Even in non-pandemic years, it’s the most popular broadcast of the year in Quebec. In 2020, with everyone confined to their homes and parties banned, it was even more so, setting new records for viewership. Bye Bye 2020 is a sketch comedy special that tries its best to poke fun at all of the stuff that happened (in Quebec, anyway) during the year.
For English Canadians, or just those who don’t consume Quebec culture, a bunch of stuff might have flown over your head. So here’s a guide, sketch by sketch, to the background that will help you better understand the jokes.
If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch Bye Bye 2020 for free at Tou.tv.
Cold open (Legault press conference)
No real cultural references here. The joke is about Quebec’s public health director stealing the show from the premier.
- Pierre-Yves Roy Demarais: This young comedian went pretty viral with videos of him goofily singing and dancing about how awful the pandemic is (“Ça va mal” and “À boute“), so the Bye-Bye got him to do the opening jingle.
- Radio X, Lucie Laurier and les Frères Tadros: Notable anti-mask types. Radio X is a populist Quebec City radio station that has gotten into a lot of trouble for the incendiary things its hosts say on air. Laurier is an actress who believes in a lot of pseudoscience. And the Tadros brothers are a musical duo who believe the pandemic was a hoax.
- La baleine: A humpback whale that mysteriously made its way up the St. Lawrence River to Montreal gave residents quite a sight, but it died in June, probably after being hit by a boat.
Limonade Kevin Parent
- Kevin Parent: The Quebec singer (played by Marc Dupré in this sketch) was dropped by his label and apologized after various allegations of sexual misconduct, including a rumour that he liked to dunk his penis in women’s drinks at bars.
Le dernier rouleau
- Papaille: A running gag in the Bye-Bye since 2018, when Claude Legault first embodied this poorly-spoken old man in a parody of a Guy Nantel vox pop. The name comes from his apparently hilarious misunderstanding of “Bye-Bye”.
Les dents d’la Morin
- Maripier Morin, Alex Nevsky, Bernard Adamus, Julien Lacroix, Yann Perreau, “le bassiste de Simple Plan”: An embarrassingly long list of Quebec musicians, actors and comedians who were accused of sexual misconduct in 2020. The title and Jaws-parody concept come from an allegation against Morin, that she harassed singer-songwriter Safia Nolin and bit her on the thigh.
- PCU: The French acronym for CERB, the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, that helped keep a lot of people in their homes and out of poverty but also helped some people make less … essential purchases.
- Fouki: A Quebec rapper who got at least one gig this year doing a Bye Bye cameo.
No cultural references here, but Chats sauvages by Marjo is a nice song.
Quebecers like stick-things-up-your nose jokes.
- Marie-Mai: One of Quebec’s most popular singers. The sketch is a parody of her actual home reno show, and its title comes from one of her songs (which was itself parodied on the Bye-Bye a decade ago).
- Éric Salvail: A once popular Quebec TV host who has been off the air since 2017 when allegations of sexual misconduct emerged against him. He was recently acquitted of sexual assault.
Les Bougon: C’est aussi ça la Gaspésie
- Les Bougon: A popular comedy series featuring a family of let’s say working-class Quebecers with questionable morals and the questionable ways they try to cheat the system. The sketch references a story this summer about Quebecers visiting the scenic peninsula and camping on public lands and leaving garbage, waste and other undesirables behind.
Le panier bleu
Le panier bleu was an idea of the government near the beginning of the pandemic to encourage people to buy local. But ask the sketch points out, it doesn’t really do anything but list a bunch of Quebec retailers.
OD cheu nous
Occupation Double, a Quebec reality dating show that had spent recent seasons in various sunny destinations but this year had to stay “chez nous”. Bulles de nuit (renamed “Boules de nuit” in the sketch) was a sponsor of the show and very present in the broadcast. This season, contestants were given lessons on consent, a problem that tends to come up in these kinds of shows.
- Patrice Lemieux: Actor Daniel Savoie, playing the clueless cop trying to figure out how not to be racist, brings out his character based on a poorly spoken hockey player who may have had one too many concussions.
- Widemir Normil: The actor playing the boss is dressed identically to how he appears in Escouade 99, Quebec’s adaptation of Brooklyn Nine-Nine (which was criticized for recasting two Latina characters with white women).
- Mot en N: A University of Ottawa professor using the N-word in an academic context prompted a big debate over freedom of speech.
- WE Charity: The charity shut down this year after a scandal that started with the government giving it a lucrative no-bid contract to recruit volunteers.
En audition avec Siméon
- En audition avec Simon: This web series stars Simon-Olivier Fecteau as an inept casting director pushing actors to do ridiculous things. This sketch turns that around as has Fecteau auditioning for a role in front of two Black guys and asked to reinforce stereotypes about white Quebecers.
Les Nouvelles du Téléjournal ICI TVA
- Eric Lapointe: The Quebec singer pleaded guilty to assaulting a woman.
- Valérie Plante: Montreal’s mayor. She laughs a lot and rides a bike.
- Gilbert Rozon: Rozon, the founder of Just for Laughs, was acquitted of rape in a trial, meaning there won’t be any criminal punishment despite many women coming forward to allege sexual harassment and assault.
They annoyed the crap out of you before 2020, but the jingles for Barbie’s, Da Giovanni and St-Hubert BBQ got the sombre treatment with dining rooms empty and lots of people out of work.
- Monsieur Caron: Yves P. Pelletier brings back his iconic old man character from Rock et Belles Oreilles for this pretty touching sketch.
- Laurent Duvernay-Tardif: The football player who is also a doctor took a year off from the NFL to work on the front lines during the pandemic.
Michel Olivier Girard
This relatively unknown actor most famous for appearing in commercials for A&W in Quebec got parodied at last year’s Bye Bye by Claude Legault, and strongly enough that many people came to the actor’s defence. Simon-Olivier Fecteau and the Bye Bye folks have been apologizing ever since, letting Girard take some shots back at them.
I trust I don’t need to explain this one.
Souvenirs de confinement
- Ricardo: TV chef.
Hand sanitizers stink.
- Lucie Laurier and Les Frères Tadros: Notable Quebec conspiracy theorists, also referenced in the opening credits number.
- Georges Laraque: Former Canadiens player and noted vegan. Laraque was hospitalized with COVID-19 and is very much not a conspiracy theorist.
Great roundup. I would perhaps add, however, that the karaoke references were probably for the “superspreader” events in Québec City that got the Karaoke bars shut down at the end of the summer (https://www.lapresse.ca/covid-19/2020-09-02/une-soiree-karaoke-fait-50-cas-positifs-a-quebec-la-police-ouvre-une-enquete.php ).
For “En audition avec Simon: This web series stars Simon-Olivier Fecteau as an inept casting director pushing actors to do ridiculous things.” : In the series he is not simply inept – he is (purposefully, as a character) egocentric, arrogant, and obliviously insensitive, often creating awkward moments out of very sensitive issues (sexism, racism, etc), the result (usually) being absurd auditions that use comedy to discuss the issues. And so the inversion of roles in this sketch is really an extra layer from the original material, but work even if you haven’t seen any of the original shorts.
And “Le dernier rouleau” sketch references indirectly (visually) KarateKid/Cobra Kai and Kill Bill (these are, I’ll admit, not Quebec-culture-specific references, but still worth noting!)
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