Rick Mercer on Just For Laughs Comedy Night in Canada, Viral Memes and The Wild World of Politics

A year and change after wrapping 15 seasons of The Rick Mercer Report, one of Newfoundland’s finest and our nations most beloved ranter is hitting the road.

Rick Mercer headlines Just For Laughs Comedy Night in Canada, a patriotic nation-wide tour that kicks off right here in St. John’s at the Holy Heart Theatre on October 23-24th.

“It’s very exciting to kick it off at home,” Mercer tells The Herald in advance of the tour that also includes fellow Canucks Ivan Decker, Debra DiGiovanni and Ali Hassan.

“I don’t know how familiar Deborah or Ivan or Ali are with Newfoundland but of course any time you’re in Newfoundland and you’re bringing people there you immediately put on your tourism hat. Of course it’ll be exciting for me to see them enjoy Newfoundland audiences and explore St. John’s and all that business. I love that and it is a really good bunch. I mean when we were putting the tour together the one thing that I really wanted, which was different than the last time I went on tour with Just For Laughs, was an all Canadian cast. That was imperative. So if I was going to do it I wanted it to be all Canadian and then I did my due diligence and made sure that everyone was really nice. So I’m really looking forward to it. I’m on the road with four great people.”

Performing outside of the confines of the beloved national sketch comedy series that helped make Mercer a household name has provided ample opportunity to return to the world of stand up comedy. Mercer, who plied his trade early in his career in Atlantic Canada and was an original cast member of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, expressed his enthusiasm at his increased role in the stand-comedy world.

“The thing about having the TV show, and again I don’t ever want to complain about having the TV show because it was the best job ever, was you couldn’t entertain anything. You couldn’t entertain a cup of coffee let alone anything else. So you know my friend Jan Arden gets a sitcom and she says ‘do you want to come on in and do a couple of days?’ I say sure and then I get to go do that whereas before that was just never an option. So that’s been a lot of fun. And also the opportunity to take on things like this tour. I did this similar tour before and I really enjoyed it but it was 16 years ago. It was how we kicked off The Mercer Report by doing a national tour with Just For Laughs. And it was something that I really enjoyed doing.  I remember at the time thinking it’d be fun to do this every year or two. And of course 16 years goes by and I couldn’t do it. So this is why I’m doing it again. 

“I’ll do two sets,” Mercer adds of the tour. “And this is new, this is part of the fun that I’ve been having. Two nights ago I was here in Toronto and I did 20 minutes at The Comedy Bar. And that’s all new for me because of course coming up in Newfoundland we had no comedy clubs and we were doing sketch comedy and we were doing theatre one man shows. I never saw standup in the flesh until I was in my 20s and working on television. And I’ve never worked out in comedy clubs. This has been interesting.”

Mercer, known for his trademarked rants on everything from the social, political and just outright odd, shared that his particular process for comedy hasn’t changed much over the years.

“You know it’s never really changed for me,” he explains. “It’s more about current events, more about the country, more about what’s going on. So obviously this tour kicks off immediately following an election and I can’t see not talking about an election, the election results or things that happened during the election. That’s just in my nature more so than talking about other foibles other comedians might want to talk about. I also like being local, so I’ll talk about probably every town that I’m in to a certain extent because I’ve spent time in all of these towns. There’s very few places that I haven’t spent a bit of time in and don’t have a story about it.”

Addressing the mid-September web storm caused by the posting of a misquoted meme by now booted Burnaby North Seymour Conservative candidate Heather Leung, Mercer joked that the trending moment came as a bit of a shock.

“Well the original meme existed. I never created it but it is my quote. And I never bothered it and it just floated around the Internet for years. And originally I thought well they’ve just posted the meme on their Conservative website and they’re just encouraging people to vote. So I thought when people were contacting me saying are you endorsing a conservative? I thought well you’re overreacting and they can put a meme on their website just like anyone else can. But then I actually looked at it and actually read it and I realized they had changed the word ‘vote’ to ‘vote conservative’. I was sitting working with my friend Greg preparing for this tour actually. 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. 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.”

With the federal election only weeks away, we asked Mercer his thoughts on sharing political leanings in the public eye, something he’s always been cautious of as an on-screen personality.

“I always made sure I never ever said who I was voting for,” he shares. “Not that I think it really makes a difference. 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 the best way to proceed. The other advantage was by saying that I didn’t have to give anyone money.”

Tickets for the Just For Laughs Comedy Night in Canada Tour in St. John’s available here.

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