Perhaps no one knows how complicated this country of ours is more than comedian,
actress and author Mary Walsh who’s made a career out of poking fun at our ways,
and our politicians, from coast to coast
Being greeted on the porch by Mary Walsh is next to a surreal experience for anyone who’s long been a fan of one of this province’s comedic heroines. From CODCO to This Hour has 22 Minutes to the hilarity that was Hatching, Matching and Dispatching, Walsh has been there, and done that with flair, so to speak.
A National Tour
It’s a given that Walsh is funny. When asked if she has any plans to retire now that she’s 65, she scoffs. “I figure it’s now, with so many my age dying or otherwise going out to pasture, that I’ll finally start being offered roles to play women my age or older, because really, how many of us are left?”
On her book, Crying for the Moon she says, laughing; “I gave my son a gift card for Chapters, and what did he buy? Three copies of my book!”
Now, Walsh is preparing to head off on a national tour that begins in Goose Bay on September 3 and ends in the Yukon at Haines Junction on November 12, and hit all spots in between. The show, featuring sketches and songs, was written by some of this country’s best; Walsh included, and stars some of Canada’s best and brightest young up-and-coming performers from a variety of diverse cultural backgrounds.
When we sat down, the first question asked was, why is Canada so complicated? The response was reflective.
“The reason that Canada is complicated, as you know, is that it’s a vast land mass with a small population base. The experience of people in B.C is not really like the experience of people in Nova Scotia let alone like the experience of people in Newfoundland. We have the north looming up there and us down here – we’re like a Captain Highliner dinner really aren’t we? The Americans are there and we are here in this strip of non-arable land,” she begins.
Walsh knows her Canadian history, particularly now after preparing for the launch of Canada, It’s Complicated.
“Some people say America has this destiny, or the ‘American Dream’, and that’s a simple answer. We don’t have a simple answer and we kind of embrace the complexity of, there isn’t one single manifest destiny or Canadian dream per say. There are many, in fact, and we are comfortable, or as comfortable as we can be, in that. There is, it seems to me, comfort in the unknowing. Without the singular vision, we are fine. I think the singular vision is nonsense and it leads to all sorts of terrible things.”
‘A Great Journey’
Walsh quotes famous scholars and historians throughout our conversation; offering up tidbits like; history teaches us nothing except that we learn nothing from history.
“What really teaches us everything is geography, and we are the second largest country in the world. We have a shit load of geography and we have had to learn to live in a somewhat harsh environment and that has made us the people that we are and we are as complicated as the geography.”
Walsh says she’s learned so much about this country working with the other Canadian writers like Montreal’s Derek Seguin and Alberta’s Mieko Ouchi. “Because I didn’t know that much about Canadian history, for each sketch or song that we wrote I had to spend as much time in the library doing research as I did writing anything. So it’s been a great journey, and ironically complicated in many ways.”
When asked about the unique perspective she and fellow Newfoundlander Trent McClellan brought to the table, she pauses. “We were a country of our own so we are like Quebec in that way. It’s difficult for Quebec to fit in because they don’t in a way want to fit in. They want to continue to be a distinct society and I believe Newfoundland is like that too. People go, oh my you have so much music, so much comedy that’s unique, but we had to. We were a country. It wasn’t coming in from anywhere else, we had to provide it and in a way we have been independently entertaining ourselves for hundreds of years and kind of continue to do so in a way.”
Walsh describes the show this way; “There’s music, it’s mostly humour. But hopefully there will be things that will touch peoples lives – you are always treading that thin line.”
While Walsh herself won’t be in the show, she is proud of what they’ve created. “I’m thrilled with how many different people are involved in making this. There’s established older comedians and writers, but also some new blood performers. Before Rick Mercer was known to the country he was known to St. John’s because he was part of a company called Corey and Wade’s Playhouse which was a brilliant young comedy troupe. And that’s who we were looking for, people who are not known generally around the country but who are known locally, and we’ve found people like that all across the country.”
The two Newfoundlanders involved in performing are Jamie Pitt and Peter MacDonald.
Walsh says her Canadian identity has come a long way over the years.
“A long time ago I remember saying that I always felt a little embarrassed about not being an American or not being European, but being a Canadian. And that seems to have been unique to me, as a Newfoundlander, because others I knew and worked with who had grown up in other areas of Canada looked at me oddly when I said that. They didn’t have that feeling. They were Canadian and they were quite comfortable.”
Walsh says she still sometimes sees Canadians act as if they are, or we are, like the Americans or like the Europeans.
‘The Best of Us’
“We pretend we are but we are not at all like them. We do different things and most of our difference comes out of our first 200 years where we intermarried and inter-lived with the native people from this country. We became inclusive. 80 per cent of immigrants who come to Canada, within ten years, become Canadian citizens. In Europe maybe it’s six per cent I believe. It’s 20 or 30 per cent in the States. We have a way of learning to live together and subconsciously we’ve embraced that, or the best of us have.”
Anyone who has followed Walsh’s career is familiar with her spit-fire character Marg Delahunty.
“Marg won’t be in the show, but I’m very passionate politically. It drives me. Like, fire and rage like the world has never seen, talk going on south of the border. He’s a fu*#ing mad, mad, mad man. He reminds me of Mr. Ford (president) who was so ill. He had the illness of addiction so severely he could hardly breathe and yet they say Trump doesn’t even drink beer. I doubt that. If he doesn’t there’s something terribly wrong with him.”
Walsh moves back to thoughts of this country of ours; Canada
“There’s the worst of us everywhere, but of course the best of us helped make this country of ours what it is. It’s not the stealing of land that made us great, but the best of us would come and intermingle and create. Then Confederation happened and we drove a railway through it all, didn’t we? It is truly complicated, Canada I mean, isn’t it?”
For dates and showtimes visit www.canadaitscomplicated.ca