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Rick Mercer hosts two Comedy Night in Canada shows at the Royal Theatre on Sunday

Comedian Rick Mercer is looking forward to bringing the laughs back after pandemic.

ON STAGE: Just For Laughs Comedy Night in Canada Tour

Where: Royal Theatre, 805 Broughton St.

When: Sunday, May 22, 7 p.m. and 10 p.m. (two shows)

Tickets: $70.75 or $81 (incl. taxes and fees) through rmts.bc.ca or from 250-386-6121

Rick Mercer is at the shifting-gears stage of his career, with new adventures taking precedence over time-tested projects.

Mercer, 52, wrapped his very successful run on television in 2018, having been introduced to Canadian audiences a quarter-century earlier on This Hour Has 22 Minutes. A series of shows led to Rick Mercer Report in 2004, which ran for 15 seasons and made the product of St. John’s, Newfoundland a Gemini Award-winning star.

For his next move, Mercer set a goal for himself to tour as a stand-up comic. “I was on television for 25 years, but I was never a stand-up comic,” he said. “It was something I wanted to do. It is the purest form of comedy, but it meant me going into clubs and doing open mic nights, all that stuff, to get me ready. That’s what I’ve been focused on in the last couple of years.”

Mercer has been touring Canada since April as the host of the Comedy Night in Canada tour, a Just For Laughs showcase for some of the country’s top stand-up comics. Dave Merheje, Eman El-Husseini, Ivan Decker and Mercer hit the road together April 19, and will close out the trek with two shows at the Royal Theatre on Sunday.

“It feels better than I thought it was going to feel,” Mercer said of the tour. “Everyone in our business, in the back our minds, we were wondering if this kind of thing had just gone away. I didn’t want to think about it, but when [in-person performances] started coming back in dribs and drabs, it still wasn’t entirely satisfying. But now that there’s full houses, you can tell that people are excited to be there.”

Comedy Night in Canada works well because it offers four unique perspectives. Politics inevitably work their way into the program, Mercer said, with some province-specific jabs for good measure. The laughs have come easy during this tour, he said. Audiences have come out in droves, with many shows reaching sell-out status. That tells him Canada is ready to laugh again.

“Everyone did a great job of reading the room,” Mercer said of the comics. “By that I mean, realizing what people in the country needs right now, which is laughs. They don’t want a TEDTalk. They just want a good, old-fashioned laugh, which they haven’t had in a very long time.”

During the pandemic, Mercer split his time between his home in Toronto and his cottage in Chapel’s Cove, Newfoundland, where he spent long stretches. It was there he wrote the majority of his fourth book, Talking to Canadians: A Memoir, which Doubleday Canada released in November. Mercer said he embraced writing on a deadline, especially during an uncertain stretch where many of his peers in the arts had little on the go.

“I’ve never been good without a deadline, so it gave me something to do. [Chapel’s Cove] is a pretty isolated property, so I just sat in my shed and stared out the window and looked at an ocean — which, in theory, sounds nice. But unless you have a project, once the wood is stacked, you might go a little nuts. So I was glad I had the book.”

Mercer is continuing to cross items off his to-do list, which is constantly reaching into new mediums. He’s been tapped to host a Canada Day-themed radio special on the Stingray streaming radio service, which counts down the Top 100 songs in Canadian history. “That’s something I would never would have done before. I’m doing that because I love the idea of sitting in a radio station talking about all these classic Canadian songs. I’m not a radio guy, but I guess I will be on Canada Day.”

mdevlin@timescolonist.com