There’s nothing funny about being a writer—although a good writer can make anything seem funny. Just ask Mark Leiren-Young.
An award-winning author, journalist, playwright, screenwriter and University of Victoria alumnus, Leiren-Young will be focusing on humour writing in his role as the UVic’s 2014 Harvey Stevenson Southam Lecturer in Journalism and Nonfiction. As the first UVic alumnus to hold the Southam position, he will also be teaching in the very Department of Writing from which he graduated—With Distinction—in 1985.
”I’m honoured and thrilled to be returning to UVic,” says Leiren-Young. “Several friends I’m still in touch with from my UVic days have responded to the news by bursting into the theme song from Welcome Back Kotter.”
Leiren-Young is the author of two comic memoirs, Free Magic Secrets Revealed and Never Shoot A Stampede Queen: A Rookie Reporter in the Cariboo. In addition to two other nonfiction books and a number of plays which have been produced throughout North America, Europe and Australia, the Vancouver-based Leiren-Young is also a well-known satirist, half of the comedy duo Local Anxiety and the writer/director of the film The Green Chain. As a journalist, he has written for TIME, Maclean’s, The Hollywood Reporter, Utne Reader and most of Canada’s daily newspapers, and is a regular contributor to The Vancouver Sun, TheTyee, The Georgia Straight and The Walrus. He has also written over a hundred hours of television dramas, documentaries and animated shows.
His biggest success, however, may well be Never Shoot A Stampede Queen, which won the 2009 Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour. A memoir of his first year working as a journalist at the Williams Lake Tribune, Stampede Queen is being adapted for both film and television and has had two stage productions so far—one of which starred Zachary Stevenson and was directed by TJ Dawe, both fellow UVic Fine Arts alumni. “Stampede Queen pretty much kicks off with me leaving UVic and getting my BFA—recognized in better restaurants worldwide as a ‘waiter’s degree’,” Leiren-Young quips.
His humour-writing course and upcoming public lecture—You Can’t Say That! Comedy, Censorship & Sensitivity—will incorporate not only his own experiences, but also a critical examination of what is funny in the 21st century. Don’t miss Leiren-Young’s free lecture from 6:30-8:30pm Wednesday, Oct 15, in room A240 of UVic’s Human & Social Development building.
“It’s a fascinating time to talk about humour, comedy and media,” say Leiren-Young. “We’re living in an age where some comedians are taking facts more seriously than some journalists. When surveys used to report that young people were getting their news from late-night comedy, the implication was that this was a bad thing; today it means they’re better informed than people watching cable news. Comedians know how to deliver a punchline, but we may be laughing at the wrong media figures.”
Leiren-Young is the eighth person to hold the prestigious Southam lectureship, following freelance journalist Tom Hawthorn, Jo-Ann Roberts (CBC’s All Points West), Charles Campbell (Georgia Straight), Sandra Martin (Globe and Mail), Jody Paterson (Times Colonist) and authors Richard Wagamese and Terry Glavin.
The annual Harvey Stevenson Southam lectureship is made possible by a significant gift from one of the country’s leading publishing families. Harvey Southam, a UVic alumnus and journalist, was heir to his family’s publishing empire when he died suddenly in 1991.