Quebec New Year's special draws complaints of racism

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Quebec New Year's special draws complaints of racism

Radio-Canada and the producers of the French-language broadcaster's
popular New Year's Eve special are defending the show amid allegations
that certain skits were insulting and racist ...

However, one skit in particular went too far, according to some members of Quebec's black community.

The skit involved a fake interview between U.S. president-elect
Barack Obama and a news anchor who confuses him with the popular Quebec
entertainer Gregory Charles. When corrected, the anchor tells viewers
that all black people look alike. He goes on to say that viewers at
home shouldn't worry about Obama stealing their purses, but he might
steal their television sets ...



a) yes, it was racist, and the comedian is a jerk

b) takes one to know one.


In this case, it takes a lot of Quebecers to know when enough's enough:

"Radio-Canada crosses line with race-based satire"

... But this year's edition, featuring gags on the assassination of U.S.
president-elect Barack Obama, prison rape, a battered wife, black
criminality and anglo inbreeding seems to have gone far over the line,
even by Quebec's standards ...

Hundreds of other viewers complained in letters to newspapers and
calls to radio stations. Radio-Canada reportedly received more than
1,000 letters and phone calls. The CRTC received 28 complaints by
yesterday ...

Complaints about outrageous speech targeting minorities are often dismissed as oversensitivity in Quebec. Not this time ...


Maysie Maysie's picture

Can a mod with better skills than I please merge this thread with this one

and have this discussion continue in the anti-racism forum? Thanks!


I'm posting only to make clear to Objective Oberserver that I was not referring to him in the other thread which had been closed. Gladly apologise for any misunderstanding due to thread duplication.

Objective Observer

Accepted Lagatta. Thanks.


I guess nobody here finds Yvon Deschamps funny either.


It's like a train wreck. You say each year you won't watch it, yet you take a peak anyway out of curiosity.

The Quebec humour industry is an odd thing in many ways, almost in a bubble unrelated to other trends. Society can go in a progressive direction, yet low-brow trash humour is big. Trash radio has been a huge success in many regions of Quebec, with hosts telling sexist jokes etc.

Dieudonné, a French comic who has been found guillty of anti-Semitism in French courts, who publicy consorts with convicted Holocaust deniers and who campaigns for Jean-Marie LePen's neo-fascist National Front (LePen is his child's godfather), is an oft invited guest at Quebec comedy festivals. He packs the house and gets standing ovations.

Maybe trash right wing humour as seen on Bye Bye is a safety valve: maybe deep down, many people unconsciously feel pressure to be P.C. and just want to once in a blue moon let loose and be nasty. I don't know.

Like a taboo that must be broken because everything else in Quebec society, officially, on the surface, at the level of rhetoric, is so egalitarian, intercultural, feminist, pro-union, etc. At humour festivals and on Bye Bye, it is as if people say fuck it and some weird repressed unconscious comes out.

But it is odd - politics goes one way, humour goes the opposite way.



Yes, but there are also humourist such as the Zapartistes who are very political, and while they laugh at everyone, are obviously progressives. And they are very popular too.


And they rarely get TV or radio shows. I checked their schedule. They play alternative clubs like Club Soda and community centres in Ste-Thérèse and Drummondville.

Bye Bye gets 4 million viewers. Trash radio is heard by millions. They even had tens of thousands of people take to the streets when a trash radio station had its license pulled by the CRTC because of the morning host's repeated offences for libel and sexist humour. It was the largest demo in the history of Quebec City in the past 30 or 40 years.

The Quebec humour industry is a weird parallel universe. I think the humour industry is actually dumbing down discourse in a deliberate way.




Yes, I agree with that. The CHOI people were a big power-base for the ADQ. Shock troops for sexism, anti-aboriginal racism, and general cretinism.

There is also a very strange incestuous relationship involving stuff like Juste pour rire festival and the Humour Museum (Musée juste pour rire) that a promoter got a HUGE subsidy for. I work for many arts organizations so I can't complain about them getting grants, but there is something truly weird about the extremely generous subsidies for the lowest form of humour.

Juste pour rire museum is in a lovely old greystone brewery building on the Main (boulevard St-Laurent). There are so many more interesting and useful things that place could be used for.


"Like a taboo that must be broken because everything else in Quebec society, officially, on the surface, at the level of rhetoric, is so egalitarian, intercultural, feminist, pro-union, etc."


You must be joking - not only about the notion of Quebec as an egalitarian society, but that racist sentiment needs an outlet to be vented. The humour is a reflection of the society, or at least of those who tune in to have a laugh at their minority neghbours.

