List of Canadian comedians

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
Two mounties capture Ed Sullivan
Wayne and Shuster, dressed as Mounties, apprehend their host on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1963

Canadian comedians have been recognized internationally since the 1910s[a][1] and were embraced as the country sought a national identity distinct from that of Great Britain and the United States.[2] Canadians closely identify with their sense of humour, and working-class Canadians popularly consider comedians, along with singers and musical acts, as the country's cultural best.[3] Canadians are known to value modesty, politeness and social responsibility, and comedians who develop their craft before such audiences become acutely aware of the fine lines of comedy.


Types of humour[edit]

Many Canadian comedians have been influenced by American and British culture and humour. They blend the comic traditions of these cultures with Canadian humour while maintaining an outsider perspective, the latter providing a separation or ironic distance which has allowed for keen observational humour, impressions and parody.[4][5]: 201–204  Comedy critics have described this as absorbing and adapting a dominant culture.[6]

Dark and fatalistic humour is also used extensively by Canadian comedians. This is generally attributed to the common reference point of the Canadian climate, the dangers of which are well known to comedians who tour the vast and often sparsely populated country.[5]: 252–254  It may be impossible to change one's fate in the face of overwhelming forces, but the comedian allows the audience to use laughter as a coping mechanism.[7][5]: 252–254 

Social pressures[edit]

man in striped shirt holding microphone

Domestic audiences traditionally value the collective good over individual freedom of expression, and as a consequence also value politeness and modesty. To overcome the taboo against social criticism, some Canadian comedians will link comedic discontent to group survival. Others will use a character or persona as a comedic mask, a tool which has allowed satire to gain mainstream popularity.[8][5]: 25  Comedic characters with broad appeal are typically low-status, non-threatening, and likeable despite their misbehaviour.[6][7]

While social pressures cause Canadians to repress their fears and anxieties, comedians expose such through comedic art. Individual audience members externalize their reaction as laughter, publicly displaying their value system. When an audience laughs together it creates consensus at sharing a common worldview. Canadian comedians thus learn to be surrogates, using individual expression to reaffirm the collective while voicing and soothing the audience's troubles.[5]: 258 


Due to limited opportunities in Canada's entertainment industry, most comedians struggle to earn a living. Those who persevere have tended to place importance on artistic freedom, and are more likely to maintain creative control of their work.[5]: 223  Some Canadian comedians move to the larger and more lucrative market of the United States, where they are perceived as "seasoned newcomers", having spent years developing their craft outside the notice of Hollywood.[2][9]

Since 2000, Canadian comedians have been recognized by the Canadian Comedy Awards (CCA), which has bestowed over 350 awards for comedy in live performances, film, television, radio, and Internet media.[10] Television comedy has also been recognized by the Canadian Screen Awards.

Film and broadcast performers are represented by the Alliance of Canadian Cinema, Television and Radio Artists (ACTRA), theatre performers by the Canadian Actors' Equity Association (CAEA), comedy writers by the Writers Guild of Canada (WGC), and stand-up comedians by the Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians (CASC).[11][12]


Notable Canadian comedians include:[13][14]



man in dark suit smiling with microphone
Brent Butt performing at Casino Regina


Man holds hand to ear to elicit audience reaction.
Jim Carrey performing in Spain


man in checked jacket and baseball hat with microphone
Jon Dore performing for Comedy Central





Jason Jones preparing a field piece for The Daily Show





man making impression of George Burns between microphone and Christmas tree
Rich Little performing for the US Air Force.


potato-faced man in suit
Mike Myers at the Tribeca Film Festival




Candy Palmater performing The Candy Show
Katherine Ryan



Man in cowboy hat holding microphone and leaning on microphone stand.
Ron Sparks at the YYComedy Festival
man dressed in black, grinning maniacally
Scott Thompson








The Sketchersons performing at Toronto's Comedy Bar

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Canada's first internationally successful comedy troupe, The Dumbells, had hit shows on Broadway and London's West End after being founded as a WWI concert party.[1]


