- The Washington Times - Friday, April 21, 2000

TORONTO A beer ad in which a Canadian "Joe Sixpack" stands in front of a maple leaf flag and rants against American stereotypes of the "Great White North" has touched a nerve across Canada, prompting standing ovations in movie theaters and hockey rinks.
"I'm not a lumberjack or a fur trader. And I don't live in an igloo or eat blubber or own a dogsled," the speaker begins to the rising strains of "Pomp and Circumstance."
"I have a prime minister, not a president. I speak English and French, not American. And I pronounce it about, not aboot," he continues.
Speaking softly at first, his voice rises in indignation:
"I can proudly sew my country's flag on my backpack. I believe in peacekeeping not policing, diversity not assimilation, and that the beaver is a truly proud and noble animal."
Then, in a crescendo of comic absurdity and national pride, he thunders:
"A toque is a hat. A chesterfield is a couch. And it is pronounced "zed," not "zee." Canada is the second-largest land mass, the first nation of hockey and the best part of North America.
"My name is Joe, and I am Canadian."
The ad, known as "The Rant," debuted on Canadian TV during the Academy Awards, right after Robin Williams and his dancing Royal Canadian Mounted belles did their rendition of the Oscar-nominated song, "Blame Canada," said Brett Marchand, vice president of marketing for Molson Breweries.
The pitch is for Molson's "Canadian" brand beer.
"It was a hit from the start. People were talking about it the next day like I couldn't believe," Mr. Marchand said.
The rant has been written about and analyzed on Page One of almost every Canadian newspaper and provided fodder for talk shows.
But when Jeff Douglas, the actor who plays Joe, performs the rant live at sports arenas fans jump to their feet and cheer.
"It's overwhelming," said Mr. Douglas.
So overwhelming, that when Joe's rant is replayed during Saturday's "Hockey Night In Canada," whose telecasts are sponsored by Molson's rival, Labatt Breweries, the cameras cut to a commercial.
The campaign has not only burst open a steam pipe of Canadian national pride, it has also burst open their wallets to "Canadian" beer.
Since Molson launched its "I am Canadian" campaign in 1994, "Canadian" beer has rocketed from a slowly dying place in beer stores to Canada's No. 1 brand, Mr. Marchand said.
The ad has been a big hit among 19- to 29-year-old men, who are the nation's biggest beer drinkers, because it reflects a new, confident nationalism among younger Canadians, he said.
"They stop what they're doing and watch it whenever it is shown at movie theaters or in bars," he added.
Mr. Douglas, 28, an actor who appears in the "Famous Jett Jackson" TV show on the Disney Channel as Cubby, a special effects wizard, said the rant is not anti-American.
It just gives Canadian nationalism "a little rock and roll," he said. It's tongue in cheek."
It also demonstrates the maturing of Canadian nationalism from a time when Canadians were defensive about their differences from Americans, to being able to laugh about the "things we take so seriously."
Molson spokeswoman Michelle Robichaud said the ad has been so popular they continually run out of blank tapes for copies, directing fans instead to the Internet site, www.iam.ca.
Even outside Canada, she noted, the ad has hit the No. 2 spot for frequent viewing on the international advertising Web site www.adcritic.com.
Since taking on the role of Joe, Mr. Douglas has been thanked by some politicians, reviled by others and even touted as the next savior of Canadian unity by at least one editorialist.
Yet, in typical Canadian fashion, Mr. Douglas is not mobbed on the street or pursued for autographs or endorsements.
Canadians, Mr. Douglas said, are "like the quiet guy in the room people like but don't know much about him."
Now, he added, people will "see a different side of Canadian nationalism."

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