TV host and comedian Rick Mercer is a Canadian treasure, with emphasis on the Canadian part. That’s made perfectly clear when you ask him about his importance to Canadians.
“If any one out there is doing that kind of thinking,” Mercer says flatly, “They should probably give their head a shake.”
His characteristic modesty notwithstanding, Mercer is the rarest of Canadian performers; one that both celebrates Canada and remains here. He brings Canada: Coast to Coast to Coast, his latest one-man performance, to the Georgian Theatre on May 8.
“The live show is very much related to my TV show,” says Mercer. “It’s been 15 years of travelling the country and some of the greatest stories from that time never actually made it on television.”
The show features Mercer recounting some of his favourite and funniest stories about the country he loves so much. Using video from his show and his travels, he tries to say something true, not just about Canada, but about the people in it.
“It’s a celebration of Canada,” says Mercer. “Everything on the Mercer Report is so short. It’s always great to be able to tell a story or talk about a subject for longer than a minute and thirty seconds.”
Rick Mercer began his career in comedy performing and writing in his hometown St John’s, Newfoundland with a series of one-man stage shows. His solo, Show Me the Button, debuted at the National Arts Centre in 1990 followed by a national tour. Mercer launched his television career in 1993 as one of the creators, performers and writers on the hit topical weekly show This Hour Has 22 Minutes and never looked back. In 2001 his CBC Television special Talking To Americans became the highest rated Canadian comedy special ever with 2.7 million viewers.
By January 2004, The Rick Mercer Report debuted. The show remains a blend of topical satire of the week’s stories, his signature rant segment and adventures that truly take him across Canada.
“I’ve been to well over 500 unique places in Canada now with the show,” explains Mercer. “And I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m getting a little long in the tooth to be throwing myself off of mountains.”
This is Mercer’s way of explaining why he’s bringing his show to a close this spring, after 15 award-winning years.
“There were a bunch of factors that came into the decision,” he said. “It certainly isn’t the show or the people. I’m going to miss most of it.”
It’s easy to see what there is to miss too. His work has garnered nearly 30 Gemini Awards and Canadian Screen Awards for television writing and performance, as well as numerous Canadian comedy and various lifetime achievement awards. In September of 2015 he was inducted as an Officer of the Order of Canada. More importantly to him however, his show has an enduring audience that spans most every age group.
“I realize, now more than ever, how fortunate I’ve been,” Mercer explains. “I can roll into a university and have a thousand students come out but I can also perform in a theatre for fifty year olds and at the same time, most of my mail comes from kids who watch the show.”
When asked about what he plans to do next, his answer is predictably unsure, modest and, well, Canadian.
“I don’t know what I’m looking forward to yet,” he said. “I haven’t figured that out.”
He isn’t finished with performing though. He’s excited to be on the road and out in the country he loves so much.
“The show’s very much a behind-the-scenes look at my travels,” he said. “It’s very much a state of the nation.”
Tickets for Canada: Coast to Coast to Coast with Rick Mercer, on May 8 at The Georgian Theatre, are available by calling 705-739-4228 or online here.