You may have been wondering where Mike Myers has been. The comedian has become somewhat of an International Man of Mystery as of late — not counting his voice work in Shrek, the last time we saw him in a starring role was in 2008’s The Love Guru (and according to box office receipts, most of us only saw him in the poster for that).
Well, as it turns out, Myers has been devoting his time to being as Canadian as humanly possible. We caught a flash of his burning patriotism last year, when he appeared on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver in full Mountie getup to beg his countrymen not to re-elect Stephen Harper. Apparently, we listened. Now, Myers is schwinging out of the woodwork with his very own tome about the motherland; aptly titled Canada, it’s a heartfelt, humorous meditation on what it means to be Canadian in 2016.
Although it also makes us wonder: what does it mean to be Mike Myers in 2016? After all, the Scarborough, Ontario native spent the ’90s becoming one of Hollywood’s most sought-after comedy titans — first as Wayne’s World’s sardonic metalhead, then as Austin Powers’ shagadelic secret agent, with a few shots of Shrek every few years, too. But for the past seven years, he’s been largely incognito, allowing for a new, subtler generation of Rogens and Sambergs to inherit the comedy world. Ask Myers, however, and he’ll tell you he’s been relishing life out of the spotlight — quietly raising a family, patiently working on his next projects, carefully contemplating his country’s place on the global stage. In other words, to be Mike Myers today is to be Canada incarnate: unassuming, mindful, moderate. So who better to tell the rest of the world just what makes this nation, well, excellent?
“Given a choice between a country that’s not polite enough and a country that’s too polite, I’d take the latter every time.”
What made you decide to write a book about such a riveting topic as Canada?
I’ve always, over time, just collected thoughts about Canada — it’s something I think about a lot. So it wasn’t hard to come up with material. I knew I wouldn’t be able to make it the definitive book about Canada, but I would, as an expert, be able to talk about my relationship with Canada for 53 years. Also, Canada’s turning 150. You know, I really love the place, but I find it very fascinating to come from a country that nobody knows anything about. It’s very odd, travelling around the world, seeing just how little people know about Canada.
Why do you think that is?
I think things like civility and peace, order and good government, and the fact that we’re born not of a revolution but
of an unarmed evolution, don’t make for good drama. The essence of drama is effort in the face of lacking, and Canada has a lack of lacking. We have plenty of water and everyone seems to get along everywhere. I wouldn’t say Canada is a utopia by any stretch, but I know when I get off the plane my shoulders drop to my hips and my jaw loosens up. I know that, for the most part, knock on wood, I’m not coming to an angry and violent place. But, also, we live next door to a country that is amazing at storytelling. Even the motto “The Mounties always get their man” was invented in Hollywood. America’s been able to shape the world and their own destiny through entertainment software, and while many Canadians have worked in the American industry, we tend not to weave our history and our way of life into our culture.
Are we just too polite to tell the world about ourselves?
First of all, given a choice between a country that’s not polite enough and a country that’s too polite, I’d take the latter every time. People often say we have an identity problem. I’ve never believed that! But we do have a mission statement problem. It’s not a question of “Who are we?” We should be asking ourselves “Why are we?” I think not knowing why we exist has created a bit of timidity. The last line of my book is, “We may not have put a man on the moon, but we’re awfully nice to the man on earth.” Having said that, why can’t we do both? We have a high literacy rate, a low crime rate, universal healthcare — all good pre-indicators of being able to achieve great things technologically.
Of course, you’ve been living in the US for the last few decades. In your book, you mention this led you to have a crisis of Canadian identity.
Well, there were a few things at work. You know, after my dad died my heart was broken, and so much of my Canadian experience is with my family. So it became hard to come up to a country where my dad isn’t anymore. Also, nothing in my childhood or in Canada prepared me for this public life. Because we don’t trust a public life. We’re not a country that is, itself, famous. It’s just not in our tradition, you know? What I used to love to do when I came back was just ride the subway, and then I couldn’t anymore because it became a bit of a public appearance. You go from being an observer, in a place where it’s very safe to observe, to being observed. It was a bit of a loss of innocence and a loss of freedom. It became harder for me to just be in Canada.
Is fame something that bothers you?
