CIS White Guy Candidate
When there's work to be done, elect people who will do it with enthusiasm and integrity.
Even I look at myself as a candidate and wonder, “why does Council need a CIS white guy right now?”. It’s one of the reasons I’ve never run in an election of this magnitude.
Campaigning for ACTRA Toronto Council was a decision I made the night before nominations closed. But, it was a decision fuelled by many years of Allyship in my work on volunteer Boards to promote the common good for my industry, (the comedy industry).
Now that you’ve got the premise (CIS white guy decides to run in an election) and the set-up (CIS white guy says he’s an Ally), here’s the punchline: ACTRA Toronto Council will be just fine without CIS white guy, and, if not elected, he’ll continue to do great work for the industry.
So, what’s up with that? (Sorry, I should have given you an “Ear Worm” Trigger Warning).
I believe it’s important for someone who looks and sounds like me, and shares many of my intersectionalities, to do two things for their professional and personal communities: 1. step aside; and 2. do the work.
I’ve taken action to elevate the voices of people who do not share my intersectionality set and who are exceptional, hard-working professionals who have as much to offer as I do. So, while stepping up for Council might not sound like “stepping aside”, that’s the kind of supporting role I can play from within one of the most influential unions in the country.
Making room for diverse voices from underrepresented communities does not mean you’re no longer an important contributor, or that you’ll no longer find fulfilment in what you do in your job or in your community. Even if you’re not the face of leadership or the top decision maker, hard work is your civic and professional duty.
In any election, as you scroll your options for whom to cast your vote, find the people who you know will do the work for the common good and have a history of doing so with genuine enthusiasm and integrity.
Comedy production is strong in Canada. After decades in the biz, I know there are opportunities to better understand the unique challenges and pathways for individual comedy artists in the film & TV ecosystem to make it even stronger. I’ve been working on these opportunities for years with little, to no prospect of them benefiting me personally in terms of work options and earnings. For example:
1. Labour mobility.
There are inequities for Canadian artists trying to work in the U.S., compared to Americans coming to Canada to work. An American comedian, for instance, has to fill out a short document and maybe pay an admin fee of under $100. Canadians trying to tour or temporarily live in the U.S. need expensive and restrictive visas which can cost thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours of bureaucratic red tape. I’ve met with elected and non-elected government officials multiple times in Ottawa and in online sessions to promote equitable vertical labour mobility for Canadians in North America.
I’m a dual US/Canadian citizen. Success in this work will not change anything for me.
2. Comedy is not recognized as an art form.
Aside from in Québec, which just last year officially recognized comedy as an artistic field of practice, comedians in English Canada cannot apply for arts grants as comedians for the work and art they create as comedians. I have met with the top brass at the Canada Council for the Arts in-person multiple times to express the inequitable challenges this presents to comedy artists.
In my 30-year career, I would have never, in my wildest imagination, applied for a Canada Council for the Arts grant. It’s not my brand.
But, it should be an option for the thousands of Canadian comedy artists who are not like me and can’t even apply.
In fact, in co-founding The Foundation for Canadian Comedy (CANCOM) I have collaborated with other private industry stakeholders on the volunteer Board, (such as Michael O'Farrell at onVIVA), to launch the first-ever grant program for comedians to apply for funding as comedians at a national level. It’s my time and money streaming out to other comedians.
3. Digital recording copyrights and royalties.
This is popping big time again with my work on Literary Work licenses and royalties for spoken word comedy with CANCOM. A few years ago, on another volunteer Board I co-founded, The Canadian Association of Stand-up Comedians (CASC), we helped protect these broadcast rights and royalties for comedians who have comedy albums playing on digital and terrestrial radio.
I have never had a comedy album playing on the radio.
And FWIW: I was a supporting cast member on this Board, proud and inspired to be working to fulfill the vision of Sandra Battaglini as the former leader of CASC.
I’m not trying to be the face and voice of comedy in Canada. I’m constantly looking for opportunities to bring diverse voices into the mix and elevate them to leadership and decision-making roles. In the meantime, the reality is, there’s a mountain of work that needs to be done. The returns for me are not professional advancement or earnings. It’s work that I find interesting and inspiring.
It is not lost on me, however, that my intersectionalities as a CIS white guy are a big part of why I have the luxury and privilege of being able to find meaning and fulfillment as a volunteer in my professional and personal community. The work I'm doing supports my hope that you are able to find that same joy.