Dear Prime Minister Trudeau,
Thank you for taking the time to read this letter. Maybe it’s more of a plea… you be the judge. I am a comedian based in Toronto and I am proud to say we have a vibrant, eclectic and incredibly edgy community here. Some say it’s the best in the world. We are truly lucky to live in a country that affords us freedom of speech. It’s a hallmark we sometimes take for granted but one that makes nations great.
I wanted to share something with you that became apparent to me during the last election. While you were on the campaign trail the comedians in this country were unknowingly campaigning for you. They were telling jokes in the back of bars, clubs and in theatres, urging Canadians to dump Harper in the toilet otherwise this country was headed down a dark path. Probably the most grass roots campaigning any politician could imagine. More effective than people knocking at your door or calling you on the phone asking who you’re gonna vote for. This actually happens every election and in between elections.
I just thought you might wanna know seeing that you’re the most liberal and open-minded prime minister we’ve ever had. Thank you for keeping your heart open to us. We watched in awe how you unequivocally reset the order of gender relations in government and appointed cabinet posts to people who had a genuine connection to their portfolio. It’s inspiring and has been reinvigorated our country.
There are many things that make this country great and comedy is one of them. There has never been more comedy being performed than right now. Maybe it’s because stand-up is the most immediate art form… more than a play, more than a song. If something is happening in the world on any particular day, a comic will be out that same night poking at it… revealing the truth of it and freeing us all from the tension of it. And yet there doesn’t seem to be respect in this country for this magnificent art. Playwrights get grants, musicians get grants but stand-ups don’t. Not sure why. It’s theatre at its most honest, raw and relevant.
I’m not advocating solely for more government money because what the entertainment industry in this country really needs is to connect with private money. But I do think the government could subsidize this industry more than it currently does. We’re talking about a creative class of people who could make contributions to the growth of our nation in ways we haven’t even conceived of. My peers are some of the most imaginative, innovative, thoughtful, caring and inclusive people I have ever met. They are on the front lines every night engaging with citizens politically and emotionally bringing joy and release from the cruel
realities of this existence. Giving us hope. Keeping us in community.
I often hear, “There’s no money in the arts… It’s not profitable.” Well neither is mining, or oil or gas. These industries are heavily subsidized. “The International Monetary Fund estimates that energy subsidies in Canada top $34 billion each year in direct support to producers and uncollected tax.” (https://docs.neb-one.gc.ca/) Imagine if the arts got even a fraction of that. And yet the energy and mining sectors are dependent on the constant extraction from the earth of its precious metals and resources. Creating a never-ending stockpile of goods we couldn’t possibly consume in multiple lifetimes. Telling jokes is as integral to life as food and water and as ancient and it doesn’t really cause pollution. I think that’s a great thing to invest in.
The thing about stand-up in Canada is when comics have worked hard building a repertoire of solid jokes, there is no place for them to showcase really. There are no late night talk shows or star system. Even the comedy festivals in this country give top billing to Americans. That doesn’t feel good. Luckily we’re not that far from where the action is. And so I arrive at my plea.
When we do decide to go south to connect to a larger audience and group of peers, we are faced with major costs and required to hire lawyers and produce application packages that are hundreds of pages long with letters of support from industry and media that demonstrates undeniable proof of our ‘extraordinary ability’. In fact, I’m currently applying for my 01 Visa and in my letters to the Department of Homeland Security above the To Whom it may Concern line, in bold it says, In Regards to Sandra Battaglini’s qualifications as an individual of extraordinary ability.
A whole slew of my peers have just made the move to the US and have had to pay in some cases upwards of $10,000 for their Green Card Application and $5000 for their 01 VISA. This seems just a bit unfair considering when American comics come to Canada, they don’t have to produce much more than a letter if that. We do have a free trade agreement with the United States after all so why do we have such a hard time when we want to work there?
What I’m asking for is reciprocity between us and the United States. During Obama’s last visit to Canada he even remarked that, “Our relationship is so remarkable precisely because it seems so unremarkable. Which is why Americans often are surprised when our favourite American actor or singer turns out to be Canadian.”
Since you and POTUS have such a bromance happening do you think maybe next time you’re sipping on martinis you can whisper in his ear that our jokesters are looking for an easier time to get in. That’s all. Thank you for your time and consideration.