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Published on March 4th, 2009 | by Sharilyn Johnson

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Chick Swagger

I admire powerful women in comedy. They’re few and far between, but this isn’t a rant about the lack of women in comedy (really, it’s nothing to be bitter about).

Instead, I will lament today’s absence of common sense, courtesy of a woman who should be on my admiration list.


Geri Hall is a performer on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, a Canadian comedy institution. It’s a topical, fake newscast format that’s been around since the mid-90s (when the Daily Show started getting popular, we all described it to each other as “a lot like 22 Minutes“). She has a good gig. In fact, it’s one of the top gigs in the country.

Hall was in Toronto yesterday to film a bit at the provincial legislature during Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty’s “scrum”, where reporters converge on a leader to ask questions about the day’s issues. Think of it as an impromptu, free-for-all press conference. It’s not uncommon for Canadian comedy shows to have a presence alongside political proceedings – particularly those representing 22 Minutes.

So how did Hall, co-head of one of the country’s most influential comedy teams, handle her assignment? The National Post is glad you asked:

Hall tried to burst into the scrum to have a bit of fun while real reporters were quizzing the premier on a very serious issue: The shutdowns of steel mills in Hamilton and on Lake Erie. McGuinty was in no mood to play along nor should he have been. The idling of these steel mills is awful news for a province that just this week announced deficits that will total $18-billion over the next two years.

Sun Media elaborates:

In sashayed Hall to offer a hug to McGuinty — in defiance of the so-called “five-foot rule,” recently instituted by the premier.

Instead of close scrums, the premier ordered reporters to stand five feet away in scrums.

“It just makes people feel unloved,” said Hall, in a silly, little-girl voice.

“Honey, they don’t feel the love. What if you hugged it out with one of them,” she said.

It was childish and embarrassing. The five-foot rule is old news. And if a Queen’s Park reporter did it, they’d be dumped from the Press Gallery.

Hall reportedly got a verbal smackdown by NDP MP Peter Kormos, who yelled, “shame on you. 2000 workers just lost their jobs. We’re trying to hold the premier accountable. Why don’t you get the hell out of here?”

Gotta love the left.

Hall was previously arrested under similar circumstances while in the line of duty, which is a rarity among 22 Minutes castmembers. Politicians generally love the interaction (our Prime Ministers have gotten in on the act many times), so you have to put some serious effort into being shunned by the government.

As Hall slinks back to Halifax without her material, we Canadians sit back and wonder why our tax dollars go towards these things (yes, 22 Minutes is a publicly funded CBC program). I don’t think she should be unemployed, of course. Just… repurposed. Use her strengths where they’d be more appreciated.

Hear me out.

Hall has enough credits to warrant an American work permit under the “extraordinary abilities” provision. Comedy development execs are still looking for reality-infused projects, so why not a series based on her “boldness”?

Every week, Hall visits a different US government office, and sees what she can get away with before getting yelled at, arrested, or shot. For sweeps, she can rush the President, sans kevlar. It’s like a cross between Ali G. and Jackass. Target demo males 25-54. Call me, Lauren Corrao. We can do this for 21% cheaper than the Sarah Silverman Program.dy

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About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.



4 Responses to Chick Swagger

  1. nitroglycol says:

    Actually, that’s an interesting idea. Dunno about the “sans kevlar” bit, though; I know I’d want to be wearing kevlar if I was rushing the President of the US.

    Oh, and I have to be amused at the irony that the one show that you actually explain what it’s about is one of the few that I don’t need an explanation…

  2. @nitroglycol Most of my readers are American, so I figured a *bit* of explanation was necessary. I stopped short of explaining Ontario politics, of course. =)

  3. BlackieLawerence says:

    I want to clarify something here. Gerri Hall wasn’t arrested. She was removed from the room when the PM and/or his security people didn’t know who she was. Once it was discovered that she was from 22 Minutes and wasn’t an activist, Stephen Harper gave her an exclusive interview.

    This time of ambush tactic has always been used on 22 Minutes. Mary Walsh made it an art form with her Marg: Princess Warrior character. Gerri Hall, Gavin Crawford, Mark Critch and others continue what she started. It’s not new, and it should be expected by high profile politicians by now.

  4. Thank you for your comment, BlackieLawerence. The news sources I had read referred to her being “arrested” and then released when it became apparent who she was.

    Regardless, I think the history of 22 Minutes castmembers doing an excellent job, as you pointed out, is exactly what makes these recent incidents stand out. I think a sense of decency and appropriateness, at the very foundation of it, is necessary before doing something as outlandish as Marg.

    Perhaps I’m biased against the current creative regime at 22 Minutes. A member of their writing staff had a very unprofessional moment at an industry event I attended recently, so my view of what happens in that studio skews to the inappropriate.

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