'Feel The Civility': Comedian Mike Myers On Canada — And 'Canada' Rachel Martin talks to comedian Mike Myers as Canada prepares to mark 150 years since it took a major step toward independence. Myers has written a book called Canada about his home country.
NPR logo 'Feel The Civility': Comedian Mike Myers On Canada — And 'Canada'

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

Let's take a few moments to help a neighbor celebrate a big birthday. It is Canada Day tomorrow, the 150th birthday for the country that brought us hockey, time zones, the pacemaker and these many pop culture moments.

(SOUNDBITE OF MEDIA MONTAGE)

MIKE MYERS: (As Austin Powers, laughter) Yeah, yeah, baby, yeah (laughter).

RUSH: (Singing) Though his mind is not for rent, don't put him down as arrogant.

WILLIAM SHATNER: (As Captain James T. Kirk) Space, the final frontier.

JONI MITCHELL: (Singing) Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've....

DRAKE: (Singer) You used to call me on my cellphone late night when you need my love - call me on...

GREENE: So much talent from Canada - that was Drake, Joni Mitchell William Shatner, the band Rush and our next guest, comedian Mike Myers as Austin Powers, the international man of mystery. Although a longtime resident of the United States, Myers remains proudly Canadian. He even wrote a book about it titled, appropriately, "Canada." It's sort of a love letter to his homeland as it turns 150. Our co-host Rachel Martin spoke with Myers about what it means to be Canadian.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Thanks so much for being with us, Mike.

MYERS: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: What do you love about Canada?

MYERS: Where do I begin?

MARTIN: (Laughter).

MYERS: When I get off the plane to visit my brother up in Toronto, my jaw unhinges. My shoulders drop to my hips. And I just can feel the civility, like, on a cellular level. In a world where countries have more passion and more oomph, our civility is looking awfully sexy lately.

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: I don't know of a country that is working as hard as Canada to try and get things right in terms of inclusion, in terms of a level playing field. And I think we don't get everything right, but we're certainly trying really hard up there.

MARTIN: You haven't lived there in a long time, but you grew up there. You spent the first 20 years of your life in...

MYERS: Yeah.

MARTIN: ...Canada. You grew up outside Toronto. Is that right?

MYERS: I grew up in Scarborough, which is a suburb of Toronto. The relationship of Scarborough to Toronto is New Jersey to New York.

MARTIN: OK, got it.

MYERS: And at times, it can be a punchline - so a lot of donut stores, factory carpet outlets. And its nickname is Scarberia (ph). So that's...

MARTIN: (Laughter).

MYERS: Need I say more?

MARTIN: Yeah. Were both your parents from the U.K.?

MYERS: Both my parents are from Liverpool. They came to Canada in '56.

MARTIN: They're immigrants.

MYERS: Yeah.

MARTIN: Did they stake their futures on a Canadian life? I mean what drew them to Canada?

MYERS: Both my parents were in World War II. My mom was in the Royal Air Force, and my dad was in the Royal Engineers of the British Army. And he got to know Americans, and he loved American movies and American entertainment. And I never really got a straight answer, but my understanding is that they - my dad thought he could just get a job in America (laughter) at this place go Dunlop's. It's a tire company. And my dad worked at Dunlop's in Liverpool after the war and just thought if he showed up and said, oh, I used to do this in Liverpool, mate; you know, could I get a job? And evidently it didn't work that way, and so he went back up to Toronto. That's what I believe.

MARTIN: That does kind of tie in to the central tension in your book, which is what it means to be a Canadian. I mean even as you tell this story, your dad had this idea about coming to America and making his fortune because that myth is really strong. The narrative of what it means to be an American and the American dream is a thing that people understand the world over.

MYERS: Yeah.

MARTIN: And Canada doesn't have that.

MYERS: Well, what's interesting - what's emerged is that statistically, Canada has more of the American dream than America does now. There's a higher percentage of people that actually own their own homes than Americans per capita. People in Canada - the children tend to make more money than their parents did, who are children of immigrants.

MARTIN: So it's just bad marketing.

MYERS: It is bad marketing, but that is Canada in a nutshell. We live next to - you know, if Rome ruled the world with the broadsword and if Britain with the three-masted ship, America has ruled the world with the moving image and the ability to tell stories. The American narrative is unbelievable. You know, Canada doesn't have that.

We're a country born without a mission statement. We're an anomaly of geography and history. But what we can be is a collection of progressive ideals. And I say in the book, you know, we may not have put a man on the moon, but we've been awfully nice to the man on Earth. And that is something I'm very proud of.

MARTIN: You write, although, that Canadians - be they nice and kind and civil, that they also have a morbid streak.

MYERS: It's absolutely true. There is - it's an odd anomaly, but a lot of stories are, did you hear about my friend? He died, eh (ph), in front of his kids, eh.

MARTIN: (Laughter).

MYERS: Sad. It's almost every story (laughter) is - in front of his kids, eh.

MARTIN: Like, there always needs to be, like, an - and it was so bad that - it can't just be bad. It's got to be really bad.

MYERS: There's a joy in underplaying and having low affect as you describe horrible things. So it's like, did you hear about our teacher? He was up north. He was waterskiing. He hit the dock, yeah. His head broke open like a grape, and his brains went everywhere. It was really bad. They had to get, like, 75 body bags for it. And it's like, the more lower affect that you can describe something gruesome and horrible (laughter).

MARTIN: One more thing I have to ask you before I let you go - today, you are getting an award. You're actually getting the Order of Canada. It's I guess akin to being knighted...

MYERS: Yes.

MARTIN: ...In Great Britain. Congratulations. That's pretty huge.

MYERS: Thank you so much. I am insanely honored. The only tinge of sadness is that my mom passed away about three and a half months ago.

MARTIN: Oh, I'm sorry.

MYERS: She didn't live to see it. But as a child of an immigrant who was raised by Canada and the Canadian government, it is an unbelievable honor. And they called me on my birthday, which was fantastic.

MARTIN: Wow.

MYERS: It was, like, a perfect day - unbelievable.

MARTIN: Are you going to go for Canada Day this weekend? Are you going to go party?

MYERS: I don't know.

(LAUGHTER)

MYERS: I'm - I always deck my house out with Canadian flags and portraits of the queen and stuff and Mounties.

MARTIN: You do not. Do you really?

MYERS: Of course I do, yeah. There's nobody more Canadian than a Canadian who no longer lives in Canada, you know? And I will - as a joke, I'll often call the Fourth of July American Canada Day.

MARTIN: Well, congratulations.

MYERS: Thank you.

MARTIN: Mike Myers, thanks so much for taking the time. And happy Canada Day to you.

MYERS: Thank you. And happy American Canada Day to you as well.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "O CANADA")

WILLIE STRATTON: (Singing) O, Canada...

GREENE: So much getting along. Happy birthday, Canada. That was Rachel Martin talking to Mike Myers - actor, comedian and author of the book "Canada."

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