Back in 2011, a website called Shit Harper Did (SHD) launched with a simple premise of presenting Harper- and Conservative-related facts, paired with one-off jokes. As we can all remember, Harper still won that election, but SHD is back and more active than ever this election season with a new website, more videos, and a documentary titled Whoa Canada set for release this month. The Peak caught up with Dan Code, producer for Whoa Canada and many of SHD’s comedy videos, to discuss his comedic beginnings, how people can get involved with the website, and if there’s still a place for SHD in a Harperless Canada.
What are some of the ways you are/have been involved with the Vancouver comedy scene?
Around 2006, I was sort of thrown into the Vancouver comedy scene by necessity. I was working on being a filmmaker and just wanted to shoot as much as possible; in doing so, I met a very funny comedian named Cameron Macleod. Our zero-budget productions often had actors drop out on short notice, so I had to fill in as the other actor. Eventually I was doing live stuff and I spent the next four years performing onstage and shooting videos with Cam and another musician/comedian Steve Nelson in a group called Manhussy. From there I met and performed with a number of different comedy peeps around town, eventually bumping into founder and creator of Shit Harper Did, Sean Devlin.
What inspired you to move from performing live comedy — something very spotlight-heavy — to a more behind-the-scenes field like video production?
I felt I needed to focus more on my film career and less on my comedy career, so I scrapped comedy for a while. The stage also freaked me out a bit, because I was never much of a live performer. I eventually finished a broadcasting program at BCIT and got into shooting reality TV, a.k.a. factory TV. The monotony of it pushed me to start writing and doing my own work again. I started a small company with two other people called Anthem Jackson and we pushed out a bunch of music videos and commercial projects to build our careers. Eventually I connected with Sean to start doing social justice work. It was a natural transition with SHD for me, since I had a background in both news broadcast and comedy. A lot of the political stuff I had to learn very quickly.
What makes comedy an effective way to create a dialogue surrounding politics?
It’s a hook, really. People tend to turn towards comedy when they’re under stress. We all need a laugh and, at the end of the day, not a lot people really want to turn on the news and listen to more disparity. But we still want to know what’s happening and be entertained, but we don’t want it stuffed down our throats. [. . .] They don’t want to see the politician getting yelled out by a crowd; they want to see the politician with their pants around their ankles, red-assed and embarrassed in front of a whole laughing crowd — or in some cases, a flying a dildo disrupting one of their conferences.
What is Shit Harper Did doing differently this election than the one in 2011?
Pushing people to create and get involved. In 2011, it was “Hey, look what we’re doing. Look at what Harper did.” In 2015, it’s “Hey, look what we did and look what you can do too.” We’re trying to get people involved at every level with direct action, which means going face-to-face with your target political figure and making sure they know you’re there and not just a Facebook comment. It means going to their offices or conferences or sneaking into their dinners to discuss your concerns or embarrass them. It means pushing them off of their high horse to a human level. Politicians have a speech they learn and when they’re pushed to answer questions they don’t know how to answer, they embarrass themselves and look like big dorks. Sorry if I’ve offended any dorks.
Is there still a place for Shit Harper Did in a world where the Conservatives are no longer in power? How would it change?
There are still going to be issues. Bills like C-51 and C-24 are not going to disappear; they’re just going to change into something different. Environmental issue such as tar sands and displacing of indigenous people is not going to stop all of a sudden. Racism, corruption, and environmental degradation has happened long before Harper took power and will continue long after he’s dethroned as well. The issue really is that he’s basically created the most problems out of all Canadian PMs. SHD was created to stop this.
If he’s removed, I hope that all the people involved with SHD will continue to fight the good fight in whatever capacity. For me, I’d like to see the dozens of comedians and filmmakers involved move on to a broader, non-partisan platform similar to The Onion. The amazing thing about the last four years is that SHD has built a team of hardworking and amazing people. The website has a lot of users that will still want to be informed and entertained. We have huge collective of comedy writers and filmmakers that will need a place to go. I hope they will want to continue work on something innovative in Canadian comedy.
What can you tell us about the “hard-hitting documentary” that you recently did crowdfunding for?
It’s going to be crazy, almost illegal crazy. There were points during shooting where I had to question if I was going to be added to a no-fly list or something. There were times where we were afraid to discuss our next filming actions over the phone or email. It comes out next week after Thanksgiving and we hope it’s going to burst this giant “I AM CANADIAN” bubble of Canada’s image being squeaky clean. Most importantly, it’s funny. It’s very ridiculous. It took two-and-a-half years to shoot and a ton of people to get this thing done. We are very happy with it.
Many of our readers are eligible to vote in the upcoming election. Do you have any closing words for them?
I really wanted to make a paragraph that just consisted of the work “vote” 300 times, but that’s me just yelling at people. Take from now until the 19th to find everyone you know and make them vote. That’s all. Take three hours from your tablets and your Facebook and your homework and go vote. You even get a half-day off work and school to go do it, so there’s no excuse. If you think that you don’t matter, that’s crazy. You’re letting 61 per cent of the population determine if you can have clean drinking water, beautiful oceans, powerful and diverse communities, freedom of speech, a healthy environment, basic access to childcare and education, affordable healthcare and housing. If you don’t want that, then don’t vote. Let the Conservatives decide that for you.
To learn more about Shit Harper Did or watch some of Code’s videos, visit www.shd.ca.