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Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter Mouton June 17, 2010

The paragon of animals, eh? Humor and identity in Strange Brew

  • Erica Artiles
From the journal HUMOR


Strange Brew developed from an SCTV skit in response to the Canadian Broadcasting's demand for more “Canadian” content in mainstream media. The film embodies virtually every stereotype about Canadians, especially their passions for donuts, hockey, and beer. One of the sub-plots of the film, moreover, loosely follows that of Shakespeare's Hamlet, a connection that is generally unacknowledged. The inclusion of the Hamlet subplot, though, endows the film with a more complex and sophisticated level of humor than the main plot alone could do. The following analysis begins by establishing the scripts for Hamlet and Strange Brew as opposite, consistent with the Semantic Script Theory of Humor, and argues that the real humor and meaning of the film arises at the points where the two scripts overlap. When Strange Brew most explicitly borrows from Hamlet two things happen—the most sophisticated humor emerges and questions of Canadian identity come to the forefront. At the conclusion, however, the film abandons the plot of Hamlet, and only absurdity remains, Viewers are left laughing, but puzzled. In Strange Brew, both the Hamlet subplot and humor provide ways to examine problems of identity, but both fall short when attempting to solve them.

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Published Online: 2010-06-17
Published in Print: 2010-May

© 2010 Walter de Gruyter GmbH & Co. KG, Berlin/New York

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