I made a very interesting discovery recently. I’m a stand up comedian living in Montreal, and one night during a show I made a joke about Celine Dion playing air guitar while she sings. At which point the strangest thing happened. People booed me. Booed me, for making fun of her! Now, what makes this so strange is that I have never met anyone, nor have the people I’ve met, met anyone, who’s ever known anybody on earth, who likes Celine Dion. And yet somehow, the last time she came for Montreal concerts, she sold out the Bell Centre, an arena boasting over 21,000 seats….twice! How does this happen, when I’ve never met a Celine fan in my entire life? That is of course, until I made fun of her in public, when her fans came out of the shadows.
Out of curiosity I began to investigate. Who are these people? Where are they from? Why do they love, when so many hate? And holy cow, do people ever hate! I mean I’ve laughed my butt off listening to people make fun of her music and her antics on shows like Saturday Night Live, Family Guy and South Park, but when I started checking out the blogs and online magazines I was shocked to discover how many people loath, seethe, and cringe at very mention of her name. Her voice has been described as “nails down a chalk board,” “extremely irritating,” and “genuinely nauseating,” while her music has been characterized as “boring, offensive,” and my personal
Favourite “bland monotony raised to a pitch of obnoxious bombast - R&B with the sex and slyness surgically removed, French chanson severed from its wit and soul - and her repertoire as Oprah Winfrey - approved chicken soup for the consumerist soul, a never-ending crescendo of personal affirmation deaf to social conflict and context.” Some folks even make fun of the fact that the man she loves is old. Like I said, people love to hate this woman.
I am not one of these people. I might not be a fan (alright, so maybe one of her songs may have plucked a heart string or two, but it was right after a horrible break up, so any song would have choked me up at that point….shut up!), but I am certainly not a hater. As an aspiring entertainer, I cannot help but admire someone who went from being a small town, youngest of fourteen, French Canadian singer to selling 200 million albums, not counting the Titanic soundtrack, making her the 23rd-best-selling pop act of all time. She’s won two Oscars for her songs "Beauty and the Beast" (1991) and "My Heart Will Go On" (from Titanic, 1997), and she was the 35th most powerful celebrity according to 2003 Forbes Top 100 Celebrity List. Globally she is the most successful French-language singer ever, and could be the bestselling female singer of all time, period. Over the course of four years she performed 717 shows to nearly 3 million adoring fans at Caesar’s Palace. Her show, “A New Day,” changed the expression “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” to “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, unless what happened grossed more than $400 million bucks, in which case, you bring what happened in Vegas around the world!” And when the singer herself was asked if her critics bother her, during an interview with Elle magazine in 2007 she replied "We've been sold out for four years. The audience is my answer."
From the perspective of a comedian, we have our own version of Celine Dion. Now, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend he didn’t make several horrible movies in the last few years, and let’s just focus on comedy. But Dane Cook is a comic who gets abused critically, is accused of stealing material, and is hated by many fellow comedians. Haters claim that “he just isn’t funny. He can’t write jokes, all he does is appeal to the lowest common denominator by writhing around on stage like a jackass.” Really? How does that explain two platinum comedy albums, a host spot on Saturday Night Live, where not only was his opening monologue the longest in the show’s history, but that night the program earned the highest non-sports ratings of any network that year, two record-breaking shows of 38,000 at Boston Garden (one of which I drove 6 hours to watch and laughed my face off!), and appearances for crowds of 39,000 at Madison Square Garden and 50,000 at the University of Florida's Gator Growl? If he isn’t funny, then why are all these people showing up to watch him perform comedy? He’s been a stand up comic for nearly two decades, how could he not have figured things out by now? What have Dane Cook or Celine Dion done wrong on this planet, other than their best to succeed?
Now, I’m sure that Dane Cook would hate to be compared with Celine Dion, and I’m sure that Celine Dion doesn’t find Dan Cook particularly funny, but the bottom line is, while people are wasting their time and energy hating people are chasing and living their dreams. And in the end as we lay in our death beds, reflecting on how we lived our lives, some will either go out with a peaceful smile, knowing they did their best while their were here, exploiting every ounce of their talents and abilities to put smiles on the faces of millions around the world. Conversely, in the end some will panic, wishing they had spent less time hating, and more time creating. As a comedian I’ll end this with an observation, and I’ll leave the witty punch lines up to you, but have you ever noticed where there’s bitter hate and criticism, there’s millions of dollars and millions of adoring fans? Interesting.