For Shaun Majumder, striving to “take the piss out of our own culture” will always be an important role for Canadian comedians.
It’s what the Gemini award-winning actor sets out to do each week on This Hour Has 22 Minutes, the long-running CBC series that jeers Canadian politics and current events.
“It’s really important to continue to take the piss out of our own culture and our own news stories,” Majumder said while being daubed with makeup brushes on the show’s set last week. “I love satire… and I think we’re the best in Canada at it.”
The show is back for its 20th season on Tuesday night, and at this rate, 22 Minutes will be on for another 22 years, Majumder speculated.
“We’ve got a perfect format to continue forever and ever no matter how many people come in through the cast,” said Majumder, who started on the show several years ago as a writer.
Some of the country’s most highly acclaimed comedians have called the show home throughout its two decades on air, including Rick Mercer, Colin Mochrie, Greg Thomey and Mary Walsh.
Since its inaugural season in 1992, each show has been written and produced within one week at the CBC building on Bell Road in Halifax.
Producer Peter McBain said 22 Minutes’ East Coast home is important to its perspective on Canadian news.
“We’re supposed to be bursting the balloon of politics and Canadian society, and I think sometimes that’s easier to do from a rock in the fog than it is to do if you were right in the middle of it… in Ottawa,” said McBain in his office.
McBain noted that a lot has changed over the past 20 years in terms of how the public consumes news, so the show’s task of keeping current on a weekly cycle is not made easy.
“We might shoot a sketch on Thursday and by Monday the story is totally different,” said McBain, noting the show has started loading digital shorts onto its website. “It’s changed the writing process.”
Shaun Majumder has certainly sparked some knee-slapping laughs during his several years with This Hour Has 22 Minutes, but only a handful of skits stick out to the actor as comedy “gold,” so to speak.
When hockey hero Sidney Crosby was in town for the torch relay during the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Majumder figured out the numerological reason that Canada was going to win a gold medal in men’s hockey: 87 – 8 = 79.
“Eighty-seven is Crosby’s number. Eight is (Alexander) Ovechkin’s number. If we can beat Ovechkin we’ll end up with 79, which is the atomic number for gold,” said Majumder just before filming a bit at the show’s news desk for Tuesday’s season premiere.
“That was one of the highlights, but there have been many other ones.”
Ambushing celebrities and politicians will never get old, said Majumder. Especially when they believe he’s a real newscaster in the role of sweat-filled Raj Bunder, like Shaquille O’Neal once did, he said.
“He offered me medical attention.”
And who can forget the show’s long-running Talking to Americans segment, where Rick Mercer set out to expose how little some Americans know about their Canadian neighbours.
Some truly memorable bits included getting Americans to congratulate Canada on legalizing VCRs, or staplers.