Acerbic satire of 'The Beaverton' thriving in polarized political climate

TORONTO — It's a few days before the season 3 premiere of Canadian satirical news series "The Beaverton," and co-hosts Emma Hunter and Miguel Rivas are mulling over which headlines to cover.

"Just hilarious stuff like children in cages and the Epstein case," Rivas jests in a phone interview, referring to stories about migrant children at U.S. border facilities and sex trafficking accusations against financier Jeffrey Epstein.

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"Our message overall is usually that almost anything is on the table, as long as we can have a take that doesn't come across as unkind or punching down," adds Hunter.

"We always want to make sure that we're punching up."

Season 3, launching Tuesday, is a big one for "The Beaverton."

Not only is the Toronto-based weekly series moving over to CTV from The Comedy Network — in a plum 10 p.m. ET/PT time-slot after the hit series "The Amazing Race Canada," no less — it's also airing simultaneously around the world for international audiences on CTV's YouTube channel for the first time.

The Canadian Screen Award-nominated show also has a quicker turnaround this season, shooting in front of a live studio audience the night before it airs, giving the feel of a more current and high-paced news environment.

"We absolutely deserve a seat at the table with all the late-night talk shows in the U.S.," says Hunter, an actress and comedian whose other credits include "Mr. D" and "Royal Canadian Air Farce."

"Canada hasn't had one in a long time and we think we absolutely deserve to have an international take on the international things unfolding. So we're ready, baby."

Yes, that means "The Beaverton" will not only be covering Canadian news but also global stories.

The co-hosts note there's already an appetite for the brand outside of North America through TheBeaverton.com satirical news site, which inspired the TV series and seems to have "grown enormously" in popularity, says Rivas.

In an era of outrageous headlines and accusations of so-called "fake news," it seems the deliberately fake news is thriving.

"Whenever there's a wildly unpopular government, I'm referencing Donald Trump's in the States, I won't quote any real study but I think you could find that civic engagement tends to go way up," says Rivas, who is also an actor and comedian, with credits including "Baroness von Sketch Show" and "Gary and His Demons."

"I don't think people gave a crap about, for instance, a lot of municipal Toronto politics but then once Rob Ford was elected and started doing his thing, everybody started to be like, 'Wait a minute, I suddenly care about my ward so much,'" Rivas continues.

"So I think the difficult political climate in the Western world, and specifically in North America, has caused Canadians to pay a lot more attention and care a lot more and get excited and outraged more. And they need something to reflect that and talk about that with and make jokes about stuff — and then enter us. It's such an amazing opportunity, that people have the appetite for this like they never had before."

This season will have eight episodes and return for a separate Canadian federal election special on Oct. 18.

Both Hunter and Rivas join the writers' room full-time this year, helping shape every piece and leaning into an acerbic take on the news.

"I think the more polarized we get, the comedy comes more naturally out of all of us, because when tensions are higher, jokes are better," says Hunter.

"So as much as we want everything to be the best Canada and America and world we can be, the higher the stakes, the better it is for us."

Higher stakes can also lead to more heated reactions from viewers.

"We get accused of left-wing bias from the right, and right-wing bias from the left," says Rivas.

"Every story, no matter how small, seems to elicit these massive emotional responses. And we're just having fun with it."

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