Friday, September 22, 2006


I’ve got nothing against Germans. Some of my favorite supervillains are Germans. So I have no knee-jerk bias against the latest affront to Muslim sensibilities. And maybe that’s why I’ve been itching to address this most recent uproar.

Okay, not that recent, it’s been over a week now and it’s long-since left the news cycle in favor of race relations on “Survivor”, but I’ve still been itching over it. As a refresher:

Pope Benedict 16 gave a speech at a university and quoted a 14th century Byzantine emperor who said:

"Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

Muslims around the world took offense, some of them going so far as to firebomb churches.

That’s the short version of the story, which is the only version anyone got, which I think is a big problem. More on that later.

In a way, it’s just as well some time has passed for all the obvious remarks to be well out of the way. Such as the irony of Muslim radicals firebombing churches to protest their being characterized as violent. Brilliant. I’d argue that fanaticism has clouded their capacity for reason, but I’d hate to invite a suicide bomber’s “rebuttal”.

As one might guess, I’m not terribly sympathetic with the fundamentalists, as many of them would just as soon immolate a bishop for eating hummus with a spork. What’s not so easy to guess is that I’m more than a bit sympathetic to the poor little pope. I do think it was good of him to apologize, and that, for Christ’s sake (and the sake of his religion), he really should edit his text with some anticipation of this sort of thing. But honestly, as for the speech itself, it’s not the end of the world. It’s not even a good excuse to cause the end of the world.

I found the Pope’s full speech translated at:

I did not read it all because, by all that’s holy, it is boring. For one thing, it’s academic. Which should have flagged everyone that the outrageous remarks were not pure and simple racism, because God forbid anything in academia is pure and simple. The Pope had to know this was boring. That’s not a nice feeling. I know when I’m doing stand-up and I feel I’m losing the crowd, I might throw in something a little shocking just to get a reaction. Maybe that’s what Pope Benny did. Maybe the emperor’s blasphemy was the papal equivalent of dropping the F-bomb. Hell, it’s a wonder he didn’t throw in quotes from Hitler, Mamet and Snoop Dog just to keep people awake.

Anyway, what I did glean from the transcript is that the speech was about this emperor, Manuel II Paleologus, talking to “an educated Persian” about Christianity and Islam and, at the point of the infamous quote, he’s talking specifically about holy war. Now, critics are saying the pope was bad for quoting this guy because it suggests he shares his views (to the point where the pope, in his apology, basically said, “I don’t share his views”). To be fair, Ben doesn’t presage the quote with a full-on “…views expressed in this passage does not reflect the opinion of the Vatican and its subsidiaries”-type of disclaimer, but he does hint that it’s a bit uncomfortable. His words leading into the quote are:

“…he addresses his interlocutor with a STARTLING BRUSQUENESS on the central question about the relationship between religion and violence in general, saying…”

Right after the quote Ben continues:

“The emperor, after HAVING EXPRESSED HIMSELF SO FORCEFULLY, goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable.”

I put those words in capitals, by the way, because (a) it’s fun to imagine any German raising their voice abruptly and (b) the words in capitals tell me the pope was at least acknowledging that the words carried weight. Regrettably, he failed to work in something a little more on-the-nose along the lines of:

“Okay, this Manuel guy liked to puff up the chest and go over the top, rhetorically speaking, it’s true, and he was a bit of a self-righteous ass, all right, but hello? 14th century Emperor? Not a job you get with a mid-sized ego and a diploma from Byzantine Finishing School…”

To many critics, giving anything less than an outright disclaimer was tantamount to endorsing the remarks word for word, and fine, Benedict probably should have realized that, what with his pope gig being on the world’s theological radar.

What bugs me, though, is that there was context behind the quote, AND NOBODY REPORTED THAT. Nor did they mention that the speech continued for another ten long, horrible, boring paragraphs about the differences between cultures and what can be done to advance their co-existence reasonably and peacefully. The short version of the story that I mentioned above is the version the world heard. In fact, most tv reports I saw casually referred to “the Pope’s remarks” when talking about the quote from the 14th century gung ho emperor, leaving the gossip-prone to spread the word, “Did you hear what the Pope said..?”

