Nfld. & Labrador

Go behind the scenes as Rick Mercer prepares last report

There is no glitz and glamour when recording a rant in an alleyway, but there is a lot of creative freedom — and that's something Rick Mercer will always be thankful for.

After 15 years and 255 episodes, the Rick Mercer Report ends on Tuesday

Rick Mercer's rants through Graffiti Alley in Toronto have become his trademark segment. (CBC)

There was no great fanfare as Rick Mercer made his last trek through a colourful alleyway in Toronto and delivered his final rant for the Rick Mercer Report.

His small crew of three coworkers was there, along with a few fans who strolled past as he was taping.

It was business as usual, with occasional interruptions from trucks backing into businesses along the alley — a beeping sound at one point overshadowing Mercer's voice during an interview with the CBC's Krissy Holmes.

"If we were in the middle of a rant now, we'd have to say cut because J&S Fresh Meat Wholesale Inc. are going to start unloading goats, as you can see," Mercer said. "It's goat day."

The behind-the-scenes view of a Rick Mercer rant is anything but glamorous. One member of his crew combs through the area when they arrive on scene and removes any "hazards" you might expect to find in a Toronto alley.

"He will take the advance, with a shovel," Mercer said. "If there's anything that needs to be removed, like an animal — like a rat — he will shovel it out of the way."

Rick Mercer meets with a fan who came to Graffiti Alley hoping to catch a glimpse of the CBC personality. (CBC)

After 15 years of exploring Canadian issues and sweeping rats from Graffiti Alley in downtown Toronto, Mercer and his crew are saying goodbye to the show with a finale on Tuesday night.

Over the course of 255 episodes, Mercer has been all over the country, met a countless number of people and brought a combination of shenanigans and serious subjects to millions of Canadians.

"It's been a great gift," he said. "To go on TV and have a minute and a half to say whatever you are thinking, to make whatever point you want to make, that's pretty amazing."

Returning to Newfoundland

Since announcing the show would be coming to an end, Mercer has faced one question over and over — what are you going to do next?

If he has any idea what is down the road, he isn't revealing any secrets right now. But Mercer does have a vision of sitting on a wharf in his home province and staring out at the horizon for a while.

"I say I have big plans, but I don't know what they are," he said. "I am for sure going to spend more time in Newfoundland. Because as it is now, I spend as much time as I can in Newfoundland and that's not enough time."

But one thing is for sure. Don't call it a retirement.

Rick Mercer rose to fame with his stage comedy shows, including Show Me The Button, I'll Push It (or Charles Lynch Must Die) and I've Killed Before, I'll Kill Again. (CBC)

"I'm not done. I'm not retiring! I don't know where that kind of [rumour] came from. It's not a word I ever used. I'm not done, I just don't know what I'm going to do next."

For someone who is known for his energy and intensity, Mercer said he is perfectly happy to do nothing for a while. But moments later, he admits he is already thinking about future projects — something his partner and the show's executive producer, Gerald Lunz, isn't so keen on just yet.

"I've already started talking around the house, 'You know what would make for an interesting show?' And he's like, 'Are you serious? Give it a week.'"

Memorable segments

When asked what his favourite segments and projects were, Mercer mentioned a rant he did about the suicide of Jamie Hubley, an Ottawa teen who ended his life after relentless bullying in school.

Hubley had posted on social media about feeling like the only gay kid in his school and stated his wish to "end it all."

In his rant, Mercer urged fellow gay public figures to step into the spotlight and stop being "invisible."

"That one, I think the timing was right and it resonated with people," Mercer said. "It was part of a bigger conversation that I think was really positive."

Another highlight was the ability to travel across the entire country, from his home province of Newfoundland and Labrador, to the big cities on the mainland and north to remote parts of the territories.

Through it all, Mercer said he gained an understanding and respect for people from all walks of life, but joked he has even less an idea of what it means to be a Canadian today than when he started out.

When asked if he has one piece of advice he learned from his travels, Mercer offered a simple sentence.

"Do whatever you can in your power to get to know your own country."

Walking away

Whether he's at his cabin in Newfoundland or his house in Toronto, Mercer said he will miss being in front of the camera in his studio, or walking and talking through Graffiti Alley.

"It's my cardio. That's what I do. I don't go to spin class, I just rant."

He built more than just a show with the Rick Mercer Report, he says. He built a family.

Rick Mercer will file one last report on Tuesday night, as his 15-year run on the Rick Mercer Report is coming to an end. (CBC)

Over the last week, Mercer has watched the show be dismantled all around him at his Toronto studio.

"It's all coming to an end and there's signs of that everywhere," he said. "In my office, it's like the writers' computers were just taken out this morning, and this desk is being taken away. And so there's physical signs everywhere that it's coming to an end."

The hour-long finale will air on CBC at 8:30 p.m. in Newfoundland, and 8 p.m. in the rest of Canada.

Mercer isn't sure what he will feel when it all comes to an end, but said he's ready to close the door on a 15-year chapter of his life.

"I will be standing here and I'll say, 'Thank you and goodnight.' And that will be it."

With files from Krissy Holmes