The “How I Met Your Mother goes to Toronto” bit last night (actually, “How I Met Your Mother goes to a Tim Horton’s set built at the Fox studio”) was great fun, probably because it wasn’t over-hyped in advance like “The Simpsons goes to Toronto” or “The Office goes to Winnipeg.” The show makes so much fun of Canada and Robin’s Canadian-ness that Canadian networks can’t really hype it that much; for one thing, it’s not a special event when they make Canada jokes, and for another thing, there’s always going to be someone — usually Barney — making jokes about how lame Canada is. Though last night, he got his comeuppance. (A word that Barney could probably turn into a suggestive joke, come to think of it.)
But even though her Canadian identity is the butt of many, many jokes, Robin is one of the most patriotic Canadian characters on TV (in the U.S. or in Canada). And there may be a lesson in the way the show advances every possible Canadian stereotype, and still manages to make Canada and Canadians seem like fun. A purely positive portrayal of Canada tends to make us seem boring, especially in comedy, which depends on stereotypes and generalizations. Canada comedy is more fun when it embraces these stereotypes, just as American comedy embraces all the stereotypes about Americans (and obviously, Barney’s transformation of Robin into an American was a parade of negative U.S. stereotypes).
The other fun thing about the show’s portrayal of Canada is that it uses stereotypes which it basically made up on its own, like “Canadians love guns” or “Canadians are afraid of the dark.” HIMYM is good at creating its own comedy mythology: ideas about men, women, or countries that were invented by the writers, but seem real because all the characters stick to them in a consistent, plausible way. Comedy relies on stereotypes, but it doesn’t have to depend solely on the ones we knew already; the writers can make their own.
And speaking of HIMYM and CanCon, Alan Thicke will make a return appearance in the show, in another episode about Lily’s psychotic desire to control other people’s relationships.
Finally, and this is not HIMYM-related, the second of the two Gemini Industry Awards galas is tonight. Let us feel liberated to make stereotypical jokes about the Geminis. And then, loosened up by those jokes, let’s acknowledge that there’s some very good stuff that will be honoured tonight. Like all countries, we are lame and awesome at the same time.