Do you know when Thanksgiving is? Of course you do. It’s the fourth Thursday of November.
Except in Canada. Thanksgiving was actually yesterday, the second Monday of October. You probably didn’t know that. Because you don’t know a lot of things about Canada. For example, what is the capital? Who is the Prime Minister? It’s okay, we’ll wait while you click on those links.
The vast lack of knowledge about the country that borders the United States to the north, along with the facile stereotypes (from hockey to mounties, eh?), have long frustrated/amused Robert Cohen, an Emmy-winning TV writer-(The Ben Stiller Show, The Big Bang Theory)-turned-director (Maron, Netflix’s upcoming Lady Dynamite) who grew up in Calgary. (It’s located in Alberta, which, yes, is a real place.) At his wit’s end and known for his wit, Cohen did the only logical thing he could about his Canadian conundrum: He made a documentary. In the charming underdog film Being Canadian (available on iTunes, Amazon, and Google), he journeyed from one end of Canada to another to debunk stereotypes about America’s courteous and overlooked neighbor (and maybe accidentally verify a few of them along the way) while tackling such questions as “How do Canadians feel about their world’s indifference to them?”, “What is Canadian food?” and “How could Canada make such bad TV?” Cohen also looked to the northern stars for insights, interviewing such homeland celebrities as Mike Myers, Michael J. Fox, Seth Rogen, Will Arnett, Martin Short, Catherine O’Hara, Dan Aykroyd, Cobie Smulders, Morely Safer, and prog rock trio Rush. “I made the documentary because after literally decades of dealing with the same problems, I wanted to once and for all explain Us to Them, and make a visual user’s manual on Canadians,” says Cohen. “It really was trying to put an end to this pervasive problem that I and other Canadians had experienced.”
He’s not joking. Cohen recounts the story of when he relocated to California in the late-80s. “When I moved to L.A., my car had Alberta license plates on it, and I was pulled over by a cop in the Valley who gave me a ticket for speeding,” he says. “On the ticket, he wrote that I was from Atlantis. I told him I was actually from Alberta. He said I was from Atlantis and he had never heard of a place called Alberta. And when I explained where Alberta was, he said he was more comfortable with Atlantis. And I said, ‘So you’re more comfortable saying a ’75 Dodge has come from a mythical undersea kingdom than from Canada?’ and he said, ‘Yes.’ He refused to believe that Alberta existed.”
What did Cohen glean from his cross-Canada trek? “What I ultimately learned that the country that I loved and was trying to defend so vigorously currently does not need my defense. Canada has just grown into such a super proud, effusive, patriotic country that is so confident about its value that it doesn’t need me defending it.”
Nevertheless, EW asked Cohen — who, by the way, was recently invited to screen his movie and speak about it at a university in the Czech Republic (“I can’t even imagine why there would be a Canadian Studies course in the Czech Republic”) — to share his top 10 pet peeves about the perception of Canadians by non-Canadians. He politely agreed, because that’s what Canadians do.
1. When non-Canadians find out I’m Canadian, they react like I’m a teacher announcing a pop quiz: shocked, confused, then whine they never thought this subject would come up.
2. Answer: “Do you know Greg in Toronto?” Question: What does every non-Canadian ask when they learn you’re Canadian. (P.S. Sadly, I do.)
3. Why does every non-Canadian’s attempt at a Canadian accent always end up sounding like a Swedish person with a head injury?
4. Trying to explain curling to a non-Canadian is like asking an American to explain how George W. Bush was president. It’s pointless, and all parties quickly give up in shame.
5. The first thing I was asked when I moved to the U.S. was, “How do Canadians get to school every day, given you guys are permanently trapped in ice?” I told them, “A dog sled with a flamethrower on the front.” Their concerned response? “The fire didn’t freak out the dogs?”
6. Why do non-Canadians constantly tell us they have come up with the greatest beaver joke ever?
7. The fact that the biggest crime ever in Canada was the theft of 18 million dollars of maple syrup is both adorable and embarrassingly perfect.
8. Free tip for all non-Canadians. When you start yelling the word “eh!”, that smile on our face isn’t enjoyment — it’s from the thought of repeatedly running you over with a moose.
9. Canadians hate it when asked what was the greater tragedy: the global economic collapse of 2008, or Wayne Gretzky getting traded to Los Angeles. With all due respect, did the economic collapse score over 1,000 goals and win 4 Stanley Cups?
10. If I had a dollar for every ridiculous non-Canadian that asked if all Canadians live in igloos, I would have enough money to redo all of my igloos.