Jay Baruchel? He's the frisky title character in TV's Undeclared, the Led Zep fanatic in Almost Famous, the brain-damaged boxer in Million Dollar Baby, Seth Rogen's roommate in Knocked Up., the fanboy who taps Kirsten Bell with his, um, light saber in Fanboys, the opportunistic ex-beau in Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist and, coming Friday, a starring role as the "my" in She's Out of My League. The new film, starring Baruchel as an average-looking guy insecure about dating the va-va-voomy Alice Eve, is a raunchy sex comedy that's surprisingly sweet.
A Montreal homeboy with (I kid you not) a blood-red maple leaf tattooed over his heart, Baruchel is a patriotic Canadian who resembles the young Jeff Goldblum and possesses a similarly offbeat timing. On a press tour last month, Baruchel passed through Philadelphia ostensibly to talk about League. But what really got him going was the suggestion that he's part of "The Canadian Conspiracy." (That was the title of a very droll 1980s documentary, probably made before Baruchel was born, suggesting that Canadian comedians like Saturday Night Live producer Lorne Michaels, Eugene Levy and Dan Aykroyd were part of a plot to infiltrate and subvert the United States through comedy).
"Absolutely," declared Baruchel. "I'm part of the third-wave Canadian conspiracy. "Aykroyd and John Candy were first-wave, Kids in the Hall and Mike Myers were second-wave, and now it's me, Michael Cera and [Baruchel's Knocked Up co-star] Seth Rogen." (He adds of the Torontonian, "Cera roots for the wrong hockey team, but he's Canadian nonetheless.")
"Why does Canada export so many people in comedy?" he asks. "Because we have one foot in Britain and the other in America. Our sense of humor is both dry British and slapstick American."
Still, Baruchel's ultimate goal is not to be a secret agent in the Canadian comedy invasion of the U.S. "My dream is to direct horror movies in Montreal," he says. "I love acting, but the endgame is to get close to [Canadian filmmaker and horrormeister] David Cronenberg."
What are the distinctions of Canadian funny? How have the Canadians influenced the direction of U.S. comedy? Which Canuck comics did Baruchel fail to mention?