Monday, March 30, 2009

Comedic Medicine and Other Altered States of Being

Yesterday, I went to the Most Races Show on Earth, an annual comedy fest showcasing the best in multicultural humour.

This was my second year attending this show, and both times were amazing.

Laughter really is the international language we all understand, regardless of the colour of our skin. Aside from exercising my funny bone, it’s a great cause too – proceeds from the show go towards the Canadian Anti-racism Education and Research Society (CAERS).

There were comedians from all ethnic lines – from Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Italy, Lebanon, Poland and more. A live band warmly welcomed each act, and gave those of us in the audience a much needed breather, to catch our breath from all the laughing.

Multiculturalism was the dominant theme – but altered states of being seemed to be just as prominent.

Although I’m a fan of the drug-influenced comedy of Cheech and Chong, I was surprised by just how much of this drug culture played in last night’s show.

Almost every comedian made jokes about doing marijuana. If the jokes weren’t about how hard it was to get the stuff, they were about what they were like under its influence.

“I went up to a fellow Brother, who had dreadlocks down to his ass,” said one comedian. “He’s got to have, just look at those locks man, but he didn’t even know what I was asking him about.”

“What about Sugar Crisp – man if there’s a spokesman for us – it has to be Sugar Bear,” said another comedian. “Can’t get enough of those Sugar Crisps . . .” he continued, acting like the famed animated character, only as if the cartoon bear were stoned.

Many famous people have been known to dabble in the so-called drug culture – or counter culture depending on who you talk too. Robin Williams has admitted to being on various controlled substances when he was much younger, and has spent many years in and out of rehab facilities. Robert Downey Jr. has also spent time in and out of rehab for drugs – but this past summer he had one of the most successful movies of the summer-blockbuster run, with Iron Man. Hunter S. Thompson, the founder of the gonzo journalism style of reporting was known to pen his best stories under the influence of many drugs. Then of course, there’s the most famous comedy duo, which made getting high a comedic riot – Cheech and Chong.

However, when you go to a comedy festival which is supposed to break down the barriers of racial discrimination, and highlight our similarities spanning our cultural differences, aren’t there more similarities than smoking up?

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed the show last night – all the comedians were funny, energetic and entertaining to watch. But I was disappointed that the majority of the jokes revolved around marijuana.

There are so many different stereotypes, it would have been nice to see the comedians play off of those, rather than falling back to the easy and over-used stereotype of the druggie. Part of the point of the show, from my understanding, was to poke fun at the various cultural stereotypes, and show that despite all these common images, we’re pretty much the same.

But instead of poking fun at various cultural stereotypes, I felt I was watching an old Cheech and Chong movie. Or maybe I was watching Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Hunter S. Thompson in the movie Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, where we actually see the world through the altered states of mind of one of the best drug-influenced writer’s of all time.

No wait – I was at The Most Races Show on Earth, so how come I have the munchies?

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