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Toronto Laughs at Murka

This past weekend Toronto had a street festival that effectively shut-down large stretches of Yonge Street (Toronto's main street that divides the city in east & west halves). There are so many festivals and fairs and whatnot occurring here this summer it's hard to keep track of them all. I don't think all these festivities are just a way to entice tourism dollars back to this great city after the SARS scare — though I suspect that's a factor to some extent. It just strikes me that Toronto is a very alive, vibrant city revelling in its success.

One of the festival sites featured the Acromaniacs, a well-seasoned, professional, and highly entertaining acrobatic duo. Normally I wouldn't be blogging about this, but they did something I found very interesting. They really knew how to work up a crowd to get behind them, and were masterful at creating a solid chemistry between themselves and their audience. And one of the techniques they used bears comment.

In the crowd warm-up before they actually did any acrobatics they were dialoguing with the audience, which must have numbered a couple of hundred. They asked at one point if there were any Americans in the audience. One trendy young woman raised her hand. The duo dragged her into the center, frisked her up and down, and removed her purse and hunted through it. "That's what they do to us when we go to your country," one of them said. They made a few other derogatory comments about America, which the audience ate up. The poor woman didn't seem to appreciate it very much — I don't think she really understood the humor nor the points behind it. When they were done with her and she returned to the audience she seemed a bit dazed — but she was a good sport and hung out for the rest of the show.

They totally had the audience in their palms. There were quite a few audience members brought in to help them out during the show, including a seven year old boy. They made a surprising number of sexual jokes pertaining to the little boy's genitals (eg, the necessity of protecting them for the future; to not play pocket-pool in public; etc) which everyone loved, though I doubt such humor would have gone over very well in South Uptight, Missouri.

The point is, the humor was overtly sexual, homophilic, and anatomical and no one seemed bothered — in fact, the audience loved it. And there was definitely some humor seriously critical of America that the audience completely understood and appreciated.

America is definitely the brunt of jokes in mainstream Canada; I suspect America is the brunt of jokes throughout the world. I'm glad for it, since humor is the little guy's weapon against bullies. I'm also glad that it's still possible to laugh at America: as long as it's possible to laugh at something there's always hope. But I don't know how much longer that'll be possible: America and the world made fun of Germany and the Nazis for a while until they stopped being so funny.