Margaret Atwood
Author
01:26

Understanding Canadian Humor

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The author tells us a Canadian sex joke.

Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood is a Canadian novelist, poet, and essayist. She is best known for her novels, in which she creates strong, often enigmatic, women characters and excels in telling open-ended stories, while dissecting contemporary urban life and sexual politics. She is among the most-honored authors of fiction in recent history. In addition to the Arthur C. Clark Award-winning "The Handmaid’s Tale," her novels include "Cat’s Eye," which was shortlisted for the Booker Prize, "Alias Grace," which won the Giller Prize in Canada and the Premio Mondello in Italy, and "The Blind Assassin," winner of the 2000 Booker Prize. "Oryx and Crake" was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2003. She was awarded the Prince of Asturias Prize for Literature in 2008. Her most recent novel is "The Year of the Flood."

Transcript

Question: What is Canadian humor like?

Margaret Atwood: Whenever you see something about Canada mentioned in a U.S. show, there’s bound to be a Canadian involved with it who is making some sort of Canadian joke.  And there are quite a few Canadian jokes which are instantly understandable to Canadians and sometimes baffling to other people.  Running a turnip for Prime Minister would probably be considered unbecoming levity in many countries. They would never do it, whereas Canadians have a reprehensible habit of making fun of just about everything.  

Question:
What is the biggest misconception Americans have about Canadians?

Margaret Atwood: That it's always cold.  Let me see, what else might they have... you tell me.  You tell me.  I’ll tell you a Canadian joke and see if you get it.

So it’s not my joke, it’s a joke by somebody called Nancy White who said, “What does a Canadian girl say when you ask her if she’d like some sex?”  She says, “Only if you’re having some yourself.”   

So one of the Canadian jokes is that Canadians have this ultra-politeness, which is not always true.

Recorded 9/21/2010
Interviewed by Max Miller

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