Coronavirus cases are spiking. There’s unrest in the streets, with no immediate solutions for systemic racism. Federal agents are being deployed to patrol American cities. Almost 70% of Americans think the country is going in the wrong direction.
What to do? Let’s make fun of Canada!
OK, it’s a coincidence that Jim Gaffigan’s latest comedy special, “The Pale Tourist,” starts streaming Friday on Amazon Prime. It was filmed in Ontario back in February, before the pandemic shut things down on both sides of the border.
And the Canadians in the audience take considerable delight as Gaffigan pokes fun at all things Canadian, from the weather to the airport abbreviations to how they name their cities and provinces. And, he says, certain Canadian foods and drinks are, well, gross.
Canadians got those jokes right away, but Americans who haven’t eaten in that country might need a bit of a primer:
• A donair is a pita filled with shaved meat, tomatoes, onions and a sweet, garlicky sauce. Gaffigan says the first thing he did when he arrived in Canada was eat one.
“And the second thing I did was have explosive diarrhea,” he says. ”I should’ve known something bad was coming. When I walked in, the guy was, like, ‘You don’t even look drunk.’”
• Poutine is a mixture of fries, gravy and cheese curds (with variations in various provinces).
“It’s almost like someone was just trying to make French fries even more unhealthy — what if we cover it in everything that causes heart disease?” Gaffigan says. “Let’s do it! We have free health care.”
• A Caesar cocktail is “kind of like a Bloody Mary, but with clam juice. I didn’t know that was an ingredient. Or a liquid.”
This is Jim Gaffigan we’re talking about — one of the funniest men alive — so none of this is mean-spirited.
Yes, “Pale Tourist” is mostly about Canada, but he doesn’t spare Americans. Gaffigan says that having Donald Trump in the White House is “kind of like having a parent who’s an alcoholic,” and he points to all the Americans who threaten to move to Canada if an election doesn’t go the way they want.
“I don’t remember Canada extending an invitation,” Gaffigan says. “And I’ve been coming to Canada for years — been recruited zero times.”
The audience in Ontario loves that. And, of course, they’re on board when he jokes about their reputation for being oh-so-polite. “Not liking Canadians is an indication of a mental problem,” he says.
One of his best shots actually comes at the expense of a third country. Gaffigan jokes about all the Canadian provinces, and gets a huge laugh when he gets to Quebec.
“They’re Canadian, which, by definition, is polite. But they’re also — French,” he says. “Talk about a contradiction. ‘I want to apologize for everything, but I’m better than everyone. I am sorry you’re so dumb.’”
No, making fun of Canada isn’t going to make anything on this side of the border any better. But streaming Gaffigan’s “Pale Tourist” comedy special will make you laugh and feel better about life in general, at least for a while.