Nfld. & Labrador

Rick Mercer wins Governor General's Award for lifetime achievement

The award recognizes "artists who have made an indelible contribution to Canada and the world’s cultural life."

Award recognizes 'artists who have made an indelible contribution to Canada and the world’s cultural life'

Rick Mercer's rants have evolved over the years. (CBC)

Rick Mercer still remembers watching Newfoundland actor Bob Joy nab a nomination for a Genie Award.

"I was a kid, and the fact that a Newfoundlander was up in Toronto," he said, "and they got to make a living in show business.… I just thought, these were the luckiest Newfoundlanders I could ever imagine."

Now, the co-founder of satire series This Hour Has 22 Minutes says it's still unbelievable he can count himself among them: he's being honoured with a Governor General's Performing Arts Award for lifetime artistic achievement.

The award was announced Thursday afternoon by the Governor General's Performing Arts Awards Foundation and recognizes "artists who have made an indelible contribution to Canada and the world's cultural life."

"[Mercer] has built a loyal fan base eager to hear his views on everything from the shenanigans on Parliament Hill to homophobic bullying in schools. His work has consistently earned top ratings even as he challenged public discourse on important political and cultural issues with his outspoken and very Canadian humour," according to a release sent by the foundation.

Mercer also accepted the key to his hometown, Middle Cove, in November. (Malone Mullin/CBC)

The Newfoundland author, comedian, satirist and screenwriter hosted The Rick Mercer Report for 15 years after co-founding This Hour Has 22 Minutes.

His latest book, called Final Report, compiles some of his signature rants, whose topics run the gamut from Canadian politics to bad escalator use.

'Never have to retire'

The award, largely viewed as one of the highest in the country, "means everything," Mercer told CBC Radio host Ted Blades. "I'm incredibly flattered, I'm incredibly honoured.

"All I ever wanted to do from a very young age was work in show business, work in broadcasting," he continued. "To think now that I've managed to have a lifetime, a career, working in that business — it's hard to believe, really."

Mercer hopes the "lifetime" achievement award doesn't spell the end of his presence on the airwaves. He'd like to add another 30 years to his career, he said.

In show business, "you don't ever have to retire," Mercer explained. "They always need the old guy in the corner saying saucy things." 

For now, he said, he's feeling separation pangs from his weekly show, where he could rant to his heart's content.

Mercer says he often misses his weekly ranting sessions. They're now mostly contained to his living room.

"I wish in many ways I could be on television this week," he said, talking about parents of autistic children now contending with controversial new policies introduced by the Doug Ford administration in Ontario.

"They're some of the most marginalized people in the country. And that was one of the great things about the show, that I could get behind a cause like that," he said.

"There's always things to talk about, there's always issues that probably aren't getting enough attention. And that was a huge honour to have a show where I got to choose, on a weekly basis, which issues to shine a light on."

It's the second award in four months for the entertainer. In November, Mercer was given the key to Logy Bay-Middle Cove-Outer Cove, his home town.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from On the Go

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