Published Feb 19, 2007What are you up to?
I'm doing The Rick Mercer Report, which means I spend far too much time in the air, but I get to do all sorts of amazing things all over the country. I was in Cold Lake, Alberta in an F-18 fighter jet, I was outside of Ottawa and went took part in a demolition derby. I went skinny dipping with Bob Rae in Northern Ontario. I had a sleepover with Stephen Harper. I'm busy.
What are your current fixations?
I probably came really late, but I find myself spending a ridiculous amount of time on YouTube. I'll find two people lip-syncing to a song that's funny and then I end up watching 50 different people sing "Barbie Girl" until the song gets in my head and I want to jump off a bridge.
Why do you live where you do?
I moved to Toronto when I started doing The Mercer Report, and the main reason was I could get out of Toronto. When I used to be based on the East coast, even though I loved it, the problem was when I went on trips for television, I couldn't really get that far west for time constrictions, because I had to be back Wednesday evening for the script read-through. I wanted to do a show that I knew would take to Iqualuit and Vancouver and New Brunswick, so it made sense to come to the centre.
Name something you consider a mind-altering work of art:
Without sounding like a plebeian, monuments have certainly had an effect on me. The Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC was something I didn't expect would have a massive effect on me, and it certainly did. Likewise, I was in France a couple of years ago, in Paris, and the Newfoundland regiment was wiped out at a place called Beaumont-Hamel just outside Paris. When you grow up as a Newfoundlander, you've heard the story time and time again. It was just an hour up the road, so I felt some obligation to go and check it out, but the entire time, I didn't expect it to have any effect on me whatsoever, and it did. In fact, since then I always make a point of visiting Canadian military sites, battle sites, and I find it interesting from an historic point of view but also very moving.
What has been your most memorable or inspirational gig and why?
Being inspirational is not my gig, so I haven't been on stage for many inspirational gigs. Certainly there have been memorable gigs. Last year, when I did the tsumani benefits, in the middle of a normal work week, I managed to take part in a benefit that was three benefits in one week. One was in a private individual's living room and he had more money than God. As a result, myself and Sarah McLachlan and the Barenaked Ladies and Rod Stewart and Robin Williams — all these people played in this guy's living room. It was insane. It was certainly memorable just because I kept thinking "how in God's name did I get here, and why are all these people here, and why are we in this man's living room?" But they raised millions of dollars that night. The next time, we played the Pacific Coliseum and then the next night we played the Saddledome, and I had to do a show that week.
What have been your career highs and lows?
I get to do things that only show biz allows you to do — it gives you a bit of a backstage pass. Going up in an F-18 and pulling 7.3 Gs and going supersonic is something I'll never forget. Going up with the Snowbirds is something I wanted to do since I was a little kid — that was a career high. Messing around with Prime Ministers – in my geeky mind I consider that a career high. The thing I shot with Jean Chretien at Harvey's a couple of years ago certainly was a high because he was so funny. I felt like I was acting with a great comedian — he did such a good job that day, I don't know if the planets just aligned or what. Anyone in show business has a list of lows that can fill a phone book. Back in my one-man-show days, when you're touring the country, there are times when you're going on stage and you're all alone, and the show is an hour and a half of you alone on stage and there are nine people in the audience — those aren't what you call highs.
What's the meanest thing ever said to you before, during or after a gig?
I have no idea. I certainly get lots of email and I've had people say mean things, but really, water off a duck's back — you can't take that on or you'd go crazy.
What should everyone shut up about?
What traits do you most like and most dislike about yourself?
Dislike, I would suggest procrastination. I think I manage to accomplish a lot in the run of a week, but if I just stopped procrastinating I could probably produce twice as much. I take to sloth naturally. I'd be great at being retired.
What advice should you have taken, but did not?
Stay in school. That would be an important piece of advice that I ignored that in hindsight I regret.
What would make you kick someone out off of your show and/or bed, and have you?
