A few questions with Halifax artist Élana Camille Saimovici
Why can’t it be you? The driving force behind success
SUCCESS = career + money ... or does it?
Should I stay or should I go? A look at graduate retention
A conversation with Canadian Armed Forces veteran and health ...
Generational value gaps shifting as individualist thinking warps view ...
Success: Two women. Two lives. One take.
Five questions, 10 answers: let's make prejudice, inequality history
Money. Happiness. Family. How do we define success?
Call it a comedic disclaimer.
Shaun Majumder may still be best known for his days on "This Hour Has 22 Minutes", the long-running CBC comedy sketch series that saw the comedian offering creations such as sweaty, heavily accented reporter Raj Binder during his 2003-2018 stint. But he doesn’t want audiences for his comedy show, Hate, to come with the wrong idea. This will not be a greatest-hits show. In fact, Majumder says it is pretty far removed from anything that would appear on the Mother Corps.
“I say it right out of the gate,” says the comedian, in an interview with Postmedia from his home in Los Angeles. “I say ‘Hey everybody, if you came looking for CBC Shaun Majumder you’re up Schitt’s Creek. If you came looking for Rick Mercer, you need to get on the road again. If you came hoping to find Coronation Street, the GPS is broke.’ I said it right away: ‘Guys, this is not a CBC show …'”
That Majumder is keen to stress this separation is perhaps not surprising given his strange, sudden and high-profile (at least by Canadian TV standards) exit from "22 Minutes" this summer after spending 15 years on the show (more on that, later.) Still, Majumder’s Hate Tour was directly inspired by something that happened during his time with the CBC. In 2016, the "22 Minutes" cast were busy following the American elections and the peculiar rise of Donald Trump. It offered them a look into some of the darker corners of the American psyche, including what seemed to be a frightening re-emergence of white supremacism. Majumder’s father is from India, but he was raised by a white mother in Newfoundland. So the idea of racial purity was strange and fascinating to him.
“I was like ‘Is anybody really pure?’ he says. “Just take a 23andme test and see how that works out for you. What does it mean to be white? I grew up in Newfoundland; so the whitest people in the world, far more supremely white than a lot of these Nazis. So I found it really interesting.”
Majumder says his “knee-jerk reaction” was something along the lines of: “Everybody calm down, we’re all going to be beige in a thousand years anyway.’
So he wrote a sketch called Beige Power in response to the people “who were screaming white power.”
“You know, just a little joke on '22 Minutes',” he says with a laugh. “But the lyrics really hit a nerve with these white supremacists.”
Comedians, of course, usually aren’t too bothered when they incite the wrath of imbeciles and Majumder admits that he had a hard time taking the slew of hate mail and Twitter trolling from the alt-right movement all that seriously. It was just incredulous to him that anyone would take the sketch as a call for “white genocide,” a long-held conspiracy theory promoted by racists.
“It was like: ‘This isn’t real,'” he says. “But, sure enough, it was. Even David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the KKK, was tweeting about this comedian in Canada on this ‘CBC Communist Broadcasting Corporation’ that was promoting white genocide. I’m like: ‘I’m more white than a lot of these people! I was raised in Newfoundland! I didn’t know I was brown until my 18th birthday when my mom popped it to me: ‘Oh yeah, you’re brown.’"
So the Hate Tour finds Majumder finding humour in some decidedly dark corners.
“It’s the story of what seems to be on the rise in Canada and the U.S., and that’s just hate,” he says. “Hate has been a hot topic lately. Lots of hate on the go. It’s trendy to hate. If you don’t hate on social media, you are going to lose followers. So get on board the hate train everybody!’ ”
He covers other controversial terrain, including the #MeToo movement. On some nights, that may involve talking about both disgraced former CBC host Jian Ghomeshi and fellow comedian Louis C.K. Majumder uses the latter’s fall from grace, which came after the comedian admitted to years of sexual misconduct, for a discussion about how forgiveness has become taboo on social media.
“Look, if there is a pattern of someone who spews hate or does horrible things and they don’t learn their lessons, then, of course, there is no forgiveness there,” Majumder says. “But I make a joke about how if Jesus came back today and opened an Instagram account and put out a video, he wouldn’t last a day. He’d be crucified on social media. Because he’d be all about forgiveness. That’s his bag, baby. That’s what he’s all about. He’s Jesus. But as soon as he opened his mouth and said ‘You know what, Louis C. K.? You’ve done some bad things … But you did what you did, you said you were sorry and as the son of God I forgive you.’ If he came back and did this today, the Internet would be like: ‘(Expletive) you Jesus! You giving him a pass makes you part of the problem!'”
All of this sounds a touch more edgy than what can be found on "22 Minutes", particularly since Majumder’s surprise departure in the summer. The comedian announced he had been fired after sending a letter to producers with suggestions about how they could make the show funnier. The preferred explanation on both sides for his exit seems to be that it was due to “creative differences.”
When asked about the firing, Majumder is quick to put a positive spin on it, suggesting it has given him more time and creative energy to concentrate on his own projects. Nor does he have any hard feelings about his time on the show.
“That’s a show I would like to see keep going, to be honest, because it has great potential,” he says. “If I were on it, I would still feel the same way about what I think the direction of the show should be and the things I think we should be doing more of.”
Living in L.A., he hasn’t had much of a chance to watch the new season on a regular basis. When asked what he thinks of what he has seen so far this year, Majumder seems to strain for diplomacy. In February, he told the Toronto Star he wasn’t impressed with what he had seen from the new season and admits his comments didn’t sit well with some of his former castmates.
“I’ve seen a few things online,” he says. “There’s a few things that are funny. I still don’t think … I wish they would … I don’t know, I haven’t watched it so I can’t really say. My biggest complaint over the few years was that I felt like we’d rehash old ideas a little bit.
“Listen, when you are on a show for 26 years, keeping it fresh is real challenging. One of the first skits I saw (this year) was a Tim Hortons sketch and I’ve been in a lot of Tim Hortons sketches. I just felt like ‘Oh no, is this what everybody is talking about?’ I don’t know, I just felt like we could do better. But I haven’t seen a lot of it. So I don’t know. I think, potentially, it should be on that cutting edge.”
By Eric Volmers
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019