Jokes on Us: Six Films That Prove Canucks Love Self-Deprecating Humour

By Carol Neshevich ● March 30, 2016 13:30

As the late, great John Candy once said, “Wherever you go in the world, you just have to say you’re Canadian and people laugh.” Known the world over for our self-deprecating sense of humour, nobody laughs at Canadians quite like Canadians themselves. And it seems we’ve captured the proof on film. Here are six examples of movies that feature Canadian directors, writers and actors hilariously poking fun at their own culture. If you can't make it out to the various comedy festivals happening this summer, try renting one of these Canadian comedies and feel the laughs coming. 

1) Strange Brew

Starring Canadian actors Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas as the bumbling but lovable Canuck brothers Bob and Doug McKenzie (the characters they had previously made famous on SCTV), this 1983 film is a very loose adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet centred around a fictional Canadian brewery called Elsinore. Playing heavily on Canadian stereotypes – particularly the quirks of blue-collar, Northern “hosers” – the movie was also co-directed by Moranis and Thomas, and features Bob and Doug getting caught up in the intrigue of a scandal at the brewery while wearing plaid flannel shirts and warm toques, consuming vast quantities of beer, and saying “eh” a lot.

2) The Canadian Conspiracy

This 1985 “mockumentary” was a TV film directed by Robert Boyd, based on the satirical premise that the Canadian government is infiltrating the United States by slowly taking over its entertainment industry. Presented in a serious doc-style tone, countless Canadian stars who had made it big in the U.S. participated enthusiastically in the film. They include Leslie Nielsen, John Candy, Anne Murray, Martin Short, Morley Safer, Lorne Michaels, Margot Kidder, William Shatner, and many more. The idea that the term “Green Card” was actually named after Canadian actor Lorne Greene was a running gag throughout the movie, with Anne Murray saying at one point, “well, there has to be a connection between Lorne Greene and the Green Card. Because all the people I know who have Green Cards know Lorne Greene.”

3) Men with Brooms

Directed by Canada’s own Paul Gross, who also co-wrote and starred in the film, this 2002 romantic comedy about curling is about as stereotypically Canadian as you can get – because who else but a Canadian would even think to make a romantic comedy about curling? Filled with Canadian in-jokes, Men with Brooms has everything from recurring beaver gags to a cameo appearance by iconic Canadian rock band The Tragically Hip as the rival curling team.

4) Bon Cop, Bad Cop

Made in 2006 as a bilingual feature film, Bon Cop, Bad Cop is a dark comedy/thriller about an anglophone cop from Ontario (played by Colm Feore) and a francophone police officer from Quebec (played by Patrick Huard) who reluctantly partner up to solve a murder involving a body found at the Ontario/Quebec border. The unique premise of the movie allows for a slew of jokes poking fun at the attitudes French and English Canadians have towards each other. And the fact that the body belonged to a hockey executive opens the door for some laughs about the quintessentially Canadian sport – including a turn from Rick Mercer as a loud-mouthed sportscaster (ostensibly modelled after Don Cherry).

5) Score: A Hockey Musical

The 2010 film’s title says it all: this is indeed a musical about hockey, Canada’s obsession on ice. The story focuses on a home-schooled, pacifist teenaged boy named Farley Gordon who gets “discovered” as a hockey phenom despite never having played on an organized team, and the instant success he experiences creates a strain in his relationships. Featuring songs with ever-so-Canadian titles such as “Frozen Toe” and "Kraft Dinner,” the lyrics throughout the film contain a number of lovingly funny Canadian cultural references (“Hockey without fighting is like Kraft Dinner without cheese; It’s still pasta, but the palate it won’t please”).

6) Corner Gas: The Movie

This 2014 film is based on the popular Canadian comedy TV series that ran from 2004 to 2009, revisiting the small Western Canadian town of Dog River five years later as the town struggles with bankruptcy and residents come up with various schemes to save the town. The “Canadian-ness” of the town is subtly woven into every joke. As John Doyle wrote in his Globe and Mail review, “The running gag about a coffee shop taking root in Dog River ends up being a deft satire of Tim Hortons and our silly obsession with the coffee-and-doughnuts chain. In fact the entire movie, about a tiny town going bankrupt, is really about how we, in Canada, react to crisis. It’s about us at our best and worst. The humour is absurdist, never mean-spirited. The look and feel of Corner Gas, the show, the movie, is distinct from U.S. comedy – it feels Canadian, without everyone talking about being in Canada, and there’s genius in that.”