I’m way more comfortable with it now, but I wasn’t at first. In Canada, there’s an attitude of “Who do you think you are?” And for the most part that’s a very healthy and wonderful thing. But I was in a bit of a public-person-denial, because I was raised in a way that was “Don’t show off.” My parents weren’t famous: my dad sold encyclopedias and my mom worked in the office at the factory. I didn’t come from a family that knew how to handle this. Nothing at the corner of Don Mills and Sheppard would suggest anything like this was in the future. The other thing, too, is fame in itself is an all-pervasive experience that has no intrinsic value. It doesn’t actually do anything that is of meaning, of any depth. It’s kind of the industrial disease of creativity.
Is that why, in recent years, you’ve kind of receded from the spotlight?
For me, it’s been my kids. I’ve always wanted to have a family. I had one late. I have three kids now. I’m actually developing a whole bunch of stuff, but it takes a long time. Then I took time to write this book. I’ve also just finished a movie called Terminal with Margot Robbie. I’m developing a show at HBO, which I’m very excited about, and there are two other movies in the works. We’ll see what happens. But I’ve just lately tried to look at it in terms of: how long away from my family is it going to be? I want to be present for this experience, and it’s just been fantastic. It really is the happiest time of my life.
Do you make a point to play Canadian Heritage Minutes for your kids?
It’s interesting. In my son Spike’s room there’s a map of the United States, and each state has its own colour, and then there’s just this blob called Canada. So I’ve tried to draw on all the provinces as best as I can and go, “Daddy is from here!” It’s rare for something Canadian to come on TV, but on Paw Patrol, this Nickelodeon cartoon, all the kid actors who voice the dogs are Canadian! Sort of like, “Sooorry! But we have to go to the look-oot!” And then Spike will say, “That’s daddy’s accent!” He’ll make fun of me for being Canadian, too. A week ago he said to me, “Dada, when you were a kid did you have any imaginary friends?” I said, “Yeah I did!” And he said, “Yeah, but that was Canada.” As if my Canadian imaginary friends are not going to be as good as his American imaginary friends. He’s a real New Yorker. You know, they live in the centre of the world here.
One could argue the world is ignorant about us because there aren’t enough movies and shows set in Canada. Sure, there’s a lot of stuff filmed here, but it’s always slapped with American license plates and street names. Isn’t that a problem?
No, I don’t see that as a problem. What I’m noticing with the twentysomething Canadians I’m meeting is they aren’t
as preoccupied with what other people think of Canada. Which is awesome and healthy and just makes everyone happier. An American friend of mine was shocked to learn we have such strong feelings about America. And I said, “Well, what do you guys think about Canada?” And they went, “Uh… we don’t.” I was like, “Oh shit! That’s a great answer!” And what’s so fantastic about the younger people I’m meeting is they just don’t care what Americans think about them. It makes me very happy, because then you can actually have movies about the Canadian experience without being concerned with, “Is this going to be too Canadian?” Like, who cares? Do your thing, dude! The main thing I would say to Canadians is to double down on that — even though we live next to a place where you can be discovered, don’t wait to be discovered. Discover yourself. The whole industry, everything’s upside-down now, anyway. All the traditional structures are out the window. It’s a perfect opportunity for Canada to create its own… whatever.
Is that what you like about Prime Minister Justin Trudeau? That he doesn’t always seek approval from the US?
Well, I was predisposed to like him because Pierre Elliott Trudeau is and was a hero of mine. I love the idea of a person who is compassionate not from weakness, but from having strong ideals and not caring what negative, untrue assessments may come his way. And that he was able to articulate his theory of governance with very little insult to others. Like, take the politics right now of “Hillary is crazy!” “No, Trump is crazy!” as opposed to reading his small essay on the just society. It’s eloquent, smart, inspiring, and hopeful. I also like that he was his own man; he had a visible shadow. Ultimately I think we’re a country born without a mission statement. We’re sort of an anomaly of geography and history. But what has evolved — and that I think Justin Trudeau is going to give voice to — is that we’re a collection of progressive ideals. That we are our brother’s keeper. That the strength of a democracy is not how well we agree, but how well we disagree. Rule of law. Fairness. Justice. Inclusion. I think he’s going to do fantastic things. And it’s we ourselves, you know?