By Rick Mercer

Montreal Times - - News - By Stu­art Nul­man mtl­times.ca

In Oc­to­ber of 1992, I spent a week­end in Toronto to at­tend an un­veil­ing cer­e­mony for one of my aunts, who passed away that sum­mer. The Sat­ur­day night be­fore the cer­e­mony, which co­in­cided on the same night the Blue Jays won their very first World Se­ries cham­pi­onship, I was in down­town Toronto to catch a one-man show by an up-and-com­ing Cana­dian co­me­dian.

The show was called “I’ve Killed Be­fore and I’ll Kill Again”, which was writ­ten and per­formed by an ac­tor/co­me­dian from New­found­land named Rick Mercer. One of the things I no­ticed be­fore the show started was that the ma­jor­ity of the sold out au­di­ence present at the theatre were ex­pa­tri­ate New­found­lan­ders or Mar­itimers, and I was one of the few au­di­ence mem­bers who resided west of At­lantic Canada.

As soon as the young Mercer bounded onto the stage, he had the au­di­ence laugh­ing up­roar­i­ously with his bit­ing, satir­i­cal ma­te­rial; how­ever, un­for­tu­nately, I was wasn’t laugh­ing along with them, be­cause that ma­te­rial was ba­si­cally geared to­ward things and is­sues that re­lated to New­found­land and the Mar­itimes.

That all changed when it came to a fast-paced mono­logue he did be­fore the show’s in­ter­mis­sion. He en­vi­sioned what Canada and Cana­dian so­ci­ety would be like in a fu­tur­is­tic dystopian-type world. What he stated in this rather dark comic vi­sion was so rel­e­vant and touched a lot of fa­mil­iar bases to any­thing and ev­ery­thing Cana­dian, it in­stantly grabbed my at­ten­tion. By the time the lights went up for the in­ter­mis­sion, I be­lieved that was prob­a­bly one of the most bril­liant comic mono­logues that I ever heard, and that this Rick Mercer had a fu­ture in the world of com­edy … the Cana­dian com­edy world, at the very least.

Less than a year later, at a cock­tail re­cep­tion that CBC Tele­vi­sion hosted dur­ing that year’s Just For Laughs fes­ti­val, the pro­gram­ming pow­ers that be used the oc­ca­sion to pro­mote a num­ber of new com­edy pro­grams that would be on their air­waves that fall. One of those shows was a satir­i­cal news show based out of Hal­i­fax called “This Hour Has 22 Min­utes”, in which most of the cast were orig­i­nally from the leg­endary New­found­land com­edy troupe “Codco”; the fourth mem­ber of the new “22 Min­utes” cast was an­other comic from that same prov­ince, al­though not a mem­ber of Codco, his name was Rick Mercer.

That’s when I knew that “22 Min­utes” had a good shot of be­ing a hit.

Since then, Rick Mercer has dis­tin­guished him­self as Canada’s premier po­lit­i­cal satirist not only with his stint on “22 Min­utes”, but also his land­mark TV spe­cial “Talk­ing To Amer­i­cans”, his TV se­ries “Made in Canada” and his mag­a­zine show “The Rick Mercer Re­port” (orig­i­nally ti­tled “Rick Mercer’s Mon­day Re­port”), which this past April went off the air af­ter a 15-year, 250episode run on CBC Tele­vi­sion.

On “Re­port”, Mercer gave his fel­low Cana­di­ans a view of their coun­try like they have never seen be­fore, as he trav­elled across the coun­try and ex­pe­ri­enced places and events that de­fined any­thing and ev­ery­thing Cana­dian, as well as in­ter­view­ing prom­i­nent Cana­dian politi­cians and per­son­al­i­ties in his unique, inim­itable way (re­mem­ber the time he skinny-dipped with politi­cian Bob Rae?).

How­ever, one fea­ture of the pro­gram that Mercer car­ried over from “22 Min­utes” that be­came chiefly as­so­ci­ated with him was his 90-sec­ond rants. Tack­ling sub­jects and is­sues that mat­tered to Cana­di­ans and the rest of the world, Mercer was al­ways seen spew­ing his fact-filled, some­times pointed, but al­ways log­i­cal rants as he quickly strolled his way through a graf­fiti-laden al­ley­way in down­town Toronto with­out miss­ing a beat.

To com­mem­o­rate the end of “The Rick Mercer Re­port”, Mercer has writ­ten his fourth book as a sort-of farewell to his long-run­ning hit show that’s called, ap­pro­pri­ately enough, Fi­nal Re­port.

The book is a fond look back at what made “The Rick Mercer Re­port” a Cana­dian in­sti­tu­tion.The ma­jor­ity of the book cov­ers the best of his al­ley­way rants over the course of the show’s 15-year run. From Prime Min­is­ters Paul Martin to Justin Trudeau, to air­port se­cu­rity, to Cana­dian Olympians, to Cana­dian win­ters, to po­lit­i­cal hon­ey­moon pe­ri­ods to the ban­ning of the use of soc­cer balls in Toronto play­grounds, each rant that ap­pears in the book is a vivid tes­ta­ment to Mercer’s un­canny abil­ity to com­pose a brief opin­ion piece for the video age that’s filled with in­for­ma­tion, in­tel­li­gence, ra­tio­nal­ity and bit­ing hu­mour that trans­lates quite well on the printed page.

As well, the book fea­tures six es­says that cap­ture the essence to why “The Rick Mercer Re­port” was such a hit. In them, he shares some of the rea­sons be­hind the show’s suc­cess (in­clud­ing the diehard ded­i­ca­tion of his team, es­pe­cially his re­mote pro­duc­tion crew), as well as some of his all­time fa­vorite high­lights, in­clud­ing the time in sea­son one that he got leg­endary au­thor/his­to­rian Pierre Ber­ton to demon­strate how to roll a mar­i­juana joint for a seg­ment that would end up be­ing Ber­ton’s fi­nal TV ap­pear­ance.

Fi­nal Re­port is a fit­ting piece of clo­sure to how Rick Mercer used the plat­form of a weekly tele­vi­sion pro­gram to en­ter­tain and in­form Cana­di­ans not only on the is­sues and con­cerns of the day, but also on the mag­nif­i­cence and beauty of Canada from coast to coast.

And how did Mercer sum up 15 years of in­form­ing, en­ter­tain­ing and rant­ing on a weekly TV of his own? As he stated in a video he re­leased in Septem­ber of 2017 that of­fi­cially an­nounced the fi­nal sea­son of “The Rick Mercer Re­port”: “…but one thing that has al­ways re­mained con­sis­tent is this: I’ve al­ways known that I have the best job in the coun­try. It has been a huge priv­i­lege to be in­vited into your home ev­ery sin­gle week. I can’t tell you how much fun it’s been.”

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