Comedy

Mary Walsh on her comedy origins and finding your comedic voice

“I never really wanted to go to America and be part of that larger picture,” says This Hour Has 22 Minutes creator and star.

'This Hour Has 22 Minutes' creator and star, Mary Walsh didn’t want to be a part of somebody else’s dream.

(CBC)

Most know Canadian comedy legend Mary Walsh as a star and creator of the news parody show This Hour Has 22 Minutes, but her origins in comedy go back to her St. John's, Newfoundland upbringing and sketch troupe roots. 

"Being from Newfoundland, pretty well everyone is funny" says Walsh, who is known for her undercutting comedy style.

Walsh quit theatre school in Toronto to tour with the sketch troupe, CODCO. The troupe, she says, "was making fun of the way Newfoundlanders were seen, because in some intrinsic way, we knew that Newfoundlanders were amazing."

When they came back to Newfoundland, they wanted to build St. John's into the theatrical capital of North America, says Walsh. 

"I never really wanted to go to America and be part of that larger picture, I wanted to build something here," says Walsh.

"I wanted to build our culture and our strength. I didn't want to be a part of somebody else's dream. I wanted us to have our own dream. I wanted to have my dream." 

Walsh went on to build CODCO into a no holds barred, off-the-wall, CBC sketch comedy series  with biting satire that drew much of its humour making fun of the country's perception of Newfoundlanders as rude and unsophisticated.

At her core, Walsh is a sketch comic: she can make jokes as a character or in a group. But she says the genre has faced adversity in Canada, and before Baroness von Sketch Show, it was difficult to produce a sketch show for television. 

"I think what we do well in this country is sketch comedy," says Walsh, "That is our strength."

Continuing the legacy of Canadian sketch comedy in 1992, she began to work with former co-star Rick Mercer and former CODCO co-stars Cathy Jones and Greg Thomey to create This Hour Has 22 Minutes. The series was a good fit for Walsh, who always wanted to be a journalist. 

"Even though I wasn't a journalist, I got to play one on TV," says Walsh. 

When it comes to her comedic voice, Walsh says she is not used to making jokes as herself, on stage, but that hasn't stopped her from trying to on her show An Evening With Mary Walsh

In classic Mary Walsh style, when she's been questioned by surprised onlookers about her success, her response is: "Go fuck yourself."

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