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Answering the ‘why Canada?’ questions

Barry Smith
Vail, CO, Colorado

Editor’s note: Barry is on tour, performing his comedy shows across the U.S. and Canada all summer long. Today’s dispatch comes from somewhere between Colorado and Canada, maybe Nebraska, possibly Indiana …

I grew up in Mississippi, so I’m no stranger to my homeland being the butt of jokes.

Mississippi really is the ultimate punchline state, far worse than West Virginia. It’s so bad that even people in Arkansas make Mississippi jokes.

Here’s one of my favorites:

Q: How many Mississippians does it take to screw in a light bulb?

A: Y’all.

So when I tell people that I’ll be spending the summer in Canada, their response feels similar to when I tell them that I’m from Mississippi ” mostly confusion and pity.

It’s almost like Canada is the Mississippi of countries. Only without the lynching.

“Why Canada?” they ask, with a hint of “you poor thing” in their voice.

My answer is a long one, so long that I can’t wait to get to Canada so I don’t have to explain why I’m going to Canada anymore.

Of course, I could just stop telling people that I’m spending the summer in Canada and instead steer the conversation toward what THEY’RE doing this summer, but that’s not likely. Plus, it seems dishonest to answer “not much” to the “what are you doing this summer” question, when the answer is that I’m spending the entire summer touring my two comedy shows across Canada. And I’d hate to be dishonest AND miss a chance to talk about myself.

I understand this response, because two years ago I knew as much about Canada as any American who hasn’t lived near the border and doesn’t have Canadian relatives.

Which is to say I knew what I learned from Bob and Doug McKenzie in the mid-’80s.

So, as I go through my days telling people I’m going to Canada (occasionally I let them ask first), I get some great responses. I remember all of them. Here they are:

“Canada? That sounds pretty boring.”

Maybe, but the thing is, it’s not going to be. It’s going to be the exact opposite of boring. It’s going to be the most amazing summer of my life ” each day will be radically different. I’ll meet new people, I’ll see new sights, I’ll see lots of Fringe theatre shows (I plan to see 100 this year), I’ll explore cities, I’ll get to perform my own shows about 70 times. Canada, at least my version of it, will not be boring. Sorry.

“Canada? Well, I guess that’s a good place to start.”

This was specifically in response to the fact that I’ll be performing in Canada. Funny, I like to think of my summer as an “International Tour.” But apparently Canadian audiences aren’t REAL audiences. I mean, they’re made up of Canadians. It doesn’t really count until you get to America. Nothing counts unless it’s American. Canada’s just America with training wheels.

OK, nobody actually said that. Sorry ” that takes away from the fact that all the others are actual, verbatim quotes. I wish I could take it back, but it’s too late now.

Meanwhile, I drive and drive and drive. Just me, in the van, driving. Thirty six hours worth, many of those hours still left to go. I wish there was something interesting to report. I have been listening to the music that you, the project-oriented reader, sent to me. Thanks for that.

Oh! I know! My friend Katherine loaned me a GPS! I’ve never had, or even used, such a thing before. Honestly, I’ve never even seen one in operation. Which is pretty sad, when I realize that the reason is that I never go anywhere that I don’t already know how to get to.

It’s really fun, though, and was especially good company while driving across Nebraska (“Go straight. Keep going straight. Continue to go straight.”)

As I got closer to the border, I programmed in my first Canadian destination.

“Canada?” it said. “Why?”

Read more about Barry Smith’s adventures at http://www.barrysmith.com.


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