Monday, November 20, 2017

The Stephen Leacock Re-Tour is winding down

Image from Athabasca University

On Sunday afternoon, Canadian Authors - Metro Vancouver hosted a special event at SFU Harbour Centre. We are most grateful for the support from The Writers Studio and Liberal Arts and 55+ in presenting Paul and Leslie Conway, the Voyageur Storytellers, as they passed through Vancouver on their Stephen Leacock Re-Tour, tracing the route of Canada's first great jokester with a variety of presentations on his work.

Once the best-known humourist in the English-speaking world, Stephen Leacock spoke several languages and worked as an economics professor at McGill University. According to Paul Conway, he rose daily at 5 to write. No doubt this explains his prodigious output: 53 books and over 1500 articles, as well as many lecture tours in Canada, the US, and England.

We heard yesterday that audiences would start laughing the moment he came onstage, even when the subject of the lecture was meant to be serious. The man whose sales were once the sole support of his publisher had much to say about the human condition, some of which continues to resonate. His early books were the funniest; as his life progressed through two world wars and the Great Depression that came between them, his comedy took on an increasingly dark double entendre. Even though certain of his views are problematic, he proposed a number of progressive social ideas that later became part of the Canada we know today. 

On his blog, Paul Conway sums up thus:

I…completely reject Stephen Leacock’s ideas on race, and [see] his views on women as amusing anachronisms…But I love the quality of…mind that saw complex public affairs as Unsolved Riddles, [and] gloried in humour as a way to stay human in the face of dehumanizing forces and ideas.

Now Paul and Leslie are coming to the end of their Stephen Leacock Re-Tour. They will perform in Victoria this week. Their final event, next Tuesday, will take place at Green College at UBC, where Stephen Leacock ended his lecture tour in 1937.

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