“It’s An Ambush; We Only Get One Take”


Bill Brioux at the Canadian Press asked Mark Farrell, executive producer of This Hour Has 22 Minutes, for some words on the Geri Hall controversy. (Short summary of the controversy: Hall showed up in-character to ask a silly question of Dalton McGuinty at a press conference; the conference was about a new round of job losses in Ontario; NDP MPP Peter Kornos chewed her out for being insensitive to the situation.)

Ultimately I think the only clear lesson here is that comedy ambushes don’t work very well when the interviewees are in a bad mood. You’ll notice that when you get outtakes from comedy interviews on The Daily Show or 22 Minutes, you’ll usually see that everybody is enjoying the experience. I’m not sure that either Hall or Kormos were entirely over the line; Hall’s question was not making light of (or even about) job losses, and if Kormos was grandstanding, well, that’s also part of an MPP’s job description.

But judging from the video, it seems like Hall wasn’t going to get a whole lot of usable material even before the Kormos incident took place. While these interviews and ambushes may look, on TV, like the comedian is making fun of the clueless real person, it does seem like the real person actually needs to be a little clued in, enough that he or she wants to go along with the joke.

On the other hand, and this is probably the biggest mark against Kormos, his outburst came before she really had a chance to lighten the mood. McGuinty and the reporters aren’t in a great mood, but maybe they wouldn’t have minded some frivolity to cheer them up.


“It’s An Ambush; We Only Get One Take”

  1. I think it helps if the person doing the ambushing is ACTUALLY funny.

  2. Media ambush – been there, done that – move on please.

  3. Canadian comedians have been doing gags with Canadian politicians so long now that they’ve become dependent on it. You could expect that they would botch it sooner or later. They need some new material.

    It’s also a reminder of just how hard it is to do comedy. When a show or a gag flops, it must be almost unbearable.

  4. I just don’t buy that they would go in at any time, regardless of the nature of the press conference. There’s no way they’d be defending the ambush if they had walked in on a press conference about deaths in Afghanistan. Obviously there is some line, and they decided job loses weren’t ‘serious’ enough to merit a postponement.

  5. I saw Mary Walsh ambush Stephen Harper at his leadership launch in 2003, and while I don’t think that they scheduled a time, she was floating around in costume for most of the meeting prior to her having a chance to catch Harper in a scrum- I think that she even spoke with Laureen beforehand. If Harper didn’t know what was coming, then his staff was pretty blind.

    This might have been different, but it’s not exactly like having Geri Hall at Queen’s park would be a common experience, and really the only target worth their time is Dalton.

    • I remember that and it was hilarious! When Harper leaned closer to her and leered at her she actually looked startled a brief flicker as it were, not expecting him to play along quite so well.

  6. It seemed sort of lame, and tone deaf, too. The press conference was about job losses, and Hall did worse than being off-topic, she appeared to be trying to change the topic altogether: “But enough about the unemployed, let’s talk about me.”
    I enjoy the ambushes. Mary Walsh did them very well and I’ve seen Geri Hall do a couple funny ones, too. This will not go on her highlight reel.

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