06/27/2013 05:44 EDT | Updated 08/27/2013 05:12 EDT

What I'd Change About What Non-Canadians Think of Us

Robert Cohen

Leading up to Canada Day, the Huffington Post blog team asked prominent Canadians what they would change about one aspect of our country. We are publishing their answers in our series "What I'd Change About Canada" leading up to July 1. You can find the full series here.

A simple task? Not remotely. Why do I care about what people outside our country think is going on in Canada? I don't. And I do. Allow me to explain my sickening hypocrisy.

I don't care, because as a born-and-bred Canadian, I know what goes on at home. I'm proud to report we have amazing scenery, diverse culture, bountiful natural resources and stable banks. We created some of the funniest folks on this or any planet NASA will publicly admit to knowing about and our nation's pastime pays you to pummel your colleagues. I have never doubted any of these facts of greatness for a day. Not even while writing for film and TV all over the world for the past 20 years, including L.A. where I'm currently based. But it's the non-Canadians that do make me care.

In my experience, we've been too polite to correct the world's misconceptions about us.

From Kenya to Barcelona to Beverly Hills, my Canadian heritage always results in the same few reactions:

  1. "Wow. I thought you were an American."
  2. "Thank god, you're not an American."
  3. "How do you grow any vegetables in all that year-round ice?"

I get the first two, all Canadians have dealt with this, but I don't know why these folks are continuously so concerned about our turnip yield. After years of dealing with these misconceptions and getting increasingly-frustrated over non-poutine-ites honest lack of knowledge, or basic interest in Canada, I decided to do something about it.

I decided to make a documentary about what it really means being Canadian. And being crushingly-unimaginative, I decided to entitle this film, Being Canadian. My goal was to interview a bunch of my funny Canadian "show-business" friends who identify with my plight to explain "us" once and for all. I was convinced this would be a relatively easy task. That was six years ago.

The more I shot, the more I realized I only thought I knew what it meant being Canadian. When truly pressed, I couldn't clearly explain it. Every interview revealed something new and enlightening about my home. Whether it was Howie Mandel explaining his sincere and emotional connection to Canada, Will Arnett's hilariously tortuous regret about leaving Canada for greener business pastures, Mike Myers' incredible, eloquent summation about how proud he is to be born in Canada, they all impressed the puck out of me. Even the drunk guy on a Toronto street corner who urinated on me while I interviewed him without missing a beat had intriguing things to say. (I'm not counting the part about how the Maple Leafs need to draft a dragon as their goalie. We know that's ridiculous, because that team historically never shells out that kind of dough.) Everyone that generously sat down with me all had different opinions on what being Canadian means, and they were all correct.

They were also the ones, consciously or not, who steered this film away from its original simple answer, into a much more interesting journey that will answer my original question better than I could ever imagine. Don't get me wrong. The film's tone was, and still is comedic. But as we prepare to shoot the final leg of the movie -- a literal cross Canada trip starting in the waters of Nova Scotia and ending up on July 1st in Vancouver for a big Canada Day finale -- I know all the financial and energetic effort my small Canadian production team and I have put into this project will be worth it. And Being Canadian's completion will be all the sweeter because Canadians are helping to fund it on Indiegogo.

Is being Canadian just some sort of patriotic "feeling"? Is it some intangible country specific pride? I set out to change what non-Canadians thought of us but it turned out I didn't know myself. Figuring it out has become a personal quest. The person I was really answering this question me. And maybe the rest of Canada, too.

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