rick mercer

An insider's guide to Toronto with Rick Mercer

They don't just give out an appointment to be an Officer of the Order of Canada to anyone. Which is exactly why one of our country's most successful comedians, Rick Mercer, has received that honor. Throughout his career - his early one man shows (Show Me the Button), his time with This Hour Has 22 Minutes (and the popular Talking to Americans segment), his current hosting gig at The Rick Mercer Report (starting its 12th season on October 7th) - Mercer has proven himself an above-and-beyond passionate Canadian.

Mercer is also very much a passionate Torontonian. Especially when it comes to its comedic side. "Toronto is undoubtedly one of the best cities in the world for comedy," he said when I asked him to play tour guide for a day to an imaginary aspiring yuckster.

Before listing his go-to city spots, however, he cautioned his tour would come with some tough love for his tourist: "[Most] of the time would consist of me trying to convince them to reconsider their career choice." He did concede that "if they must, then Toronto is the place to do it." Though he was quick to add, "don't let that stop you from getting a degree in accounting."

Here then is Mercer's perfect Toronto day for an aspiring comedian accountant.

You're setting out to spend a perfect day in Toronto with an aspiring comedian. What would be the plan?

A great way to start is at the aptly named Starving Artist. Two words: Potato Waffles. Lunch would be taken at the Detroit Eatery, the best diner in town. This then brings us to the time of day when all comedians require a nap.

After you've had your siesta, where would you go next?

Afterwards, drinks at Allen's, dinner at Ruby Watchco and then an evening of live comedy. Everyone loves the Wednesday night open mic at Spirits Bar and Grill. It's the longest running open mic in the city, founded by the indelible Jo-Anna Downey and features a wide variety of comedians at different stages of their careers from seasoned professionals to nervous first timers.

Every now and then you can catch one of my writers doing a set there. It's nice to see them doing what they love to do, instead of working for me.

Any other comedy spots you would recommend your aspiring comedian in tow check out?

There's something going on every night of the week in Toronto's comedy scene. I polled my office and the hub of activity is now centered at the Comedy Bar and there are shows in the back room at The Ossington that are delightfully absurd, featuring some of the city's more alternative talent. This is all hearsay because I'm not hip enough to go to these shows. If you're looking for a classic, you really can't go wrong with The Second City.


Coffee Shop: Broadview Espresso

Brunch: Starving Artist

Restaurant to take someone from out of town: Ruby Watchco

Pub: Allen's

Museum or Gallery: Art Gallery of Ontario

Live Music Venue: Massey Hall

Bookstore: Book City Danforth Location

Clothing store: Korry's Clothiers for Gentlemen

Movie Theatre: Bell Lightbox

Secret (or lesser known) Toronto place you wish more people knew about: The Beet

See also: An insider's guide to Toronto with Atom Egoyan

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