Toronto History Examiner
Heather Vallance
The Toronto based Environmental Defence and the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition have become self-styled comics at the United Nations climate change conference currently underway in Cancun, Mexico. The environmental groups join a long list of comics who have used humor to highlight political shortfalls.
 
Humorists claim their democratic right to openly criticize governments, religious leaders and fellow human beings. Will Rogers was a master of the art of using humor to highlight political shortfalls. A Cherokee American, Rogers drew on his cultural background to drive home inconsistencies in the world in which he lived. He once quipped, “My ancestors didn’t come over on the Mayflower, but they met the boat.”
 
Rogers was quick to mock the political interpretation of democracy while personally adhering to its fundamental human rights and expectations. “I am not a member of any organized political party. I’m a Democrat,” he asserted.
 
Internationally acclaimed comic Pieter Dirk Uys has spent his career walking a fine line between being an amusing irritation to South African politicians and becoming an intolerable threat to their many and fickle agendas.
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As recently as September 2010, Jim Carrey, comedic actor and founder of the Better U Foundation, attended the annual Clinton Global Initiative, putting Ian Carey’s November 30 performance in Cancun right up there among the best.
 
With tongue-in-cheek sincerity, Carey introduced himself to climate change delegates as a member of the Canadian Alliance of Petroleum Peddlers, discouraging them from attending a meeting which would disenfranchise his organization and inviting them to join him on the beach. Carey’s performance was part of the campaign by Environmental Defence and the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition to draw attention to the Alberta tar sands.
 
“We’re using humour to bring attention to a serious issue,” says Gillian McEachern of Environmental Defence. “Big oil companies stand to benefit from inaction to tackle global warming, but the rest of us will face an increasingly unstable and dangerous world if we don’t get our act together.”
 
Will Rogers may have suggested that people trade in their cars for horses. They “would be out of debt in a couple of years. Just think, no gas, no tires, no roads to pay for.”