Read all this trash talk about Geri Hall and This Hour Has 22 Minutes and had to weigh in. People seemed to be hyperventilating because the comedienne gooned Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty last week in Queen's Park. Even the guys I play hockey with on Thursdays, a bunch of retired school teachers, were pissed. Probably not your typical focus group, but they'd heard of the incident and they'd heard of her. "Can you believe what that chick did to McGuinty?" the right winger from Brampton asked. (Hockey right winger. A real right winger would not be sticking up for McGuinty).
Seemed to me she was just doing what she does for a living. Got in touch with This Hour Has 22 Minutes executive producer Mark Farrell, just in case he wanted to give his side of it, which seemed to be missing from what I'd read so far. He did.
CP grabbed some of what he had to say to me today; you can read it here.
Bottom line was that Hall, who has broken out this year as "Single Female Voter" Avery Adams, was just doing what she has done all season--political satire. Farrell sent her to Queen's Park at the invitation of the Queen's Park Press Gallery, who suggested McGuinty needed tweaking about his self imposed five foot personal space limit. The local press wags even offered to keep her hidden until it was time to pounce. She waited for a signal that the session was about to wrap, which she always does. She did her ambush thing, and McGuinty was appropriately awkward. Mission accomplished.
Except NDP MLA and former Sunshine Boy Peter Kormos went ballistic, spinning the comedy ambush into some sort of assault on working people in Ontario. `Get the hell out of here!`he brayed, bringing the encounter to an end.
It all got posted at thestar.com and other places, packaged as a CP video hit. Hall's crime was that her intrusion took place as McGuinty was speaking to job losses at Stelco in Hamilton and Nanticoke, which definitely is no laughing matter. But this was at the end of the session and this wasn't the joke Hall or 22 Minutes were ever going to tell.
Still, Hall was quickly tried and convicted, guilty of bad timing. Too bad Kormos never dared to pick on Mary Walsh in all her Marg Delehunty thunder. She would have cut him in half.
Any raw footage of one of these ambushes looks bad, say Farrell. "It's an ambush; we only get one take." Always part of 22 Minutes comedy arsenal, the ol`ambush ploy has been used to good effect on The Daily Show for years. It probably dates back to Candid Camera.
Farrell has had it edited and packaged and it will go before the 22 Minutes studio audience tonight in Halifax. If they laugh, it will be in tomorrow night's show. If they don't, it won't.
There are three new episodes left this season, with semi-regular Shaun Majumder back behind the anchor desk with the rest of the comedy correspondents.
The CBC series has enjoyed a ratings rebound in 2009 behind the Rick Mercer Report, approaching the million viewer mark a few weeks back. While there's usually no such thing as bad press in a ratings race, Farrell insists that won't be why the McGuinty skit airs, if it airs. "We won't milk it," he says. "It certainly wasn't designed as a stunt to boost our ratings."