As a bit of context, the biography I chose to study was I Must Say: My Life as a Humble Comedy Legend, the autobiography of Martin Short. 

Quote 1

“Canada is a sparsely populated nation, a mere 34 million people across a vast expanse of land. Consequently, as you grow up there, you encounter more weirdos who have been given a wider berth to stew in their weirdness and become gloriously eccentric.”

To be honest, I don’t entirely agree with this quote. Yes, there is an insane amount of land compared to the number of people, but the vast majority of said people live in urban, densely populated areas. I agree there are quite a lot of quirky people here, but I’ve seen just as many quirky people (proportionally) in other countries, all of which are much more densely populated as a whole. 

Nevertheless, I think that the mindset of living in the midst of a great variety of different, unusual people does indeed reflect many of our Canadian values today, particularly those concerning diversity and not really knowing who or what a “Canadian” is.

Quote 2

SCTV was so brilliantly realized […] Far away from the meddling hands of American network executives, [my old friends] had created something stunningly layered and original.”

This quote is interesting in that it shows how the high-stakes, corporate nature of TV and film affects its writers. The large sums of money at stake pressure executives to discourage artists from taking risks and venturing out into new territory they want to explore. Instead, the writers are told to create shows that people will expect and are therefore guaranteed to make money. Personally, I think that while giving artists (in this case, writers and producers) some limitations can increase creativity, too much control can completely destroy any originality in their work.

However, according to this quote, the “not-american-ist” culture in Canada and the aforementioned lack of executives trying to “mainstreamize” the production allowed more risks to be taken with the production of SCTV, and enabled the creation of a very unique yet successful new program. Relating to the first quote, the Canadian origins of the show allowed it to focus on the bizarre, eccentric, and diverse personalities of people, relating to the aforementioned Canadian values instead of American ones.

Quote 3

“I learned what would turn out to be a valuable lesson: that something terrible can happen to you, and yet, the day after this something terrible, the sun still rises, and life goes on. And therefore, so must you.”

This passage talks about resilience in a really interesting way: instead of treating resilience like a choice or a gift, it treats it as a necessity. Even if the event turns your world upside-down, the rest of the world has no idea it even happened. Paraphrasing the quote in my own words, life doesn’t care what’s happened to you; it continues like normal, and you need to keep going or it’ll leave you behind. Personally, I think I’ve only ever experienced one loss that has truly shocked me, which happened earlier this year. That loss taught me that accepting a horrible reality was far easier said than done, but accept it I did. 

As for connections with Canadian values, I don’t think there are any. I came up with a lot of ideas, such as that the resilience came from Britain’s signature “we will never give in” attitude. However, like the rest of my ideas, that one seemed far less plausible than my ultimate conclusion: The resilience expressed in this quote is an essential fact of life as a human being. No matter where you live, or who you live with, you will have to deal with loss and continue with daily life. If anything, I guess you could say it proves Canadians are humans?

Quote 4

“They replaced us with something called Stars on Ice, because, as David put it mournfully, ‘In Canada, anything “on ice” is better.’”

I found this quote interesting because… oh, let’s be real here, I chose this quote to make up for the relative lack of Canadian connections in quotes 3 and 5. The main thing I found interesting about this quote is the way it pokes fun at Canadian identity. For starters, it shows that there are certain things (such as skating) that are distinctive to Canadian culture. But on the flip side, it seems to me as if there’s an implied bit after the quote, saying “How else are we supposed to make it sound Canadian?” Of course, this is total speculation. Even so, I do believe there’s some truth to saying that this quote contains undertones of Canada’s difficulty with defining itself.

Quote 5 (Two quotes that talk about the same thing)

(1st half of the book) “When you’re met with fire early, you develop a certain Teflon quality.” (End of the book) “But then you’ll think: […] ‘I’m not upset now. I was upset the day my mother died.’”

These quotes are essentially saying “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, but with far more meaning and context added. They make their rather cliché point, but then proceed to back it up with evidence. In the book, I learned that Martin Short had lost his oldest brother and both his parents by the time he was 20. This led to his success in comedy, though not in the way one would expect. As shown elsewhere in the book, instead of doing comedy as a way to deal with his pain (as many comedians have done), Martin Short instead did it because it interested him, and succeeded with it because his past pain gave him the guts to try things nobody else dared to do. Even if things went poorly for him, he knew that no failure could affect him even close to as much as his family’s deaths did. 

Like my third quote, there aren’t really any connections to Canadian culture. The quote instead talks about an aspect of humanity as a whole.

Theme

The “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” message from Quote 5 could be considered the theme of the entire book. However, thanks to Martin Short’s clever use of analogy and personal experience, the cliché message now has a lot of meaning behind it. Because of that, I can actually apply it to my own life. My theme is my own twist on a different cliché phrase which allegorically conveys my take on what the book is trying to tell me. Here it is.

“When life gives you lemons, there will be times when you won’t have enough sugar or water to make lemonade. When that happens, just suck it up and eat the lemons. Sure, they’ll be really sour, but the aftertaste will only last a couple of minutes. Besides, your taste buds aren’t as sensitive as they used to be. Come to think of it, ever since the day life decided to give you hydrochloric acid, they haven’t been very sensitive at all, have they?”

-Liam Northcott, 2018

 

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