Mark Critch has been making Canadians laugh on the CBC comedy This Hours Has 22 Minutes for fifteen years. But, with the upcoming premiere of his half-hour sitcom Son of a Critch, the Canadian comedian, actor, and writer has effectively doubled his television airtime.
Based on his life growing up in the 80s in Newfoundland and his 2018 memoir, it seems somehow fitting that the 30-minute comedy will premiere on January 4, immediately following the return of the half-hour Halifax shot 22 Minutes. (For those not in the know, each half-hour television show is 22 minutes long without commercials).
While Critch’s book, Son of a Critch: A Childish Newfoundland Memoir, may have been an ideal vehicle for the homegrown sitcom, it was the interest from Critch’s writer friend Tim McAuliffe that helped to get it made.
“Tim’s a television writer who has worked on shows like The Office and Last Man on Earth and said that we should make [the book] into a TV show,” says Critch.
Initially reluctant to adapt his book for the small screen, declaring it “not interesting enough,” Critch soon found himself nudged along. “It turned out to be the best nudging I’d ever gotten in my life,” he says.
The show stars 13-year old Benjamin Evan Ainsworth, who will soon be seen opposite Tom Hanks in the Disney live-action Pinocchio, as an eleven-year-old Mark in this coming of age tale set in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The show also features legendary actor Malcolm McDowell as his grandfather. And in an ironic twist of sorts, Critch is not only the show’s narrator but also plays his own father.
“I always expected we would get somebody else because my dad would have been older, around 60 something when the show takes place,” says Critch. “I thought it would be a bit distracting, but once I got into it, I really enjoyed it, and it gave me a different perspective on my dad to see things from his perspective.”
It is also a show that is paying it forward, as one of Critch’s lifelong dreams was to create something in his hometown of St. John’s.
“It is wonderful to see that happen,” he says. “And the experience of celebrating my parents and home life and being able to give a nod of tribute to these wonderful people.”
But while Critch has kept busy in St. John’s for the first season filming of Son of a Critch, his focus will soon return to Halifax as This Hour Has 22 Minutes continues its season on January 4.
With the departure of Cathy Jones as the last original cast member in 2021, after 15 years, Critch is now the show’s veteran performer. His love for politics and writing and performing sketch comedy keeps him coming back year after year. “Just where the heck else are you going to be able to do this?” he says.
He began his time at 22 Minutes in 2003 as one of just four writers. Critch now shares the writer’s room with as many as fifteen others, including the show’s newest additions Aba Amuquandoh and Stacey McGunnigle.
Despite the three-fold increase, Critch says he continues to write as much, if not more, than when he first started with the show.
“The great thing is you write your stuff on a Wednesday, you come in, and then you sit around, you read it all, and the best joke wins,” he says. “Then you got another chance for the live show the next week to create again. It’s great.”
After 15 years, with so many interviews and sketches under his belt, it is surprisingly easy for Critch to pick a couple of highlights. And while he says he has enjoyed “all the road stuff” he has done for the show, he points to a sketch called “The Godfather” when Danny Williams stepped down as the premier of Newfoundland in 2010 and another as Justin Trudeau first ran for prime minister.
“I remember hauling out a joint in his office, and he got a little upset about that so he wouldn’t do the show for a while,” recalls Critch. “But then I showed up at an event to ambush him and ended up getting on his tour bus. It was Halloween, and we had a bag of wigs and beards and stuff, so I put on a wig and a stupid goatee and ended up playing his younger self, interviewing himself.”
Despite having been able to interview and have fun with so many politicians, including Canada’s prime ministers over the years, Critch says there are still a few he is dying to get on the show.
“Donald Trump would have been amazing, but I would have to say, Jason Kenney, Doug Ford or Erin O’Toole. All three have been asked multiple times, but they won’t come on. They’re afraid or something,” he says.
To lure them in front of the 22 Minutes camera, Critch says he is willing to meet them, just like a wrestler, on their terms. “They can come to me anytime, anywhere,” he says.
Finally, with Halifax a second home for Critch and the cast & crew of 22 Minutes for several months of the year, they aren’t afraid of having a little fun with their adopted city.
You can catch Critch at the This Hour Has 22 Minutes anchor desk when the show returns from its winter hiatus on January 4, followed by the premiere of his new sitcom Son of a Critch. Both shows air on the CBC television network and online at CBC Gem. Check your local listings.