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Canadian Comics Celebrate Their Country's Birth At LA Comedy Clubs


Canada turns 150 years old today. Happy birthday, eh. An accomplished and lovely country of 35 million people which, alas, does not so far include B.J. Leiderman, who writes our theme music. If you're looking for a place to celebrate Canada Day, NPR's Neda Ulaby has a suggestion.

NEDA ULABY, BYLINE: Try a comedy club in Los Angeles.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: How you doing, LA? Happy 150 Canada. How good it that?

ULABY: Just think about how many Hollywood comedians are Canadian - Jim Carey of "Ace Ventura" movies, Mike Meyers, best known as Austin Powers, plus all those "Saturday Night Live" guys like Dan Akroyd and John Candy or Phil Hartman, Catherine O'Hara, Seth Rogen, endless others, including all the Canadians showing their pride at parties this week at the Hollywood Improv and at The Comedy Store.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Singing) Oh, Canada.

ULABY: Not a tune frequently warbled on Hollywood Sunset boulevard, But this standing-room crowd of homesick Canadians included a few guys patriotically wearing hockey shirts. That caught the eye of comedian Lisa-Gay Tremblay.

LISA-GAY TREMBLAY: You like sports, do you, sir?

ULABY: Tremblay, from Ottawa, interrogated her hockey-loving countryman about why they dress up like their favorite players to scream critiques at them from their seats.

TREMBLAY: You never see women do this. You never see women go to the ballet dressed up in tutus, yelling point your toes. Call that a plie?

ULABY: This occasion, the 150th birthday, the sesquicentennial, is a big deal even to Canadians abroad.

ANGELO TSAROUCHAS: Sesquicentennials. That's a city in Saskatchewan, Sesquicentennial.

ULABY: Meet the producers of this sesquicentennial show. Angelo Tsarouchas was born in Montreal. His brother-in-law, Ara Basil, is American. Of the quarter-million or so Canadians living in Los Angeles, they joke that most are probably comedians. So how do they choose who to book?

TSAROUCHAS: Just like our Prime Minister Trudeau's Cabinet, I try to make it equal gender-based with women and men.

ULABY: Producer Angelo Tsarouchas has thrown comedy club birthday parties for Canada since 2011. He likes to use them, he says, to be nice and to give exposure to new talent.

TSAROUCHAS: That's very Canadian of us because that's how we do things in Canada.

JEREMY HOTZ: Americans look like us and sound like us? They're [expletive] different people.

ULABY: Comedian Jeremy Hotz hails originally from Toronto.

HOTZ: Yeah, like I don't have a gun, all right.

ULABY: Unlike Americans, who he said use guns to shoot robbers...

HOTZ: I sleep with a rusty knife next to the bed because I'm Canadian, and I'm passive aggressive. So my plan is to poke the robber, and then he'll slowly die of tetanus.

ULABY: Which led to another joke, of many that night, about the differences between Canadian and American health care. Even a poor comedian in Canada, one of them pointed out, has access - even if it's delayed - to that country's universal health care. Neda Ulaby, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Neda Ulaby reports on arts, entertainment, and cultural trends for NPR's Arts Desk.