Playwright Michael Healey on Harper’s theatrical handshake diss and the problem with the Gillers

Episode Rundown 

[00:00:08] “So what do you again? You’re a playwright and what?” Jesse

“Really I’m just a playwright, and these days I’m not even that” Healey

“No?” Jesse

“I haven’t written a word in three years. I’ve been making dinner for the kids.” Healey

[00:00:40] “And why is it called Short Cuts? Can I just ask that?” Healey

“I had four different names. I put them to a twitter favourite vote.” Jesse

“Can I have my seven dollars back?” Healey

I think The Brown Spot would of been a contender

[00:01:38] “I thank God it was Stephen Harper in Brisbane this weekend and not Justin Trudeau.” Tv Announcer

“Let me back up and set that one up cause I think it needs a set up but of course this is Harpers John Wayne moment.” Jesse

“Whose more on his game than Stephen Harper” Healey

“Stephen Harper it’s all clicking for him and he walks up to Putin and it’s time to shake hands and he say’s alright I’ll shake your hand but I have only thing to say to you. You need to get out of Ukraine.” Jesse

“…The modern construction of you need to do something as opposed to you should do or you will do something is contemporary and kind of diminishes the whole thing. Can you imagine if it was, Reagan stood there and said Mr Gorbachev you need to tear down this wall instead of tear down this wall.” Healey

[00:02:52] “Is it not like You need be controlling your man. Is that not the origin of you need to be?” Jesse

“It is from now on, I’ll tell you that for free” Healey

“You studied this guy, you wrote a play about him. Here Is my interest in this. So this is some macho posturing and everyone knows it’s macho posturing and yet he kind of got full points for macho posturing. And I’ll explain this. Both front page of the Globe and the Post…The Globe had Harper chatting with Obama afterwards which is always great for Canadians, here you see Obama’s talking to him. And the Post had this picture of Harper with a Koala and some kind of headline they’re both cute but watch out cause they bite. And see he got the full effect of what he was after. Right within the Globe there is a editorial by Campbell Clark and I’m going to get into it for a second here. And the Globes front page headline was Harper, Leaders target Putin as Ukraine takes centre stage. Ukraine takes the centre stage. Harper leading the charge of the centre stage event. Harper and then the other leaders and are targeting Putin. And then inside, the headline of the Campbell Clark editorial. Harpers Jab was political genius. Genius, ok. And what follows was actually not a favourable piece to Harper. It was actually a very skillful deconstruction of what actually went into that statement. So Campbell writes this was a moment of theater, that this was all blowing off steam with redirect. That this was a cause that Harper had 100% support for both from the leaders present and Canadians. And in fact there were 1.2 million Ukrainian Canadians, that fast majority of whom do not like Putin. And this was a problem for Harper, he had to shake Putin’s hand at one point. So how are you going to go back and look those voters in the eye. So this was a skillful solution to that problem. And in fact it had this wonderful political effect for Harper of changing the topic from climate change.” Jesse

[00:05:19] “First of all it’s a G20 so it is absolutely about theatre. All anybody knows that happened at the G20 was everybody hugged a Koala and Harper said something to Putin while shaking his hand. That is the sum total…I defy you to take this thing and go down on the street and find somebody who knows what of substance occurred at that G20. Harper has been on a plane for six days. He’s been to China, he’s been back, he’s been through Remembrance Day. He got back on a plane…During this period, comes up with this strategy to deal with this one moment that costs him nothing…If there’s any chance that there is going to be any conversation about the China/America deal  on climate change, he’s going to take that completely off the table.” Healey

[00:06:38] “And this is a guy who in 2006 would show up to these events and seem unprepared and awkward, and this is how far he’s come.” Healey

[00:06:52] Harper hovering over Putin.

[00:07:58] “To the Globe and Mail, the paper of record in Canada and the National Post. If you’re supposedly serving the public, is your role to merely be like an admiring a politician’s skill as a manipulator or is your role to cut through that.” Jesse

“So it’s the Globe’s job to say he smacked down Putin but what you should really be concerned about Globe reader is this U.S/China environmental deal that’s getting no play anywhere else.” Healey

“That is their role and weird thing is they did that, but only online. So the headline to that editorial online was how Harper’s Putin jab helped him avoid talking about climate change. That’s a great headline, that is an accurate reflection of what happened there. But the print version of the Globe and Mail again Harpers Jab was political genius. So to print readers of the Globe he’s a genius and to digital readers of the Globe he’s avoiding talking about climate change.” Jesse

[00:09:20] “It’s so bizarre. Nobody actually has a recording of this comment. It was released to the press by the PM’s communication director Jason MacDonald.” Jesse

“So let’s hope he’s getting some sort of pay bump for doing his job better than anyone else.” Healey

“I mean it’s school yard stuff, guess what the Pm just said to Putin, and everyone just goes and reports it verbatim. We are reflexively doing what is asked of us.” Jesse

