On the Edge

On the Edge is a speaker series featuring cutting edge research presented by scholars and researchers from Edmonton's academic community. The following presentations are presented with the University of Alberta's Faculty of Graduate Studies and Research.

Jay Friesen - How Humour Shapes Canadian Society: From Grey Comedy to Vibrant Multiculturalism

There’s a joke about our country that goes something like this, “Q: What’s the difference between Canada and yogurt? A: If you leave yogurt alone for 150 years, it develops its own culture.” While perhaps funny, we ought to wonder what motivates this type of joke. What does it reveal about Canadian society? Canada's sense of humour comes from its unique blend of cultures.  In this presentation, we’ll investigate how Canadian identity has been both shaped and expressed via its humour. Through looking at some of the most notable instances of Canadian comedy, we will think through how humour relates to multiculturalism and diverse communities, and how comedy tells us about what Canadian society will look like moving into the future.

Jay Friesen is in the final stages of a Ph.D. in Modern Languages and Cultural studies, where he focuses on the relationship between comedy and culture. For the past decade, Jay has been fascinated by how humour can be used as a tool to communicate earnest or complicated ideas in a light-hearted and direct way. Presently, his research considers how comedy plays an underappreciated role in shaping Canada’s multicultural sensibilities. In doing so, Jay has found there are many opportunities to connect with one another through humour despite differing cultural backgrounds and can be often be found using these insights teaching Cultural Studies as well as in various places throughout Edmonton with Community Service-Learning.

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