While it is people like John Oliver and Jimmy Fallon that reap the acclaim and fame that comes along with being a television personality, there is a hard-working team of writers toiling behind the scenes ensuring that every word that leaves their mouth has a specific impact.
In a lot of ways, the creative team behind television shows like The Tonight Show and This Hour Has 22 Minutes are the unsung heroes of television: Faceless people that are primarily responsible for the jokes that make others famous.
Tonight in Moncton, however, it is the writers’ turn to shine when This Hour Has 22 Minutes writers Heidi Brander, Bob Kerr, Matt Wright and Adam Christie take the stage at Moncton’s Igloo Beverage Room. In addition to performing brief sets of stand-up comedy, they will share some of their favourite stories and jokes from behind the scenes of one of Canada’s most enduring television shows.
Heidi Brander is a Maritime native that has written for television shows including CTV’s Spun Out and MTV Live. In 2015, Brander won a Canadian Comedy Award as part of the …22 Minutes team and has also been nominated for two Writers Guild Awards and a Canadian Screen Award.
While most comedians aspire to be on stage, Brander says she was always more interested in the writing aspect.
“I always wanted to write comedy, and had actually gone to school for screenwriting,” she begins. “Shortly after I moved to Toronto, I had begun sending scripts out with the hopes of landing a show, but discovered it wasn’t necessarily the most optimal way to become known. I had begun pursuing stand-up as a means to get into the writing side of the business, which is the opposite of what most comedians choose to do.
“Some of the other writers on the show like writing and stand-up equally, but as fun as stand-up can be, I’ve always preferred the writing side of it.”
The upcoming season of This Hour Has 22 Minutes will be Brander’s fourth one with the show. Asked how fierce competition is behind the scenes in order to have a joke make it to air, she says the entire …22 Minutes team, both in front of the camera and behind the scenes, is simply committed to making the best show possible.
“The pitch sessions are always a lot of fun,” she shares. “Everyone just has so many ideas to put forward, but it really forces you to stay on top of your game as well because if there is a story that breaks late in the week, that ends up taking precedence over other things. Just like any job, there are stresses involved, but there’s really nothing else I’d rather be doing.”
The roots of comedy also run deep for Brander’s co-star on Wednesday evening, Bob Kerr. The Sarnia, Ontario native recalls getting some laughs while performing in an elementary school play and almost instantly realizing that he didn’t want that rush to stop.
“That’s one of my first memories, being the lead in this play and getting a lot of laughs,” Kerr says. “I became addicted to that rush.”
In high school, Kerr sought out opportunities to perform and refine his craft, joining the improv club and even running for school president.
“I didn’t want the job or responsibilities. I just wanted to perform. Looking back, it was a very Trump-esque kind of move,” he says, laughing.
After high school, Kerr enrolled in a comedy program at Toronto’s Humber College, while also performing sketch comedy with a myriad of others. He first joined the …22 Minutes team approximately 11 years ago, landing a three-month trial during which time he was given the opportunity to show producers what he had to bring to the table.
“At the end of those three months, they let me go as I wasn’t contributing enough. I was subsequently brought back two years later and then sent away again.”
Asked if having been let go from the show was a bitter pill to swallow, Kerr insists he considers his cumulative experiences with This Hour Has 22 Minutes as all part of one big journey.
“I was never bitter about being let go, but I also naively thought there would be people knocking down my door with offers. Five months later, I was a prep cook at Wayne Gretzky’s restaurant in Toronto, which ended up lending a lot to my perspective at the time. I’ve never been one to dwell on the bad; you just have to let that stuff go and move on.”
Fortunately for Kerr, …22 Minutes ended up welcoming him back for a third go, one that is now entering its seventh season. While he continues to enjoy the time he is putting in behind the scenes of the show, he admits to being fairly excited about the tour he is undertaking with Brander, Wright and Christie.
Following their performance in Moncton, the tour moves onto Miramichi and Saint John.
“The East Coast has always felt like the most Canadian part of Canada to me. There is just something so sweet and natural about the region as a whole. I can’t wait to be back,” Kerr says.
What: The Writers of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, featuring Heidi Brander, Bob Kerr, Matt Wright and Adam Christie
When: Wednesday Aug. 31, 8 p.m.
Where: Igloo Beverage Room, 300 Elmwood Dr., Moncton
Tickets are $22 plus service charge. Advance tickets are available for purchase online at www.comedywithballs.com.