That's a tough one. I can't think of any reason — mostly because my show is such a tight knit shop and if you look at writers for example, the majority have worked with me for 13 years. The kicking has long ceased — they kick me right back.
What do you think of when you think of Canada? Oh god, that's a loaded question isn't it? Anyone who's been lucky enough to travel internationally certainly has a different view of Canada once they've stepped outside it. You're aware of Canada's reputation on the world stage and that's something everyone should be very proud of. That's never far from the back of my mind.
What is your vital daily ritual?
Stay connected. I'm a complete junkie — I have the Blackberry with me at all times. The few times I've left the house and gone into work without my Blackberry, I'm loathe to admit how far I would go out of my way to get it back. It's frightening.
What are your feelings on piracy, internet or otherwise?,br> When it comes to music, I don't download. I know too many musicians who are getting screwed by this. I think it's easy to say, "Oh, Elton John won't miss 50 cents," but I know too many Canadian artists who once made a good living and now are struggling. Personally, I won't do it. I understand this is a big question, but certainly I'm in a position to be able to buy my music off iTunes or whatever and that's what I do.
What was your most memorable day job?
Before I started at This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the longest job I ever had was for six weeks. I do consider this my day job. I was a dishwasher, I was a waiter. I made Nanaimo Bars. I worked at Shea's Hamburger Hell, home of the Nar-B-Que. My godfather was the proprietor of Shea's Hamburger Hell and he wouldn't tell anyone what was in the Nar-B-Que — it was a secret — and recently I had the occasion to order wrong off a menu in France, and I ordered the blood pudding by mistake. The minute I tasted it, I thought "oh my god, the Nar-B-Que was a blood pudding!"
How do you spoil yourself?
I like to travel... I don't know. I'm a pretty straight-ahead guy. I like to eat well, but I'm not much for, you know, getting a massage or anything horrible like that. I can't imagine doing that!
If I wasn't hosting a comedy show I would be:
Oh, a slum landlord probably. Oh, I thought you meant what I was qualified to do, not what I would like to do! God I have no idea. I guess I should think about that because nothing lasts forever — now I'm going to go have an anxiety attack.
What do you fear most?
Every actor has the actor's nightmare, when you're on stage, you don't know your lines, and you don't have a clue what the show is. That's a recurring nightmare.
What makes you want to take it off and get it on?
Okay, come back to that one. [Later] I can't think of anything. That's terrible — that's the best question too. I'll Blackberry it to you.
What has been your strangest celebrity encounter?
Taking a leak between Jon Bon Jovi and James Carville. And I'll give it to the Ragin' Cajun.
Who would be your ideal dinner guest, living or dead, and what would you serve them?
Mandela. Mainly because he would be at the top of the list of people I want to meet. I would imagine he's a steak-frites man.
What does your mom wish you were doing instead?
Getting my grade 12 math. She still brings it up occasionally.
Given the opportunity to choose, how would you like to die?
Well, quickly and painlessly would be nice.
If Bob Rae ends up as this country's next Prime Minister, he'll have Rick Mercer to thank for it. Okay, maybe not entirely, but when the campaigning Rae travelled with our most Canadian TV host to Northern Ontario for a segment of The Rick Mercer Report, and they ended up leaping bare-ass naked together into a lake, it was a defining ⎯ and uniquely Canadian ⎯ moment. "It was the first time in all the years I've been doing this that I've worked with a politician and they came completely alone. There's never been an exception to the rule, ever, until that day. And what happened? He got naked. That's why there's usually a handler."
No one better represents our unique balance of politics, comedy and self-deprecation than Mercer, a Newfoundlander who first made his name on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, and has become the biggest star on CBC television, drawing in nearly 1.5 million Canadian viewers every week. A balance of satire and good-natured enthusiasm, Mercer manages a blend of politics and silliness that's never bitter. "Canadians have an incredible appetite for politics and comedy. In the United States, shows like The Daily Show are wildly successful, but they're on cable. In Canada, shows like mine are on our national network in prime time, biting the hand that feeds us."