Deadpanning for comedy gold in the North

The day after Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield landed back on the planet in 2013, Canadian earthlings celebrated. But in one corner of the Internet, rage was growing. 

The day after Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield landed back on the planet in 2013, Canadian earthlings celebrated.

But in one corner of the Internet, rage was growing.

“Hadfield comes home to $1.37-million Rogers phone bill,” the headline shouted.

And the Internet folks, as Internet folks are prone to do, lost their marbles.

The story got half a million hits and Canadians went after the telecommunications company for saddling a national hero with such a crushing burden.

It’s unlikely anyone in the angry virtual mob actually clicked on the article.

If they had, they would have noticed a few, let’s say, red flags.

Hadfield racked up the bill, according to the article, by watching Youtube videos of goats that sound like humans.

He’s quoted worrying about what his parents will think, suggesting he doesn’t pay his own phone bill.

The story was the handiwork of Alex Huntley, an editor with the satirical publication The Beaverton.

Canada’s answer to The Onion, The Beaverton tweaks Canadian news in the name of comedy.

Huntley moved to Whitehorse in April. Since then he’s started the website’s new North section and has been mining the territories for comedy.

The Hadfield article was his first to get major online attention since he started working there in 2012.

As funny as the reaction was, there’s a lesson there, he says.

“That’s the whole thing about the importance of clicking on the article and knowing the source. I never had the intention of spoofing people into believing that Chris Hadfield had a $1.37 million phone bill.”

The Beaverton has been around since 2010. In five years the website is up to a million hits a month. They have a TV deal and editors working out of Montreal, Toronto, Ottawa, and now Whitehorse.

“Because, you know, Vancouver wasn’t the next logical step, we’re going to Whitehorse here,” Huntley said.

The whole thing is run by volunteers, people who are passionate about comedy and the news.

“It’s something that I think is necessary, as someone who believes in critical thinking and making people laugh.”

Since arriving in Whitehorse, Huntley has gathered a small group of satire writers to work with. Their inaugural story, on Whitehorse changing its name to Yellowknife to avoid confusion, got 16,000 hits.

Not exactly astronaut-level success, but pretty good considering our size, Huntley says.

“It got about 16,000 hits, which, for a northern community is maybe half your population. Which is great.”

The Yukon so far has been a great source of comedy. Some headlines include: “Elections Canada announces new Yukon voting station teetering on Mount Logan’s Summit.” “Yellowknife’s closed KFC to become National Historic Site.” And, of course: “Actual news story about Conservative MP Ryan Leef campaign signs baffles satirists.”

“To be honest, we were all baffled,” Huntley said of the news that former MP Ryan Leef placed a Yukon woman under citizen’s arrest for vandalizing his signs.

It’s tough to make funny fake news when the truth is so funny on its own. In the end that became the joke. “With the inability to compete with non-fake news organizations, the online satirical publication immediately shut down,” the article said.

But when it comes to satire, not everything works.

Early this year the publication apologized and pulled down a piece it published after Ashley Callingbull, a Cree woman, won Mrs. Universe. The article was headlined “Mrs. First Cree Woman To Gain National Coverage If She Disappears.”

The story was meant to criticize the media for their failure to properly cover missing and murdered aboriginal women, but many readers took offense to making light of such a critical issue.

“Our intent was to say let’s talk more about this issue because it’s really important,” Huntley said.

“But at the same time you have to be clear with your communication with the joke and that’s what makes it (satire) so nuanced. It’s tough.”

Huntley said The Beaverton is a progressive publication and an ally to many social causes. “We always punch up with our humour, we never punch down.”

There’s plenty of targets left for comedy in Yukon. Huntley notes this is a region prone to power outages with plans for a second fibre-optic Internet line.

“That’s great, we’ve got Internet. We can’t turn on the modem because it requires electricity, but damn it we have two lines.”

Jokes in the North section of the website are meant to connect with readers across the country, he said.

Of course, they’ll have to have Internet.

Contact Ashley Joannou at

ashleyj@yukon-news.com

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dawson the dog sits next to the Chariot Patrick Jackson has loaded and rigged up to walk the Dempster Highway from where it begins, off the North Klondike Highway, to the Arctic Circle. (Submitted)
Walking the Dempster

Patrick Jackson gets set for 405-kilometre journey

Liberal leader Sandy Silver speaks outside his campaign headquarters in Dawson City following early poll results on April 12. (Robin Sharp/Yukon News)
BREAKING: Minority government results will wait on tie vote in Vuntut Gwitchin

The Yukon Party and the Liberal Party currently have secured the same amount of seats

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
YUKONOMIST: The Neapolitan election

Do you remember those old bricks of Neapolitan ice cream from birthday… Continue reading

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Exposure notice issued for April 3 Air North flight

Yukon Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley has issued another… Continue reading

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Runners in the Yukon Arctic Ultra marathon race down the Yukon River near the Marwell industrial area in Whitehorse on Feb. 3, 2019.
Cold-weather exercise hard on the lungs

Amy Kenny Special to the Yukon News It might make you feel… Continue reading

lwtters
Today’s Mailbox: Rent freezes and the youth vote

Dear Editor, I read the article regarding the recommendations by the Yukon… Continue reading

Point-in-Time homeless count planned this month

Volunteers will count those in shelters, short-term housing and without shelter in a 24-hour period.

The Yukon’s new ATIPP Act came into effect on April 1. Yukoners can submit ATIPP requests online or at the Legislative Assembly building. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News file)
New ATIPP Act in effect as of April 1

The changes promise increased government transparency

A new conservancy in northern B.C. is adjacent to Mount Edziza Provincial Park. (Courtesy BC Parks)
Ice Mountain Lands near Telegraph Creek, B.C., granted conservancy protection

The conservancy is the first step in a multi-year Tahltan Stewardship Initiative

Yukon RCMP reported a child pornography-related arrest on April 1. (Phil McLachlan/Black Press file)
Whitehorse man arrested on child pornography charges

The 43-year-old was charged with possession of child pornography and making child pornography

Team Yukon athletes wave flags at the 2012 Arctic Winter Games opening ceremony in Whitehorse. The postponed 2022 event in Wood Buffalo, Alta., has been rescheduled for Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023. (Justin Kennedy/Yukon News file)
New dates set for Arctic Winter Games

Wood Buffalo, Alta. will host event Jan. 29 to Feb. 4, 2023

Victoria Gold Corp. has contributed $1 million to the First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun after six months of production at the Eagle Gold Mine. (Submitted/Victoria Gold Corp.)
Victoria Gold contributes $1 million to First Nation of Na-cho Nyak Dun

Victoria Gold signed a Comprehensive Cooperation and Benefits Agreement in 2011

Most Read