October 12, 2008

"Dead Dog" humorist seeks office

A writer's new chapter:  Running for Parliament in CanadaAs a writer, Thomas King has twice been nominated for Canada's main literary prize, the Governor General's Literary Awards, and his work as an academic has brought him acclaim and honors. But King's popularity comes mainly from his performances as Tom King, an often frustrated, somewhat assimilated Canadian Indian who is the straight man in "The Dead Dog Café Comedy Hour," a popular and long-running series of 15-minute radio programs he created and wrote.

King, 65, has now set aside the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation's microphones to make his first foray into electoral politics. His decision to run for a seat in the House of Commons in a campaign that ends Tuesday is, in an American context, about as predictable as Garrison Keillor abandoning Lake Wobegon for a shot at Congress.

But as he stretched out his tall, fit frame in the living room of his still incomplete, environmentally friendly house, King said it was finally time to leave "night shift politics" for a more conventional political platform.

"One of the things that I most regret is that I had to give up 'Dead Dog' in order to run for office," King said. "I really thought with 'Dead Dog' that I was helping to save the world in some small way. But you're never sure how much good you're doing.
And:The Dead Dog Café was a venue in King's most popular novel, "Green Grass, Running Water." In addition to Tom, the program featured just two other characters: Gracie Heavy Hand, the level-headed proprietor of the coffee shop, and Jasper Friendly Bear, the ostensible host of the radio show and a source of endless, usually harebrained, schemes.

To King's astonishment, the government-owned CBC never censored "The Dead Dog Café," even when it made what he called "scurrilous" jokes about politicians and political parties. The program could be just as cutting about Native Canadians. Flaherty said the biggest source of listener complaints was an online variation of a regular item in the program: a wheel spun to generate "authentic Indian names" for listeners. (Flaherty's is Cassandra Tranquil Mouth.)

"We were criticized mostly by American Indians who came across it on the Internet without context and thought it was racist," Flaherty said.
Comment:  I understood the context of the name generator and I still said it was stereotypical. For the reasons why, see Online Program Generates "Authentic Indian Names."

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