Rick Mercer reports on the nation

By Katy Anderson

Few have goofed off with more figures synonymous with Canada than Rick Mercer.

The political satirist has had a sleepover with Stephen Harper at 24 Sussex Drive, goaltended with Margret Atwood, done search and rescue with David Suzuki and even tailored a suit with Don Cherry.

Despite humble beginnings ­– the CBC star dropped out of high school — Mercer says he always knew what he wanted to do, he just didn’t think he’d be successful at it.

“The only two things that interested me growing up were comedy and politics,” says Mercer. “I had a sketch comedy troupe — you know, two guys are standing by a water cooler and a nun walks in — but in all the shows I’d do a solo piece where I’d talk about politics.”

Since then, the 39-year-old has founded, and starred in, three Canuck standbys: This Hour Has 22 Minutes, Made in Canada and the Rick Mercer Report. Mercer also co-produced Talking to Americans which, at 2.7 million viewers, is the highest-rated CBC special to date.

While in Calgary last Wednesday to give a talk titled “My Adventures in Canadian Television,” Mercer spoke about the importance of satire in political discourse.

“I always look at what I do a bit like the editorial cartoon in the newspaper,” he laughs. “It’s not hard news, it’s an opinion, but you’re learning something from it.”

Although the popular Canadian comedian says he doesn’t think the RMR is about politics — “it’s a comedy show about life in Canada in general and I get to slip a little politics in there” — he’s happiest when he can get someone to view something in a different light.

“I’m always flattered when a parent tells me their kid got into politics because of me or when a teacher tells me she plays my show in class because it’s an accessible way into politics,” he says.

A self-proclaimed political junkie — in The Paperback Book Mercer describes the Liberal leadership convention as “the most fun I had in all of 2006” — he reads both the Globe and Mail and the National Post daily, but if rushed, doesn’t hesitate to go online to get his news for free.

Pointing to the inability of even the New York Times website, which boasts millions of hits daily, to make money, Mercer stresses you can’t control the market place.

“People are always going to want news and they’ll figure out a way to get it,” he says. “Eventually someone is going to figure out how to make money off it.”

The Newfoundland-native, originally from St. John’s, maintains a blog and a photo challenge website, encouraging Internet-goers to photoshop MPs in creative and hilarious ways. He says he reads several political blogs every day, but could talk for hours about how they can be dangerous.

“There’s a lot of citizen blogs out there, but then again, there’s a lot of ‘citizen blogs’ that are being run out of Tory or Liberal war rooms,” he says.

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