During the first hours of Friday February 13th, late night fans of Conan O’Brien were watching another show from Toronto, Ontario. During the week, jokes were mainly making light of American and Canadian mutual stereotypes. However, what happened on Friday morning has the potential of becoming a major embarrassment for all parties involved.
Using «Triumph», a dog-puppet as a proxy, Robert Smigel of Conan O’Brien’s show pulled all the stops in a blitz of offensive anti-french «humour» directed at Québecois. The so-called jokes proved to be nothing more than an ill-advised attempt at amalgamating stereotypes of French-Canadians and the French from France. After a year of barbs and offensive jokes in the American Media, Conan O’Brien’s show has proven that French-Bashing is alive and well.
The offensive jokes were mainly about body odour «I can tell your French – I can smell you’re crotch from here», homophobia «Quebecqueer Street», women-bashing «Rue de Pussies» and linguistic arrogance «This is North-America, speak English».
Most damaging of all, the images of Torontonians cheering the skits could have serious consequences for Quebec-Ontario relations.
Peter Soumalias, a Toronto Businessman, President & CEO of Symas Holdings Corporation and Chairman of Canada’s Walk of Fame was in full denial mode. In an interview with the National Post, Soumalias stated: «It was funny and this was about comedy». He went on to say he didn’t expect a backlash.
It has also been reported that Soumalias encouraged Conan’s writers to do the segment despite their concerns.
Back in January, Peter Soumalias, wrote a letter to the National Post stating: “The Post will not be given any access to this event nor the people involved.”
The ban was issued one day after the Post ran a front-page article in which representatives of the Canadian Taxpayers’ Federation questioned the legitimacy footing part of the tab for Conan’s visit to Toronto.
The federal government of Canada and the government of Ontario contributed $1-million to bring Conan O’Brien’s show to Toronto, the nature of the comments hurled at French-Canadians by this American Show will inevitably become an source major embarrassment for all who have worked to better relations between the two solitudes.
In Ottawa, Deputy Government House Leader Mauril Bélanger said the government dissociated itself from the jokes.
Marc Liepis, a spokesman for NBC, said neither Mr. O’Brien nor the network would have any further comment.
HATRED AND RACISM
Few politicians had come forth on Friday, but Ex-NDP leader Alexa McDonough called the sketches disgusting, adding that such racist jokes promoted hatred. On the other end of the political spectrum, Conservative leadership candidate Stephen Harper calling the late night show’s segment “completely unacceptable”.