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Date: August 28, 2014

Author brings humour-writing skills to UVic

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—the first UVic alumnus to hold the Southam position.

“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.”

The Vancouver-based 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. As a journalist, he has written for TIME, Maclean’s, The Hollywood Reporter 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, two other nonfiction books, a number of plays and is half of the comedy duo Local Anxiety.

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. “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 October public lecture—You Can't Say That! Comedy, Censorship & Sensitivity—will offer a critical examination of what’s funny in the 21st century. “We're living in an age where some comedians are taking facts more seriously than some journalists,” say Leiren-Young. “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.”

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.

Media contacts:

John Threlfall (Fine Arts/Communications) at 250-721-6222 or johnt@uvic.ca
Mark Leiren-Young (Writing/Southam Lecturer) at 250-721-7307 or mleireny@uvic.ca
David Leach (Writing Chair) at 250-721-7627 or dleach@uvic.ca

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