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Ben Evans

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John Dunsworth of Trailer Park Boys on Liquor and Politics

Posted: 03/31/11 11:38 AM ET

These are some truly choice answers taken from an audio interview I recently did with Canadian actor John Dunsworth, who played Mr. Jim Lahey in the famed Trailer Park Boys TV/movie franchise. Slipping in and out of character, Dunsworth commented hilariously (and intelligently) on liquor, the state of contemporary American politics, and Canada's thieving former prime minister. The complete 73-minute interview can be heard here.

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Ben Evans: So, let's talk about your character, Jim Lahey. How much of an influence was Hunter S. Thompson in the creation of that character?

John Dunsworth: Ya know, I know about Hunter S. Thompson, and I think his ashes are probably circling the earth as we speak; but, very little, I know so little about him. When I was a kid I knew about Lenny Bruce, and he was quite influential in terms of the anti-establishment stance that I personally have. The thing about Trailer Park Boys is there's no politics, there's no evil intent. I would like to think that... it's so hard because John Dunsworth wants to be political, he wants people to be taking a look at the given circumstances in the world and saying, "Why is this happening? This goes against every single grain of common sense, and why do we allow the American military to dictate whats going on in the world?" ... That's what I would like to do; but what I find myself doing as an entertainer is completely ignoring that and talking about bullshit things like over-consumption of alcohol and shit jokes and things, and I find myself feeling like I'm pandering to the masses when I do that.

BE: Well, one looks at you play that role, and I know you're not much of a drinker, but I'd have to imagine that you'd spent some time in that state to know it and portray it as well as you do.

JD: I can't remember anymore than a couple times I got drunk in my life, and I only did it once on purpose, when I had 16 draft when I moved away from home and went to Toronto, Ontario, and I got arrested that night for jumping on a policeman's motorcycle and going "Vroom Vroom." But another time I was on a Russian ship and they were plying me with orange juice laced with vodka, and another time I got drunk inadvertently, but... a half a dozen times in my life. And I don't enjoy being drunk because... I love playing drunk, and I tell all my audiences (Lahey voice): "Look boys, its more fun to pretend to be drunk than it is to be drunk -- ya know why, cause you get to say stuff to people. Ya get to say, 'Listen you know that hundred bucks you owe me? Ah fuck, I shouldn't have brought that... uh ah... cause I'm drinking.' Or you can say, 'Ah listen honey, I really, listen, please excuse me, but I think you're the most beautiful woman I ever saw.' You can be very, I think ingenuous is the right word here. It's fun to pretend to be drunk because you can get away with anything, and then you can drive someone home. But people phone my daughter, my daughter Sarah who plays Sarah on Trailer Park [Boys]; every once in a while one her friends will say, "I saw your dad on the street driving his car, Sarah; he's drunk out of his mind, you've gotta do something." But I value my license, I think that might be one... I mean, I don't like the taste of beer. It's an acquired taste, and I never acquired it.

BE: Well, what do you think the perception most Canadians have of Americans is?

JD: Pepsi and Coca-Cola.

BE: Commercialism?

JD: Um... which ones are the Republicans, the Pepsis or Cokes; and which ones are in Russia, Pepsi or Coke; and one's in China, tell me? I mean, if you start drawing the lines down between Republicans and... or Catholics or Jews, it just seems to me that there's just too much combativeness. Ya know, the United States prides itself on freedom of thought and stuff, but it doesn't; it isn't; it doesn't wanna be. People are convinced, and I think that that's the problem that's wrong. Canadians aren't convinced of anything, except, in the winter it gets cold, and if you can you go south. And the thing about it to me is, when you're convinced, "My country right or wrong," then you're going down a path to perdition. You have to say right comes first, and then family.

BE: I think there are... though it might not appear so, I think there are many different sects in terms of what people believe and how they're reacting to the U.S. government, and really the ideology that we seem to be purveying to the world. But, I know that a lot of us get lost in art, and, as I said, some of us have become so apathetic that we get lost in things we can control. Because when George Bush got elected the second time you really felt helpless, and then with Obama there was this onrush of hope and ambitiousness, and then... we've been kind of disappointed. I can't speak for all Americans, obviously, but I have... I thought there was some real, for lack of a better word, change coming.

JD: When the American people will put up with lies, knowing they're lies; but lies told by guys on their team, whether it's the Packers or the Steelers, then, then you're in trouble. Because, if you can't say the truth is more important than the team, then you're in trouble. And that's the zeitgeist in the States right now for me, is that although they know that its right to do this... I mean how many people are still saying there's no such thing as climate change? Tell me. And when there are things happening in the Gulf of Mexico and Louisiana gets inundated with oil, which, probably in three or five years from now, probably... I mean... I don't know how many people down there made a lot more money saying they lost money; but the thing is that over in places like Somalia or places like that, they report there's a spill over there every year, every two years. So why is the environment of the U.S. more important than the environment of the world? Because aren't we world citizens, isn't the world important? Doesn't America believe in equality for all? Or is it just equality for Americans? I mean, its not fair. I mean, I think that the government... and I'm not trying to pull anything here, I don't think Canadians are superior for a minute, but I just think that if you dumb down a population on purpose, you're going to get a dumbed-down population. And the education system, unless it embraces the truth as something that's sanctified, unless we are allowed to tell the truth... people here... I was in a town the other day, it's called Swastika, during the Second World War the government came in and tore down all the signs and put up a sign calling it Winston-- Winston Churchill of course -- not Swastika. Swastika was named after... it's an Indian name, and it means a meeting place. When these guys go down to the States wearing their Swastika shirts, they almost get killed. Now why does a symbol, why does a word... why do people get so upset with things that really, in and of themselves, are not threatening at all?

BE: Whereas, they don't become angered at all by things that truly are?

JD: Exactly. Why do we have all of these people being hired to repress our citizenry at the airports, at... ya know, there's stories of people a hundred miles from the border being pulled over with plates on and being run through the mill, students at universities down there from Canada who are being thrown in jail for days... Why is it in Canada right now are we training ten times more people than we need to do security? If I wanted to go on an airplane and bring that plane down, I could. Why do they pretend that they can protect us? They take away my little jeweler's screwdriver from my little jeweler's screwdriver set from my sunglasses, and I can't go through. I'm allowed to take one of them on the plane with me but I can't take the set of three. There's a tiny little blade about an inch long on it, but when I sit down in first-class and I have breakfast they give me a stainless steel knife with a serrated edge. Now you tell me what the hell is that all about? It doesn't make any sense. All of that is based on this kind of, let us assuage the population and let them think that we are taking care of business, when we in reality... the future is the future and there's no way you can... You can't defend yourself against a hurricane that hits and inundates New Orleans. You know? You can make political hell out of the aftermath, but the things that are happening in the world are things that you have to, aw, man...

 

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