The saying goes that Canada has two main exports: hockey and comedy.
Though a blatant generalization of our country, it’s not an understatement to acknowledge that one of the Canadian comedy giants — particularly one oozing of Canadiana — is Rick Mercer.
As the pandemic brought comedy to a near standstill, Mercer took to a new project, writing Talking to Canadians: A Memoir.
Where the title sparks memorable highlights of his This Hour Has 22 Minutes segments and special Talking to Americans, the memoir is not full of past experiences duping Americans into believing Prime Minister Jean Poutine endorses them.
In fact, known for rereleases of his past books with added content, Mercer’s new memoir is, refreshingly, a jaunt through his past, from growing up in Newfoundland and Labrador to his time on This Hour Has 22 Minutes to his incubating new solo show that would become the Rick Mercer Report.
This isn’t to say some favourite, previously shared stories aren’t in the book. Mercer reshares the fabulous story of his mother Pat, switching from the Bank of Montreal to the Bank of Nova Scotia on the spot when a banker with the Bank of Montreal suggests he’s first going to call her husband to “see if he’s okay with [her] getting a new car.”
In fact, Mercer adds to Pat’s legend of always being ahead of the times by remembering how she refused to let him be an altar boy, regardless of her own Catholic upbringing. Simply, as Mercer had explained to his friend and his friend’s mom who was to take him to church at the time, “Mom doesn’t want me around the priests.” Thank you, Pat.
Though not a cover-to-cover barrage of laughs, which is immediately foreshadowed by the book’s prologue of Mercer sharing the story of being told to “[p]lease leave the theatre” because he has “nothing to offer” by a critic, the memoir has classic Mercer humour sprinkled between the memories.
Most interesting is how Mercer’s budding experiences with live theatre shaped his now renowned universal appeal of bitingly political comedy and a Canadiana sense of humour. His tale of his high school theatre production that was written specifically for a St. John’s audience getting no laughs at the Newfoundland and Labrador high school theatre festival in Gander, N.L. locates how early on Mercer learned the lesson of knowing his audience.
Taking this experience with him for the rest of his life, he has most mercifully used it during his career “to avoid being Toronto-centric.” Thank you, Rick.
Mercer’s ability to find the humour in such a broad spectrum of events — from the hellscape that was the Canadian fitness award program in physical education classes to nerve-wracking moments on a flight while visiting Canadian troops in Kabul, Afghanistan — is as admirable as it is entertaining.
The virtual book launch on Dec. 2, hosted by popular Canadiana figure Alan Doyle, forecasts an enjoyable evening.
In a palpably notable absence from the Canadian scene during the tumultuous last few years of both Canadian and world political events, it is nice to have Mercer back in some comforting form.
Talking to Canadians: A Memoir is available at major retailers.