Agent 204 Agent 204's picture

SCC wrote:
In reality, Quebecois society is quite racist to many people not considered pure laine enough.

Well, except for the specific phrase "pure laine", this is hardly exclusive to Quebec.


At the level of rhetoric, yes. It sees itself as egalitarian.

In reality, Quebecois society is quite racist to many people not considered pure laine enough.

All you have to do is watch TV, outside of parts of Radio-Canada. Or see how the Bouchard-Taylor Commission report on reasonable accomodation was buried by the National Assembly in less than 20 minutes when it unanimously voted to maintain the crucifix in the National Assembly, effectively neutralizing the report in a symbolic preemptive move to "protect Quebecois traditions". This vote happened the same day the report was published. The MNAs did not even take the time to read the report before the vote. This vote for all intents and purposes sounded the burying of the report's recommendations - it said: thank you, we have no intention of listening to any ideas on how to build bridges. 

The type of humour seen on Bye Bye or heard on trash talk radio stations is just a little less polished or polite than the huge number of ignorant statements I had to endure for years from supposedly educated Quebecois.

So I think, for many, there is this unconscious urge to occasionally throw off the "shackles" of political correctness and to "dire tout haut ce que tout le monde pense tout bas" .


Speaking of Yvon Deschanps ...

"Humour in Quebec is serious stuff at UQÀM"

Quebecers like to laugh, especially at themselves, but when everything's a joke, is anything serious anymore?

That's the question a conference of comedians, historians,
professors and writers debated yesterday - mostly with straight faces -
as they traced the history of humour in Quebec from Rose Ouellette to
Yvon Deschamps and on to Les Zapartistes and Têtes à claques.

In a province where gags and satire are everywhere now - on
webcasts, radio talk shows, television comedy series, spoof newscasts
and on the standup comedy stage during the Just for Laughs festival -
is the joke on us, they asked, and on our shallow selves? ...



Interesting and probably has a point.

 The world is so screwed up, or rather the people, laughter is better than depression.



"Anglos can't be smug: English CBC mocks francophones the same way Bye Bye poked fun at anglophone Canadians"

... On the CBC's long-running comedy program This Hour Has 22 Minutes,
French-speaking Quebecers are caricatured as backward racists with a
ridiculous culture who survive only by using the threat of separation
to extort money from the rest of Canada.

An example among the
videos archived on the site, from the show of Oct.
9, 2007 in season 15 , is "Quebec Nation," in which, among other
insults, Quebec's most important natural resources are given as "hydro
power and porno."

Ironically, 22 Minutes was created by
Newfoundlanders, members of a group that, until it became socially
unacceptable, was the target for the kind of humour the show now aims
at French-speaking Quebecers ...



No one said humour is the most intelligent side of any culture. It is frequently the dark underbelly.

Personally, having watched and heard enough Quebecois humourists over the years, I just happen to think most Quebecois humour these days has become insufferably low-brow and xenophobic. It is an industry, and that stuff sells.

A lot of people are cranky or angry - targeting minorities is easy. Anyway, it's better than beating people up. Quebec is still a wonderfully peaceful society.


... Infopresse reported that for a 30-second commercial on Bye Bye,
Radio-Canada was able to charge about double its advertising rate for
other popular shows.

So when [comedy troupe Rock et Belles Oreilles] declined to do this year's Bye
Bye, the show still had to go on, if only for financial reasons. But
the producers Radio-Canada chose for Bye Bye 2008, Véronique Cloutier
and her partner Louis Morissette, weren't up to the task. The show they
produced was offensive rather than funny, and they themselves had
trouble afterward explaining one particular sketch in which racist
remarks were directed at Barack Obama by a snickering Quebec television

Nevertheless, last Friday,
after returning to Quebec from a Florida vacation after the show, they
apologized for that sketch, even if they did not appear to understand
fully why they needed to do so ...

To wit, see the 22 Minutes sketch in question.


"Broadcast standards council not laughing at satirical Radio-Canada show"

The Canadian Broadcast Standards Council is not laughing about Radio-Canada's controversial Bye Bye 2008 New Year's Eve sketch show, which drew criticism for its jokes about blacks and anglophones ...

"The panel finds nothing redeeming in the allegedly comedic notion that an American president should be shot, still less that this would be easier to achieve because of the colour of the president's skin," the council said in a decision published Monday ...

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission asked the council to examine the show because of its experience with complaints about broadcast content ...