[00:09:52] “I do have to take a second to offer correction for something that was on last weeks Short Cuts. And I’m so sorry again. I’m so sorry, this is corrections. I’m correcting a correction to a correction. So Ezra Levant. *sigh* Once again the story was that Ezra Levant got this memo from a school board and it said that the school board would offer exemptions if a student’s family didn’t want a student to go to a Remembrance Day ceremony. Then the school board should offer them some other activity and Ezra levant blew his lid and said this is obviously Muslims unpatriotically to opt out of Remembrance Day and isn’t this a horrible shame and lots of racism and spew came out of that. The jokes on him because the memo was parents not wanting their kids to go places where there were Canadians in uniform because people with guns tend to show up there.” Jesse

“There’s a risk.” Healey

“So last week on Short Cuts you heard me say well as much as it hate to defend Ezra Levant, the fact of the matter is Sun News did contact the school board and did get a statement from the spokesperson and checked with the spokesperson and said what was this about. Why were you offering exemptions to students? And the school board said it’s because of religious accommodation, ok. That is true, I am not correcting that, that is true. But then there was this question of the memo itself an it referring only to Muslims or referring to other groups as well and there were two versions of the memo. One that only referred to Muslims and one that referred to other groups. And the second version with the other groups was the one that got widely circulated to media after Ezra thing. And I said on this show Michael, that the school board doctored the memo after the fact. And I got that wrong. They did no such thing. The school board did not doctor anything, I don’t exactly know the genesis of how Ezra got a memo that only had references to Muslims.” Jesse

[00:13:34] “My personal feeling about awards and this, you have to take with a grain of salt because I won a bunch early in my career and so I got mine so it’s easy for me to say this. But I don’t think that we should be handing out awards…The problem is this, artists don’t get paid properly in this country, and it’s a boring conversation. It’s a conversation I lost in the 80’s and the 90’s whether or not art is going to be central to the society and whether or not we are going to pay for theatre in particular the way you know the way we should. It’s a boring long lost conversation” Healey

“No it’s a great conversation.” Jesse

“People your age and under, they roll their eyes at this argument because it’s long since been lost and now the public private partnerships the way to go to make sure that fundraising is at least as responsible bringing in revenue as box office in the theatre…The problem is that you don’t make any money as a playwright in this country. and holding out the hope of someday winning twenty-five thousand dollars from the Governor General’s award or a hundred thousand dollars or seventy-five thousand dollars if it’s the Siminovitch award. It creates a kind of false hope for a playwright. You should be forced to give every dime of it to other people is my feeling. So take that seventy-five thousand dollar cheque and the Siminovitch prize you’re given a hundred thousand dollars and you immediately have to give twenty-five thousand to somebody else. but I think you should be forced to give it all away. You should be as broke when you leave that place as you were when you showed up so you continue to fight for proper arts funding in this country.” Healey

[00:16:14] “Dressing up in a black tie gala after the Governor General and the Gillers and patting ourselves on the back that isn’t this wonderful that we televise the book awards and were a nation that holds the written word in such high esteem that we treat it like the Oscars. Congratulating ourselves for that and having Canada Reads and this that and the other thing. While meanwhile a best selling book, five thousand copies I think, makes you a bestseller in Canada.” Jesse

“Something like that.” Healey

“I still think you’re below the poverty line in the royalties for that. And this obscures the fact that it is not a viable job to be novelist in Canada unless you happen to be in the 1% of novelists who are selling movie rights or doing things on a global scale. And there is a dissonance between celebrating the written word in such a glitzy and glamorous way while this conversation you say is not being had anymore.” Jesse

[00:17:09] “It just frosts me that you can hold that out as a kind of hope. I would rather have a conversation about properly funded arts in this country. And again thats the most boring conversation. You just yawned, like you literally just yawned. Jesse Brown just yawned as I pronounced.” Healey

[00:18:32] “That’s because people of your generation completely monopolized all of the various taxed base funding bodies and all sit on the juries and give your friends. And to young people coming up it was an impenetrable fortress. How do you even start to get a penny when you look at these mechanisms of funding. I’m all for arts funding but like anybody who is encountering the system for the first time would take one look at it say for the amount of forms I’m going to have to fill out I’m not friends with this jury.” Jesse

“You know this whole gatekeeper, this whole Gerontocracy thing. You know what your generation, would you rather be alive now or 1985. Just answer that question, the answer is now so shut up how things were different in 1985 and how we won’t give you  this arts money. What happened was it was decided on a structural level that arts funding was going to withdraw and it’s as simple as that. That Canada Council and Heritage Canada are going to on a per capita basis. The pie is just going to shrink and it’ going to shrink in an incremental way and it’s a structural thing and it was decided years ago. And I showed up just as the party was stopping and now you people and younger than you are complaining about the fact that there was a party and looking at me and I’m like I don’t recall a party. I recall hearing about one.” Healey

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