Whether the subject is camping, farming, football or a never-ending Saskatchewan winter, author Carson Demmans and cartoonist Jason Sylvestre know how to find the humorous side.
After publishing “You Might be from Saskatchewan if…” two years ago, the duo decided to re-visit the funnier aspects of prairie life with a sequel, “You Might be from Saskatchewan if… Volume 2.”
Like its predecessor, the new book includes Demmans’ witty observations about Saskatchewan life, illustrated by Sylvestre’s sketches. The difference in the new collection is the variety of new subjects covered, which is what originally inspired them to produce another volume.
“When we finished the first one we realized there were still a lot of topics that we wanted to cover that we didn’t touch in the first one,” said Demmans, a longtime lawyer who lives in Saskatoon. “We had a long list of gags we wanted to do when the second book came around, so there was a real sense of accomplishment, of getting to everything we missed in the first volume.”
For the most part, the jokes are light hearted and playful jabs at familiar aspects of life, although some do touch on more sensitive areas, like the infamous 13th man. Demmans says that the ability to laugh through tough times, like gut-wrenching Roughrider losses or prolonged winters, has led to a distinct provincial identity and style of humour.
“I think there is definitely a Saskatchewan sense of humour, and you have to live here to get it.”
Unsurprisingly, the duo draws on real life experience to illustrate that particular style. The reception has been good for the most part, although not everyone gets the jokes. Demmans recalled one particular instance at a convention in Saskatoon, where a teenager and a man in his 60s crossed paths at the book table.
“They were both looking through copies of our book and the teenager comes to one page he didn’t understand. He finally said, ‘who’s Nestor Pistor?’” Demmans said with a chuckle. “The man in his 60s was totally outraged that this teenager had not heard of the greatest comedian who ever lived, so there have been little things like that.”
Overall though, most Saskatchewan residents get the jokes, regardless of age group. Demmans and Sylvestre draw on their own life experiences, making them easy to identify with. They aren’t mocking their fellow residents, they’re sympathizing with them.
“It’s fun to poke fun and laugh at yourself a bit, but I also think that the cartoons are easily relatable,” Sylvestre said. “Most of the stuff… in the books is based on things that either have happened or can happen.”
Things like camping for example, an activity Sylvestre frequently enjoys with his family, and uses as inspiration for his sketches.
“You look back and see how funny some of the stuff is that’s happened, or some of the camping mishaps,” he said. “We’ve had run-ins with bears and things like that, so some of that kind of crept into the second book.”
With their second book finished, the two partners plan to switch gears for their next project. They’re trading their jokes in for weird events and unbelievable tales in “Strange Saskatchewan Stories,” which Demmans called “a collection of 148 strange, but true, cartoons.”
They have a book of Saskatchewan themed riddles ready to be published as well.
However, they aren’t ready to close this chapter of their partnership yet. If Saskatchewan residents like the book, then they’ll be more than willing to make volume three. Saskatchewan, Demmans said, will always have things to joke about.
“Inspiration is all around us, and as long as we have the Riders and as long as we have bad weather, I don’t think we’ll ever run out of material.”