Among the aspects I like about writing humour — besides the offers of sexual favours (although most people usually say “no thank you) — is taking an idea and pushing it to an absurd level.
Take my latest radio piece. I wanted to do something Halloween-themed and thought, “What would Satan have to say about Halloween?” I started working this out in my head. But you know what? Satan isn’t funny. Can’t tell a decent joke AT ALL! Plus, how would I do the voice of Satan? Would he sound like me? Or would I electronically modify it?
Which is when I thought, what if Satan spoke and sounded like Stuart McLean? Genius!
Now, here’s where things get tricky. For humour to work, it takes more than just the absurd and the jarring dissonance of the normal against the ridiculous. To some extent, the audience needs to be in on the joke. And nowhere is this more the case than in satire or parody. Stuart McLean as Satan is only funny if you know who Stuart McLean is.
So I’ll tell you: Stuart McLean is the host of CBC Radio’s “The Vinyl Cafe.” He’s a superb entertainer who has built a huge following across the country with his touring shows that combine music and stories, mostly centred around perpetually bewildered Dave, owner of the Vinyl Cafe, whose motto is, “We May Not Be Big, But We’re Small.”
The thing about McLean is that his style is incredibly idiosyncratic. He reads in a halting, sing-song voice that both calls for and defies imitation.
Here’s a sample:
Explaining all this, as on other occasions, makes me realize how Canadian my writing can be, how often I refer to politics or cultural icons that just don’t make sense beyond the borders of Canada. I don’t apologize for it; this is who I am. But when it takes this long to explain what I’m talking about, it kind of sucks the life out of the humour, don’t it?
So, for what it’s worth, and mostly for my fellow Canadians, here’s my parody. Happy Halloween, everyone.
This originally aired on CBC Radio’s “Breakaway” on October 29, 2013. They added spooky sound effects and everything!