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An American Comic In Canada


Sometimes, you need to leave home to see it clearly. On our recent trip to Canada, we found an American comic who was taking stock of the U.S. from just across the border.

ERIK GRIFFIN: It's good to be here, guys, up here in Canada because, man, it's sensitive as [expletive] down in the United States. I need to be able to make jokes about women and you guys not be like, oh, here we go. Here we go.


GRIFFIN: Trump's America.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Erik Griffin starred on Comedy Central's "Workaholics." And he was at Yuk Yuk's Comedy Club after weeks of touring the U.S. We caught up with him in a dingy green room. Griffin had sunk into a low couch. And he was clearly worn out.

GRIFFIN: I mean, I think being abroad is actually better than being in the United States right now. You know, it's just comedy - I think there's an attack on comedy. It's like people forgot what it really is.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So when you come to a place like Canada, which historically had a good relationship, like, how do you - do you feel like you have to kind of be an ambassador for America or, like, kind of...


GARCIA-NAVARRO: ...Refer to it in some way? 'Cause I figure...

GRIFFIN: Do I feel like I have to defend the United States? No.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Not defend - or explain it or, like, make a joke out of it. Or...

GRIFFIN: Well, I mean, that's what we - that's what a comedian does anyway. We're just making light of things that are going on. Or we're pointing out an injustice and trying to make it funny. Or we're trying to ultimately entertain. But, you know, sometimes, some comics - you know, they want to be social justice warriors. I don't ever feel like I have to 'cause I'm already multiracial, multiethnic as it is anyway?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: What is your background?

GRIFFIN: Well, I'm just mixed.


GRIFFIN: You know, I think people want to know what you are, so they know how to hate you, you know?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Fair enough.

GRIFFIN: So they can put you in a box and say, oh, you can say this, or you can't say this. And I don't subscribe to that. So...


GRIFFIN: ...I'm racially ambiguous.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: It's my first time being outside of the United States since the election. And the question I most frequently get asked is, what is happening down there?

GRIFFIN: Yeah, yeah. I know. I think they feel like we have to answer for the choice that we made.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Does it get a laugh overseas?

GRIFFIN: I mean, I used to have a lot of jokes about the election pre-election. But once he got in office - and then it just made people uncomfortable. Like, I felt like people were like, this is too real. You know, even I - look, I have not been having a good time on my last three weeks of doing comedy in the United States. I was in Tennessee. I was in St. Louis. And it's just, like, liberals are too sensitive, and conservatives are too angry.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So where do you find comedy then?

GRIFFIN: I know. You tell me. That's exactly the problem.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I'm not the comic (laughter).

GRIFFIN: I know but that's exactly the dilemma I think a lot of comics are facing right now. It's, like, when things are even-keeled, then you can be edgy. But we're closer to that stuff. So it makes people a little bit more sensitive, a little bit more heightened.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So what happened in places when you were, like, in these places that you said you had a rough time?

GRIFFIN: Well, it's because, like, if you're not on the side of the liberal warriors, then people are going to be like, oh, well, this means you hate women. This means that, you know, he hates blacks. He hates Mexicans. He hates Jews. He hates gays. You know, and then you have, like - I'm at a club. And I'll say, hey, where are the Trump supporters? And if I say anything bad about Trump, then they're just, like, you know, cursing at me. And people are walking out. And I got - you won (laughter). Your guy's in office. Why are you storming out? I feel like if I handed out a paper before every show, and I said, tell me what you want me to talk about, it would be nothing on there. But it's just I've got to say, sometimes, it's not fun anymore.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That was comedian Erik Griffin. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.