15 Minutes with Rick Mercer

Comedian Rick Mercer on his show’s final season, today’s absurd political landscape and the impact he’s made on Canadian culture.

Television personality Rick MercerILLUSTRATION: AIMÉE VAN DRIMMELEN

In Conversation with Rick Mercer

Reader’s Digest Canada: You’re 15 years in and still produ­cing a great show every week. Are you sure you’ve made the right call in ending the Rick Mercer Report now?

Rick Mercer: There have certainly been times at 4 a.m. when I’ve asked myself that question, but my motivation hasn’t changed: I’ve always admired people in this business who have controlled their destiny. It’s rarely done, quite frankly.

You often send up current affairs. Is it tough to leave during what is presumably a very fertile time? 

You know, the Rick Mercer Report always existed as a Canadian show speaking to Canadian politics and current events. It’s getting harder and harder to do that because Donald Trump is sucking the oxygen out of every room on earth. If it was my job to cover American politics exclusively, I think this would actually be a very difficult time at work, because it’s unhinged but it’s not funny. I find it very grim.

Yes, and it’s hard to satirize the already absurd. 

If the world at this moment had been written five years ago as a screenplay or a novel, it would have failed because it would have been wholly unbelievable.

We’ve had a few of our own governmental regime shifts over the run of your show. How does your job change when that happens? 

I always know that I’m doing well when the ruling party is upset with me. When the Conservatives were in power, they were convinced I was out to get them, and now the Liberals are aghast at the things I’ve said.

So you don’t think about any one particular type of viewer when you create your material? 

My audience is pretty unique in that it includes a wide spectrum. Television today is much more fractured than when I started; the goal used to be to make something that everyone could watch. That barely exists anymore. I can’t tell you how many times people have told me that my show is the only one they’ll watch as a family. I’m very pleased with that.

Rick Mercer Report is largely about making people laugh, and yet you have also made a serious impact with some of your segments. Is there anything you’re particularly proud of in that regard? 

The show has been in a unique pos­ition to encourage young people to vote, and there are some rants—the part of each episode where I get to say what’s on my mind—that I’m proud of. Quite often they’re about politics, but other times they’ve been about things like the way people behave on escalators. In 2011, I did a rant about bullying after Jamie Hubley [the 15-year-old gay son of an Ottawa city councillor] took his own life. I don’t know what impact it had, but it certainly was viewed a lot.

What are you going to do with yourself now?

I want to spend more time in Newfoundland, where my parents are. And I will still perform live, as I always have. Other than that, I have big plans—I just don’t know what they are yet.

The final episode of the Rick Mercer Report airs on April 10, 2018

To hear from another Canadian legend, check out 15 Minutes with Donald Sutherland!

Reader's Digest Canada
Originally Published in Reader's Digest Canada