How to Spot a Canadian

Tracking down Canadians one toque at a time.

About this Site...

Canadians are a tricky people to distinguish. They are often able to blend into a society and appear to be American, British, French or any other number of nationalities. This site will provide you with some tips and tricks to help you recognize a Canadian no matter where you are.

 

This site is for entertainment purposes only. "How to Spot a Canadian" is filled with humour, satire, hyperbole, parody and sarcasm. All statements here should be taken with a grain of salt or a bottle of maple syrup, whatever the case may be.

They Spent Childhood Watching a Giant Talk to a Rooster in a Sack

The following tip only works on Canadians of a certain age, but it will definitely help you weed some Canadians out of the pack. As always, spotting even one Canadian is preferred to letting them run wild.

The Friendly Giant was a children's television show that aired on the CBC for almost thirty years. Much like many children's programs it focused on a human actor and his puppet sidekicks. However, unlike many children's programs, the human actor played a giant (named Friendly) and one of his puppet sidekicks was Rusty, a rooster that lived in a sack that hung from the giant's castle wall. The other sidekick was a giraffe named Jerome who stuck his head through the castle window to converse with Rusty and Friendly.

The show would always start with a shot of a giant boot in the middle of a small town. You would then hear Friendly asking his viewers to "look up, waaaaaaaay up" in order to see him and then he would welcome them into his castle. Inside the castle Friendly would arrange some tiny chairs for the children watching to sit in. Of course, the chairs weren't actually tiny. They were normal-sized chairs that only appeared tiny due to the fact that they were being held by a giant.

This show ran for many, many years and generations of Canadians were practically raised by this giant and his animal companions. Sometimes Friendly would tell stories and other times the trio would play instruments. It was an entertaining, and definitely bizarre, show. I would have liked to be in the room when the show was proposed to the network.

"Okay, we're going to have a show about a giant. Except this giant isn't mean, he's friendly. He's so friendly that his name is actually 'Friendly!' He lives in a castle with a rooster and a giraffe. Well, the giraffe lives outside the castle, but the rooster lives inside in a bag that hangs from the wall. Of course, the rooster is also huge in size as a regular-sized rooster would be too small for a giant to interact with. Oh yeah, the animals also play instruments."

And thus a children's classic was born!

But The Friendly Giant wasn't the only bizarre program Canadian children were introduced to. There were many more:

  • Mr. Dressup - A man who had an endless variety of costumes inside his "Tickle Trunk." He would dress in these costumes to entertain his puppet friends. The original puppets were Casey (a human child in puppet form) and a dog named Finnegan. The puppets spent most of their time in a treehouse in Mr. Dressup's yard. The puppets were later changed as the puppeteer retired. Mr. Dressup often drew pictures or made crafts for the children as well. A puppet alligator named Al ran a local trading post.

  • The Elephant Show - Three singers (Sharon, Lois & Bram) went through a series of wacky adventures accompanied by a group of children and their elephant friend. The elephant (appropriately named "Elephant") was a person inside an elephant suit who never spoke but loved to dance. The show also featured concert footage of the three singers as well as appearances from their friend Eric, who played a tuba made from washing machine parts.

  • Polka Dot Door - Adapted from a British show, Polka Dot Door featured a cast of several actors; both adults and children. They told stories, sang songs, and played with (and talked to) stuffed animals. The stuff animals did not talk, but everyone pretended they did, holding them up to their ears and asking them to repeat themselves. When the stuffed toy said nothing for the second time it was instantly understood. The signature moment in the show would occur when only one of the two adult hosts were present. A strange creature known as "Polkaroo" would appear and try to explain something to the remaining host and any children that were nearby. Of course, Polkaroo would have been easier to understand if it was capable of saying anything other than its own name. Eventually, through a series of actions and muted "Polkaroos," it would be understood and leave happily. At this point the missing host would return and find out, much to their dismay, that Polkaroo had left. This always prompted a sad "And I missed him again?" from the unlucky host.

  • Today's Special - Shot in a department store, this show featured a mannequin that came to life, a puppet security guard and a giant mouse that spoke in rhyme. If the mannequin (named "Jeff") ever lost his hat he would turn back into a mannequin and could not move again until his hat was replaced. This aspect of the show terrified me as a child.

  • Camp Cariboo - A fictional camp where the two hosts/camp counselors wore hats with giant antlers and eyes. They would frequently do crafts, sing songs and other such camp activities. They would also end up in several wacky situations that they would need to find their way out of.

  • Under the Umbrella Tree - The story of a woman (Holly) who lived (under an umbrella Tree) with a puppet blue jay, puppet iguana and puppet gopher. Holly may or may not have been the mother of the three puppets. She certainly treated them that way. How a human woman gave birth to puppets of three different species was never explained. Even if she wasn't their mother, didn't anyone find it weird that she was living with three different wild animals?

