In Conversation with Rick Mercer

In Conversation with Rick Mercer

One of Newfoundland’s favourite sons, Rick Mercer talks life after The Rick Mercer Report, viral memes, political leanings and his surprising career highlight

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Rick Mercer is the epitome of a glass half full type, not that his glass is lacking, mind you.

The Newfoundland born and bred comedic television icon wrapped 15, count ‘em, 15 seasons of The Rick Mercer Report in 2018, bowing out on-top of a medium he has dominated for nearing on three decades. 

He’s enjoying life, writing what he likes when he likes, returning to the comedy stage thanks to Just For Laughs, and enjoying a, relatively, calm second stage of his life and career. No, life after the Report hasn’t been sombre doldrums for Rick Mercer. 

“You know what? I’ve really enjoyed this year,” Mercer shared with The Herald. “It’s been a great year. I’ve kept really busy, busier than I had anticipated.”

Mercer recently led an all-star cast of Canadian comics on the Just For Laughs Comedy Night in Canada tour, which kicked off with two packed engagements in St. John’s. 

Standup is a recurring love for Mercer, who relishes the chance to tickle audiences from east coast to west, though he admits the artform didn’t become ingrained from his early life on the island.

A life in comedy 

“Coming up in Newfoundland we had no comedy clubs and we were doing sketch comedy and we were doing theatre one man shows,” Mercer shares. 

“I never saw stand-up in the flesh until I was in my 20s and working on television. And I’ve never worked in comedy clubs. This has been interesting.”

There’s much to mock, spotlight and rant about if you’re a slick-witted and on-the-pulse type comic and satirist like Mercer. When asked to discuss the Conservative election-related meme featuring him that went viral some months back, Mercer joked that trending on Twitter came as a shocking, check your pulse moment before the irritating reality of the situation set in. 

“I was sitting working with my friend Greg preparing for the tour. I looked and I was trending on Twitter. I was like number two on Twitter and I was like, am I dead? That’s usually a bad sign when you’re trending on Twitter,” he laughs. “It was because of this, but that’s the candidate that they’ve since dumped actually. Not because of me. They stood by her over the fake meme. But I think she suggested the Liberals wanted to inject teenagers with gay serum or something? She’s pretty out there.”

‘‘All over the map’’

Talking politics, as so many Newfoundlanders do, is as built-in to our cultural fabric as traditional music, mug-ups and excursions round the bay. 

Mercer has always been careful to keep his political affiliations close to the vest, as those can be easily exploited when you live with some sort of celebrity.

“I always made sure I never ever said who I was voting for. Not that I think it really makes a difference,” he admits. 

“It’s not something that I’m pathological about. If you and I were sitting down having a beer I’d probably end up telling you how I was voting, but I voted all over the map in my lifetime depending on where I’ve lived in the country. So it’s not like I’m a strict partisan by any stretch. But while I had the show I always avoided that and that was just the way I figured it was best to proceed. The other advantage was by saying that I didn’t have to give anyone money.”

Asked if he often finds himself going through the motions of mentally preparing for a new season of The Report, and the seasoned TV vet admits to catching himself here and there. 15 years plus of repetition can do that after all

“I mean it was obviously different to me. I’d gotten in that car and, like Pavlov’s dog, I tried to enter that CBC parking garage except I don’t have a (access key) fob anymore and I’m like, oh I’m the guy without a fob, sorry! I just decided to pull in here. I don’t know why I did that! We’re all a creature of habit and certain things happen and I grab a pen and start writing it down because I think we can use that this week in this circumstances and then I’d lay the pen down and say, oh right! There’s no show.”

Living with no regrets

Reflecting on decades in television, Mercer has no regrets. He’s lived dreams and crossed off bucket list items few of his contemporaries have dared in the business. And at only 50, he’s barely begun to scratch the surface on a career that may defy premiere and wrap dates. 

Ever modest, Mercer admits his career highlight, as of press time, was to continue consistent work in a business that chews up and spits out so much promise. 

“I’m just glad that I was working,” he says sincerely. “I always got a kick out of the fact that I was working. When I think of my greatest accomplishment that’s literally it. I don’t know if that’s coming from Newfoundland or if it’s just the nature of the beast in show business, but the fact that I managed to consistently work is probably the thing I’m most proud of. I’m also proud of the work, but the fact that I actually got to go to work is probably number one. But you know if you bump into Gordon Pinsent he’s wondering where his next job is coming from. I mean he’s always been like that. That was my first take away from when I met him in my early 20s. There’s Gordon Pinsent wondering where the next job is and of course he’s also never stopped working his entire life. But I guess that feeling never goes away.”

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