Ignorance is one of the scariest things in the world, and certainly one of the most dangerous, but ignorance of Canada is just plain funny. Folks- the joke's on us. Don't you get it? Although it is used by many as 'proof' that Americans are stupid, "Talking to Americans" is one of the most enduringly popular and most re-run comedy specials ever to air on Canadian television, and it is far, far cleverer than that.
Before Borat there was Rick Mercer. Originating as a segment on "This Hour Has 22 Minutes" (back when it was actually good), "Talking to Americans" was a completely spontaneous occurrence initially, as Rick Mercer realized that Americans, ignorant of their neighbor to the north, would fall for just about anything. The resulting sketches and this masterpiece of a comedy special are built on much more than just mocking Americans' ignorance of Canada (although there are some seriously dumb things people say here- who would really believe that Canada had a 20 hour clock or would call the five dollar coin a 'woody'?), but is an incredibly clever and perceptive lampooning of human nature's desire to come out with a bold and confident statement on matters they are ignorant of.
In addition, the special is one of the most distinctive examples of purely Canadian culture in existence. Pummeling elk with timbits? Seals in Saskatchewan? Bombing West Edmonton mall? Getting on top of Peter Mansbridge? Only Canadians can get the most enjoyment out of the majority of these short interviews. They're brilliant in that Mercer is talking about things he knows full well nobody down south will understand, so it's almost like bouncing humor off an incredibly receptive blank canvas- they'll believe anything he tells them, allowing him to make insanely hilarious puns on Canadian pop culture phenomenon, which to the interviewees probably seem like perfectly honest and reasonable questions.
The low points of the special come when Mercer goes for trying to make celebrities sound dumb. It's still hysterical to see Dub-ya be thrilled to have Jean Poutine's endorsement for President, still hilarious to see Al Gore not reacting to Mercer's naming of Toronto as Canada's capital, still fun to see Mike Huckabee congratulate us on the preservation of our national igloo, but these parts of the special fail to capture the brilliantly straight-faced pop culture and history-based hilarity that Mercer captures in the rest of the special.
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