It’s one thing for religious fundamentalists to fixate on one quote in a speech. Frankly, I think you’d have to be looking specifically for controversy to pick it out in this case, which meant listening to the Pope’s whole speech carefully, which, having just skimmed this drudgery, I understand would make the most reasonable audience eager to blow stuff up. But it’s a shame that our Western sound-bite society is equally guilty of just grabbing one sentence and making it the entirety of a speech’s meaning. Quotes are good. Quotes shed light on different eras, different attitudes, and different schools of thought, not to mention a lot of similarities with our present-day lives. But if media, political and religious institutions don’t even try to acknowledge the context, if people choose to condemn the words rather than grasp the ideas (and it’s possible you’d get to condemn the ideas, zealots, just give them a chance!) then the notion of free speech isn’t working. We may as well start looking for a more basic form of expression that communicates meaning without the dangerous ambiguities of language.

Maybe a cartoon..?

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


Just dropping a line to say that I am at Bourbon Street West tonight, out on Montreal's West Island, doing a 9:00 show opening for my friend and a rising star from the Big Apple, Jesse Joyce. Haven't been to Bourbon in a while. They haven't even heard the Decarie bit yet.

Also I'm hosting for Eric MacMahon at the Comedyworks (1238 Bishop) for five shows this weekend.

Those are Thursday, Friday and Saturday at 9:00.

Late shows Friday and Saturday at 11:15.

Hope folks can make it for some good jokes.

AND a quick thanks to the feedback I've gotten from people who are enjoying the "drivel" portion of this blog. Your support helps keep the font of inspiration flowing.

Incidentally, my font of inspiration is “Lucia Grande”.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


I got to take a ride with a racist a while back. I was on the orange line, just passing the Berri station which gets lots of oncoming traffic from commuters switching from the other lines. A sixty-something white lady came on with a thirty- or forty-something black lady, and they seemed to be arguing as they came on. It seemed like the older lady was complaining about where the other one was sitting, like she took the seat that older lady, whom I will refer to as “Batshit” henceforth, had wanted to sit in. In any case the black lady, who spoke with a sort of Trinidad island-type accent, waved Batshit away, clearly not wanting to continue the argument. Well, Batshit didn’t care for that dismissal at all and started really chastising the Island Lady. Then out of nowhere, she punctuated her tongue-lashing with this statement:

“I have lots of black friends!”

I’m still not sure exactly what they had been arguing about, but whatever it was, that made it worse. I won’t go into detail about what followed except that pretty soon everyone on the metro was laughing at Batshit, including Island Lady, and while BS didn’t wheel out any overt racial slurs, she spoke to her critics with the condescension and hostility that flags the obsolete ignorance you’d expect from someone who might blurt, “I have lots of black friends!”

It’s hard to think of another phrase that, while benign in its words, spins a faster 180 in terms of the message it sends. Saying “I have lots of black friends!” to a black person is pretty much like saying “I don’t have a bomb!” to airport security. Better to let people make the assumption, ‘cause when you say it out loud…something’s going up someone’s ass.

It’s kind of a shame the phrase can’t bring on the warm-fuzzies its words try to suggest. Of course, the reason it doesn’t is that as soon as you attach an ethnic label to your friends, you are hinting that those friends are “special” or “different” from the other “normal” ones. Plus there’s an implied waiving of a person’s individuality when people say it in the context that Batshit did. “You can’t criticize me because your Nubian brothers and sisters have given me the thumbs-up. And you people have to stick together.” So that’s partly why the phrase does the opposite of its intended goal.

It does make me wonder: is there ever a good time to announce you’ve got black friends? In today’s PC climate, it sort of seems like a Catch 22 situation (I’m in the middle of the book right now so it’s a bit on my mind). I imagine polling a random sample of Caucasians asking how many black friends they have: if they know the exact answer, THEY’RE RACIST, categorizing people in racial columns like species of fruit flies and such, for shame. If they don’t know the exact answer because they don’t count black friends, THEY’RE RACIST, admitting that black friends don’t count, double-standard upholding bastards, where do they get off? If they have no black friends, well, shame on them for knowing the exact number, but at least they’re not demeaning people of colour by keeping lists.

