just doesn’t get old. I do, with some reservations, show it to my students from time to time, but only after exposing them to a great deal of Canadian satire. It’s hard to explain our relation to political satire, really. Showing them, though, that our political satire, unlike say the Daily Show, are shown in primetime on the CBC, Canada’s public broadcaster helps a bit. We also spend a lot of time looking at how eager Canada’s politicians are to play along, which I think also helps them to situate Mercer’s special.

Canadians even more willing to laugh at/with themselves as they are to poke fun at anyone else. I don’t read Talking to Americans as being cruel or making too much fun of Americans. Canadians really like Americans and, although Mercer’s special makes us laugh at just how ignorant many Americans are of even the most basic facts about Canada, I find that when watching this special we’re laughing with the Americans rather than at them. That’s somewhat hard to fathom, I realize, but it’s true. Some in the US might view Mercer’s special as anti-American, but I think what Canadians find most amusing, and even endearing, is how willingly and generously they go out of their way to answer Mercer’s questions.

If we take it personally that Americans know little about their neighbours to the north, we only need to listen to this clip (which incidentally I first heard broadcast on CBC Radio the day following the midterm elections) to see that it had nothing to do with us. Thanks to Michael Bérubé for digging this up again. Of course, it’s one thing for people on the street not to know the name of Barack Obama, it’s another thing for potential leaders not to know the name of the leader of its nation’s most important trading partner and its sole neighbour to the north.

Like the end of the audio clip, many of the people Mercer talks to in his special are attending or are even, um, professors at some of the USA’s top universities. This clip from Talking to Americans, though, does give me some faith in the American education system after all….

For more of Rick Mercer, take some time to go through the archives of previous shows on The Mercer Report website, or check out Rick’s great blog.

1 comment

1 Weird News { 12.20.06 at 5:03 pm }

Altough it may seem weird that these people don’t know their state or official it is also quite bad in the US too. We often do alot of these type of videos on say letterman and other late shows and they always make our people look dumb.
LOL. Thanks for sharing.