It’s no wonder that Shaun Majumder enjoys spending more and more time in his hometown of Burlington, N.L.
Tucked away on a scenic harbour in the northwest corner of the Rock, it feels far removed from the chaos and strife found in other parts of the globe, especially when you factor in the poor cellular reception and scarcity of Wi-Fi.
At the moment, he’s enjoying a bit of calm between storms, following the end of taping for the season on This Hour Has 22 Minutes and just prior to the start of a Canadian tour with shows on the west and east coasts. Beyond that, there’s his annual summer event The Gathering in August — “a fire, food and music festival” with guests like the Once, Steve Poltz and Rich Aucoin — and the ongoing ’OME Sweet ’OME tourism campaign that was sparked by his Majumder Manor TV series, bringing more visitors to a breathtakingly scenic, if somewhat remote, section of the country.
“There’s definitely a lot of story here, for sure,” says the comedian of his childhood home. “What Burlington used to be, and what it is now, and where it’s headed. It’s a pretty cool project we’ve got going on here right now.”
Coming from an environment where common sense and learning to love thy neighbour were essential elements of everyday life, Majumder never fails to be amazed by how little of either he sees in the world at large, especially when putting a satirical spin on current events on CBC-TV’s long-running bastion of fake (but funny) news. Recent events on both sides of our border provide the fodder for The HATE Tour, his current round of dates with his guest, fellow Newfoundland funnyman Matt Wright.
Majumder says he’s never done this kind of show before, performing material that’s more personal and more pointed than ever, most of it inspired by the political climate that’s been swarming our psyches for the past year.
“When Trump was coming up through the campaign trail, there was all this yelling and screaming on the left about him hiring Steve Bannon, who’s a Nazi, and how everybody working with him was a white supremacist,” he recalls. “And I was like, ‘Well hold on, that’s a bit extreme, let’s think about it . . .’
“So I pitched this idea to 22 Minutes where we’d go talk to some white supremacists and see if they were even backing this guy. Did they think he was cool or did they think he was a hack? Is he a lazy racist? What kind of racist is he?”
In the end, the piece didn’t come together for various reasons, from the cost of it to the debate over whether to give any of these extremists air time at all, even if it was in the name of satire.
But Majumder’s research leading up to that point proved to be invaluable for the material he’s been assembling for The HATE Tour, which seems to snowball even further with each passing day.
“I could not believe the activity and the belief system that is still out there,” he says. “This extremist belief that because of immigration and the changing of the social and genetic map through immigration, a certain portion of the white population believes it’s under threat, which is hilarious to me.
“It’s not true, and as someone who grew up thinking he was a super-white youngster in a remote Newfoundland village — even though I’m obviously beige and mixed — their argument that immigration was going to drown out and destroy the white population, I just couldn’t understand it.”
Growing up, Majumder thought he was 'a super-white youngster.' (SUBMITTED)
Majumder jokes that the races will be even more mixed a few more centuries down the road, and suggests everyone should get a DNA test done to see how far along we are already. Those who’ve been following him closely over the past year will be familiar with one of his more controversial sketches, and the reaction he received from those who didn’t get the joke.
“I think it’s funny, because I’m not hanging on to some hardcore belief that my race is pure,” says Majumder. “But some people are, so I wrote a musical hip-hop sketch called Beige Power, which we recorded with a bunch of mixed-race people on set, and right-wing people in the States got ahold of it and went crazy with it on Twitter.
“They did video blogs, talking about this idiot up in Canada promoting white genocide, and all this stuff, and I got attacked insanely by a bunch of right wing, super-racist white supremacists. It was kind of unnerving, but at the same time I was like, ‘Are you f***in’ kidding me? It can’t be real, someone is calling me, Shaun Majumder, a genocidal maniac that wants to wipe white people off the face of the Earth.’”
At this point the comic laughs, joking that his home island is “The Whitest Place on Earth” and recalls tweeting that due to the backlash, “the white genocide Christmas craft and bake sale has been moved to an undisclosed location.”
What he learned is that those who are fuelled by hate generally don’t have a sense of humour, but as something of an imp who can’t help himself from taking the mickey out of his chosen targets, Majumder felt compelled to keep at it.
“As a comic onstage, I loved trashing the alt-right and duking it out on Twitter,” he says. “But at the same time, I stepped back and thought, ‘Holy f***, these people are serious.’
“So I calmed down a bit, just because I know what that kind of stoking can do, in terms of their reaction. They started going after Shelby, who is the whitest wife I’ve ever had, it was ridiculous. But that was a trigger for me to go on stage and talk about it, and compare where we’ve been to where we’re heading.”
Coming along for the ride on this journey into investigating the religious divide, political mudslinging, and hate-filled rhetoric from the White House is St. John’s comic and 22 Minutes writer Matt Wright, who is quite possibly an even more affable personality than Majumder, who jokingly calls his tour mate “the most hateful person imaginable.”
“He hates everything. Don’t let his sweet, kind, beautiful, open-hearted, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed nature fool you. That guy is body-tatted up.”
And when the tour is over, Majumder can return to the serenity of Burlington and watch whales from the shore while eagles soar overhead, while seeing visitors come to stay in the old schoolhouse he converted into a lodge, or in deluxe tents for down-home glamping.
“It’s all about inviting people here, giving them a place to stay, a place to eat and something to do, and the money that’s generated is reinvested back into the community,” he explains.
“We’re in the infancy stages when we talk about the big picture of infrastructure and business and economic development, but we’re having an impact. Our cabin that we’re calling The Pod is nearly booked solid through to October, and I’ve been looking through the book that we leave there for people to write in. It’s almost brought me to tears a few times, ’cause it’s so incredible to see the impact this place has had on people.”
Summer of HATE
- Friday, July 6: Harbourfront Theatre, Summerside
- Sunday, July 8: Festival Theatre, Wolfville
- Tuesday, July 10: Cumming Hall, Truro
- Wednesday, July 11: deCoste Centre, Pictou
- Thursday, July 12: Spatz Theatre, Halifax
- Friday, July 13: Savoy Theatre, Glace Bay
- Showtimes & ticket info: www.shaunmajumder.com