  1. ^ a b Wilson, Jason (2012). Soldiers of Song: The Dumbells and other Canadian Concert Parties of the First World War. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfrid Laurier University Press. ISBN 9781554588824.
  2. ^ a b Clark, Andrew (1 February 1999). "The land of laughs". Maclean's. Retrieved 2 August 2019.
  3. ^ Dunk, Thomas (2000). "National culture, political economy and socio-cultural anthropology in English Canada". Anthropologica. Waterloo, Ontario: Canadian Research Centre for Anthropology / Wilfrid Laurier University Press  – via ProQuest (subscription required). 42 (2): 131. ISSN 0003-5459. ProQuest 214176847. ...working-class individuals [...] idea of Canada's cultural best is more likely to include the Canadian comedians who have frequented American television shows such as Saturday Night Live (Dan Aykroyd, Mike Myers) or rock groups such as Rush [...] or more recently internationally famous performers such as Shania Twain or Celine Dion.
  4. ^ "5 explanations from comedians about Canadians in Hollywood". Maclean's. The Canadian Press. 31 August 2014. Archived from the original on 2 October 2017. Retrieved 7 June 2019. Originally published in Maclean's Book of Lists, Volume 1 (2012)
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Clark, Andrew (1997). Stand and Deliver: Inside Canadian Comedy. Toronto: Doubleday Canada Limited. ISBN 0-385-25602-7.
  6. ^ a b Cohen, Robert (2015). Being Canadian. Amaze Film + Television.
  7. ^ a b "Humourous Canadensis: A scientifically-proven look at Canuk". Performing Arts & Entertainment in Canada. Toronto, Ontario: Avanti Magazines – via ProQuest (subscription required). 28 (4): 6–9. 1994. ISSN 1185-3433. ProQuest 224867508. As with print before it, the advent of radio and television brought closer contact between Canada's disparate regions. With this contact – through a sort of broadcast-based nation building – came the 'need' to find unifying cultural icons. As we explored the ties that bound us, we found the one image we could all identify with: The Hoser.
  8. ^ Gopnik, Adam (18 May 2019). "Canada is the model liberal nation – and Canadians should embrace that". The Globe and Mail. Toronto, Ontario: The Globe and Mail Inc. Archived from the original on 25 May 2019. Retrieved 23 June 2019. Those Canadian habits of modesty, with its assumed mockery of pretension, are one of the reasons for the primacy of Canadian comedians in American humour.
  9. ^ Lai, Shirley (1995). "So you want to be a comedian, eh?". Performing Arts & Entertainment in Canada. Toronto, Ontario: Avanti magazines – via ProQuest (subscription required). 30 (1): 17–19. ISSN 1185-3433. ProQuest 224867967. Canada has turned out some of the funniest people on the planet.
  10. ^ "Nominations & Awards Archives | Canadian Comedy Awards". Canadian Comedy Awards. Toronto, Ontario. 2019. Archived from the original on 6 May 2019. Retrieved 30 May 2019.
  11. ^ Hannay, Chris (23 November 2018). "Beating them to the punchline: How Canadian stand-ups are trying to change the funny business". The Globe and Mail. Toronto: The Globe and Mail Inc. Archived from the original on 4 March 2019. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  12. ^ Mudhar, Raju (7 March 2018). "Standup comedians take a crack at government funding". The Toronto Star. Toronto Star Newspapers Limited. Archived from the original on 2 December 2018. Retrieved 10 April 2019.
  13. ^ Maurice Charney (August 2005). Comedy: a geographic and historical guide. Greenwood Publishing Group. pp. 210–213. ISBN 978-0-313-32714-8. Archived from the original on 2016-09-03. Retrieved 2016-10-22.
  14. ^ "Canadian Comedians Direct". Archived from the original on 2013-01-28. Retrieved 2013-07-01.