The Mongolian Comedian

Hello. I’m Anthony St. George on location here in Washington.

On behalf of Canadians everywhere I’d like to offer an apology to the United States of America. We haven’t been getting along very well recently and for that, I am truly sorry. I’m sorry we called George Bush a moron. He is a moron, but it wasn’t nice of us to point it out. If it’s any consolation, the fact that he’s a moron shouldn’t reflect poorly on the people of America. After all, it’s not like you actually elected him.

I’m sorry about our softwood lumber. Just because we have more trees than you, doesn’t give us the right to sell you lumber that’s cheaper and better than your own. It would be like if, well, say you had ten times the television audience we did and you flood our market with great shows, cheaper than we could produce. I know you’d never do that.

I’m sorry we beat you in Olympic hockey. In our defense I guess our excuse would be that our team was much, much, much, much better than yours. As word of apology, please accept all of our NHL teams which, one by one, are going out of business and moving to your fine country.

I’m sorry about our waffling on Iraq. I mean, when you’re going up against a crazed dictator, you want to have your friends by your side. I realize it took more than two years before you guys pitched in against Hitler, but that was different. Everyone knew he had weapons.

I’m sorry we burnt down your White House during the War of 1812. I see you’ve rebuilt it! It’s very nice.

I’m sorry for Alan Thicke, Shania Twain, Celine Dion, Loverboy, that song from Sheriff that ends with a really high-pitched long note. Your beer. I know we had nothing to do with your beer, but we feel your pain.

And finally on behalf of all Canadians, I’m sorry that we’re constantly apologizing for things in a passive-aggressive way which is really a thinly veiled criticism. I sincerely hope that you’re not upset over this. Because we’ve seen what you do to countries you get upset with.

For 22 minutes, I’m Anthony St. George, and I’m sorry.

I’ve always maintained that Mongolia lacks comedy. The loneliest man on the planet is probably a Mongolian Comedian. Of course I base that on absolutely nothing, just the assumption that the funniest Mongolian culture gets is the reference is at the beginning of the Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy.

The reality of it is that Mongolia suffers from complete cultural dominance by a neighboring superpower. An affliction Canadians should know very well.

I’ve spent a lot of time recently studying television. Paying attention to how shows are put together and written. Of course my motivation behind all of this is that some day, I’d like to create, write and maintain a sitcom.

I even have the pilot written and season one storylines drafted out, in all reality I need to write a one page summary of the pilot episode, do the final copywriting and mail it off. I’ve done all the research and I know what I need to do in order to get the pilot at least looked at. There’s a huge wall of fear and lack of confidence standing in my way. Typically that’d sound unreasonable since there’s one possible negative outcome, “No” amongst a plethora of possible positive ones. It’s pretty easy to vault past that, if there were options. But that’s something that’s sorely lacking in Canada. Options. Options for the unknown inspiring writer who believes he can tell an entertaining story worthy enough of filming. After doing extensive research, there are two production companies in Canada that will accept unsolicited show ideas. One in Ontario. The other? Montreal. The one in Quebec is in French, guess which language I don’t speak.

Every other production company in Canada that I researched requires an agent; an agent usually requires experience, Writer’s Guild Membership or a referral; The Writer’s Guild requires experience or the signing of a contract by an approved production company. I could chase my tail for hours on that paradox.

That’s why I might be a little nervous. It feels like you get one at bat, a strike and you’re out of the game.

Why not try the States? That’s what I’ve been trying to avoid. Remember that Mongolian comedian? A man so lonely and lacking colleagues. Canada is a lot like that. The idea that the USA is the entertainment and cultural promise land is sickening. You have to sell a good portion of your soul to make it down there and any Canadian culture you might have brought with you is lost or absorbed into the American mass media machine. Michael Cera is Canadian, Ellen Page is Canadian, Anna Paquin is Canadian. I could go on and on, but I’m sticking to famous people who are around my own age. The point being that they’re big in the USA and by proxy, are big in Canada. Not the other way around. You just happen to be a Canuck.

If I ever got anything produced I’d want to stay Canadian. Why? Because there’s very little new material representing us out there right now. With Corner Gas officially over – side note: I have nothing but the highest amount of respect for Brent Butt. He decided to end the show on his terms and while it was still good. Tip of the hat sir, tip of the hat. I cannot wait to see what you’ll do with Hiccups! – Ahem, with Corner Gas officially over, the Canadian sitcom landscape is probably the thinnest it’s been as far back as I can remember. We have; two political shows, RMR and This Hour Has 22 minutes, and Little Mosque that headline mainstream Canadian comedy. Two of those are funny.

And it’s not like we haven’t been trying to create good programming. Sophie and Being Erica… Good? Ha! I can’t even type that with a straight face. That’s vanilla comedy at its finest. In all fairness Being Erica does have an interesting concept behind it. Neither show was made for me so it’s easy to be critical. The point is that we’re trying!

The trend right now is leaning towards more American programming. Which it always has, because American programming is usually higher quality, they have the money to produce shows like Heros and Lost. America wouldn’t realize it, but with the right legislative pushes in Canada, they could be one step closer to a cultural manifest destiny. Trailer Park Boys is gone and it’s not like companies in the USA aren’t above stealing successful show concepts. I can see it now, a show about a small village in the middle of Nebraska, 40 miles from anywhere or a show about a group of derelicts in a Vermont trailer park. How dare they produce high quality programming like that! How dare they! But at least they get well funded television. It’s a functioning industry down there and because it is functioning, we’re envious.

What would I do? If I were in charge of a production company right now, instead of focusing on my own interests, I’d put out a casting call. Any aspiring writers, put forward a pilot and series outline. Character bios as well. I would read each submission and select the funniest and the best. I would interview the writers and get to work on developing the pilot for them. I would call it “The Creative Cure for the Depression Blues” catchy, I like that.

The conditions; no agents (no I wouldn’t attempt to screw over the poor creators and writers, I would offer contracts that follow to the Screenwriters Guild of Canada’s guidelines) and you have to be Canadian.

I’m sure there would have to be a few business decisions here and there, but the ultimate goal would be to produce and push Canadian content that does more than vaguely appeal to the vanilla comedy crowd. Bring something gritty to the table, or at very least memorable. Make Canadian broadcasting more than the exclusive ‘old boys’ club it’s turned into. Ontario is even in the perfect position with loads of tax breaks being recently announced for Television Producers and a couple of holes opening up on the big networks. Telefilm Canada even has sponsorship programs.

Alas, I’m not a director… what to do. What to do.

I could run away to the Gobi desert, become a monk and live out my days circling the base of Belukha mountain chanting hymns and begging for rice.



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