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The Good, The Bad and The Funny of Canadian Politics: Rick Mercer

This Friday I bring you another great, sadly unread, Canadian book.

Well, its not really a book. It’s a paper version of what you could watch every Tuesday night on the CBC at 8 pm. Well, every Tuesday between October and April, that is.

“No one on TV has done more to teach Canadians about their own country than Mercer,” says the Toronto Star.

And, despite the Toronto Star’s recent gaffe claiming Canucks GM Mike Gillis called Rick Rypien ‘crazy,’ (the writer quoted a vandalized Wikipedia article rather than the actual interview with Gillis), I think they got this one right.

There’s a good reason my niece’s Social Studies teacher used clips from The Rick Mercer Report in her Friday classes.

Rick is one of our national educators. And frankly, we could use one.

I have been guilty of spending too much time shopping and vacationing in the United States. I’ve seen twenty-one of the fifty states and only two of our provinces. It’s good to visit other places, and our southern neighbors are more than welcoming, inexpensive, and exciting to visit. But I should know far more about my own beautiful country than I do. It’s just… so big. And, not light on the pocketbook.  As Rick points out:

We live in a country where its cheaper to fly to Paris than it is to fly a few provinces over and see for ourselves what another part of Canada is really about. More Canadians visit Florida than Manitoba. In a country with unity issues, this does not bode well. (from ‘The Paperback Book’ Introduction).

What’s troubling is that most of Canada does not know enough about where they live. I am one of them.

What’s even more concerning is how comfortable we are judging places we’ve never seen. As Rick writes:

Ottawa is a place that Canadians love to attack without having set foot there, and God knows everyone in Eastern Canada seems to have an idea of what Calgary is all about without ever having met the people whose drive and determination are responsible for our very own emerging superpower (also from ‘The Paperback Book’ Introduction).

I’m determined to see more of my own country, should time, money, and energy allow. It’s time to know who we are more than who we are not.

Rick’s book is a collection of commentaries from his show, which, if you have not seen it, is both brilliant and hilarious. A beautiful mix of acerbic critique and patriotic showcase of Canada’s big-city and small-town best, the Rick Mercer Report is satirical, educational, and fun.

My favorite part?

The “interviews.”

They’re not really interviews, per se. They’re adventures with probing questions into the lifestyle and opinions of noteworthy Canadians. He interviewed Wildrose Alliance party leader, Danielle Smith, while braving the rollercoaster at West Edmonton Mall. (The camera was duct taped to their coaster to the audience could get the full effect).

He interviewed Rick Hansen while they both bungee-jumped off a suspension bridge near Whistler (yes, Rick Hansen bungee-jumped in his wheelchair).

He interviewed the 2010 Canadian Winter Olympic team while learning to skate with Tessa Virtue. He talked to Kaillie Humphries while braving the 100 km/hr bobsled trail – camera in tact, of course – at the Canadian Olympic Park in Calgary.

He got Jann Arden to do the zipline with him.

(I have a feeling she wrote another one of her soul-searching ballads after that experience.)

And, of course, he had a sleepover with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

I first heard of Rick Mercer in his TV special Talking to Americans. My favorite part of when he got George W. Bush to thank “Prime Minister Jean Poutine” for his support in the 2000 US Presidential Election.

(In case any of you non-Canadians are wondering, our Prime Minister in 2000 was Liberal party leader Jean Chretien, and ‘poutine’ is a Canadian food group (well, sort of). Poutine is an odd mix of french fries, gravy, and cheese curds. It’s not very popular in left-wing, vegan, nut bar West Coast of British Columbia (see my post from last Friday). But I hear the East part of Canada loves it.)

But Rick is so much more than Talking to Americans. And in case you think him an opportunist, know that, like any good Canadian, Rick has spent more time mocking his own country than any one else’s.

And deep down you know, he really, really loves this place.

Just like we do.

Ah, a true Canadian maxim: to love this country is to mock it, and then, to read The Rick Mercer Report: The Book (or The Paperback Book).

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7 Comments Post a comment
  1. SO funny that you suggested this book today – I just borrowed it from the library yesterday and can’t wait to read it 😉 I loved the sleepover with Stephen Harper, but Ithink my favourite Rick moment was when he did the Skeleton with Melissa Hollingsworth before the Olympics. Now THAT took guts! Talking to Americans was what made Canada love Rick Mercer, and somehow I think that there is no one else who could have pulled that off.

    By the way, poutine really isn’t all that bad as long as it’s made right 🙂

    August 19, 2011
    • I confess I’ve never had poutine. I know, what kind of Canadian am I?! On my to-do list. I hear its more common in Alberta, so maybe I’ll have to do that during our annual trek. And you’ll love this book. So great.

      August 20, 2011
  2. Liv #

    Loved reading this post! A great addition to my Friday afternoon!!

    August 19, 2011
    • So glad you loved it! Rick – and his view of Canada – is a lot of fun to write about.

      August 20, 2011
  3. Erin Dyck #

    I have had the opportunity to visit all ten provinces (about two hours in New Brunswick) and the Yukon. I was in Nova Scotia on Canada Day this year and was able to partake in a local barbeque by the Fundy tides. I realized that even though our country is so vast we still are all Canadians even though we live thousands of miles apart. If you ever get a chance spend Canada Day in a different province …do it 🙂

    August 19, 2011
    • Erin, that’s a great idea! Canada Day in a different province. I love it. We’ll have to do that someday.

      August 20, 2011

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