Talking to Rick Mercer

By Nolan Lewis

Canada’s favorite shit disturber Rick Mercer was recently in town to receive the Bob Edwards Award at the 30th annual Bob Edwards Luncheon and fundraiser for ATP, this just three days after being presented the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award. Even after being the recipient of two awards in less than 72 hours Mercer stays humble and doesn’t let the recognition get to his head.

“It’s lovely that they’re saying that I’m winning the Bob Edwards award, but the main point is that they sell 700 tickets and they raise money for the theatre company.”

Included with the National Arts Centre Award was $15,000 Mercer donated to the LSPU Hall in his hometown of St. John’s Newfoundland. The theatre has a long tradition of supporting young talent on the rock. The National Arts Centre was where in 1990 he premiered his one-man show Show Me the Button, I’ll push It.

“I went into the theatre so I could end up on TV,” admits Mercer. “But I always liked working in the theatre and obviously admire companies like ATP and the LSPU Hall.”

Since his transition to television, Mercer works both as actor and writer for some of Canada’s famed comedy series. He was the irreverent news anchor J.B. Dickson for eight seasons on This Hour Has 22 Minutes. He then wrote, directed and stared in the series Made In Canada as well as making Canadian history with his CBC special, Rick Mercer’s Talking to Americans.

“It was the hardest work I ever did”, says Mercer. The special received tremendous reviews from all across North America in addition to attracted 2.7 million viewers across Canada, the highest for any comedy special in Canadian history.

“Americans liked it, you know, because they always thought it was about someone else, if it was based in New York they’d go ‘boy those New Yorkers are stupid.’ They never saw themselves,” recalls Mercer. After the success of the show Mercer went back to the states and appeared on The Today Show and Nightline. “I thought it would be completely vitriolic, but it was alright.”

He also revealed attempts by the Americans to ambush him with his own bit. “All the TV shows that I did, when it broke down there, all sent crews up to Canada to do the same thing and none of them worked. The Today Show had a crew up here for a week or something. They went to like four different cities and they couldn’t get a three minute segment.”

Mercer’s new show Monday Report had a very successful opening season last year and he is currently preparing for the upcoming second season. The show brought him to the U of C campus last year to get feedback from the students, a demographic often ignored by networks.

“Networks have no interest to any programming that appeals to university students, CBC is an exception because they are a public broadcast,” explains Mercer.

“There are no Nielson boxes on any university campus or housing. We are going to keep going to universities and doing more university stuff which I’m really excited about. I’ve had a good time shooting at universities, it’s only worked out.”

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