antiTainment NEWS: Conan O’Brien Labeled A Racist By French Canadians

02-15-04 Keavin
The Canadian government got more than they bargained for when they paid to have American late night talk show host Conan O’Brien host his show from Toronto for a week. It seems O’Brien’s sense of humor didn’t play well in Quebec and the government denounced the program that aired last Thursday with one legislator calling the program “racist filth”. 

The program in question featured a segment by Triumph the Insult Comic Dog, a hand puppet that lives up to its name. In this case the insults were hurled at French Canadians during a pretaped segment where Triumph visited the Quebec winter carnival. Triumh was shown hurling insults at French speaking Canadians with lines like "You're French, you're obnoxious and you no speekay English.", "You're in North America, learn the language." and "I can smell your crotch from here".

Triumph also took on a hot button political topic in Canada when he came upon a couple that admitted to being separatists; he asked the couple, "Listen closely. Hear that? It's the sound of no one giving a [beef]". 

There was also an insinuation the French Canadians were homosexuals when members of O’Brien’s team were shown replacing street signs in Quebec with signs that read “Quebecqueer Street" and "Rue des Pussies".

Needless to say, some were outraged over the politically incorrect antics. It even reached the House of Commons. During a debate over the show, New Democrat Alexa McDonough called the sketch "racist filth" and "vile and vicious," and demanded that the government ask for the money it spent to bring O’Brien to Canada to be returned. 

O’Brien was asked to appear in Canada as part of the campaign to repair the damage done by last year’s SARS outbreak. Maybe they should have watched some of O’Brien’s previous shows to know what they were getting into? 

A junior government minister, Mauril Belanger, told Parliament on Friday that the government does not stand behind O’Brien’s controversial sketch. "We want to disassociate ourselves from the comments which were broadcast last night because we do not support them in any way".

After calling the sketch “racist filth” during the House of Commons debate, McDonough further addressed the issue with the press, "There may be those who would say, 'Isn't this interfering with freedom of expression?' It's not interfering to say we will not publicly fund this kind of vile, vicious hatemongering". 

Some think that the outrage has been way over blown. Peter Soumalias, a Toronto businessman that spearheaded the effort to bring O’Brien to Canada said the sketch was just a joke and called the controversy a "tempest in a teapot."

"Quebec is the home of some great comics and comedians," he said. "They understand comedy."

The Canadian network that broadcast the special visit by O’Brien issued a statement apologizing for the offending sketch. “We offer our apology and assurance that it is never our intention to air programming that offends any of our viewers".  

That might be a hard goal to reach in this day and age, surely any given program will offend someone, somewhere for some reason. Even an old fashioned “Test Pattern” would offend some since it featured an Indian head. But it does appear that Canada isn’t ready for Triumph’s brand of “poop” humor. 



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