All the news in news comedy this week is Jon Stewart’s announcement that he is retiring from the host’s chair of The Daily Show after 16 years of impeccable, well, Stewartship.
Every major media outlet has since chimed in speculating on who might replace him and whether anyone really can or even really needs to. It’s an American story technically but it also affects the comedy world in general and anyone with a strong sense of humour who also has a strong interest in, well, the world.
As a Canadian comedian with a keen interest in current events and comedy that incorporates facts and arguments, I’m sad to see Jon go. I was even sadder to see the end of The Colbert Report last year which, again, we owe to Jon since this character was a Daily Show spinoff.
But what I’m SADDEST about is, at this juncture, Canadian media network execs have never seen fit to produce a tv show of similar bite that all Canadians and many NON-Canadians feel compelled to debate about the merits and succession of.
With all due respect to This Hour Has 22 Minutes and Rick Mercer (whom I think are all brilliant at what they do) Canada has never had a nightly news comedy satire that puts laughter on our faces, “power people” in their places and the world in entertaining perspective.
Why is this?
Well, partly because Canadian network executives, particularly in comedy, like to play things safe. They have a job, which they would like to keep (fair enough) and they are obsessed with numbers of viewers, which is understandable since there is no point producing something that nobody is watching (SUN News network JUST learned this) Also, through various agreements it has become more “cost effective” for Canadian networks to buy American and other countries’ comedy programming rather than developing our own. And yes, I’m well aware that some Canadian tv shows that have been made were not very watchable (The Debaters’ tv version included) which doesn’t help.
But to not even try in this format is NOT the solution.
Canada has a lot of very talented comedians. We have even more very intelligent, news-savvy citizens. We even have news that other countries are interested in such as an abysmal climate change policy, an economy that needs to be better understood and a number of arseholes that SHOULD be skewered and brought to task. Yes, we have politicians that are narcissistic, corrupt and incompetent. But we also have politicians that are doing inspiring things, whom should be celebrated. More importantly, we also have NON-politician personalities that should be introduced to the world. Comedians, multi-media artists, bloggers, musicians and yes even the occasional entertaining businessperson. All of whom have interesting, important ideas that should be shared in an entertaining (read “funny” way). This is what the Daily Show and The Colbert Report always did so well.
As it stands now, our politicians mostly appear on shows like Power and Politics with Evan Solomon and The Agenda with Steve Paiken. Both do a seriously good job doing serious discussions with serious people.
The problem is, Canadians don’t want to be serious all the time. Even serious Canadians. We want to laugh at ourselves and at others. We need a show that makes us laugh, makes us think and becomes the home for those with a strong sense of humour (the second “u” is where the funny is) to come to on a nightly basis.
I believe that show CAN be made in Canada (it’s the root word of our country when you think about it) But the prevailing attitude of networks here has been predominantly much more “no. We can’t…we couldn’t.” (read: “we won’t”)
Well, I’m pitching such a show to a Canadian network right now. Maybe, just maybe they’ll give Canadian comedians a chance this time to show what we can do on a nightly basis. Because I don’t want to move to America, like so many talented Canadian comedians have had to do, to help cement the comedy reputation of an American.
So thanks again Jon Stewart, for blazing a trail. For bringing intelligent comedy to us on a nightly basis. For hiring Canadians to your team.
Now please, Canadian comedy executives. Let’s make something of our own the world will watch, laugh at and argue about.
Steve Patterson is the host of CBC Radio’s The Debaters. His next one-man show “I Laugh Therefore I Think” begins touring Canadian theatres this spring. More information at stevepatterson.ca