On Monday the Globe and Mail, for reasons we can only guess at, gave a “comedian” named Bob Robertson a national platform on which to embarrass himself. Robertson uses this space to examine the death of Canadian comedy, and also to make terrible jokes that no one with even a passing understanding of comedy would consider acceptable.
A self-styled “political satirist” who is also “one of Canada’s premier after-dinner entertainers” according to Corporate Entertainers, Robertson takes aim at everything from Napster to those wacky Starbucks orders. His angle for this incisive commentary is that Canada is suffering the aftermath of its great comedy boom, which happened in the 1990s. This is partially true: Kids in the Hall aired from 1988 to 1994, which is the exact length of Canada’s “golden age of comedy.”
Thousands of skilled comedians could actually make a good living plying their trade in Canada then, but that was the 1990s. Sadly, in 2013, the golden age of Canadian comedy has suffered the same fate as Napster, oxygen bars and the Ottawa Rough Riders.
One might look at Just For Laughs, JFL42 in Toronto, and the constant stream of Canadian talent into the mainstream as signs that Canadian comedy is not at all experiencing the same fate as oxygen bars, but of course, then one would not be able to make the upcoming hilarious, fresh joke about the Starbucks franchises that have apparently replaced every single former comedy club and where
the only comedy on display is listening to a customer try to order a “Grande, quad, nonfat, extra shot, one-pump, no-whip mocha.”
Meanwhile, Canada’s remaining comedy clubs face shrinking audiences and the appearance of too many unskilled comedians, whose limited skills only allow them to ask, “Anyone here from out of town?” and belittle proud communities like Moose Jaw, Dildo and Wawa.
This is funny because Robertson’s entire column reads like a flailing, desperate attempt to score cheap laughs, which is often the duty “anyone here from out of town” and other crowd-work questions perform.
Ultimately, we have to ask ourselves what Robertson’s point is. Does he think Canada’s comedy scene is actually dying, in which case this is not satire at all? That seems unlikely. So what, exactly, is he satirizing? Really, someone hazard a guess.
Does Robertson think he is launching a blistering critique of pop culture with his references to audiences amusing “themselves on their iPhones watching YouTube videos, usually involving Grumpy Cat”? Is he delivering a scathing take-down of our business and trade relationship with China when he mentions “the federal government’s Temporary Foreign Comedian Program”? How could anyone possibly think fake TV channels “BLINK” and “GLUT” are funny?
What is this man’s deal?
We may never find out. From what little we know of Bob Robertson, he seems like the type of guy who never stops joking, even for a single goddamn second. Comedy is probably all he has, and as we can all clearly see, that is really not saying much at all.
While we puzzle over the many, many questions this article poses, we can also enjoy some of Robertson’s live work. It must truly be seen to be believed. And, in the immortal words of Bob Robertson himself,
“Have a Stockwell Day.”