Jay Friesen

Jay Friesen

Jay Friesen (2019)


PhD, Comparative Literature

Thesis title or Research Area

Little Mosque, Big Ambitions: Intersections Between Comedy and Multiculturalism in Little Mosque on the Prairie

Can the relatively simple pleasure of sharing a laugh contribute to the more complicated process of creating a more equitable, multicultural society? In 2007, the Canadian TV series Little Mosque on the Prairie (2007-12) hit the airwaves, and it tried to accomplish precisely that. Heralded as the first "Muslimsitcom," the show received an unusual amount of attention for TV comedy, both for portraying an underrepresented minority as well as attempting to offer compelling social commentary through the light-hearted sitcom genre. This project considers three main ideas. Firstly, it explores reasons why the series originated in Canada, rather than a country with a more established track record of producing TV hits. Secondly, it considers the impact of using traditional sitcom television conventions to deliver progressive social commentary, something not typically seen in the genre. Lastly, the research reflects on how our cultural understandings of humour frame the way social commentary is both delivered and received. The project concludes that while a useful tool, using comedy to promote progressive social change is not without its challenges, despite its ability to playfully engage audiences.