Obviously there’s no inherent sin in knowing how many black friends, or gay friends, or bigoted friends that one might have. Go ahead and count them. No one ever needs to know you did. Off the top of my head I have several. None of them have been to my house, but, hey, that’s a whole sub-category and besides what am I on trial we shouldn’t even be counting in the first place why is everyone so superficial?

I guess the underlying sentiment is that people should be seen as people, and not numbers, statistics or badges of open-mindedness. Which is why I’m equally proud of all my (at this writing) 155 friends on Myspace, who are not mere candid digitized photos of people that (in many cases) I will never meet, but rather individuals to be respected for who they are as human beings.

Except for the friends that are bands, clubs, and other faceless organizations, of which I have…actually I don’t know how many. I’ve never counted them. ‘Cause that would be wrong.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Stand-ups are a self-absorbed bunch. And we leap on any opportunity to feel our career choice is valid, and not an excuse to avoid a real job. And of course we have no problem defying convention and taking our own slants on topics held sacred or solemn by the general populace.

So it shouldn’t be a huge spit-take to reveal that I have a positive memory associated with the date of September 11th.

I was lucky enough not to have known anyone directly affected by the World Trade Center attacks five years ago. As a result, I feel quite distanced from the events now, looking at them with the detachment that I look at most tragedies in history. They get me sad or mad as an abstract testimony of man’s inhumanity to man, but it’s not really reaching me on a personal level anymore. I do remember I was affected on the day the attacks happened, in terms of the horror of people dying and a great desire to see vengeance done (if Afghanistan had gotten nuked the next day I would have been in the “that’ll learn ‘em” camp). So it definitely triggered strong emotions at the time.

The Bush administration’s handling of things since then has pretty well dissipated the impact of that day, tainting it with the reek of their opportunism and cynical exploitation of the attacks for their own imperial ends. Seeing the warlords fast-track invasions against enemies they’d been wanting to bump off anyway has killed any sort of belief that America the country was ever or could ever be an innocent victim. But anyway, enough of that.

Two years later I was in Appleton, Wisconsin at the Skyline Comedy Club. For me, the anniversary was already fading a bit in its deeper meaning, mainly affecting me in the “wow, has it already been that long?” kind of way. I was mainly focused on doing my second show that weekend. The first one had been the night before, Wednesday, and already this club was etched on the list of my favorite places I’d ever played. So, when I hit the stage I wasn’t thinking of terrorism or anything particularly heavy or profound.

I was reminded of the date almost immediately as I introduced myself to the audience as being from Canada. Someone yelled out something like, “That’s where the terrorists live!” I was a bit struck by that, and very plainly said, “Yeah, great timing to bring up something like that,” or something to that effect. I don’t know if I meant it as a comeback or a scolding, but it came out as a bit of both such that there was a sort of murmur of agreement from the crowd. And then 9/11 was never mentioned again.

What followed was possibly my best set that year, as the crowd responded to everything with free-wheeling hysteria. I captured it on my tape-recorder and listened to it the next day. And it struck me that the laughter was really hearty. There were perhaps 300 people in this crowd, and they were really letting go. The rest of the weekend was a blast, but nothing really beat this particular night, and I couldn’t help thinking it had something to do with the anniversary. Whereas the days and weeks following the attacks in 2001 were a time of trepidation about whether or not comedy was “appropriate”, two years later a few hundred Americans in small-town Wisconsin made the decision to go out to a show and laugh. They were going to take a break from fear, grief, anger and frustration and enjoy themselves. And they did.

