Denis Coderre, king of absurdist improv

The mayor and city councillor Anie Samson riff on animal rights , with a Western theme.


Montreal has long been a Mecca of sorts for improv artists, both anglo and franco, so I suppose it’s fitting that our mayor has proven himself king of absurdist improvisation.

Host: “Okay, can we have some suggestions from the audience for a location? Yes, okay, Montreal. Now can we hear your ideas for a theme? Animal rights? Great, great. Now how about genre? What kind of movie theme would you like? Western?? Perfect, because animals always come off so well in Westerns.

“Okay, we’re going to call team Coderre to the stage to do a three-minute improv on the theme of animal rights in a Western mode set in the city of Montreal. Denis, is your team ready? Okay, go.”

Denis: “There’s a new sheriff in town. The city has gone to the dogs and I’m here to clean it up. First of all, I’m going to ban pit bulls because one of them killed a woman a few months ago. How do I know it was a pit bull? Well, the police said it was. Well, yes, then they took it back and admitted they didn’t know what kind of dog it was. The owner had registered it as a boxer, but we knew he was lying so we had its DNA tested. The results? Well, they got lost in the mail. Very lost. (Whispers: I know it looks like we’re hiding the truth. But everyone keeps saying it was a pit bull anyway, so I don’t care!) But that doesn’t matter, we’re not banning pit bulls anymore, we’re banning anything that looks like a pit bull. Boxers look like pit bulls. In fact, the law lets our inspectors decide if a dog looks like a pit bull. Guilty until proven innocent. Or even after proven innocent. Who cares, dogs can’t afford lawyers. What? Julius Grey, Anne-France Goldwater? Are they working pro-bone?”

Host: “Groan. You’re barking up the wrong Christmas tree, Denis. Okay, audience, let’s change the animal. What should our improvisers tackle next? Oh, lots of cat people in the audience tonight. Okay, team Coderre, change the subject to our feline friends. Anie Samson will take this one for the team.”

cat-and-pitbullAnie: “There are too many cats in the city. We could try to solve this with free spay-neuter programs for strays or low-income households, but that would involve spending money. Our animal control policies need to make money. I know! Let’s force everyone to buy a cat licence! Yes, even for indoor cats! Every year. $30 if it’s not sterilized, $25 if it is. We don’t want to actually make it worth your while to sterilize your animal! No one will buy a licence of course. But that’s perfect because we make the real money on fines! We’ll start at $300 and go up to $4,000. So if some lonely old woman lets her cat out by accident, we can capture it and force her to spend her pension cheque to get it back! And let’s make it illegal for cats to wander off their owner’s property! Ha, you know the expression ‘harder than herding cats?’ Wait until people try to teach them to stay! We’ll be rich, rich, rich, rich!”

Denis: “Whoa, whoa, Anie. We won’t make that much. Sure, some old ladies will pay the ransom, um-um, I mean fines. But when a struggling single mother finds out the cat is missing, you think she’s going to call 311 to report it if she doesn’t have a licence? You think she’ll pay hundreds to get it back?”

Anie: “You’re right boss. I hadn’t thought of that. But who cares, the SPCA will just have to kill the cat then. Not our problem!!! Hahahahaha!!!! I can just see all the children crying when their mom tell them that minou isn’t coming home because the family wants to eat this month. Hihihihihi!”

Denis: “You’re hilarious, Anie. What a great way to get revenge on the SPCA for opposing our pit bull by-law, too!”

Announcer: “Okay, okay. Somebody check Anie’s meds will you? We seem to be getting away from the Western theme here, tho. Any suggestions from the audience? Horses?? Perfect! Okay, team Coderre, take it away.”

Denis: “You know how much I love animals. I was so sad to see that a calèche horse got in an accident last year that I immediately promised to get rid of the industry! But then those nasty calèche owners went to court so I changed my mind. It made me realize that the calèche trade is part of Montreal’s heritage, like prostitution, corruption and road repairs. Rather than eliminating the exploitation of animals for tourists, I decided to instead promote the industry and spend about $20,000 per calèche making it slightly more comfortable for the horses for the dozens of minutes when they’re not out performing a needless service in extreme heat on cobblestone streets. What’s $500,000 when you’re spending almost $40-million to light the Jacques-Cartier bridge?”

Anie: “But Denis, I thought the calèche drivers were the bad guys? What happened?”

Denis: “Oh, the new rules will force them to wear uniforms. There’s nothing that makes an exhausted horse look more bright and chipper than a driver in a nice white hat.”


Host: “And that’s all the time we have for this edition of Improv on the St. Lawrence. We invite you back next week for more wacky adventures of team Coderre. Don’t forget to visit our merchandise table, where you can find clips of our greatest hits, including:

Jerk with a jackhammer. Watch Denis handle heavy equipment he hasn’t been trained to use properly in an effort to demolish the concrete base of a Canada Post community mailbox for a media photo-op. Hilarity ensues as he almost takes off his own foot.

Sewer? I barely knew her! Watch the mayor of Improville be lowered into a giant collector sewer to confirm that it isn’t just another pothole. Wearing equipment that makes him look like a cross between a minion and a smurf, Denis is able to visually verify the conclusions of dozens of engineers that, yup, we need to dump untreated waste water into the river for a few days while we fix the sewer.

Slip sliding away. In a scene straight out of Benny Hill, watch two STM buses, a police car and a city snow clearing vehicle slide down Beaver Hall hill during one of the first light snowfalls of winter. In a moment of improvisational genius, Denis tell CJAD listeners that “shit happens.”

And sometimes it gets elected mayor. ■

Peter Wheeland is a Montreal journalist. His sardonic observations about the city and province appear on Cult MTL every week. You can contact him by Email or follow him on Twitter.