Thursday, January 15, 2009

Rick Mercer on Parliamentary Process

I wonder: is there anybody making a more positive contribution to the general mental health of Canadian parliamentary democracy than Rick Mercer?

In North American culture, and in the USA especially, so many comedians attempting political humour tend to take the lowest possible road, making snide comments about personal aspects of politicians that have already elicited abundant sneering: e.g., Bill Clinton and the ridiculously protracted scandal over oral sex; Jean Chretien and his mangled syntax. Now, if these vulnerabilities had more than a merely tangential relation to their jobs, the mockery would provide a salutary correction. But improving the political culture is not the motivation lying behind these sorts of jokes. Instead, the low-brow commentary stands in for more difficult political commentary. It succeeds only because it is an easy, cynical way of flattering the audience: "We all know this about politician X; now let's have a good, comfortable, complacent laugh about the matter."

Well, that's exactly what Rick Mercer tends to avoid. I can't think of anybody who has made me laugh more often, with more sense of joy, than Mercer. But he clearly disdains mean-spirited laughter; and, even then, he is not invariably aiming for the loudest or easiest laughter. Sometimes, in fact, he is not necessarily going for laughter at all. With his rants, for example, he can sometimes tap into a vein of outrage that is very funny; but at other times, he is too level and earnest to elicit much laughter. And in the case of this particular rant, he is certainly not flattering his audience. He is making a criticism about our political culture; and the criticism is, quite justly, directed at us.

3 comments:

Murph said...

Fantastic find Craig. Hope you don't mind if I repost.

Also it reminds me that I've got Mercer's latest book on my shelf that I keep meaning to pick up - maybe it'll be next after my David Sedaris obsession subsides...

Hope all is well.

Cheers,
Michael

Siscoe Boschman said...

Much improved. Thanks.

KBennie said...

What a fantastic rant.

You can see him wanting to reach through the screen to give "Joe Sixpack" a shake.