Often this comedy job doesn’t feel terribly important. We don’t really contribute to society’s well-being as much as doctors or postal workers or law enforcement or any number of “real” jobs. And even when we have good shows, it usually feels like it’s more for our own benefit. We’re the ones who take away the lessons learned, or the boost in experience, credentials or status that will help our careers down the road. For the crowd our stint on stage may well be a fleeting distraction that could have been replaced by a movie, meal, lap dance or any number of similar distractions people use to kill time on a night out. But I still think fondly of that night in Appleton as one of those times when the job seemed worthwhile. Ultimately I was still just a fleeting distraction. But it was for a group of people who really wanted one, maybe even needed one. The idea that I helped make some people feel glad to be alive on the anniversary of a very dark day makes me proud. Comedy did some good. It’s almost like stand-up is a real job, after all.

I guess that all seems very cut and dried, as silver linings go. Don’t get me wrong, I agree with those who view 9/11 as a horrible reminder of how messed up the world is. You’d be nuts not to get a little depressed. But the other 9/11 marked one of my favorite nights of 2003. So I’m thinking of both today. It’s a bit self-centered, but what the heck? Stand-up has its privileges.

That Thursday night in Wisconsin was one of them.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


When I started the website, I decided to go ahead and attach a blog mainly to have a convenient place to post new show dates, as well as a simple place to add links. Whereas with the other pages I rely on a webmaster to make changes, with clips and scripts and what have you, this area is something I could update easily.

When I mentioned the word 'blog' to some friends, they immediately jumped to the conclusion that this would be another of those sites filled with inane insights about politics or spirituality, or the day-to-day dramas that no one could possibly care about besides the person churning out this crap. And I decided then and there that "no, this would be purely about practical stuff, cd news, where gigs are, where I'm going to be, none of this personal airing-out-of-laundry to smell up the cyber-hood."

Well, time has passed, and I'm antsy, and I'm rethinking it, and why the hell not?

Seems to me I've got this space, and not to have some fun with it is tantamount to souping up a car with a cutting-edge sound-system and then cruising the block blaring "Psalms as Read by Jeff Goldblum".

And it's awkward analogizing like that which I should be allowed to belch out every once in a while when the mood grabs me.

Is it self-indulgent? Sure. But seeing as how I'm supposed to be a writer, it'll be a way to keep my brain in shape, exercising muscles beyond straight-up jokes and what-not. And if the writing improves, that'll trickle down to my work onstage, or behind the tv cameras, or in some other aspect that'll help my career. So even if no one's reading this but me, the public will likely benefit somewhere down the line in the form of inspired comedy tidbits baked from the amorphous dough of these musings and freshly pulled from my crackly skull-oven for mass consumption.

And there will still be the practical updates as well. I'm not abandoning blandness cold turkey.

So that's it. Welcome to a new era in my blogger life, as I boldly explore the road more travelled. We'll see if it makes a difference.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


At the Comedynest is Scott Harris, one of Canada's great stand-up pros.

I'll be doing opening sets, and hopefully get a chance to toss in some of the stuff I did this past Monday at Open Mike, 'cause it went pretty well. "Pretty well" on Monday by no means guarantees success on the weekends but darned if it's not fun to test it out. And if it's not flying, then I just fall back on the old moose-dick bit 'cause it's just a swell bit (pun intended, swish).

Shows this Saturday are at 8:30 and 10:30 at Ernie Butler's Comedynest in the good old Pepsi Forum.

A couple of weeks ago I submitted my cd to be sold on the website "CD Baby" and now it's there. There were a couple of glitches with the clips they had on the page but those are straightened out and it's high time I officially announced it.

So you can buy "David Pryde: Googly" at this site:

I'm going to update my site very soon and put a link up there on the "Buy Stuff" page.

The price on CD Baby is $15.00 US, plus shipping and handling, which comes out to about $18.00 US, which is about $20.00 Canadian, which is what it costs ordering directly through my website. When I update I'll probably knock my website's price down a bit to make it cheaper to order through, 'cause that just seems to make sense.

As it is though, CD Baby makes Googly available for people who can't or who would rather not use Paypal.

And it has a nice quote from the kind supportive folks at Thanks again, kind folks.