Last October when I was at MIPCOM in Cannes you couldn’t help but notice all the signage for Just For Laughs Gags. Scenes from the very visual Quebec comedy were everywhere, on giant electronic billboards as well as on the sides and roofs of the many overpriced taxis.
The message: visual gag comedy sells internationally.
Enter Fool Canada, which premiered Tuesday at 8:30 p.m. on CBC. The new hidden camera comedy can also be seen on CBC’s Sunday schedule throughout this summer.
The main star is Will Sasso, the likable and talented ex-MADtv player who also played the great Curly Howard in the Farrelly brothers tribute to The Three Stooges. I told Sasso I was the one who went to a theatre and saw that film in Canada. Was he great in it? Sointenly.
Sasso was front and centre at CBC’s recent upfront in Toronto. The Vancouver native declared how happy he was to finally be on a CBC program.
He took exception, however, that Fool Canada was just a gag series, objecting especially to if being dismissed as “hidden camera.” Sasso preferred to think of it as an improv series where he is in sketches opposite average, unsuspecting Canadians. Sasso’s scenes were shot last summer, mainly in and around the GTA. He did get down to the Niagara area, but other improv players–Air Farce regular Craig Lauzon, Sara Hennessey and Sam Khallileh, among others–get in on the gags in other parts of Canada.
Sasso says in the opener that they’re all out to “pull the touque over Canada’s eyes.” I guess if it was “Fool France” they pull the berrets, or ” Fool Afghanistan,” the burqas.
The series has its moments. I laughed when Sasso was inside a box on a beach pretending to be Canadian television personality Alan Thicke. It was also funny when crews showed up on people’s front steps claiming to be city employees releasing relocated raccoon babies.
Sasso says it was fun testing just how far Canadians would go along with the gags, given our reputation for being endlessly polite. The true test will be how polite Canadian viewers are, however. Manners don’t matter when it comes to pointing a remote at a screen and saying, “Take off, eh?”
I can see Fool Canada being a bigger hit internationally than domestically. Viewers in other countries might be more inclined to laugh at us than we do at ourselves.