It’s with great pride and a potent speedball of British and Canadian shyness that I announce my being shortlisted for this year’s Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal: the annual prize for the best humour writing in Canada.
Did you hear that? The best. I’m at least the fifth-best humorist in all of Canada at the moment. What do you mean that’s like being the Southern Hemisphere’s second-largest playable harmonica? Please don’t make a scene, madam.
Founded in 1947, the Leacock has been awarded to people like Stuart “Vinyl Cafe” McLean, Patrick “The Sisters Brothers” deWitt, and thrice to my Canadian humour hero, Eric “The Roving I” Nicol.
This year, 73 books were reviewed by judging teams across Canada. Mine was one of ten to make the longlist on March 31st and one of five on the shortlist the following morning. Thanks, Leacockers, for essentially inventing April Fools’ Day Eve. It was interesting getting to sleep that night.
The other finalists are Aaron Bushkowsky (Curtains For Roy); Great Big Sea’s Alan Doyle (Where I Belong); Terry Fallis (No Relation); and Zarqa Nawaz (Laughing All The Way to the Mosque).
My own judge-delighting book was A Loose Egg, a miscellany of what I arrogantly believe to be my best work. It contains such Wringhammy classics as “The Hungriest Hippo”, “Hockey Voodoo”, “Outdoors In,” “Trainee Millionaire” and a new story called “No Girls, Except for Liz”.
The Leacock means a lot to me and I’ve enjoyed Leacock books for a long time. Nicol’s Shall We Join the Ladies (winner, 1951) is a favourite. McLean’s Vinyl Cafe Unplugged (winner, 2000) contains what might be the funniest line-in-context ever written (“Sweet Jesus”). Paul Quarrington’s Whale Music (shortlisted, 1990) introduced the word “schnooze” to my vocabulary. I use it all the time. “That alpaca’s got schnooze,” I say, and nobody ever questions it.