That’s right. Whatever you see on the Rick Mercer Report, even when things are a bit scripted, that’s what Mercer is really like. At least as far as I could tell, when I went to a taping a few weeks ago. Mercer, who preceded the American Jon Stewart by several years when it comes to satirical poking at politics, really does have those lightning-quick responses to comments people make. Here’s a man who thinks on his feet. And he is very, very funny.
The studio was big and the audience was huge, compared to other CBC tapings I’ve been to. But this, understandably, is a very popular show. Booming rock music (just my kind!) filled the room as several interns escorted everyone to their seats, trying to keep groups of people together. The whole atmosphere was electric. And when Mercer finally bounded onto the set, nobody had to prompt the audience to applaud and yell at the top of their lungs.
His first comment as he stood there and looked out at us? “My, you’re a tall audience.” And it just went on from there. He had a running commentary going with the floor manager, whose name was Bob, as I recall. He took the time to chat with several people in the audience, and he kept us all laughing and feeling a part of the show. He even had Bob recount to us the adventures he (Bob) had had with flight cancellations and diversions on his way to a wedding in Winnipeg the previous snowy weekend in Manitoba.
All of this shows some definite people skills, because as anyone knows who has watched the show, many of the segments are pre-taped. It wasn’t like Mercer was going to take this entire audience down to the Maple Leaf Gardens to watch him film his Battle of the Blades figure skating segment with Tie Domi, after all. And the ad for taser-proof undergarments had already been made. So one might have wondered why an audience was there at all for the little bits that were left.
But Mercer made a great night of it. Even for pre-taped segments, he was back onstage to introduce them, with the usual hilarious comments. And always, in between segments, he kept in good contact with the audience and helped us while away the time till taping was ready to start again.
But he didn’t stop there, in his good audience relations. Or should I perhaps say his showing himself to be a really good guy? Because after the show is over, Mercer always sticks around to talk to people. So you can say a quick hello, get an autograph if you want, and even get your picture taken with him. And this can add another two hours to his night!
As one of the interns told an elevator full of us afterward, “He’s really nice.” That’s the impression you get when you watch him boat racing with a Canadian Olympian in a giant pumpkin in Pembroke, Ontario, attempting trick riding at the Canadian Finals Rodeo in Edmonton, Alberta, going on a tour of Parliament Hill in Ottawa, or visiting the Electronic Arts video game developers in Burnaby, B.C. Or, of course, figure skating with Tie Domi at Maple Leaf Gardens. Mercer really likes seeing all these different people and doing things with them, and getting to know Canada. And, of course, bringing all of that to his audience.
When you go to a taping of the Rick Mercer Report, you see the same funny, friendly, interested guy you always see on the show. You just get to be one of the lucky Canadians who sees all that in person.