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Following in the fabled footsteps of Stephen Leacock, Class of 1887

Cyrus Sarfaty, Year 11, earned a third-place prize in the 2023 Student Humorous Short Story Competition, part of the Stephen Leacock Associates’ annual celebration of literary humour.
The accolade comes with an invitation to a student showcase event — and is particularly meaningful because the legendary humorist Leacock was both an Old Boy and a teacher at the College. He was renowned for entertaining audiences worldwide with his writing and his wit. 

For Sarfaty, writing has been a passion ever since he was very young, and he’s also a comedy fan. These days, he enjoys injecting comedic elements into his school assignments.

“If you get the tone right, humour makes the work a little bit better,” he says. 

Sarfaty was interested in testing his comic writing, seeking out the Leacock contest as a way of measuring his prowess. He says, “From the contest website, I could tell the competition was more contemplative than just jokes and gags, and I wanted to try something new.”

The inspiration for his submission came from The Onion and a humorous story about all the world’s businesses merging into one giant corporation. It led Sarfaty to think about a dystopian  future where everything is branded. Thus, the darkly clever  “Adventures on the DraftKings™ Trans-Canada Highway” was born. Given its success, he’s motivated to keep experimenting with his writing, noting, “It’s important to broaden my horizons a bit.”

Paul Turner, Sarfaty’s Year 10 English teacher, says he wasn’t surprised by his student’s success in the competition.

“Cyrus is very quick-witted with an excellent vocabulary and has a unique ability to create written responses that are compelling,” Turner says. “This is a spectacular achievement and I’m very proud of him. He has a great sense of humour, and he’s very well-rounded with a good head on his shoulders. I see a terrific future for Cyrus moving forward.”

Sarfaty, in turn, enjoyed studying with Turner and says he learned about comic elements that stand the test of time from reading Much Ado About Nothing in class. This year, he’s looking forward to his Higher Level Language & Literature course. 

Fast facts: Stephen Leacock and UCC
  • Leacock attended the school from 1882 to 1887.
  • He was head boy in 1887 and editor of College Times in 1886 and 1887.
  • As a student, he wrote a biography of Charles Dickens that humorously noted "Dickens had never been head boy of his school."
  • Leacock won every school prize that was open to him in his graduating year.
  • He was a faculty member from 1889–99, teaching French, serving as house master, and captaining the faculty cricket team against the varsity cricket team. 
  • In 1929, Leacock chaired the Centenary Dinner of Upper Canada College in honour of the centennial. 
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