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22 minutes with Mary Walsh

The Canadian comedienne is busy enjoying her year off ‘This Hour Has 22 Minutes’ by exploring her passion for her CBC TV series ‘Open Book’

You can’t imagine Mary Walsh is happy with George W. Bush winning the presidential election.

After all, when Popjournalism spoke to the comedienne, best known for her work on CODCO and This Hour Has 22 Minutes, she talked mostly about politics.

“I worry about the world, it has moved inexorably to the right,” the 52-year-old Walsh says over the phone from St. John’s, Newfoundland. “What’s down is up and what’s up is down.

“I really feel like I’m gonna burst,” Walsh says. “No one will have me at dinner. I talk too much politics.”

Being away from 22 Minutes, Walsh seems to have nowhere to channel her political commentaries. Officially, she is on a year-long hiatus from 22 Minutes. But it looks like that hiatus could become more permanent. Last season, Walsh appeared on just six episodes.

Tellingly, she talks about 22 Minutes solely in the past tense. Even more shockingly, she finishes commenting on the new season with this statement: “It’s great. It’s been wonderful. I miss all the people and I’m sad it’s come to an end.”

What?! Has she left the show for good?

When Popjournalism follows up, Walsh back-steps, and repeats that she’s only on sabbatical.

“When I say I’m on sabbatical, I really am. I haven’t thought much about it. I’m not thinking about 22 Minutes or considering anything with the show.”

So much for our exclusive. But still, we’re happy there’s a chance she’ll return to the show she created.

Until she decides on her future with 22 Minutes, she’s got many projects in the pipeline to keep her busy. She’s now working on a movie project with writer Ken Scott (La Grande Séduction) and a CBC TV comedy pilot Hatching, Matching and Dispatching. The pilot will air sometime in early 2005 on CBC. The show follows the fictional Furey family, owners of a baptism, wedding and funeral home business.

It is a slice of life comedy shot on-location in Newfoundland and Labrador, featuring a cast of characters in a series of related sketches. The ensemble cast stars Walsh as Mames Anne, the singular matriarch of the Furey family and features 22 Minutes’ Shaun Majumder.

Walsh sums up the storyline: “In small communities in Newfoundland, there are places that look after you from sperm-to-worm, as we say here,” Walsh says.

Ever busy, Walsh is also filming the third season of her literary chat show Open Book. This year, Walsh is going to try to make Open Book more current, by taping the shows in the same week in which they will air.

“We do them on the same week, to make it more present and of the moment. We shoot on Friday, to try something new. The best of the books shows are up to the minute and — uh, what’s the word? Menopause is searing my thoughts and words.”

— Current?

“Current! Yes, current. The best shows lend themselves to what’s current in our lives.”

She clearly loves Open Book and says that she feels the show is her calling. “The show gives me ecstatic happiness,” Walsh says. “One day I woke up at 6 a.m. and all I had to do was read all day — to read like a bastard. A sense of serenity and happiness and
ecstasy came over me. I was doing something I wanted to do, something I was meant to do. It was wonderful.”

That probably means she’s not going to be storming Parliament Hill as warrior princess Marg Delahunty any time soon. But maybe she could suit up again for a special trip to the White House, just for fun?

“Imagine Marg Delahunty going to the White House? I’d be shot carrying that plastic sword,” she laughs. “Just imagine! I think poor Marg wouldn’t even get within three to four miles of the place.”

Content Creator
Robert J. Ballantyne is a senior editor at Popjournalism and Creative Director at Artsculture.ca. Previously, he was a journalist at the CBC on a number of news programs including the fifth estate, Marketplace and The National. He also worked as a staff writer at the Toronto Star

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