  • Fred Penner's Place - The story of a man who crawl through a hollow log during his daily hike. Once through the log he would enter a clearing where he would spend his day singing and doing crafts. Much like any good television show, there were also puppets.

  • Rocket Robin Hood - This was an older show that aired in reruns for many years, thus touching the lives of many Canadians. It basically told the story of Robin Hood, except it was in the future. Many characters wore rocket packs. No joke is necessary here.

  • Sesame Park - Originally Canadian Sesame Street, this show was one of the many Canadian versions of international programs that are very common in Canada. However, this deserves its own recognition due to the large number of Canadian stereotypes present. Not only were there segments in French, but the show featured new, Canadian muppets such as a polar bear, an otter and a beaver. The show was eventually transitioned off of the standard street and into a "more Canadian" park and renamed.
If using these methods to spot Canadians please note that some of these shows may have aired in the northern United States as well. To determine whether or not your subject is a Canadian it is best to ask them questions relating to two or more of these programs.

Thanks to readers Art of Mashuptown and Geoff of Queen City Images for this suggestion. If you have an idea for the site please Email Us. We're always looking for new ways to spot Canadians.
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16 comments:

  1. Kat said...
     

    Um. You forgot The Raccoons, the most important of all.

  2. HowToSpotACanadian.ca said...
     

    I remember the Raccoons! Good times!
    Thanks for reading!

  3. nonamedufus said...
     

    Maybe I'm showing my age but what about Forest Rangers with a fella with an equally descriptive name "Indian Joe" and Razzle Dazzle with Suzanne Sommers future husband, Al Hamel (and Howard the Turtle) Ah, we're so rich with Canadian icons on children's television shows.

  4. Dawn said...
     

    One of the hosts from Camp Cariboo is now a host on CTV news in Kitchener.

  5. HowToSpotACanadian.ca said...
     

    Really!? That's hilarious.

  6. rhea_sun said...
     

    Skin-a-ma-rink-ee dink-ee dink-ee dink
    Skin-a-ma-rink-ee doo

  7. Anonymous said...
     

    Your list is worthless without "The Uncle Bobby Show", if David Frost had plenty of LSD but no budget;

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uncle_Bobby
    http://www.staffannouncer.com/unclebobby.htm

    or "Pic & Mic", 2 bilingual mice puppets who flew around Canada in a baloon & have no Google history to speak of

  8. HowToSpotACanadian.ca said...
     

    I've heard of Uncle Bobby, but not Pic & Mic.

    Thanks for the additions.

  9. Anonymous said...
     

    There also was The Littlest Hobo, a dog wandering from town to town, a la Bruce Banner (but it didn't hulk out).

    Also, not to mention a ton of TV Ontario programs that would scare children today.

    Then there was The Hilarious House of Frightenstein. A local access show from Hamilton Ontario that managed to get Vincent Price to do appearances.

  10. HowToSpotACanadian.ca said...
     

    The Littlest Hobo was outstanding. I was watching some of the clips on Youtube a while ago. I used to love that show.

  11. Venom said...
      This post has been removed by the author.
  12. Venom said...
     

    OMG - don't ever reveal what generation we are that remember (and miss) these shows!

    I watched 'House of Frightenstein' before school daily! Littlest Hobo, Forest Rangers (I had such a crush on Chip)... ah, memories.

    It's good to be Canadian.

    I loved Mr. DressUp, but I think he was tracing those pictures...

  13. Charlie H. Ettinson said...
     

    I must admit, I too was terrified of the thought of Jeff losing his hat. I was sure I was the only one!
    You also left out "You Can't do That on Television" though, that's a bit less of a children's show

  14. HowToSpotACanadian.ca said...
     

    I loved "You Can't Do That On Television." Alanis Morissette got her start on that show.

    When Jeff lost his hat I would cry.

    I'm not joking.

    You're not alone.

  15. Mike said...
     

    Did anyone ever see the episode of Codco(the more newfiecentric predecessor to This Hour Has 22 Minutes) that had a skit about the Friendly Giant losing his mind?

    He fried up Rusty the Rooster, then when Jerome stuck his head in the window, Friendly chopped it off with an axe, leaving the puppeteer to stand up with a missing arm and a stump gushing blood.
    The final scene was the men in white coats hauling Friendly away while he shouted "I am a giant! I am!" over and over.

    Not kid friendly, but one of the funniest things I ever saw.

  16. Allie said...
     

    I sued to play sick from school so I could watch Mr. Dress up at 10 and Today's Special before lunch.

    Living in the states no one here gets it when something is missing and I absently say "Polkaroo? "

    I just look nuts instead of witty.

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