Thursday, December 10, 2009

Dispatch #1 from Kiwilandia: A few observations on humour

The general consensus amongst Kiwis I've talked with so far is that they have a lot in common with Canadians, and the most frequent comparison I've heard involves our sense of humour. My first thought is "most definitely" - and even though I haven't met anyone yet who knows The Kids in the Hall, we do both deal with our large (and sometimes larger-than-life) neighbours with wit and poise.

Take Rick Mercer's old Talking to Americans skit from the CBC's This Hour Has 22 Minutes, which is both notorious and notoriously funny:

Talking to Americans

Now, I've heard that Canadian humour is a bit cruel but I don't really agree. Nonetheless, Kiwi humour does seem a bit gentler. In fact, my new colleague in Sociology, Mike Lloyd, has rather convincingly argued that well-known NZ comedy export Flight of the Conchords can be distinguished precisely by its lack of ridicule and condescension. Still, it doesn't seem to stop them from taking the piss out of the "West Island":

Flight of the Conchords - Racism

Flight of the Conchords - Jemaine sleeps with an Australian girl

And, really, the satirical writing on Kiwianarama is often hilarious and quite biting - although mostly in a self-deprecating sort of way. Still, I think lots of Canadians would both see themselves in, and piss themselves laughing at, this characterisation of NZ national identity politics:

Positive Identity Reinforcement

"If travelling New Zealand, do not, under any circumstances, answer a question such as ‘Isn’t it great’, with something like ‘Actually it’s a bit quiet, out of the way, and not as sunny as Australia’. Kiwis have not yet developed either a robust sense of irony, or cast-iron self belief, and you may bring about a deep period of depression in the person asking the question, or, at the very least, a firm fist in the face."

(Although I should note that while the "Winter, what winter?" post is damn funny to read, the phenomenon discussed completely baffles Canadians. Why one wouldn't override a less than ideal climate through housing and clothing is truly beyond our comprehension and therefore not actually funny in practice.)


Blogger jean said...

You Canadians just need to harden up.

Blogger Anne said...



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