Canadian Man plays with Humour
“Canadian Man” is both a comedy song and a novelty song, but not in the same way as “My Bologna” by Weird Al Yankovic. I loved the way that John Prine could crack you up with “Illegal Smile” and then break your heart with “Hello in There”. Kinky Friedman could make you laugh uncomfortably with “Get Your Biscuits in the Oven and Your Buns in the Bed” and bring you right back down with “Sold American”. Bob Dylan recorded “It’s Alright, I’m Only Bleeding” and “Bob Dylan’s 115th Dream”(where he started the song by cracking up) on the same slab of wax. Dylan, for all his darkness, is one of the funniest songwriters I’ve ever heard. Barenaked Ladies have made a career of balancing silliness with pathos.
I have tried to counter songs like “Canadian Man” with tunes like Too Bad for Me and Nothing Much is New. It’s easier to write a funny song than a sad song in my experience. Most of my attempts at humour are through satire and irony. Ray Davies is a great satirist, so were the blues greats who often used humour to deal with a very hostile world. I don’t hear much humour in contemporary music, so maybe that’s one of the reasons I mostly listen to the lyricists from another era. Yip Harburg was very funny and very astute. So was Hoagy Carmichael. My song “Don’t Say I Never Tried” is influenced by the sly wordplay from that era, as is “Canadian Man”.