This feature originally appeared in the Fall/Winter 2012 issue of Trek.
Whether he’s bungee-jumping off a 160-foot bridge with Rick Hansen, having a sleepover with Stephen Harper, or ranting about voter turnout, Rick Mercer has been making Canadians laugh for 20 years. Now in its 10th season, The Rick Mercer Report is the most-watched Canadian television comedy, attracting more than a million viewers each week.
As creator and host, Mercer travels the country talking to Canadians, providing a unique viewpoint on Canada and reporting on news and affairs of the week with razor-sharp wit. His cross-country adventures have taken him whitewater rafting on the Thompson River, zip-lining across Petty Harbour, Newfoundland, with Leader of the Opposition Thomas Mulcair, and flyboarding on Sylvan Lake in Alberta – something Mercer says was one of the most exciting things he’s ever done in his life. “You fly over a lake. Like Ironman. And then you can dive underwater and swim like a dolphin,” is how he describes the experience.
A political satirist, Mercer has an uncanny ability to convince politicians to publicly take part in activities that would make an image advisor squirm, such as skinny dipping (Bob Rae) or making snow angels (Ed Broadbent). But politicians seldom come off badly as a result of appearing on the show, and Mercer has described it as a “mutually parasitic relationship.”
For his contribution to the arts, Mercer has received more than 25 Gemini Awards for television writing and performance. He holds an honorary degree from UBC and several other Canadian universities.
Outside show business, Rick dedicates his time to various charities including Spread the Net, which he co-founded with Belinda Stronach. The charity raises funds to stop the spread of malaria by providing mosquito nets for African children.
What is your most prized possession?
I am happy to report that other than a few special photographs I have no possessions that I would lose sleep over losing.
Who was your childhood hero?
Evel Knievel was pretty high up there for a few years.
What/who makes you laugh out loud?
Usually things that can’t be repeated in public
Describe the place you most like to spend time.
I am happiest on a dock staring at the fresh water. I say fresh water because I occasionally would like to jump off that dock, and where I grew up jumping into the ocean is not a great experience.
If you could invent something, what would it be?
I’m really looking forward to the human transporter beam. I want to be beamed around.
What was the last thing you read?
Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden. It tells the story of Shin Dong-hyuk,
a man who was born and raised in slavery inside a North Korean prison camp. He did not commit any crime. He escaped and now lives in the United States. It is an astounding story.
What’s the most important lesson you ever learned?
You never know what’s going on in someone’s life. If someone is being completely rude or irrational, forget looking for the motivation. Sometimes it’s best to just take a moment, breathe, and move on.
What’s your idea of the perfect day?
No schedule, no looming deadlines
Whom do you most admire (living or dead) and why?
Nelson Mandela. He is not a bitter man. That is beyond admirable. I don’t think I’m that good of a man.
What would you like your epitaph to say?
“He was a pretty good guy.”
What would be the title of your biography?
Anger is my cardio – The Rick Mercer Story. Recently a radio interviewer told me that her mother in Newfoundland described me as “a brazen article.” I was very flattered and thought it would make a good name for a book. I hadn’t heard that expression in a long time. It’s a great one.
If a genie granted you one wish, what would it be?
What item have you owned for the longest time?
My grandfather’s level
What is your latest purchase?
I’m not much of a shopper. I kind of loathe shopping. The last thing I went and bought? Underwear.
What was your nickname at school?
I didn’t have one. Ricky doesn’t really count, and I put an end to that in grade 4.
In which era would you most like to have lived, and why?
I like it where I am right now. No complaints.
What are you afraid of?
Name the skill or talent you would most like to have.
Sing and dance. I would kill to be able to sing and dance.
Which three pieces of music would you take to that desert island?
London Calling by The Clash, the best of the Tragically Hip, and a Glen Gould box set
Which famous person (living or dead) do you think (or have you been told) you most resemble?
What is your pet peeve?
People who block intersections with their cars. It’s anti-social. Nothing drives me crazier.