I’ve never been good at math. (Insert your own “Not good with math? He must be from PEI” joke here.) But I have managed to calculate that I’ve been poking fun at PEI, in a quasi-professional way, for well over 25 years. (insert your “never heard of him” comment here.) And by “quasi-professional” I mean “amateur” as in “never getting paid”.
Over those years I have learned a few things on how to create comedy for the PEI audience. I thought it might be worthwhile to share my knowledge with you.
Lesson One: Localized Layering
The first rule of comedy for a PEI audience is to get on their good side. But don’t make it obvious. For example, what I’ve cleverly done in that first paragraph, unbeknownst to you, the typical Islander, is I’ve endeared myself to you. By parenthetically indicating that I, like you, have a sub-par education because of our Island’s educational system (always good for a laugh), I’ve quashed any suspicions of my own grandeur. In short, what I’ve done is I’ve inferred that I, like you, am nobody special (nobody likes a hoity-toity Islander).
Aha! But YOU, the person reading this, you are different. And so I am now massaging YOUR ego, because I, of course, never meant to imply that YOU are in any way a “typical” Islander. YOU are more than that. YOU are the kind of Islander who isn’t afraid of your own brain. It’s for YOU that I used words like “unbeknownst” “quashed” and “grandeur”, because YOU get it. YOU get the comedy behind the comedy.
To perfectly illustrate one of the many challenges of creating comedy for a PEI audience, and, at the same time, appease all the varied layers of culture this Island contains, I offer the following:
We all know it’s easy enough to make a fart joke. Everyone in the world laughs at those, right? But what would make that fart joke special is to let them know that the fart is the result of consuming a potato. That’s instant Island relatability. And then to really cap it off, to really hit it home to the PEI elite, reveal that the potato is actually a Russet Burbank. (If you want to go dark with your comedy, you could try throwing in a PVY-N reference.)
Here is a sure-fire joke to prove my example of localized layering:
My PEI buddy, who was still laughing at the funny things Boomer used to say on The Compass, went to visit his old mother, who, after living most of her life on Cumberland Street, had just moved into a nursing home in Moncton. Even though he was on pogey, he brought her a house-warming gift of a two-four of beer.
It was his first time visiting this home, and so he went up to the nurses desk and asked what room his mother was staying in.After she told him, she asked him if he needed directions to find the room. Breathing deeply, he said “No, I’ll just follow that gassy stench of Russet Burbank potato flatulence.”
This joke is 100% guaranteed to get laughs from every Islander. The typical will guffaw at the very essence of the fart joke (ha ha, a fart joke!!); a great many more will laugh extra hard at the local familiarity the potato offers (PEI Potato farts are The Best!!); and the intellectually superior Islanders will nod in appreciation (well done!! The research that must have gone into discovering that Russet Burbank is a type of potato!!)
And that’s pretty much it for Lesson One. Don’t always strive for the easy universal joke. Just remember to layer your comedy for all Island ears. Keep it Local.
While contemplating how to teach Islanders how to create their own comedy, I began to wonder what the first Island joke would have been. No doubt it would have come from the oral traditions of its first inhabitants. Imagine a Mi’kmaq humourist, generations ago, family all gathered around the fire, as he lets a long, loud one go, causing the flame to turn blue and purple. Oh how they would have laughed. A few would even nod, knowing that this fart could only be the result of the consumption of local seal meat.
I also dream that the 1534 Jacques Cartier quote, “the fairest land ‘tis possible to see” was actually said in sarcasm about the island. But I know it wasn’t. I can believe, however, that the end portion of that quote has gone missing over the years, and the full statement that Jacques Cartier uttered was “The fairest land ‘tis possible to see. Except in winter, which seems 10 months long Pfffffffffttttttt.”
Next Lesson: Essential words and concepts that will make your comedy relevant to all Islanders: like “pogey”, “Boomer”, “Moncton”, “two-four” and “Cumberland Street”.