Chatting with Rick Mercer about Just For Laughs 40
If you’re Canadian, watched the CBC and have been alive for more than 20 years, you know of the Canadian Comedy Legend Rick Mercer. I remember my Tuesday nights being scheduled in my head to not miss The Mercer Report and This Hour Has 22 Minutes. The rants in the back of Toronto’s alleys, which seemed so cool to me as a kid from Montreal, were my favourite part. It was one of the first times I saw how writing about subjects that may not be humourous can be delivered in a way that disarms you and allows you to take in information because it made you laugh.
Looking back, I realize Rick Mercer was the one who made politics approachable. I mean I hated politics. Gross. But after watching his shows, politics became less of a scary thing and more of something I needed to know and be involved in as a Canadian.
Mercer has received nearly 30 Gemini Awards and Canadian Screen awards for his work on television, and his CBC Television special Talking To Americans remains the highest-rated Canadian comedy special ever with 2.7 million viewers.
He is also the author of four books, all of which have been national best sellers, and has also written for Time, Maclean’s, The Globe and Mail, and The National Post. His newest book – Talking to Canadians: A Memoir – is available for purchase online. Click here to buy.
He is a recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, an Officer of the Order of Canada, and a proud native of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
I was honoured to be able to chat with him about the festival, the pandemic and his comedy.
How did a boy from Newfoundland become Canadian Comedy Royalty?
I didn’t do stand-up comedy. I love sketch and improv. This is what I did in high school. And it happened that I also love politics. So me and a couple of friends got to together and it became what you know as This Hour Has 22 Minutes.
How did you keep your creative mojo juices flowing during the pandemic?
During COVID, I was lucky because I had a book to write. So every day I would go out to my office across the lawn and write for 6 hours. Not being able to perform live didn’t affect me as I am not one of those comedians who need to be on stage. I was thinking of many of my comedian friends who only live when they are in front of a live audience and how tough it must have been for them. Luckily I had a deadline and I can’t work without one.
What was it like getting back on stage after the pandemic?
I was grateful to be a part of the Comedy Night in Canada tour. We performed in 18 prestigious theatres across the country. It was amazing. Coming out to do, if not the first, national tour after the pandemic all across Canada was unbelievable and I felt very lucky to be able to be a part of such an amazing tour.
Which comedians are you looking forward to seeing at the festival this year?
Every comedian on Comedy Night in Canada are some of my favourite comedians in Canada. Dave Merheje, Eman El-Husseini, Ivan Decker, Salma Hindy and Sophie Buddle. They could have called the tour “Rick Mercer and his favourite Canadian Comedians” and that would have been just as accurate.
What attracted you to political or satirical comedy?
I wasn’t necessarily attracted to satirical or political comedy. I just loved politics. My Godfather was an eccentric character who ran for every party that I can think of. My dad loved politics as well and we’d talk about it all the time. So it was a natural path for me to bring politics into my sketch comedy.
Where do you feel more comfortable, in front of a camera or on stage?
Being in front of the camera and being on stage are two different things to me. Doing live on TV has its quirks but doing live stand-up comedy, it’s only you on stage and you got to get to the point. Where on camera if I was doing interviews with people on the street, it may take 20 minutes to get a good 5-minute piece of content but you do not have that luxury when you’re on stage. I wouldn’t say I like one more than the other. They are very different jobs to me.
Many Canadian Comedians end up going to the states for work. Why didn’t you ever go to the USA to work?
I won’t say that Canadian comedians should not expand their opportunities to our neighbours in the south. The United States is the biggest English-speaking country in the world so if you want to go big in comedy, the USA is the way to go. I didn’t go because I was writing, performing and doing what I wanted to with a group of great comedians on This Hour Has 22 Minutes. So I did not need to. I was very lucky in that way because I created my own opportunity and managed to make a living from it, which is not easy. If there were more opportunities, I believe many Canadian comedians would stay.
You wrote a book during the pandemic – Talking to Canadians: A Memoir. What can your readers expect?
I ask at the beginning of my career how to write a memoir. Some are reflective of one’s life and others are more about picking a bone, making a point or getting even. My memoirs are reflective ones that talk about my journey as a satirical and political comedian, anecdotes from my childhood in Newfoundland and Labrador many other stories that will keep the reader engaged with a smile.
If you could describe your comedy as a cookie, what type of cookie would it be?
What kind of question is that? It would have to be the most uber-Canadian cookie with flavours unknown to people living outside of Canada.
You can catch Rick Mercer at the Comedy Night In Canada. See below for details.
Join host & Canadian comedy legend Rick Mercer and take a hilarious look at what it means to be Canadian, as Comedy Night in Canada welcomes top comedians from coast to coast! These comedians may eat ketchup chips or poutine, use the metric system, and spell colour with a “u” but they all speak the universal language of funny! Rick will be accompanied by Dave Merheje, Eman El-Husseini, Ivan Decker, Salma Hindy and Sophie Buddle.
JULY 29th at 7PM – BUY YOUR TICKETS HERE