The Next Chapter

How living in St. John's prepared This Hour Has 22 Minutes star Mark Critch for comedy

The comedian and actor talks to Shelagh Rogers about his 2018 memoir, Son of a Critch.
Mark Critch is a comedian and author from St. John's. (Penguin, Aaron McKenzie Fraser)

This interview originally aired on Dec. 24, 2018.

Funnyman Mark Critch says being from Newfoundland and Labrador has greatly informed his life and work — something he explores in his memoir, Son of a Critch.

The book won the 2019 Margaret and John Savage First Book Award in the nonfiction category. It was also shortlisted for the Kobo Emerging Writer Prize and Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour in 2019.

The This Hour Has 22 Minutes anchor and roving reporter spoke with The Next Chapter's Shelagh Rogers about Son of a Critch.

East Coast living

"When people think of St. John's and Newfoundland and Labrador they think of lighthouses, waves crashing, whales leaping and breaching into choreographed ballets. But I grew up on the very outskirts of town, about three miles away from anything, and it was next to a radio station because my dad was a newsman.

"As a reporter, my father was the last living person to have covered Newfoundland entering into Confederation with Canada. Everyone knew him and everyone did an impression of him. He kept his St. John's brogue when he did his news reports. And there was no other kids around. The only people to talk to were drunk radio deejays and chainsmoking used car salesmen in a lot down the road who were hoping someone's car would break down so they had to buy a new one. And that was home." 

The impact of TV comedy

"Television was a big thing for me in those early days. There was a TV show in Newfoundland and Labrador with the great Greg Malone and Tommy Sexton doing sketch comedy with recurring characters. It was a precursor to shows like CODCO, which is a precursor to This Hour Has 22 MinutesThis was like THE cool show that was on. It is the reason why East Coasters like Shaun Majumder and Rick Mercer do comedy — it is because of the influence of that show. It was brilliant, it was a revelation and it made me realize that I wanted to comedy for a living." 

An old soul

"I had an older dad — he was mid-50s, I think, when he had me — and there were a lot of older relatives around. I was an 80-year-old guy in a five-year-old's body. The weird thing about having older parents and living in seclusion was that all my cultural references were off. I went to school with a dad who was listening to John McCormack, Al Jolson and Bing Crosby while the parents of other kids my age their parents were listening to Kiss and AC/DC.

"I'd be like, 'Come on fellas, you want to have a sarsaparilla in the front parlour and listen to Bing Crosby?' And they'd be like, 'Well, we have to beat you up now.' So that was a learning curve!"

Mark Critch's comments have been edited for length and clarity. 

Alan Doyle stops by 22 Minutes for a laugh with Mark Critch as Alan Doyle: