Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Cracking up

Late-night comics fire up bowl of drug-based humour at Toronto mayor's expense

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TORONTO -- American talk-show hosts have discovered the joys of a favourite Canadian pastime: cracking jokes at Toronto's expense and poking fun at the stereotypes of a boring city the rest of Canada loves to hate -- all courtesy of the cocaine controversy swirling around Mayor Rob Ford.

Late-night audiences giggled or roared at gags, mock interviews and phoney drug parties involving the beleaguered mayor and a flag-waving moose, eh.

"I think of Canada, I think of politeness and clean streets," host Jon Stewart mused late Tuesday.

"I mean it's like Canada is that friend you had in high school that all your parents loved because he's so polite -- he calls everybody Mr. and Mrs. -- and then you find he's actually like a date rapist."

Ford himself has all but refused to address the allegations made by the U.S. website Gawker and the Toronto Star that a drug dealer captured him on a cellphone video appearing to smoke crack cocaine.

His curt dismissal of the claims as "ridiculous" and a suggestion the Star article was a smear job have been followed by days of deafening silence that have seen the mayor evade reporters and duck any questions.

On his show, Jimmy Kimmel said the entire scenario "sounds like a joke."

That was followed with a Skype call in which he asked Ford look-alike Jim O'Heir to comment on a mock video of the alleged video that apparently shows the mayor smoking crack.

At various points in the skit, the "mayor" is seen wearing a sheet and jumping on a hotel-room bed. At another, he tries, in vain, to keep from blowing smoke on camera.

"Mr. Mayor, are you saying that that was not you?" Kimmel asked on Jimmy Kimmel Live.

"I didn't say anything," the fake Ford responds. "These people are pathological liars."

Not everyone is seeing humour in the situation.

At city hall Wednesday, Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday said he wants people around the world to know Toronto is a "great place."

"We want people to come here because they think they're going to have a good time for the right reasons," Holyday said.

"Some of the things that I guess have happened as a result of this last incident certainly haven't been positive and that's very unfortunate."

In a segment that stretched to more than six minutes, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart played clips of various embarrassing incidents involving Ford.

They included the mayor falling down while trying to throw a football, and walking into a television camera last month.

"You've got to wonder: Is this dude on crack?" Stewart asked, as lead-in to the segment on the controversy.

"Don't judge him: Maybe he's cleaning up the city by smoking all the crack in it. You're next, prostitution rings!"

A Stewart interviewee, billed as a senior correspondent in Toronto, added smoking crack is one of Canada's most cherished pastimes.

Jay Leno joined the comedic pile-on on Monday night. "To be fair, there's not a lot to do in Toronto," Leno said.

If nothing else, Leno continued, Ford is "still qualified to be mayor of Washington, D.C.," a reference to Marion Barry, the former mayor of the U.S. capital who was convicted of using crack cocaine.

Neither the claims of U.S.-based website Gawker nor the Toronto Star about the cellphone video have been independently verified but the website has raised more than $106,000 toward the $200,000 it says it needs to buy it.

Friends and rivals have urged Ford to address the allegations head on, but so far, the mayor has refused.

Holyday said he didn't know why Ford has been so opaque, but suggested it might be on the advice of lawyers.

"The mayor has to come out and speak to the media," Holyday said. "I don't know when that's going to take place but I believe it has to happen."

-- The Canadian Press

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 23, 2013 C6

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